Lessons Learned from Moving

Random Observation/Comment #540: Filtering through every corner of your apartment is always a walk down memory lane.

bad robot

Continuing my series of “grown up stuff,” we’ve made the move to a slightly larger space with a bedroom door. While filtering through all the things we’ve accumulated, we developed a few strategies and learned a lot more about our relationship. Some of these are also lifted from watching HGTV and Tiny House.

Start with Decluttering

You don’t have to be moving to do this. We all have way too many things and the easiest way to determine what to get rid of comes with two questions :

  1. Do you still use this item? (functional)
  2. Does this item mean something to me? (emotional) – Vinessa is a big Marie Kondo fan and she phrases it as “Does this item bring you joy?”

If your answer is “no” to either of these, then you probably don’t need it.


From all my travel, this is a big consideration. If it is specifically memorabilia of sorts (e.g. ticket stub from a first date or trip tchotchke (woah, it’s spelled like this)), limit it to one thing from the trip and think of ways to make an emotional item also functional. When all else fails, digitize it. In future trips, try postcards – they’re thin and don’t take up a lot of space. There was an episode of Tiny House where a travel couple bought blankets from different countries and they turned all the blankets into pillow covers (browse Pinterest for ideas).

Digitize your documents (with camscanner)

You can also buy a scanner, “test out” a large scanner with a feed top and return it afterwards, or borrow one. I also somehow amassed a large number of floating receipts. Has there ever been a case where I needed to prove I bought a doughnut? We decided going forward that we’ll go through the receipt pile at the end of month in budget review. In Clean House, there was also advice to digitize any memories for scrap-booking (this is another post all together).

Go Green and Paperless

It’s not just good enough to remove historical junk, but also ensure that you don’t have to do this exercise again 6 months later. I originally thought of this for physical mail, but this also applies to books. While I do like the feeling of turning pages and smell of old paper, books are freaking heavy. If you haven’t read that physical book in the past 2 years, then you can probably donate it.  Also, I want an “unsubscribe” to my physical mail.

Donate What you Don’t Need

I like getting new phones every 18 months or so, but we had 7 old phones, 3 laptops (1 running Windows 98), and 10 USB keys. We wound up clearing all the data on these and then donating them.

Plan Ahead for the New Space

Even if you’re moving into a bigger space, it’s always a good idea to pare down large furniture. In our case, we really envisioned our new color scheme and core pieces that make our place still feel like home. For me, it’s that Japanese room divider in the corner of the top pic – I love the painting and the color palette. From there, we picked the items we wanted to keep and the ones we thought would probably just buy from Ikea.

When you’re at your new place, I highly recommend measuring everything – Heights of counters and little nooks by the corners. These will definitely come in handy. We created a few online home design models, but I feel drawing on paper and possibly cutting out drawings of furniture is a better method.

Planning for the Move

Packing is definitely not easy and it’s best done in batches. Before you start, however, you should consider:

  • Who’s helping you move? – if professional, you’ll need to box everything
  • What are the biggest items you’re moving? – this determines the moving vehicle specs; smaller cars should probably use small to medium boxes with lots of tote bags
  • Approximately how many boxes do you think you’ll need? – Studio needs around 20 boxes or so (you will almost always underestimate)
  • Are there restrictions to your new building for move-in? – you may not want big boxes if you’re in a walk-up

We used professional movers because we didn’t want to bother our friends on a weekday. Within 2 weeks, we packed our stuff in the following order:

  1. Books
  2. Electronics (although we did the AppleTV and chargers last)
  3. Fragile artwork/ornamental
  4. Bathroom stuff (save some soap and makeup)
  5. Bedding (we used some of this for stuffing fragile stuff)
  6. Kitchen
  7. (1 week before) Clothes that you won’t wear that week
  8. (day before) Last minute clothes, bathroom, and food into plastic bags

Make sure you give yourself enough time to move. It’s not an easy task unless you’re just throwing everything out and starting new.

Essential items to buy/borrow:

  • Boxes (we did 3 wardrobe, 3 large, 5 medium, 5 small, and 3 random storage boxes)
  • Packaging tape (3-4 roles is useful)
  • Box cutter – super useful!
  • Sharp scissors – super useful!
  • Newspaper – for stuffing boxes
  • 35+ Quart and Gallon ziplock bags – we used this for bathroom and electronics stuff

Tips for Staying Organized with Your Packing

  • Look for boxes in your building recycling or post in your neighborhood board (or from work, liquor store, or Starbucks)
  • (If you didn’t find them) Buy wardrobe boxes for moving clothes on hangers – it’s worth the price because it was definitely more convenient
  • Spreadsheet your boxes – number, content, and fragile (y/n)
  • Label your boxes – put numbers on them and do checks to make sure all boxes are accounted for
  • Place your boxes so it’s convenient for a move
    • Large items in the front
    • Fragile boxes in the back
  • Move some of your clothes that you’re not wearing out first
  • Do a walk through of the apartment
  • Use your clothing and towels to stuff some of the fragile items (keep in mind that they’ll smell like cardboard and get dirty)
  • Color code your boxes (if you’re feeling neurotic)
  • The heavier or more fragile the item; the smaller the box
  • Do the box test
    • Lift to make sure it’s not too heavy
    • If it’s fragile, shake the box to see if you hear movement. If you do, then stuff it with newspaper or other things
  • Avoid tangled necklaces with straws
  • Contact the post office for your change of address a week ahead of time since it usually takes 5 business days
  • Check other things you get in the mail (e.g. newspaper subscriptions, credit card statements, etc)
  • Have a separate carry-on or luggage for your most valuable items (e.g. expensive jewelry, passport, important docs, etc). You should not let anyone carry this except you or give even better, give it to a trusted friend to hold onto until after the move.

Moving In Day-Of

  • Make sure you have someone watch your pet for the day (because Henry gets scared)
  • Keep a box for your Day-Of Go-To bag that you keep separate so you don’t need to completely unpack everything for the first week of moving in
  • Bring extra tote backs for last minute items
  • Once you have the key, make sure someone is at the new place to help people with arranging the boxes in the right areas
  • Provide movers and friends with the details/directions to the new place (remember to ask about parking)
  • Have cash for tipping your movers or bring beer/pizza for your family/friends

Post Move-In

  • Create Phases for the move so you take care of the essentials first
  • Take your time to get new furniture and fill in those gaps
  • Enjoy!

~See Lemons and Nessa Moved