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!

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