Unpacking After a Move: A How-To Guide

BY Kristen Fowler | Thu Jul 13, 2017
Unpacking After a Move: A How-To Guide

Nobody goes through the hassle of moving without a good reason. People move to be closer to their loved ones, to further their careers in new cities and to find enough room to start families. As a side effect, there’s an undeniable emotional charge to moving that can leave new homeowners or renters feeling stressed afterward. Oh, and did we forget to emphasize that moving involves literally picking up your entire life and moving it to another location? Packing up and unpacking after a move will drain a great deal of energy from anyone.

Once you reach your new home with all your boxed belongings, the last thing you want to think about is the ordeal of unpacking. But unpack you must – and soon. No one can live on takeout dinners, inflatable mattresses and travel-sized shampoo bottles forever. Eventually, you’ll have to set up your living space and return to normality.

But where to start? And how? For a quick unpacking process that keeps you organized and unflustered, read our tips on unpacking after a move:

Organize boxes by room

In a previous blog post about how to move into your new home room by room, we suggested movers unload their moving trucks and place boxes in the areas where the contents will live. Before unpacking after a move, check to be sure the boxes are in the appropriate room. Doing so will guarantee organization, even if you accidentally make a mess in the process.

Choose how you want to unpack

There are two ways to unpack your boxes: in one fell swoop or slowly over several days. Both have their benefits and their challenges, so select whichever one works for you.

If you want to unpack over the course of a single weekend, you run the risk of losing steam in the latter half of each day. Pace yourself, schedule breaks and treat yourself to delivery so you don’t have to worry about cooking. Also, devote the entire weekend to the task of unpacking. Don’t pencil in errands, even if they would help you divide up the day. Resting on the couch after carrying heavy boxes will relax you more than running to the grocery store or swinging by the post office.

The same is true if you want to unpack a little at a time over a longer period. It’s really easy to get caught up in unpacking projects, so count your boxes and pick a reasonable amount of unpacking to be done every day. Don’t over- or underestimate. The last thing you want is to lose sleep during the workweek because you accidentally stayed up until 3 a.m. alphabetizing bookcases. Conversely, your move in will take months if you only tackle a box every couple days. Trust us: Corrugated cardboard is not a look you want for your housewarming party.

Designate storage areas

As you’re unpacking after a move, you’ll come across items that you’ll want to store: out-of-season clothes, extra linens, family photo albums. But before you do, designate which closets and tucked-away spaces will act as long-term storage. List out which items go where and tape them to each storage area. That way, you and your helpers know exactly where you plan to store extra items.

Tip: Reusing moving boxes? Relabel them to avoid confusion later. You’ll never find your holiday lights if you put them in a box labeled “Kitchenware.”

Stock your toolbox

In order to unpack a box, you may first need to assemble accompanying furniture. Where will you put your knick knacks if you don’t yet have a knick knack shelf?

To expedite furniture assembly, check your toolbox for all necessary supplies, including:

  • Drywall screws and braces.
  • Level.
  • Fully charged power drill.
  • Spackle and spackle knives.

Remember, whether you unpack all at once or over time, you want to avoid wasting your dedicated unpacking time. An unforeseen trip to the hardware store is just that.

Track progress as you go

As you set up your home, you may come across damage or defects your landlord or realtor should know about. Important as these problems may be, you cannot let them delay your unpacking process. Keep a centralized list – a whiteboard is best, but a piece of paper will do – where you can quickly jot down issues as they arise. If possible, use your smartphone or a camera to snap a picture of the problem.

Now, let’s go room by room and explain how best to approach unpacking boxes for each. We’ll begin with the three most important rooms to unpack first.


1. Kitchen

Unpacking on an empty stomach spells disaster, so set up the kitchen first. But don’t unload your utensils without careful consideration of where they should go. Your new kitchen should reflect and support how you cook.

Respect the kitchen triangle

The three things that receive the most activity in the kitchen are the sink, the refrigerator and the oven. If each of these essentials were a point on a triangle, you would want to keep the center clear of obstacles. This will keep your kitchen open and future meal prep moving.

Consider appliance characteristics when assigning storage

When deciding where kitchen appliances should live, factor their frequency of use into your decisions. Coffee makers and microwaves are typically used often enough to warrant leaving them on a counter, but not every piece of kitchen equipment, if any others, should receive that kind of privilege. After all, you’ll want your counters free the next time you cook a big meal. Pick cabinets and drawers for food processors, hand mixers and the like based on size, with largest appliances situated first.

Don’t overvalue prep over clean-up

Let’s say you decide to store your silverware right next to the fridge. That’s perfect for eating, but is it too far away from the dishwasher? When designating cabinets and drawers, cooking and clean-up should have equal representation when weighing the benefits and challenges of the storage location.


2. Bedrooms

No matter how many bedrooms you have in your new home, these spaces demand attention when unpacking.

Start with the bed

Practically speaking, after a long day of unpacking, nothing is as important as a comfortable bed. Set up your bed – headboard, pillowcases and all – then move onto other bedroom furniture, clothing and decor from there. You’ll thank yourself later.

Make outlets accessible

Feng shui will tell you to eliminate as many electronic devices as possible from the bedroom. Certainly something worth aspiring to in our overly connected age, but that’s a decision for another day. Until then, arrange your bedroom in a way that hides outlets but doesn’t obstruct them. If you push your headboard against an outlet, for example, you can’t rely on it when searching for a place to plug in your phone at the end of the day.

Team up with your kids

Small children are full of opinions about everything, so listen to what they say when setting up their room. At the very least, try and think about accessibility from their perspective:

  • Can they reach books and toys without risk of falling over?
  • Do they have a chair their size or a comfortable rug to play on?
  • Are hooks and clothing racks low enough for them to use?
  • Are their hampers or toy chests easy to open?

As you unpack, help your little ones design their bedrooms in ways that encourage independence, cleanliness and motor-skill development.


3. Bathroom

Thank your lucky stars movers rarely have to set up plumbing in their new homes. But that doesn’t mean the bathroom should fall to the bottom of your unpacking to-do list.

Think twice about decor

How well your bathroom ventilates determines how you should decorate it. Over time steam can discolor or destroy paper prints and artwork. If your bathroom fogs up after a hot shower, consider decorating with more waterproof accessories, such as fake flowers or an eye-catching soap dispenser.

Keep counters clean

Small rooms, especially those used by guests, deserve big thoughts regarding storage. Give your friends and relatives uncluttered bathroom counters by cutting back on health and beauty supplies in the bathroom. Anything that isn’t part of your daily morning routine can go into an adjacent closet. For everything else, keep it out of sight and out of mind. Toothbrushes go in the medicine cabinet, not along the edge of the sink. Shampoo goes in a shower caddy, not along the rim of the tub.

Final word on unpacking

Once you’ve completed these essential areas, unpack as you see fit. As long as you think hard about your personal priorities and dedicate yourself to completion, there’s no wrong way to unpack the remaining rooms of your new home.

With that said, let us offer one final suggestion: Set up your phone, cable and internet at the very end of your unpacking project.

Why? Well, for starters, it’s great incentive to get things done as quickly as possible. Second, finding the right cable and internet providers or price point for a service bundle requires focus. Allconnect helps by compiling all your different options onto one webpage. All you need to do is type in your new address here.

When you’re ready to shop for phone, television and internet bundles – as well as deals on utilities or home security – check out the main page on Allconnect.com.

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