Unpacking, as far as I’m concerned, is the worst part of any move. A friend tried once to make me feel better about it by describing it like Christmas: all those packages waiting to be unopened, not knowing what they contain. Well, I do know what they contain – they contain stuff that has to be unwrapped, cleaned and put certain spots. Ugh. What’s fun about that?
So, if you’re like me, then packing can be a nightmare and you need to create a plan to get it done or it’ll never get done. You’ll end up having to sort through boxes six months from now, ones that you’ve stored in the spare bedroom, or the basement or the garage. Another ugh. The first rule of thumb, then, is, get organized. But how do you do that?
Time is Your Friend
My first golden rule of unpacking is, make sure you have time to do it! And I’m not talking about weekends or evenings, although for some people that will have to suffice. I’m talking about booking off enough time to unpack. If that means a week from your new job, then do it. If you have children, then plan to get a babysitter to take care of them during the day (preferably away from the home), so you can do what you need to do.
For those of you who can’t take time off (as in our last move), then you need to set yourself a schedule to get it done. I usually set a simple schedule, such as each member of the family must unpack three boxes per night – or something like that. Make it reasonable and doable, but also plan it so that the unpacking will be done before too long. If you’re working with children or teenagers, then you may want to build in an incentive, such as pizza night or movie night or time out after unpacking for a trip to the ice cream shop – something that will inspire everyone to reach their daily goal.
Save weekends for the harder boxes to unpack, such as dishes (that usually require washing) or the spice rack that needs to be organized or the garage items. Just make sure you book time off on the weekend, set chores that everyone can accomplish, then stick to the schedule. Again, build in rewards and incentives.
Unpack a Room at a Time
Now, this is usually the golden rule, simply because it’s better to have one room complete than to have three rooms half-done. What we usually do is confine the bedrooms to evening unpacking, so that each of us goes to our room and unpacks. This allows for the unpacking of everyone’s personal things and also gives each family member time to settle into their own spaces. This is especially important for children and teens. If your child is able to unpack their own stuff, let them and encourage them to make their space their own. This will help with the settling in process and make them feel more at home in the new place.
Large, multi-use rooms, I save for weekends. Again, this is assuming that you can’t take time off to unpack. On the weekends, I recommend that the entire family unpack one room or divide the members into smaller groups with each group tackling one space. This makes it a little more fun and manageable and allows the children to voice their opinion on where things should go. Again, this can build a sense of belonging to the new home and children will feel part of the process.
Essentials are Essential
In other articles, we mention the need for an essential box. Each member of the family should have one and they should be the first boxes that you unpack. This will not only help you organize your move – getting the essential items unpacked first – but will make your first few nights in your new home a little easier.
You can also mark other boxes with instructions, too, such as “open first” for items in the kitchen that you’ll need right away. I’ve even gone as far as tying a ribbon around a box to mark its importance. This helps when you have professional movers moving your things for you. A red ribbon is easy to spot, so you can quickly instruct the mover where that important box should go. I do this for kitchen and bathroom items – things that aren’t in my essential box, but are still items that I’ll need in the first day or so.
Other essentials, of course, are beds and linens. This should be one of the first things you put together to ensure a good nights’ rest. If you know that you’ll be arriving late, you may want to invest in an air bed – one that inflates quickly and easily so you can get some rest without a lot of effort.
Which Room is Unpacked First
I get this question a lot. I do recommend getting the kitchen unpacked first, after assembling beds and other key pieces of furniture. The kitchen is the most complicated and the one that is critical to structuring family life. And the faster you have the kitchen organized, the less money you’ll need to spend on take-out and pizza.
Next, I recommend getting bedrooms completed – at least ensuring that current seasonal clothes are unpacked and organized. Kids will be returning to school and you to work, so it’ll save a lot of time and frustration if everything you need is within easy reach.
Bathrooms are definitely next on my list. Of course, this is considering the fact that you would’ve packed the shower curtain, essential medication and supplies in your essential box. If you didn’t, then you’ll need to unpack some of the bathroom stuff before you finish the kitchen. Again, these aren’t rules, simply suggestions to get yourself organized.
Family room and media center: some people (like my husband) place more importance on this than the kitchen. And that’s okay, since it is a room where the family gathers and where you can rest after a long day of unpacking. We usually divide the initial chores – I take the kitchen and he takes the family room, making sure that the TV, stereo and DVD player are properly connected.
Now you should have an idea of what your unpacking might look like. Thinking about how you’re going to tackle it is really half the battle. Once you’ve planned it out, it doesn’t seem quite so bad, does it? Well, I’ll still never like to unpack, but I’m definitely getting better at dealing with it.