Short of packing myself in a box...
August 22, 2012 7:58 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving. I want to do it in the most efficient way possible. Absent a magic wand, any tips/best practices/suggestions/lessons learned?

Following this question coupled with a rent increase of nearly $400/month, I'm moving. I have time to do this sanely as my lease isn't up until 9/30 although there's an outside chance I'll find a place for 9/15. I'm trying to do one box (packing) or bag (garbage) a day so it's not a last minute rush. Been there, done that.

I read most of the related questions but none seemed to be an exact fit. This is an intra city (or immediate surrounds), I'm using a mover I know to be reputable from a past move coupled with ZipCar or a family member's car for little stuff. Not interested in Pod or related due to both likely being walk ups and my own preference. I'd rather pay a mover than do this/lean on friends.

Not concerned about location as you all gave some great suggestions in my previous question, but I really want to do the move well. What have you learned/wish you knew in past moves? Here's where I'm working from as a starting point:

-I already do a trick with my clothes where I hang them the wrong way so I know what I haven't worn. Any that I haven't absent a good reason (i.e. formal dress) are going as is anything that's stained, worn, too big, gone.

-Books. Tossing cheap paperbacks. Can easily get from library or for Kindle if I finally want to read vs. mountain of unread books. Other than 3 favorite titles I reread often and sentimental favorites/books I have yet to read not available electronically I'll keep. I'm tossing any unread non-recent magazines unless collectable/sentimental (Giants’ SB winning, Yankees’ WS winning SIs).

-Furniture/housewares - if it's held together by duct tape, gone. Gorilla glue, maybe. At least temporarily until I get a new coffee table. I really want to move on from early-post college decor, but within budget limits.

-Food - non perishables not along lines of current diet/preferences are going to Food Bank.

If it helps, I'm moving a sort of 1BR (converted studio) into a 1BR or large studio. Have a local thrift shop where I can easily make donations. I really want to take this opportunity to get rid of a lot of clutter if possible.

Any other tips? Ideas? I'm open to anything. Thanks in advance for any info
posted by TravellingCari to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Spend the extra cash on plastic tubs to put things into so that they are a uniform size and can stack. Label them with letters/numbers and have a clipboard where you write down what is in each one so that you don't have to write on the boxes. Donate them afterwards to a friend who is moving. Keep one box labeled LAST that has a shower curtain, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, a towel, a set of silverware and a knife. Pack it last, open it first. Wrap glassware in t-shirts and other small clothing so you pack both at once. Save super fragile stuff to move on your own, don't trust other people with it. Do not underestimate the power of the FREE sign or Freecycle to get rid of stuff. Often it's worth the money you might make to just get rid of something as opposed to negotiate with folks on CL or whatever.
posted by jessamyn at 8:03 AM on August 22, 2012 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I just used BookScouter to make $50 on books I would've otherwise taken to the Goodwill. And I'm currently going through the cupboards and trying to plan meals that use up as many ingredients as possible so I don't have to give/throw them away. I've only got a week left before a big move but with over a month you should be able to eat up most of your food stock.
posted by jabes at 8:03 AM on August 22, 2012

Best answer: The tip I read somewhere and quite liked was to pack one box with the essentials: one set bedding, towel, toiletries, change of clothes, etc. That way when you look around at the sea of boxes you know that there's only ONE that really has to be unpacked that day.

Also, stickers to indicate areas (instead of labeling with a marker). Blue round sticker = kitchen, red round sticker = books/media, yellow sticker = bathroom, etc.
posted by ldthomps at 8:04 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Start saving newspaper for packing dishes. Buy the Sunday Times two or three times. Also save bubble wrap.

If you need a recommendation for a mover, I would be happy to provide one. It was the best $800 I ever spent to have everything lugged from one apartment to another.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:15 AM on August 22, 2012

Best answer: I use winter clothes -- I live in Chicago, so I have many -- to pack dishes and glasses. Sweaters tend to be fuzzy and soft so they make good cushions for fragile glassware. That way you are doing double duty by packing two things you need together and not generating extra trash, as you might with newspapers, since you'll inevitably have tons of trash from boxes and moving anyway.
posted by andrewesque at 8:24 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding jessamyn, plastic tubs made moving SO much better. We rented some from jugglebox and it was totally worth it, being able to throw a bunch of stuff into a box without worrying about it getting squashed or having to tape the box up was awesome.

Also, start sorting and getting rid of stuff ASAP -- it's nice to have the option of making a few passes through the closet and bookshelf, taking things to the thrift store each time, rather than panicking and throwing it all in a box at the last minute.
posted by LeeLanded at 8:26 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Packing your glasses and dishes in clothes/linens also has the benefit that when you unpack them they're not all covered in newspaper ink.

My most recent move, my biggest regret was not labelling the boxes better. I didn't know what was where. A couple of seconds per box would have saved me a lot of time and hassle later.

Oh, also: start taking the clutter to the thrift shop NOW. Don't save it up for one big trip like I did. It was miserable and I ended up moving a lot of stuff I didn't need to move.
posted by mskyle at 8:34 AM on August 22, 2012

Best answer: If you're moving dining chairs, a trick we learnt when moving overseas was: take one chair and put it as if you were going sit on it, wrap a corrugated cardboard sheet around it so it is inside a sort of tube of the card and secure, then you can stack stuff on the seat, preferably stuff that will stack neatly but def. not fragile items. Then take the second chair and tip it upside down so the seat is flat on top of your stack and the legs are in the air. Wrap a second cardboard tube around that and stack some more stuff in-between the legs. Seal the top with a another sheet. You can also then turn the tube upside down and stack more stuff in the leg space of the original chair or you can just leave it.

I hope that makes sense? It is strangely hard to describe in words...

nting the box of essentials to be packed last and opened first! (although with my last flat, I had access to it the day before I actually moved all my crap, so I took toilet paper etc. across and did some cleaning in advance.)
posted by halcyonday at 8:35 AM on August 22, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks all, keep it coming.

Some great stuff. I'm definitely all about the plastic tubs and the boxes I'm using for tall items are same size for easy stacking. Definitely all about the thrift store as I go, part of why I started early. Loving the labeling and the clothes as packing material. I've also started a shopping list for my new place. For me, that's height of organization.
posted by TravellingCari at 8:41 AM on August 22, 2012

Best answer: When you're labeling boxes, don't bother with a detailed description of what's inside, just note the room they go in. The movers might have to ask you where you want your winter coats, but if it just says "Bedroom" or "Storage" they'll be able to do it independently.

I guess if you were going to be taking a month to unpack you might want to have contents more specifically labeled, but for general moving purposes it doesn't matter.
posted by echo target at 8:56 AM on August 22, 2012

Best answer: $6 Tubs, lots of plastic tubs.

As the first person above said, all the same size/stackable.
posted by wcfields at 9:17 AM on August 22, 2012

Response by poster: On a bizarre note re: plastic tubs. Was in my closet to find my iron and found a plastic bin I hadn't unpacked/missed from last move. Keeping the bin but its contents are going straight to thrift shop.

I'm not even dealing with CraigsList as the furniture I'm binning isn't worth anything and the return on what has some value isn't there so I'd rather the tax write off for mom (I don't itemize). I love taking stuff down to curb and seeing what's gone by next trip

Not to threadsit, but any tips on keeping place presentable to brokers showing it while packing. It's a small space so not like I can pack a box/tub and put it somewhere. They're currently between futon and T V
posted by TravellingCari at 9:37 AM on August 22, 2012

Best answer: Don't underestimate how long it can take to pack or how many boxes/tubs it will take to contain all your stuff. We had plenty of time to move and started packing early but still had to scramble towards the end. It took a lot more boxes to contain all our stuff and a LOT more time to pack it all up. You'll be happier if you have everything packed up and well labeled a few days early than if you have to scramble because you underestimated how much stuff you have.

Put big numbers in each room of the place you're moving too and then label each box with the number of the room you want it to go into so no one needs to ask, "Where does this one go?"
posted by VTX at 9:38 AM on August 22, 2012

Best answer: I've moved dresser drawers with their contents still in them before. Furniture's lighter when drawers are removed, and it's nice to just pop them right back in. Also if any couches have feet, better to remove them beforehand than to find out when you get there they won't make it through a doorway or around a corner, or may scratch up walls.
Think about everything you'll want access to when you arrive and have it in your conspicuous box. I'd want shelf paper right away, and also a pencil, paper, a tape measure, music, a towel, flashlight, cell/laptop chargers, and just a general survival kit in case there's no power/cable/internet/whatever. Paper plates/disposable stuff if you just get a pizza delivery the first day or something so you don't move in with dishes to do. And trash bags. I always recruited friends and managed to make just one trip with moving van and cars full of unboxables, a cooler with beer and stuff, a big pizza order, and everyone's been happy enough to show up the next time I needed them.
posted by hypersloth at 9:44 AM on August 22, 2012

Best answer: For anything that needs to be unscrewed or taken apart, be sure to put all the small pieces together in a plastic ziplock bag and physically tie/tape the bag to the associated larger pieces. Do not put the plastic baggie inside a box with other stuff, otherwise you will never find it again.
posted by nikkorizz at 10:17 AM on August 22, 2012

Best answer: Separately pack what you will need for your first morning's meal/beverage. Not having to scramble for that morning cuppa makes all the difference as you contemplate all the boxes yet to be unpacked. Keep a couple of ready meals in the new fridge. Unpack your favourite space first so you'll always be able to take a few mins off to got sit with the laptop or read a magazine or something.
posted by infini at 10:34 AM on August 22, 2012

Best answer: I always pack (my biggest) suitcase with a set of sheets, a set of towels, a couple changes of clothes, pajamas, toiletries, a book, and any other essentials. I make sure the bed gets set up as soon as possible, and I make the bed up first thing. That way I can have a shower and collapse into bed as soon as I'm worn out.

If moving multiple people, a suitcase for each one (lovies for children, etc.). I move the suitcases myself in my car. Also include a roll of toilet paper, a roll of paper towels, a kitchen trash bag, things like that. You can also, if you have space, include some paper plates, etc., so you can just order pizza or get take-out and not have to pick up or unpack dishes.

Anyway, that way you have the necessities of living for a few days and you can unpack things in the order that makes sense to you, not the order of "OMG I HAVE NO UNDERWEAR WHAT BOX IS IT IN?"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:53 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It's a little extra money, but I got a storage locker and put the things that I don't use on a regular basis in there. It was $55 for the first month - $1 rent for the first month through Public Storage does not end up only being $1 - but it made my life a lot easier. I just had to worry about moving sheets, clothes, valuables, etc., and I could deal with my 16mm projector, tchotchkes, and so on after the big move was over.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:08 AM on August 22, 2012

Best answer: I always think the worst part about moving is the cleaning of the old apartment when all the stuff's out. Last time I moved the cleaning took just as long as the packing/moving itself.

Depending on your lease requirements of cleaning before moving out, start doing hard or time consuming cleaning stuff now. Take the blinds down, soak them in the tub with some Dawn. Clean the fans in your bathroom/kitchen. Clean the oven if you think you won't use it before you move. Deep clean the fridge and freezer. Clean out the kitchen cabinets and drawers, that's where most of my junk goes. Pull out furniture and do the baseboards, see if there are any spots on the walls--wipe them down (Magic Eraser) or fill them with spackle. The goal is to clean as much as possible so that when you do move out, you just have to run the vacuum, wet mop, and wipe down the bathroom/kitchen. And of course YMMV on how much you the tenant have to accomplish in the way of cleaning, but these are things I've wished I'd done earlier in the process (and was required to do according to my lease).
posted by stellaluna at 12:06 PM on August 22, 2012

Best answer: tips on keeping place presentable to brokers showing it while packing. It's a small space so not like I can pack a box/tub and put it somewhere. They're currently between futon and T V

Depending on the size of the box/tub, you can put some side by side and/or stack some and then cover with a tablecloth or a curtain. Stack a few nice books on top, and there you go!

If you can swing it and pretty much know where stuff is going to go in the new place, put stuff on the walls (artwork, shelves, etc.) before you move in the rest. I moved across the hall and back in March (admittedly easier than you are doing), and I wish I'd done that.

When things are in place on the walls, you put in the furniture and you get homeyness faster. Plus you don't have to move the stuff again later on to get to the walls.
posted by jgirl at 12:17 PM on August 22, 2012

Response by poster: For a laugh, or others looking at this later, here's my favorite piece of advice from Wallaby in a previous thread:

Refuse to pack a box of crap. It's so tempting as you finish up packing to just throw stuff in a box. Just go through it now, or you most likely never will.
posted by TravellingCari at 12:28 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Strip the apartment bare of all your "special" and "decorative" items. Take down all pictures from the walls, pack up all your action figures or Depression Glass. When the room looks anonymous and unfamiliar, it's easier to tackle as a project.

Pull everything out of cabinets and nooks and crannies from the beginning. For one thing, it allows you to find hard & soft surfaces to alternate, and it also brings the entirety of the task to hand. I still have dreams about opening cupboards and finding them full of kitchen equipment and awkwardly shaped appliances.

The last 20% of packing is 80% of the work. The last 5% of packing is 20% of the work.
posted by ohshenandoah at 1:48 PM on August 22, 2012

Best answer: Packed tubs in a stack are totally reasonable for brokers and prospective tenants to see.

Label boxes on more than one side.

Don't use duct tape on plastic and expect it to come off. Ever. Packing tape over paper is removable.

Think about whether you will really gave room for all those new tubs in your new space. You could rent them in NYC from juggle box or elsewhere in Canada or US, from frogbox. I was very happy with Frogbox.

If you want to get fancy, an electronic or handwritten inventory separate from the side of the boxes can be helpful. That way the box says 8-kitchen and your list says "iron, dishes, can opener, saucy underthings"

Personally, I accept having one box of junk. Where else would I put the extra extension cords, tape and scissors?

It's not really good for your furniture to move drawers with clothes, so unless your mover explicitly encourages it, I wouldn't.

Yay for pre-planning!
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 8:41 PM on August 22, 2012

Best answer: A whole bunch of useful tips & checklists can be found here.

At risk of repeating anything above, here are some of my own suggestions:

- Don't fill a box (or tub) completely with books - very heavy! Ditto for records, if you have old vinyl LPs. Fill half the box with clothes.

- People have mentioned setting aside 'essentials' in a single tub. I'd include a kettle, coffee, maybe some ramen or something else to eat, plus a cup & bowl & some cutlery.

- Instead of packing ALL your clothes into boxes of t-shirts, undies etc, how about packing a box or two with complete outfits, so when you get to your destination you don't need to unpack heaps of boxes just to dress yourself.

- Don't forget to redirect your mail, and notifiy all relevant companies of your new address. This includes whatever you need to do to shut off your landline, gas, electricity etc.

- I think it's nice to be able to set up a TV / stereo / whatever other electronic entertainment for the first night, when you're going to be tired & eating pizza or ramen, so make sure you know where any necessary remote controls, cables etc are packed.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:02 AM on August 23, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks all - some seriously fabulous ideas here I hadn't heard of. A couple of notes - as much for the future as any further answers:

- labels for bins are a great idea because tape seemed to lift sharpie ink whereas I just tape over label and presto. The bins I have are of the under bed variety so their not fitting in my new place isn't as much of an issue. If they don't, I'll freecycle/donate/etc.

- the hardest thing for me to find has been what I call bed bags. Neither Target nor KMart has them so I'm holding out hope for the Container Store or Bed & Bath. I find these hugely helpful for sheets, blankets, even towels so you can make use of nooks & crannies. I have two but would like to find two more.

-Any suggestions on packing a mirror? I'm thinking I'll leave it (like the TV) for the movers because they have more knowledge on those than I do but open to tips.

I swear my stuff has multiplied since I moved. Purging is therapeutic. Side note: if you're in NYC and need plastic drawers, a coffee table, book case ping me before I freecycle.
posted by TravellingCari at 6:58 PM on August 24, 2012

Response by poster: So the packing is (mostly) done. Despite my starting early I ended up finding a place sooner negating my "head start". Here are my contributions/notes for others in the future:

* building on ldthomps' tip: The tip I read somewhere and quite liked was to pack one box with the essentials: one set bedding, towel, toiletries, change of clothes, etc. That way when you look around at the sea of boxes you know that there's only ONE that really has to be unpacked that day.
I took it one step further & packed a small suitcase like I was going away. It had a few changes of clothes, toiletries, etc. for a few days. This has & will continue to come in handy vs. digging through boxes.Although I somehow lost my toothpaste. In the grand scheme of things, no big deal. I also brought over some bathroom things early following a trip to bed & bath for a new shower curtain so helped to have that room (mostly) done first helped a lot. As did the first step on arrival being making my bed. When I hit a wall, I could shower and crawl in.

* I went mostly bins as many of you said. I had these already & knew I could store them post move under my bed. There came a point where I was out of bin space & couldn't justify spending more money on something I was going to immediately throw out or donate, so I switched to boxes that a friend had following her move. Despite best efforts I hinted at above, a box of crap happened. Several, in fact. The most amusing, perhaps, was the use of stuffed animals as packing material for my wine glasses.

*My most recent move, my biggest regret was not labelling the boxes better. I didn't know what was where. A couple of seconds per box would have saved me a lot of time and hassle later. Guilty. MOvers were trying to help by putting boxes by their labels but some were works of fiction/unhelpful.

*Paper towel makes good packing material for dishes. Wouldn't use it for heirlooms or anything of super value but it worked fine for me. Only one mug chipped.

* Clean, pre move, move out, move in, then clean. This sort of became my mantra. Once I had the keys to my apartment I moved some small stuff and did a clean. The apartment was mostly clean but they'd painted and done some minor renos so there was dust around. A run with the swiffer was good to ensure I wasn't unpacking on top of dust. Then as I moved in and unpacked I used some of the paper towel packing material to dust things I'd brought. Once almost everything save for a step ladder, cleaning supplies was out of the old apartment, I went back to clean there. Easier than cleaning around things.

More to come as I finish unpacking, I'm sure. Thanks again for all your help
posted by TravellingCari at 6:05 PM on September 15, 2012

Response by poster: Oh and a follow up to - Don't forget to redirect your mail, and notifiy all relevant companies of your new address. This includes whatever you need to do to shut off your landline, gas, electricity etc.

The one thing that ended up being a pleasant surprise how easy it was was the update of my rental insurance. Literally took 30 seconds on line. No changes to the policy and no additional cost
posted by TravellingCari at 6:09 PM on September 15, 2012

Response by poster: OK. Mostly unpacked. What has come to bite me in the ass? The box(es) of crap. I didn't know what to do with them so tossed them into a box - and don't know what to do with them now so they're still in a bin. Overall, move went well. Thanks so much all!
posted by TravellingCari at 7:24 AM on September 24, 2012

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