Unpacking Like a Pro

Unpacking

You’ve found your new condo, packed everything, changed your addresses, turned in your keys, hired your movers, and your move is officially eating your dust—right?

Not so right.  You’ve still got to unpack and set up your new place, and since the rest of the world considers Moving Day the end of your move, getting from New Pile of Boxes to New Home can be a little trickier than we’d like.  But it doesn’t have to be, if you’re organized and just a little bit wily.

So with that in mind, here are some quick tips to make unpacking easy and efficient—and get you straight to the enjoying-margaritas-on-your-balcony part of the program.

Know where the essentials are

You’ll want certain dishes and items right away once you shut your door, for the first time, in your new condo unit.  If you pack with a plan, you can unpack those essentials first: bedsheets and pillows, a pot or pan to fix dinner, soap, a towel, a toothbrush, and a change of clothes for tomorrow in case the first thing you need to do after Moving Day is go headfirst into bed and stay there.

Set up your bed, your dinner, your shower, and tomorrow morning’s needs first thing, before tackling any of those boxes or bags, and you’ll already have a little piece of home to work from—and seriously reduce your chance of lying awake on your first night in your new home wondering where the toothpaste might be.

Organize your boxes into zones

If you’re planning ahead before you move, one of the best things you can do for your unpacking days is label everything, by room and contents, while you’re still packing it up.  If you’re feeling utterly fancy, you can buy packing tape that’s labeled by room, but regular masking tape and a marker will do exactly the same thing.

Whether your movers are friends or professionals (or both!), it’s perfectly all right to ask them to keep an eye on which box goes where and deposit your stuff in that general area.  Moving in with your furniture and boxes already sort of in the right places can be a massive help, and save you a lot of time and sweat right at the beginning of the job.

If that somehow doesn’t work out, sorting your boxes is a great first step: Don’t unpack a thing before having everything in the general room or location it belongs.  A general sorting job will still save you a bucket of time in looking through each box for more kitchen stuff, or keep you from trying to manage and organize bookshelves at the same time as the linen closet just because that’s the next box in the stack.

Unpack, room by room, for your daily needs first

If you eat takeout four nights a week, maybe that kitchen can wait.  But if you’re a secret condominium Iron Chef, you’ll want to start with the pots, plates, and pans.

Now that you’ve got your boxes sorted by room, pick the one you use the most—or are going to need fully functional first—and focus on it.  When you unpack by the room rather than looking at whatever comes to hand, you’re able to keep the shape of the room or area you want—the finished product—in mind as you go.  That means you’ll be working to a vision, rather than just trying to get things away, and you’re that much less likely to have to do major redecorating and reorganizational jobs three weeks into your residence.

Organize as you go

That said, do the organizing as you go.  While you’re unpacking and setting it up is the perfect time to organize your closet or shelve your books by author instead of which book you grabbed first.  The organization you build in now will carry you through later, and mean you’ll create a home that’s in its best possible state right off the bat.

Deal with bulk you can tuck away

Once you’ve got your most important rooms set up, look at what you’ve got the most of.  Whether it’s books, DVDs, a fabric stash, or action figures, look at what’s taking up most of your boxes.

Most importantly, look at what bulk item has a storage space it’s headed for.  It makes much more sense to reduce fifteen boxes of DVDs to two compact, tucked-away shelves before unpacking anything that’ll take up active floor space, or not have a place to be put away.  The more mass you can give good, compact, permanent homes, the more work space—and living space—you’ll have, sooner.

Have a plan for your empty boxes

Just like you had to plan bringing boxes and bins into your life when you did your packing up, have a plan for getting rid of them as you unpack.

Find out in the first few days where your condo building’s recycling area is, so you can flatten and dispose of your empty boxes as you unpack, keeping your space livable and clear.  Or if you’re renting environmentally friendly bins, set a specific space to stack them that doesn’t block your closets or workspace, so you don’t find yourself trying to unpack winter coats into a space that’s behind a wall of already-empty bins.

Pace yourself

At the end of a move, no matter how organized and efficient you were, you’re going to be tired.  Moving’s a big change in our lives: learning new neighbourhoods, routines, and spaces while still keeping up our day-to-day responsibilities at work, with our friends, and to family.

In short, it’s a lot, and while it can feel really good to get everything done at once, sometimes it’s not practical.  If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed, set a practical goal—one or two boxes a day, after dinner—that will help you feel that you’re making measurable progress without ending up barricaded in your unit with boxes, missing out on your social life or catching up on your post-move sleep.

Remember it’s your home, and ultimately, you want to be comfortable in it as soon as possible—and sometimes comfort means taking a week or two more to unpack because that means having your life in order that much sooner.  As always, knowing your tolerances is key.

Have a plan, follow it—and be flexible about what you need—and you’ll be settled in before you know it.

Best of luck!

Greening Your Move

Greening your move

Moving means a lot of work, and it also usually means a lot of waste: cardboard boxes, tape, newspaper—and that’s on top of all the things we throw out.  But moving green doesn’t have to take a lot of work.  Here are a few ways to keep your move carbon-low, clean, and eco-friendly without breaking your back or the bank.

Ditch the cardboard for green moving boxes

Sourcing your moving boxes from an eco-friendly company can actually save you a lot of time and labour. Instead of hunting for cardboard boxes at your local stores or LCBO, companies like FrogBox, GreenBoxRental.ca, or CityBoxes will deliver twenty to thirty solid plastic moving boxes right to your door, for fees ranging from $80 to $109 to start.  Eco-friendly moving boxes are designed to be reusable, sturdy, and to close tightly and stack with ease, making your actual moving day that much less stressful.  And even better, green moving box companies will just pick up the boxes from your new address once you’re moved in, which means no need for the awkward balancing act of making a good impression on your new neighbours while clogging their recycling room with your endless cardboard.

As well as the social benefits, the green benefits here are multifaceted: no one needs to pulp trees for more cardboard box production, nothing ends up in a dump site, and the #2 plastic currently favoured for plastic moving boxes is recyclable, too.

Swap your cleaning chemicals for the non-toxic solution

Green cleaning products are more and more available in Toronto.  When you’re doing that last big scrub of your old place—and that first, pre-move clean of your new one—swap out the bleach and chemicals for a more eco-friendly version.

Local stores like Grassroots, with both an online store and a Danforth storefront, have whole sections for biodegradable cleaning products that work hard and smell pretty great, too, and will do bulk refills for your existing containers.  Look for brands like Nature Clean, and especially check out Twist sponges, made of natural cellulose, which last longer than any regular sponge I’ve ever had.

If there’s no time to go shopping, brand-new west-end outfit Greater Goods has a selection of greenwashing-free cleaning products that they’ll deliver to you by cargo bike, thus cutting the carbon out of your purchase entirely.

But if you’re hoping to get a professional clean, there are still lots of options to keep that green: services like EnviroMaid and Good Karma will gladly provide move-in and move-out cleaning from $25 per hour.  They both use eco-friendly, biodegradable products only, and can be booked up to the day before.

Save space, save paper

Packing your fragile goods such as plates, glasses, and jars means insulating them against bangs and breaks—and a lot of recyclable, yes, but still messy paper.  There are more efficient packing solutions, though: your own towels, clothes, and sheets.

Wrapping those fragiles in your extra washcloths and bath towels, packing glasses with winter socks, and securing dry jars with scarves not only provides insulation that’s much softer, stronger, and just all-around better than using paper, but cuts down considerably on the amount of space your move is going to take up.  The boxes—and weight—you save will mean being able to hire or rent a smaller moving truck, which will use less fuel and leave a smaller carbon footprint.  And save you money; did we mention saving money?  You’ll unpack to boxes full of your own stuff, not tumbleweeds of random waste.

And besides, this method keeps you from spending your first week in your new home washing newsprint smudges off every glass you use—a definite plus.

Take what you need; need only what you take

Starting to think about your move early—and taking that time to pare down your belongings into only what you’re going to use in your new home—is key to making your move environmentally friendly.  Extra weight takes extra boxes, uses extra fuel in the moving truck, and takes extra time for your movers or friends to handle.

Use our Decluttering Tips well in advance of your move to find new homes for anything that won’t be making the trip: charitable donations, sales on Craigslist or Kijiji, repurposing, hand-me-downs, Freecycle, and more are ways to make sure none of that extra weight ends up in your truck or in the garbage.

Best of luck!