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3 Steps to Get Organized for a Move

You are moving! It’s an exciting time filled with anticipation for your next adventure. At the same time, preparing for the move can feel mind-boggling. I have three steps ready to make this transition a smooth one for you! Following these suggestions will give packing structure and lead to more pleasant un-packing in your new place.

Pack and Move Only What You Use

As you are getting ready to move, have you come across boxes of items that haven’t been unpacked or looked at since the last time you moved?! Follow these tips to prevent that from happening again! Packing, moving and unpacking your belongings is time consuming and expensive. Taking the time to downsize and purge your items as you pack will save you in moving costs and time when unpacking. Storage space in your new home can be devoted to things you use and love.

As you go through items to pack, have 4 boxes or bags readily accessible:

  1. Box for packing items for the move

  2. Box or bag for donations

  3. Garbage bag for trash

  4. Box or bag for recycling

Keep all 4 near you as you are packing and label them. This makes it easy to sort items and also reduces random piles of stuff ending up all over the house.

Designate a spot in your house for the “donation station”. This is where you will take boxes and bags of donations as they are filled up. I’d recommend somewhere close to your car - by the front door or in the garage. Or go one step further and take it directly to your car when a box or bag is full!

For a few donation resources in the Madison, WI area, click this list for places to drop off your items or arrange for pick-up. Always call or check their website for the most recent list of accepted items. Click the links for several electronics recycling options and document shredding resources in the area.

Photograph, Label and Inventory

Adequately identifying and labeling the contents of your boxes will make the unpacking process go more smoothly.


Before you begin packing, take photos of your belongings by room, including closets and cabinets. If you have systems that are working well in your home now, you can refer to these

photos when unpacking to implement the same location and system in your new home. If you have friends or family helping you unpack, they can reference the photos too.

Label Boxes

Label in at least two locations, on the front and side of the box. Label should include the name of the room it is going to, a box number and a short description of the main items in the box. I recommend designating a color to each room to speed up identifying where to place contents as they are unloaded from the moving truck. Create a chart with each room and color and print a few copies for easy reference. You can use colored painter’s tape, duct tape, or round 2” stickers, something like these.


Pack your contents on a room by room basis. Don’t mix items from one room into a box with items from a different room, unless you want them to be together in your new home. Utilize an Inventory Sheet to keep track of your contents. This is helpful if you plan to unpack over the course of several weeks. During that time you may need a particular item that is still packed. Having a list will help you determine what box it is in by quickly scanning the inventory sheet, rather than having to sort through the boxes. Give each box a number as you pack them. Log on the inventory sheet the contents of each box. As best you can, try to assign numbers to boxes from the same room together. (ie #1-10 for kitchen, #11-15 for linen closet)

Create a Packing Schedule

Put it in your Calendar

Decide how many days per week and how many hours per day you can devote to packing. Working backwards from your moving date, schedule these packing days into your calendar.

Make a Plan by Space

Next, add the spaces you are going to pack on those date(s) into your calendar. This helps reduce overwhelm and breaks down a large project into smaller, manageable tasks. I recommend starting in areas where you know you won’t need anything until after the move. For example - a guest bedroom, off-season clothing, basement, formal dining or living rooms, bookcases, etc… When you’ve packed the non-essentials, wall art and decorative items should be next on the list.

Two Weeks Out - Plan for Meals & Clothing

When you are a couple weeks out from your move date, start planning on what meals you’ll have and set aside what kitchen items for cooking, serving and eating you’ll need. You may find this meal plan template helpful. Set those aside in a “pack last” cabinet, giving you the ability to pack up everything else. Create a plan for clothing and office supplies too. Note what you’ll use the last week or two of the move and pack everything else.

Implementing a few simple organizational strategies to your move can make the process run smoothly and not feel as daunting. Take the time to only pack what you need and use and be systematic in packing by room and labeling as you go. Break the packing job down into several small tasks and schedule those tasks into your calendar. Starting early and working in shorter periods of a few hours will reduce the risk of burn-out and prevent items haphazardly being tossed into boxes on moving day!

Katie Wagner is a Professional Organizer and Senior & Specialty Move Manager. To find out more visit her website,


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