If you’re in the midst of a move this summer, I get how stressful it is. And, how overwhelming moving into your new can be. I understand wanting to be done…to get your pictures on the walls. So, today I wanted to share some helpful tips on how to unpack and organize after moving.
This post may contain affiliate links to my favorite products and resources. To read my full disclosure policy, read here.
How to Unpack and Organize After a Move
Unpacking may feel like a hassle, especially after packing and moving. It’s normal to just want to feel settled in your new home. Let me encourage you, what happens inside the four walls we call home matters, it matters a lot. Which means creating a home is no small thing. Not only is it a big job, it’s an important one. If you keep that in mind as you go along, it will hopefully encourage and motivate you as unpack and organize.
5 Unpacking Hacks
Having a strategy or plan will make unpacking and organizing after a move so much easier. Here are a few unpacking hacks I’ve gathered from my own moves and as a professional organizer.
Space Planning – Take the time to think about how you want to use each space before you start opening boxes. I even suggest drawing a layout of the kitchen and bathroom cabinets and labeling it with where you want to store things. Then, use sticky notes to label drawers and cabinets before unpacking. You may need to tweak things as you go, but this gives you a plan to start.
Label Boxes – Write what room each box goes into. It will be a big help when you’re unpacking to also write what contents are in the box, for example, everyday dishes, kitchen utensils, bathroom toiletries, etc. That way you can prioritize what boxes to open and unpack first.
But First, Clean. Whether your home is new construction or older, I recommend cleaning before you start unpacking and organizing. You’d be amazed at what a difference it makes to start with a clean home. You don’t necessarily have to do all the cleaning yourself. A lot of cleaning services offer a professional cleaning before moving in. Or, you can assign different spaces to different family members or helpful friends.
I remember when my parents moved into their current home, over thirty years ago. My Mom really wanted to get rid of all of the carpet stains before moving in. So she, my sister, and I got down on our hands and knees and scrubbed out all the stains…downstairs, on the stairs, and upstairs.
Once that was done, my Mom felt so much better about moving in.
And, when we moved into our first home, the one before this one, I had to tackle the stained toilets and remove stickers from the tub before I could do anything else. Luckily, they looked much better after a good cleaning, and I felt more at ease about our new home.
If you’re going to clean your new home yourself, make the most of your efforts.
- Gather all your cleaning supplies and put them in a caddy or cart so you can easily take them from room to room.
- Dust from top to bottom
- Dust before vacuuming
- Be sure sanitize the refrigerator, bathrooms and other high touch surfaces like door knobs and light switches
Furniture Arrangement – Once the house is clean, start by placing the big pieces of furniture where they go; beds in bedrooms, sofas in the living room, tables in kitchens, etc.
When arranging furniture, keep in mind the function of the room as well as where doors, windows and outlets are located.
Tip: Feel free to repurpose furniture or use it in a different space than you did before. Instead of arranging everything like you always have, mix it up. Put bookcases in the dining room or the bench that usually sits at the end of the bed in the mudroom.
Just keep playing with the furniture arrangement until it makes you smile.
It’s totally okay if you new home is has some empty spaces. Take your time collecting and curating pieces that will serve your lifestyle. If you’re furnishing your house on budget, Craig’s List, Facebook Marketplace and Offer Up are great places to get quality furniture at affordable prices.
Unpack and Organize – Now you’re ready to actually unpack. Hopefully, your moving boxes were labeled and placed in the rooms where they belong. If not, search for items you need everyday like plates, cups, silverware, coffee maker, tea pot, snacks, toilet paper and toiletries. The rest you can find as you go.
Organize the kitchen and bathrooms are the best places to start unpacking after moving since you’ll need those right away. I suggest setting up the necessities in both of those spaces initially. Then once your pets, children and family are settled, you can finish organizing those spaces.
If you didn’t sort through your things before you moved, do that as you unpack and get rid of anything that is:
- that you don’t love,
- or that you just don’t use anymore.
Otherwise, you’re taking up valuable space on things you don’t want, need or use. Once you’re left with the “keep” pile, you can start organizing and putting things away.
It is common to get overwhelmed with unpacking after a move. So, I highly recommend creating a space that is completely clutter free, such as your bedroom, so you can get away from the chaos of moving in. Also, be sure to schedule breaks as you unpack and settle into your new home. It will get done.
How Long Does it Take to Unpack After a Move?
People often wonder how long it should take to unpack after a move. The initial unpack can take a couple of weeks depending on your schedule, if you have children at home and whether or not you have help. But it can take months or even a year or so of living in your new space to feel completely moved in and settled. So, just go with what you know; what you think will work for now. Then, once you’re used to your new surroundings, tweak things according to how you live.
Tips for Decorating a New Home
Decorate Your New Home – Now that the bigger pieces of furniture are in place and everything is organized, it’s time to decorate. This is your chance to really personalize your home. I recommended setting all of your home accents in one area, and then “shopping” those items to decorate with.
If you have kids, keep these kid-friendly home decor ideas in mind.
Use this formula for hanging pictures in rooms where you would be seeing them from a standing position…such as in hallways and foyers. And, for rooms where the art will primarily be viewed from a sitting position like the living room, dining room, or breakfast room, don’t be afraid to position your art lower on the wall.
If you’re hanging a picture above a table, dresser, couch etc. use the 8 to 12 inches guideline; the bottom of the frame should be no more than 12 inches above the furniture. Since I tend to move art around from room to room, I have come up with a very helpful picture hanging tip.
When we moved into our home, our friend would always ask, “Are the pictures on the walls yet?” To her, pictures on the walls meant you were finally home. And she’s right. At this point your new house will really start to feel like home.
Painting Your New Home – I saved painting for last because, unless the walls are covered in colors that you just cannot live with, or you already know exactly what color you want, it’s a good idea to wait before you paint the walls. Waiting gives you time to see how the light moves through your home, sample colors and finalize your decision.
Once our house was walled in, I was able to see my paint samples in the lighting of each room. So, I had a couple of colors picked out and painted a couple of bedrooms right away. However, I lived with beige for several years before choosing a new common area color.
For more help with unpacking after a move, pick up my book Home on Purpose: Mindful Living in a Hectic World. It goes into much more depth on cleaning, organizing and decorating. It will also come in handy as you set up household systems and routines.
Congratulations on your new home!
p.s. I want to see pictures! Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
p.p.s. If you get stuck and need help unpacking and organizing, email me for a consultation. I’d LOVE to help.