A Family Packing Checklist to Simplify Your Move

July 17, 2015

Planning is key when there's a move in your future. A packing checklist keeps the whole family on the same page from start to finish.

When you're gearing up for a big move, you've got a lot to keep track of. A family packing checklist helps you get organized, stay focused and not forget anything important when moving to your new home.

Here's a list to get you through moving day -- without leaving your child's favorite toy behind:

Packing Tips

  • Create a Master Packing Checklist
    "Draw out a floor plan of both houses, label in each room of your current house where items go, then label your new home with all the same tags," says Chrissy Halton, an interior designer, professional organizer and blogger at Organise My House. Assign a color for each room and use colored tape or sticky dots to mark boxes accordingly. Number all boxes on sides and top. Your master list includes what's in each box. Mark contents on box labels too, if desired.
  • Purge, Purge, Purge
    "If you haven't used it, worn it or loved it in the past year -- or better yet, six months -- then donate, sell, recycle or trash it," suggests Deme Crinion, who blogs about DIY, organization and family life at House For Five, and whose personal experience includes eight moves in nine years. To simplify the process, follow real estate agent Denise Atkins' suggestion:"Set up 'keep,' 'donate,' 'discard' and 'maybe' boxes in each room."

Packing From Start to Finish

Tackle Storage Areas First
"Pre-pack everything you don't need months before the move, labeling all boxes," suggests Atkins. Pack these items well in advance of the move, keeping out frequently used items.

  • Out-of-season clothes
  • Memorabilia and sentimental items
  • Holiday decor
  • Books and photo albums
  • Most tools (but save basics like screwdrivers and hammers)
  • Grills, lawn and garden equipment
  • Exercise and sports equipment

Keep Important Documents Safe
Crinion recommends creating a moving binder to keep all documents, contact numbers and information organized. Stash it in your bedroom to keep well-meaning helpers from accidentally boxing it up.

Save Smaller Items Until Later
Starting a week or two before moving day, pack up items you won't need in the last few days in your new home.

This includes decor items and nonessentials such as:

  • Lamps
  • The majority of your clothing and shoes (but pack a suitcase to get you through the rest of the move)
  • Toys and games
  • Mirrors
  • Clocks, photos, shelves, art and wall decor
  • Small electronics including stereos, DVD players and video game systems
  • Small appliances including irons, ironing boards, toasters, blenders, microwaves, vacuum cleaners, hair dryers
  • Area rugs, curtains and blinds
  • Clothes hampers

Enlist Help With Furniture and Bulky Items
Extra hands make light work when moving heavy items.

Hire movers or enlist friends to help move these items on moving day:

  • Bed frames and mattresses
  • Dressers
  • Nightstands
  • Desks
  • Couches
  • Tables and chairs
  • Bookcases
  • Media centers
  • Televisions
  • Large appliances, including washers, dryers, stoves and refrigerators

Pack Last, Unpack First.
"Fill several 'open me first' boxes," recommends Tamera Ferguson, a real estate agent.

You'll want to pack these essential items last and unpack them first at your new home:

  • Snacks
  • Air mattresses or sleeping bags
  • Bed linens and pillows
  • Towels
  • Soap
  • Toothpaste and brushes
  • Toilet paper
  • Shower curtain
  • Dishes, silverware and glasses
  • A few pots and pans
  • Scissors and tape
  • Pen and paper
  • Trash bags
  • Paper towels and cleaning supplies
  • Basic tools
  • Baby and pet care needs

Do not Pack
"Set up a 'do not pack' staging area," real estate agent Brenda Freeman suggests.

Download a blank "do not pack" list from House for Five and transport these items yourself:

  • Important documents, including Social Security cards, and school, medical, dental and veterinarian records
  • Moving binder
  • Valuables including jewelry, cash and credit cards
  • Purse and children's travel backpacks
  • Children's favorite blankets and stuffed animals
  • Financial information
  • Medications
  • Plants
  • Suitcases filled with a few days' clothing
  • Small electronics, including laptops, tablets, cameras, cell phones and charging cables.

Stay Focused
Power through the final stretch. Continue to label boxes. Resist the urge to put what's left in miscellaneous boxes.

Don't Forget
Change your address with the post office, shut off and turn on utilities, take photos at both houses and have cash on hand.

You're at your new house -- now what? Join a Big Tent community to post questions about your new neighborhood and connect with local parents.

Sandy Wallace is an experienced mover who grew up in a military family and has moved several times as an adult. Sandy enjoys family life and sharing tips for busy families. Follow Sandy on Twitter and have fun making family memories.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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