Whether by circumstance or by design, some new homebuyers find themselves needing to pack up and move in a week — or less! While a short timeline can seem overwhelming, experts say it can be done.
In order to compile these tips for moving in a hurry, we spoke with Ann Hoke, a top-producing real estate agent in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, who works with 74% more single-family homes than the average agent in her area, and Andrea VanHorn, who gained years of experience making quick moves as a military wife. They agree that some strategic thinking can help take the stress out of a quick move.
1. Plan ahead (as much as you can!)
When you’re in a rush, it can be tempting to just dive right into the tasks at hand, but skipping the planning stage will cost you time later. Take a moment to organize your thoughts and supplies so that you can be properly prepared before you begin.
- Sorting supplies: Obtain bins or boxes for donation, trash, and possible sale so you can work faster during the sorting stage.
- Food supplies: Have food and drinks on-hand for helpers. Don’t overbuy! Using up food in your fridge, freezer, and pantry will save time.
- Packing supplies: Get your moving boxes, bubble wrap, packing paper, and tape ready now!
Hoke recommends tapeless packing boxes for homebuyers who are in a hurry. They’re about 60 cents more than traditional boxes, but their innovative folding design saves time and hassle.
2. Keep a running checklist
Since you’re in a hurry, you’re likely to think of things that need to be done on the fly. But changing course to do those little things as they pop up can seriously derail your productivity. And some things simply must be done at the last minute.
Keep your mind clear and focused by writing your to-do’s down either on paper or in your phone. Some examples to get your list started:
- Call utilities (turn off and turn on)
- Forward mail
- Update address for credit cards, bills, magazines, etc.
- Contact your insurance agent
- Pull things out of the attic
- Clean inside appliances
VanHorn says, “I designate a folder that holds all paperwork associated with the move in one place.” She then writes notes regarding her current residence on the inside cover and jots lists about her new home inside the back cover.
3. Ask for help
Assemble your moving squad early, so you’re not scrambling later. Will you need movers? At what stage will you need them — packing or loading? Can you enlist some friends to help you pack and move? When are they available?
Make your calls immediately, as moving company schedules are often set weeks in advance.
When help arrives, be prepared with forthright assignments. You have no time to waste on directionless helpers. Set each helper on course with simple, polite instructions, such as, “John, can you please pack the books?” or “Terry, will you be in charge of cleaning the bathrooms, please?”
4. Take photos
Are there certain configurations or setups that you’ll want to remember once you get to your new home? Take photos now before well-intentioned helpers start packing things in a less-than-perfect way.
For example, you may want to take photos of your electronics plug-ins, your closet organizers, and anything that may need to be disassembled (such as bed frames).
5. Sort the big items first
Figure out which furniture and appliances can and cannot go with you on your move. If you think you can sell or give away any items, take photos and start the rehoming process early. Schedule donation pick-up for anything that you can’t get rid of on your own.
For items that will be making the move with you, put color-coded sticky notes or tape on items that require special handling. That way, you’ll be able to give your movers and helpers good directions. For example, you could ask someone to put plastic wrap around all items with a blue tag.
6. Pack your ‘overnight’ bag
Before you really start the packing craziness, be sure to pack a bag with all your essentials. Think as if you were vacationing for a few days.
In fact, Hoke tells her clients to imagine they were going to a remote cabin for the weekend. What would you need or want if you were “roughing it” in the wilderness?
- ID, wallet, and cash
- Phone, tablet, computer, chargers
- Bath towel
- Important closing documents (get details from your real estate agent)
7. Set aside your cleaning supplies
Whether you’re leaving it for new buyers or you’re hoping to get a security deposit back, you’ll need to clean your current residence. For ultimate time savings, consider hiring a professional cleaner to come in after you move out. Otherwise, be sure not to pack up your cleaning supplies — you’ll need them at the final stage and also at your new place.
8. Tackle the delicate stuff
Artwork, decorative items, and anything that’s breakable or might require extra care should be handled first and then moved out of the way. This is a good job to outsource to a careful friend who may not be able to help with heavy lifting.
Make sure you have plenty of soft packing material, such as bubble wrap or packing paper. Or multitask by wrapping fragile items in hand towels or table linens.
9. Pull out your luggage
Suitcases and duffle bags need to be moved anyway, so you might as well fill them up with stuff!
Hardside luggage is great for breakable or electronic items. Softside luggage can be used for games. Duffles can be used for clothing or towels.
Also, if you have any original manufacturer’s packaging for small appliances or other oddly shaped items, now is the time to pull it out.
10. Pack (most of) the kitchen last
The kitchen is one of the biggest and most complicated rooms, but it’s also the room you need to use the most. That can put you in a moving conundrum because you don’t want to put off a major task, but you also don’t want to pack up things you may need in the final stages.
As a general rule, try saving most of the kitchen for last if you can. This will help you avoid the panic of not locating a can opener when you’re trying to finish up the soup in the pantry.
However, there are certainly some things you won’t need at this stage, such as the waffle iron, wine glasses, and serving platters. If you’re in a lull — or if you’ve got a free helper that you trust — go ahead and pack those little-used, specialty items.
11. Donate and toss as you pack
As you go through your things, move as quickly as possible, and make decisions about whether to keep or toss something. Put your packing items right next to your trash and donation bins, then sort as you go.
Be ruthless! At this point, you don’t have time to question yourself. If you haven’t used something in the past year, do you really want to go through the effort of moving it at this point?
Move trash out for pickup right away in order to clear the space. Ask a friend to drop off donations for you on their way back to their own place.
12. Clear one room at a time
As you pack things up throughout your home, consider going room by room in order to give yourself some mental clarity. Once a room is completely packed, close the door and move on to the next space. This could help protect you from feeling scattered, and it could also save time by keeping you from running back and forth between rooms.
However, if you’ve got lots of helpers (hooray!), then it may be best to divide and conquer. Having lots of people in one room may actually waste time if you’re constantly bumping into one another.
Instead, consider assigning one room to one person. Make sure each helper has proper sorting and packing supplies.
13. Load boxes wisely
Don’t make any box too heavy, or you’ll waste time trying to lug it into the truck. Use smaller boxes for books and other weighty items, if possible, or layer some heavy items on the bottom with some light items on the top.
Leave boxes open until they’re full. You never know when you’re going to find a spot for oddly-shaped items, so don’t tape up any box until it’s completely done. Also, you don’t want your items to shift around inside and get broken, so be sure to use every square inch.
14. Keep items inside furniture if you can
Consider keeping clothing inside your chest of drawers to save on both time and truck space. When it comes time to move, you can simply remove the drawers to reduce the weight and put them back in once the chest is inside the truck. Don’t forget to use painter’s tape to keep drawers closed, or else your clothing might spill out!
Kids’ toys might be able to stay inside toy chests or cabinets, as well. Again, make sure that tops and doors are secured.
VanHorn offers another space-saving and time-saving tip. “I always put clean sheets inside the dryer for a move,” she says. “Moving is exhausting. At the end of the day when you can finally sleep, you don’t want to be rummaging through boxes to make your bed. The dryer is easy to find, so stashing sheets in there makes it easy to make the beds quickly.”
The exception to this “keep-items-in” advice would be office desks and filing drawers. Small office items are guaranteed to get jostled and likely will fall out. And no one wants their filing drawers coming open in transit — Instead, use filing bins or boxes and tape them shut securely.
15. Trash bags have multiple uses
Trash bags don’t have to be just for trash! Use them for clothes, blankets, towels, and any other soft items. They’re very packable inside truck spaces, trunks, or wherever you can make them fit.
In addition, you can pack your clothes still hanging on hangers in trash bags to save time and space. Simply bundle up your hangers with a rubber band or wire tie, slide a trash bag over the bottom of the clothes, and tie it neatly at the hook of the hangers.
16. Label everything clearly
Don’t skip this step! Labeling everything may take a few extra seconds, but it will pay off big-time later when you’re sorting things out at your new home. Keep a marker in your back pocket for easy access.
Hoke recommends writing the destination room in bold print on the side of each box and also noting the major contents on the top of each box. Without room labels, your movers or moving friends will have to keep asking you where things go, and you’ll lose focus. And because your boxes may be filled with an unusual mix of items, a quick note on the top can go a long way during the unpacking stage.
17. Establish a dedicated ‘done’ area
Create a clear space to get packed boxes out of the way. This might be a clean guest room, a garage, or even just a corner of the living room. Consolidating “done” items makes it easier to see what’s left to do, and it also makes it easier to clear your house when the time comes.
Consider separating your area by what will go in the moving truck and what will go in your car(s). That way you’ll have an easy reference point for helpers and movers later. Things like televisions, lamps, cleaning supplies, and your “overnight” bag should stay with you in your car.
18. Take one final look
Finally, in your haste to leave, don’t forget to walk through every room one last time. Look for anything that may have been left behind, such as rugs, shower curtains, drawer organizers, and other items. Turn off all lights and ceiling fans, too.
Don’t be afraid of a quick move! Remember, your real estate agent can always provide references if you need professional help at any point. You’ve got this!
Header Image Source: (Joaquín / Unsplash)
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