Over the years I’ve been getting better and better at moving, organizing the move and packing all our stuff. I am a bit of a control freak so when it comes to organizing, putting things in place, packing our bags and arranging everything to move, I am the person behind it all.

Planning a move is no easy task, so over time I’ve developed kind of a system in 7 steps that helps me to stay zen while packing and moving:

  1. Get cardboard boxes
  2. Separate things – to toss, to sell, to give away, to keep, to take
  3. Pack
  4. Move
  5. Clean the old place
  6. Clean the new place
  7. Unpack

My husband and I have an agreement: I take care of putting things in and out of boxes and he takes care of carrying and moving them from one place to another. I like this arrangement! I think I get the best part!

In case we move to another country we first take some boxes back to Portugal, to our parents’ homes, and then come back to our own and clean it before we move all the things we want and can take with us to our new place.

How to get cardboard boxes for free

Have I told you before that we don’t like to spend money? Much less in things that we can easily get for free! Do you want to know how we get new cardboard boxes for free every time we move? We go to supermarkets, small businesses and clothes stores and ask for them. Most of these small business owners will be thankful for not having to take care of that “garbage”.

We get there, explain we’re moving and simply ask if they have any spare boxes that they can give to us. Some of them will say NO, some will tell us that they have an assigned day of the week to take care of those and ask us to come that day, and the majority will give us the boxes we want in that same moment. We always thank them a lot, even if we leave with empty hands.

Separating and organizing everything

For me, moving is the best way to declutter! Every time we move we get to own less things and less stuff we don’t need. We are getting kind of minimalist and I love it, but we still own a lot of things we don’t need or use though…

So, we have some rules regarding how to separate things:

We keep

  • things that have a sentimental value, like travel souvenirs or books (no, I can’t give away my books, not yet!)
  • things that we think we’ll need later, when we have our own house, like (good quality) bath towels, bed linen and kitchenware
  • my craft and art materials
  • some bags and accessories of mine

We give away

(The majority to humanitarian associations and friends)

  • clothes/shoes that we no longer use or want to use
  • baby clothes
  • some baby toys
  • old and not so good bath towels, bed linen and kitchenware
  • some small furniture that is too worn out to sell
  • food, drinks and cleaning products

We sell

  • everything that is in good shape but we can’t take with us, like furniture and the vacuum cleaner
  • some baby toys
  • some kitchenware, like the toaster and the fondue set
  • technology, like our printer and cables

We take with us

  • our clothes and shoes
  • some toiletries
  • our computers, tablets, phones, ebooks, camera, etc
  • important documents and a folder with all of the diplomas (our resumés)
  • some books, notebooks and crafts materials (if possible)
  • the TV and the games consoles (if possible, if not we’ll leave them in boxes at our parents’ homes)

We toss

  • “garbage” that I accumulate thinking that some day I’ll use to make some crafts of mine
  • everything that is too old or worn out to sell or give away
  • papers, papers and more papers (like bills, old receipts, letters, etc)
  • broken things that I kept thinking I’d fix some day
  • my “on going projects”
  • cardboard boxes

The best way to pack everything you want to keep

So, when the time comes and we have to pack everything and separate things in different boxes I have a really simple system: I pack things room by room (I don’t mix bathroom items with craft supplies, for example), I number each box and every time I put something in I write it down on a list I have.

I carry this list with me to every place we move. This way I keep track of things and feel in control. It’s also very useful when we want or need something that we kept packed. We don’t need to open every box searching for it, instead we go directly to the box that matters and unpack what we want.

In the old days, I would simply write down every single thing I pack, but this last time I made myself a table, that you too can get by simply clicking on the image bellow!

What to pack first?

Usually I start packing several weeks before the big move. During the last week at the old house we don’t cook and only have some clothes, hygiene items, towels and bed linen out of the boxes or bags. The first things to pack are the ones to give away or throw into the garbage. Then, I more a less have a packing “priorities list”:

  1. things we want to keep but won’t take with us (they will go to our parents’ homes…)
  2. things we don’t use on a daily basis
  3. kitchenware
  4. baby toys
  5. clothes, shoes, accessories and others
  6. technology items
  7. our last clothes and shoes and everything else

This means that for a couple of weeks I have boxes in every single room in the house. I don’t mix them unless they are sealed and numbered. And we only clean the house when we have everything packed and maybe already in the new house.

Clean, Leave, Clean, Unpack

So, once we’re at the new place, already cleaned and our things unpacked, what should we do with all the used cardboard boxes? I have several ideas!

  1. keep the good ones for the next move
  2. give them to your kids so they can play with them
  3. use them to crafts
  4. use them to protect your floor when painting the walls
  5. decorate them and use them as storage
  6. throw the ones that are too old or unusable into the recycling garbage
  7. Do you have any other ideas? In what other way would you reuse your empty moving boxes?

Quick Tips

  1. ask for free cardboard boxes, don’t buy them
  2. make a list of everything you pack! You can download the table I use here, it’s free!
  3. use old newspapers, magazines and flyers to protect things that can be broken easily. You also can use towels or clothes to do so
  4. pack all your clothes, shoes, bags and hygiene products and leave only what you really need for one week in an open suitcase
  5. for one week don’t cook and use only paper/plastic plates and cups
  6. before you put your clothes, bed linen and towels in boxes, put them in clear garbage plastic bags, or in those big bags that you can vacuum and make them much smaller
  7. put all your kitchen utensils into plastic ziplock bags before you put them in the cardboard boxes

Now tell me, how do you organize your move? Do you have a system too? I hope my printable “packing list” and the infographic above can help you better organize your next move.