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!

Six Tips for Your Pre-Move Decluttering

decluttering

So your lease is up, you’ve hit the market—and found the perfect place to call home.  The only problem?  All this stuff.

Moving is a great time to do some thorough decluttering, take stock of what you own, and decide what’s not coming with you into your new home, new neighbourhood, and new phase of life.  The more you shed, the less you’ll pack—and unpack on the other end—and there’s no greater feeling than settling into your new home with the feeling of a fresh start.

Here are six tips for decluttering before a move that’ll make it easy, painless, and great.

  • Get a little help from your friends

There are a lot of reasons we hold on to things we don’t use anymore, but one of the most powerful is just plain habit.  Getting those assumptions—but I need this!—out of our heads can be an easy way to see that we’ve grown past those habits, and grown out of the items they’re attached to.  Whether it’s a book we’re never going to read again, a sweater that doesn’t fit, or paints for the landscape class we took ten years ago, having a friend who’s a kind-but-firm sounding board can make decluttering quicker, easier, and much more fun.

So if you’re still holding onto that high school tee-shirt that’s really just a breeding ground for holes, have a friend sing you “Let It Go” and hold out the garbage bag.  It’ll lighten your heart—and your moving to-do list.

If you’ve got collections of clothes you’ve outgrown—or which are too big now—consider throwing a Clothing Swap or Closet-Shopping party.  Odds are you know someone who’s just that size, and who’d love that barely-used jacket, thank you very much.

  • Use it or lose it

Often, the extra weight we haul around from move to move isn’t obvious: it’s hiding in cupboards, closets, and storage containers.  Take a good look at all the things you haven’t really used in your current home.  If you have fifteen coffee mugs, but you only ever entertain five people, consider donating or passing on the ones that are gathering dust.  If you haven’t used it in two years, and it’s not a specific or seasonal item, it’s probably a good candidate for recycling or passing on to a new home.

  • Ditch that last box

We’ve all got it: A box, still packed from our last move.  The one that just somehow never got opened or unpacked, and now it’s time to pack everything up for the next.

Whatever’s in it, it clearly wasn’t that important, and you haven’t missed it for at least a year of your life.  Unless it’s heirloom china, it’s time to find that box a new home: in someone else’s home, a donation bin, or on Craigslist.

  • File it, scan it—or shred it

Papers take up space.  Digital files don’t.  If you’re worried about your to-be-filed pile—but don’t want to throw any of those old bills or documents out—take an afternoon and scan all that paper.  A 16GB USB key goes for under $20 at your local electronics shop, and unlike all that paperwork, it’s got a File Search function and fits in your pocket.

One afternoon with a scanner, a shredder, and the radio up loud will almost certainly save you a box or four come Moving Day.

  • Turn the clutter you don’t use into cash you can

Moving’s an investment—but it’s an investment that can cost you less if you turn some of those unused possessions into cash.

Now that you’ve identified what you don’t quite need to pack—and if your schedule allows it—there are plenty of places to resell gently used possessions and make back what you need to pay your movers on Moving Day.  Take books you won’t reread to your local BMV; drop those unworn threads at your local consignment shop; snap pictures of that end table for Craigslist or Kijiji.  Stores like A&C Games will gladly make an offer for your old consoles and console games.

  • Get in touch with your charitable side

If you don’t have the time to beat the streets—or are feeling comfortable when it comes to your cash flow—lots of charitable organizations have a constant need for everyday household items, and would love to make your move easier and lighter.

If you’ve got flatware, furniture, or clothes that still have a lot of use in them—just not use for you—sites like Toronto Donates or the City of Toronto’s ReUseIt portal help you quickly and effortlessly find out which organizations are looking for the stuff you no longer need, and make it easy to get in touch.  Another upside: If you’ve got enough to donate, several charities will pick up at your door—making decluttering and moving even easier!

If you’d rather have the satisfaction of passing useful things to an individual, groups like Toronto Freecycle are happy to make that happen: Just list what you’ve got, and arrange a meetup or pickup with someone who will give that item a good home.

Send those unneeded items off into the world, and you’ll face Moving Day feeling lean, organized, streamlined—and ready to go!

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!

Moving Day Tips: How to Have a Seamless Moving Day

Moving Day Tips

Moving house is commonly called the third-most stressful event we experience in a happy, healthy, day-to-day life.  However, a smooth move is achievable with a little planning and organization.  Have a seamless moving day with these easy advance moving day tips:

1) Don’t get mad, get organized

The earlier you start organizing your move, the easier Moving Day will be.  Get started as early as possible with a moving checklist that lists the major tasks ahead for your move and the timelines for completing them, and add any special chores you’ll need to do.

There are two main tricks to having an organized Moving Day.  The first?  Break down your moving task checklist into manageable chunks: the smallest individual tasks you can find.  That way, the job of moving will be much less massive.

The second trick is to assign yourself regular Moving Homework—and keep up with it!  Assigning yourself those small tasks, week by week, in the month or more ahead of your move will keep you from getting overwhelmed, make sure nothing slips through the cracks, and ensure the stress of moving stays at a manageable buzz.  Check off your tasks as you finish, reward yourself, and bask in the glow of a job well done as you feel yourself moving closer to a smooth Moving Day.

2) Have a day-of plan

Just like with any other major event—like a wedding or a big birthday party—you can make your Moving Day a lot easier by having a detailed schedule and plan for the day.  Know at least a week in advance what time you will have access to your new home, when your movers will arrive at both your old home and your new one, what time your elevator at the new condo is reserved for, and so forth—down to your wakeup time that morning.

Check your plan with a friend, to make sure there’s nothing missing, and adjust it as necessary as your plans come together in the final days.

Building a schedule that allows a little flex will let you know where you are in the plan, prevent anxiety, and make sure that nothing important is forgotten.

3) Learn the rules of your new condo ahead of time

Different condominium complexes have different rules: about reserving elevators for moving, whether you can have a barbeque on any outdoor space attached to your unit, or the colours of curtains that you can have facing outward on your unit’s windows.  Moving in with a strong knowledge of what’s a go—and what’s a no—in your new building will make your Moving Day a lot easier by preventing any problems that might crop up ahead of time, and making sure any questions you have can be answered well before you get the keys.

4) Hook up your essential services early

Home doesn’t feel like home without power.  Or water.  Or—let’s admit it—wifi.  Waking up in a new home without your essential services increases the stress and pressure of moving a thousandfold, but that’s easily avoided by contacting your service providers two or three weeks ahead of your moving date and arranging service hookups for as soon as comfortable, once you get the keys.

While hydro and water accounts can be transferred automatically at your provider’s side—and be ready for your Moving Day—appointments for services such as Internet hookup, which require a service visit, can fill up around the first and the fifteenth of the month, which are your most common moving dates.  That’s why it’s important to get in ahead of the pack—and get your choice of hookup date, so your Netflix downtime is a short one.

5) Have a plan for your valuables

Everyone’s got something that’s a little too precious to trust to a moving truck, whether it’s an expensive pair of earrings or that knick-knack you got from your grandmother as a kid.  Make sure that anything you want to keep with you on Moving Day has a place, a plan, and an slot in your general inventory—so you will have the peace of mind to know nothing’s missing, everything’s safe, and your valuables stay with you on Moving Day.

6) Labels, labels, and more labels

When it comes to moving, clear and explicit labels are your friend.  A good marker and a clear plan can save you not just trouble when you’re packing—but can make the process of unpacking easy as pie.

Box like items together: books with books, dishes with dishes, winter clothes with winter clothes.  Once that’s done, make sure to label all your bags and boxes not just by contents, but also by the room they’re destined for.  The result?  Your movers know where every piece of cargo goes, and you’re not left digging for a coffee cup for hours because it’s two rooms away, and under a box of backup office supplies.

Stay organized, keep to your plan, and keep your head?  And your Moving Day won’t just be seamless, but great!