We're halfway through packing up our house. This house is 728 square feet, with a detached garage and laundry room, meaning it's about half the size of our previous house. We've downsized quite a bit. Now seems like as good a time as any to try out an experiment in organizing our stuff for the move. I have no idea whether this will turn out to be a good idea or not! This is a peek into our thought process and the way we tackle our strategic planning.
I had the idea of doing a running inventory as we pack. The idea was to number each box in the notepad app on my phone, with brief notes about the contents. That way we could theoretically track down specific items while we are unpacking. This is more relevant than usual for us during this particular move, because (spoilers) we will be living in The Place of Uncertainty for a week or two, and all of our stuff will be in storage. There is a slight, but real, possibility that we might have to bust into the storage unit in frantic haste, and I'll be darned if I'm going to scramble around untaping 65 boxes to find whatever it might be.
(What could such an item be? Something that can't be simply bought at a store or accessed locally in a short enough time frame? A passport or some other vital piece of paperwork maybe. I dunno. The point is just to test out this system).
The first issue I had with my box inventory idea was that we would be working independently in different rooms. Our house is small, and it's physically challenging for both of us to be in the same space while any boxes are on the floor. How could we number the boxes without duplicates? I suggested that we split by odd and even numbers. It turns out that there is actually a computer science solution to this!
"You start with one and I'll start with 100."
"But there are 65 boxes... Yeah, I guess that'll work."
[I think he means he'll work backwards from 100, which he doesn't realize, because 'ludicrous' doesn't come naturally to him]
We eventually clarify that he is working forward from 100, 101, and so on. Then he comes back and tells me that actually, I should start with Box Zero. I am humoring him because I figure other people will know what he is doing with these arcane things called numbers.
The box numbers are written at all three corners on one side, so that they are visible from the top, the front, and the side. They are labeled with the destination room.
We have something like five different sizes and shapes of boxes. Most of them stack, which is helpful. While we have been packing and assigning numbers, we have used whatever box was the most appropriate size, so there is no muss or fuss over packing in any kind of order. The boxes are being stacked in the garage staging area by size, and roughly by number.
There are two more organizing points still ahead of us. One is the order in which we load the boxes onto the van. The next is the order in which we unload the boxes into the storage unit. Anything we want to go into the front of the storage unit will need to be loaded into the back of the van, meaning it goes on first. It's like a train car going one direction up the track, then reversing and going the other direction on the track. ON with the important stuff, followed by the caboose. OFF with the caboose, followed by the important stuff, right behind the rolling storage unit door.
We are working out the next point as we go, which is, How do we know which boxes are important?
Answer: ALL of the boxes should be important, or why do we even have them?
That is not so helpful from an immediate, Where IS That Thing? standpoint, though. We can go in any of several directions, but first we need to figure out what we need on Day One in the new place. This is going to vary depending on your situation - our hypothetical was a family with six kids and three dogs, and the kids need to be ready for school first thing Monday morning.
Beds and bedding. Towels and shower stuff. Clothes and shoes. First aid/meds. Pet supplies. Breakfast box with bowls and spoons. Dish soap, sponge, and dish towels. Toilet paper and hand soap.
We have solved most of this for our own move using kanban. We can tell at a glance where our most important stuff is, because it's visually distinct from the packing boxes. We have both already packed our clothes for the week in our suitcases. My husband has his work backpack with important papers for his first day at his new job. I have my own work bag, a bag for shower stuff, and another bag I am referring to as my pacifier. It's full of books and will undoubtedly have more random, useless stuff in it by moving day, none of which I will use at all, but at least I won't be climbing the walls wishing I had it.
There will be a few VIP boxes for our first day in the new place. The bedding - the comforters and pillows are in two of the three wardrobe boxes, which are much larger than the other boxes. We will want to mark the box with the bowls and plates, and another box for sheets and towels. We can do this with any combination of colored ink, stickers, a symbol (like a star), stacking them in a separate staging area, or possibly with box tape designed for the purpose. (There are sets marked with the different rooms of the house, like Caution tape, which frankly some houses could use throughout the year...)
When it comes down to it, almost everything we own is either there because we have room for it, or for comfort. We aren't really emotionally attached to such things as laundry detergent or ice cube trays, we just use them. The more often we move our household from place to place, the fewer the things we want around us, because it turns out that there is a shocking amount of stuff to haul, even for basic comfort purposes! Sheets and towels and plates and bowls and forks and spoons and spatulas and extension cords and cleansers and sponges and mops and brooms and a dish rack and a fan and dog shampoo and ye gads, where did all this stuff come from??
Usually we are unpacked and settled in within about three weeks after a move. This means no lingering cardboard boxes. No MISC (the dreaded misc). This time, so far, looks like the most organized we have been, and this is our sixth move together. Soon we will find out whether this system has any merit, and whether we can unpack in any less time.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.