Before you think this is one of those preachy blog posts about how perfectly I do everything and how unspeakably wrong you're doing it all, let me say this: I just packed up my entire life, shipped it off to storage, and temporarily moved myself, my husband, one dog, and two cats in with my parents. Rest assured: this move was not meltdown-free. This post is not about how much better I am at packing than everyone else; instead, it's everything I wish I'd done (and a few things that I did do) in anticipation of the big move. If you have a move looming large, learn from my mistakes and successes so that your moment of 'Oh my God, it's never getting done, where the hell do I even begin' can be a short one... because no matter how organized and prepared you are, every move has at least one of those moments.
1. Begin packing early - you have way more $h*t than you think you do. I remember when we first got the closing date on our then current, now former apartment, I thought, 'We have soooo much time, and really, we don't have that much stuff.' Holy hoarding, was I wrong. Time flies and things accumulate - especially in the places that are out of plain sight. Begin packing as soon as you purchase your new home or have a date by which you have to vacate your current place. Don't let the illusion of minimalism trick you into thinking you have less than you do.
2. Start hoarding newspapers now. If you're like many people today, you get more of your news online than in the paper, but those newspapers come in handy when you're packing dishes, glasses, or anything breakable. Start squirreling away any newspapers you come across now so that by the time you're ready to pack your delicates, you'll have an ample stockpile on hand. Ask neighbors, family, and friends, check your building's recycling bin (just make sure any newspaper you swipe is clean!), and scope out places that offer free local papers or print newsletters.
3. Buy more boxes than you anticipate needing. There's nothing worse than finally motivating yourself to pack, getting into a nice flow, and then interrupting the groove to run out for more boxes. My husband and I made at least five or six Home Depot runs over the course of two weeks, and most of them were mad dashes at 9:45pm on a Tuesday night, desperately trying to make it before the store closed. And desperation is never a good look.
4. Get the good tape. Trust me on this one. This is not the place to bargain hunt. There's nothing that will drive a frazzled packer over the edge quicker than trying to unstick tape that's stuck to itself for the billionth time or dealing with shredded, mangled tape ribbons when all you want to do is tape the damn box shut and be done with it. Also, when all those cardboard boxes are holding, oh, just everything you own in the whole world, you kind of want them to stay securely closed.
5. Pack boxes by room or function. Finally, something I actually did right! As tempting as it is to go around your house grabbing random things that seem like they want to be roomies and throwing them into a box together, that's going to make unpacking a total nightmare. Pack things room-by-room or by purpose - i.e. kitchen thingies should be packed with other kitchen thingies; art, on the other hand, would be best packed together, regardless of what room it currently lives in. Then clearly label everything so you're not scrambling and head-scratching when you get into your new home. The exception: during the final leg of packing, you'll likely have a 'random crap' box that will be filled with anything that's leftover on that last day.
6. Use pillows, sheets, and towels to form buffers for delicate items. Bubble wrap is great, and I highly recommend it, but if you're like me and have a lot of breakable or precious items, it's going to require a whole lot of the stuff (the upside: if you do overbuy, you now have hours of bubble-popping at your disposal and we all know that's freaking awesome). Towels, sheets, pillows - using these as cushioning keeps your fragile pieces safe and checks a few more items off your long list of things to pack.
7. Shower your movers with coffee, donuts, and bagels. These lovely people will have all of your worldly possessions under their care for at least the next few hours or, like me, the next few weeks (or longer) while they sit in storage. Of course, you'd be nice to anyone without having to be told (unless you're some kind of jerk, in which case, ew), but be extra nice to these folks. Bagels, donuts, coffee, and plenty of cold bottles of water will go a long way in ensuring you avoid the mover equivalent of having your meal spit on.
8. Break packing down into smaller, more manageable chunks of time. Commit to packing a little bit each night to avoid the last-minute marathon session that inevitably leads to a full-on meltdown involving several bottles of wine and ugly-crying in the fetal position on your shower floor. I started as the former (smugly so, I might add), and ended as the latter (karma, and all that), and I highly recommend the first - though the several bottles of wine come in handy in either situation.
9. If you forgot you owned it, throw it out. The same applies if you can't remember the last time you used/wore/looked at it. I'm a sentimental sap, which means I never throw out anything ever. I'm also idiotically optimistic when it comes to too-small clothes - I actually had a pair of jeans (killer jeans, I might add) that were probably too small on me when I was 20 pounds lighter and 7 years younger that I was convinced I would somehow squeeze back into one day. I probably won't, and if I could, I'd probably want new clothes that are, you know, actually in style. Get rid of it! Purge! Be free! It's insanely therapeutic to literally and figuratively lighten your load and give yourself permission to start fresh. As William Morris said, 'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.' Yes. All day, yes.
10. Above all else: remain calm. (I definitely didn't do this one as much as I should have.) It will get done, and then you'll have nothing to worry about except unpacking it all (vomit). It will suck most of the time, but packing can also have its moments of lightness and tenderness. While packing up my life, I stumbled across everything from old family photos to sweet wedding cards, and in a time of such stress, I was grateful for the temporary walk down memory lane.
If all else fails and your packing experience is a total tear-soaked disaster, at the very least, learn from it. Every time you feel the desire to bring something new into your home, ask yourself if you love it enough to want to pack it the next time you move. If the answer is no, move on, darling. Move on...