5 Smart Tips for Managing a Big Move

I’ve spent the last several weeks preparing my family for a move to a new house. Like other things, moving is a project we’re doing ourselves. It’s the first time I’ve ever needed to coordinate moving so much stuff, and it took a lot of work to plan. I know they always say you only realize how much you’ve accumulated once you’re in the position of moving it all, and it’s true, so to make it happen efficiently and in an orderly manner, I employed some moving best practices and got the job done well (and fast).

Planning a move for yourself or your family? Here’s a short video to help with timeline planning, and here are a few quick tips of my own:

1. Work ahead and take an opportunity to purge.

Don’t wait to start packing. Another video from DIY Network emphasizes the importance of pre-planning. Get the non-essentials boxed away weeks before the moving truck arrives (think: your second blender, extra towels, power tools). In the process, you’ll find belongings that you haven’t used in years, or ones that you know won’t work within your new dwelling, whether it be for spacial or design reasons.

Plan ahead and divide these unwanted items into separate piles and separate boxes, and donate or sell those items before or after the move. This time, we boxed up the unwanted items for a summertime garage sale. We’ll add to the garage-sale inventory in the next few weeks as we realize if there are more belongings that won’t have a space in our new home. When we unpack at the new house, we’ll immediately know that we don’t have to rummage through those boxes until we’re ready for the sale.

Organize for a garage sale while packing to move.

2. Be orderly when it comes to furniture deconstruction.

As table legs needed to be removed and bed frames needed to be disassembled, I gathered all loose hardware in individual sealed baggies for transport and organization. Each baggie is labeled, and was moved in the same small box so that we could readily find what we needed as we settle in.

Another tip (my biggest IKEA tip) is to label each component before you take it apart so that you have a plan for putting it back together (assuming you don’t still have those assembly instructions). I’ve had to move this IKEA Expedit shelving unit several times, and labeling it with painters tape makes putting it back together a piece of cake. With left and right clearly labeled, I tag the long horizontal pieces from A to E starting at the base of the unit, and the short dividing pieces as #1 – #4. This extra bit of organization helps, especially because the pegs used to secure the furniture often embed in one piece of wood, and putting it back together without reconfiguring wedged pegs can be like a puzzle. I can’t share the how-to with a smiley face and by pointing my fingers quite like IKEA, so here’s a quick guide:

How to disassemble IKEA furniture for a move and stay organized.

My labels looked more like this. Quick to apply, easy to remove after reassembly.

How to disassembly IKEA furniture for a move.

3. Be resourceful, use recycled boxes.

You can find cardboard boxes on Craigslist (check the free section) and at many retail stores too. Check the stores in the mall too – they often have cardboard boxes from large inventory deliveries that they can recycle to you. We saved all cardboard boxes from deliveries made to our home for the months before we closed, knowing that we would need to use them with the upcoming move. If you have the space to store such boxes, it’s worth your while.

In that same vein, use your home’s pillows and comforters to your advantage: employ them to comfort fragile home decor in place of bubble wrap.

4. Pack dinnerware smart.

Wrapping newspaper around my dinner plates and glasses individually always made me feel like I was dirtying them, mostly because the newsprint dirtied my hands so much in the process. Instead, opt for old magazine pages (they’re not necessarily much cleaner, but nicer to work with) to buffer your glasses, and paper or Styrofoam plates between each of your dinnerware plates to give your wares a cushion and keep them from rattling against each other.

How to safely pack dinnerware for a move.

5. In the moving van, sort efficiently.

No need to move all of your drawers of clothes into boxes. Instead, remove them one by one while still filled, and re-insert them into the drawer unit once the empty (lighter) unit is lifted into the truck. Do the opposite when you’re at your new home, and remove each shelf first.

Make use of pockets of space too, like how we fit small boxes and drawers and toys into the blocks of the smaller stacked IKEA EXPEDIT units in the truck. What we were able to fit in those 16 small spaces saved us an entire car load. Yes, for some reason we have not one, but two old-school Barbie Beetles. Caravan time!

How to move IKEA furniture in a moving truck.


Do you have more tried-and-true tips? Leave them in the comments!

33 Responses

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  2. MarcioWilges says:

    This is excellent advice and it really helps moving and removals guys like us to help get your things ready and packed up into the trucks and vans just so much faster. Of course not everyone will have time to dismantle everything but if you're not getting a full-on service and are handling the bulk of the move on your own, this article is the perfect place to start when it comes to getting organized for moving homes.

  3. kim says:

    I am extremely happy with your post, such wonderful tips you have listed out here which were so helpful in shifting to other places. I have shifted recently to a new place and took help from Office Moving Company in Toronto. So that it's easy to me while moving with stuff, as they will take care of all packing. http://www.suelandinc.com/

  4. why meditate says:

    In that same vein, use your home’s pillows and comforters to your advantage: employ them to comfort fragile home decor in place of bubble wrap.

  5. Allen says:

    It would be too hectic to move to the new place, as it requires packaging and loading of various materials.

  6. Alfa Packers says:

    Thanks Emily for providing such nice tips. These tips basically are unique and we sometimes forget those points. Your post really help me a lot when i thinking for my next move.

  7. Audrey_1 says:

    I think it's so important to make sure you plan your moving out properly. There are so many things that can possibly go wrong, that sometimes even planning isn't enough. For me, I love letting the professional storage companies take over because then I really don't need to worry about anything – everything is taken care of for me.

  8. Tom says:

    Relocating to a new destination can be a stressing experience, so you must try hiring the professional movers, as they know how to pack the precious articles and save them from damages while carrying them from one place to another.

  9. Kayal says:

    Moving is really stressful time and it can be resolved only by planning in advance. We had to move thrice so far and each time I learned new ideas to make the moving smoother. I keep a personal checklist to have the things at proper places. I make sure that my Open Me First box will be planned very well in advance, so that I don't miss anything in the last minute. Make sure of things that you don't want to take to the new place, put it in a NOT NEEDED box, make a note if these things have to be purchased for the new home or not. Keeping all kinds of paper works, certificates etc. in good files and all goes into one individual box and I prefer that box or bag goes with me.
    All these comes under packing but there is another main aspect the moving service. I had difficulty in choosing one and I inquired and searched online for a good moving service. It was a tough job, luckily I figured and chose to go with King Transfer (www.kingstransfer.com). I was with their service and all other moving were done by them, so far no complaints for. If you are selecting one make sure they are good, nowadays scamming services are increasing. There is a govt. listing of professional movers along with their reviews. Check that too. Always have a multiple options, then search for more details. Finally fix on the ONE.

  10. MelBrandle says:

    Yes, yes and YES! This is absolutely right! I've given a lot of my customers tips exactly like these — when people come to me and ask for help to organize and kick their personal storage unit off, the number one advice I give them is to plan and utilize all the space they can! Especially for us as professionals, we are limited by the amount of time we have to help move things from one place into say the moving van or into the storage unit itself, and pre-planning how you're going to do it is definitely something that would save a lot of valuable time.

  11. Kevin Right says:

    5 Smart Tips for Managing a Big Move would help not only to make this move but to gain a total success! Thanks a lot for sharing them.

  12. andrewdpapas says:

    Moving and packing tips are indeed helpful for those who are shifting their house. When it comes to packing and storing house hold as well as personal belongings greater care need to be taken. While we shifted our house we took service from self storage units Toronto known as security self serve storage and availing the service of service providers made our job felt so easy.

  13. Frankie says:

    Hi Fazio, it's to be your place. I like to your creative ideas regarding managing big move. I'm a DIYer as well and most time like to keep up everything within my creative ways. Way to go dear!!

  14. Thank you for sharing this very useful post. In just a few months time, we will be undergoing a major relocation and it starts to get a little stressful. I know this is no way near the stress we will be having during the actual move so right now, I am already planning and packing some things. These tips are really very helpful. Again, thanks.

  15. shahalam1 says:

    What I should look before hiring a moving company? tampa area movers

  16. SunflowrPhoenix says:

    I actually kept not only the instructions for assembling all my furniture, but the original boxes they shipped in. After my move, I kept all my boxes and continued to collect boxes from work for years. When I was ready to move again, all I had to do was pull them out. I also saved newspapers to pack with and used the bubble wrap I saved from the previous move again too. I saves SO much time and effort and money to do this.

  17. SunflowrPhoenix says:

    For my last 3 cross country moves I have had a master notebook for the move. All related new services, insurance changes, to do lists, etc. were kept in the front and back pockets of the binder or, if it worked better, holed punched and put in the notebook. BUT, the most valuable thing I have done is to number each box, and as you fill it, keep a running list in your notebook next to that number telling you what's in the box. It is PRICELESS when you have great need of something and it's a wonderful tool for making sure your boxes end up not having to be moved around the house. I label mine on 5 sides so no matter how it's set down, I can always see the number. Additionally, in the tragic event I lose my master list (!) I mark them with their final location….kitchen, master, kid's room, basement, etc. This master list has made my moves SO much easier because you don't open and find everything at once when you get to your new home. I also always have what I call a "Starter Pack". It's a box that has all the immediate necessities paper plates, cups and bowls, plastic eating utensils, napkins, salt and pepper, light bulbs, cleaning cloths, wipes, a sponge and a scrubby, toilet paper, a can opener, coffee and coffee maker (preferably a small 4-6 cup maker) – add whatever your crew considers a necessity. It's a life saver when you first get there!

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  19. NYC Architect says:

    I did this as well with my Expedit shelving (those darn stuck pegs!). I also labeled the boxes of books from each corresponding shelf. I had meticulously organized my library – a system easily lost in packing otherwise!

  20. [...] 5 Smart Tips for Managing a Big Move | Made + Remade [...]

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  24. Rebecca says:

    And be sure to label which room of the house each box is for…then as friends help you unload, they'll take the box to the room where it belongs!


About Emily Fazio 


I caught the home improvement bug at an early age, and now I'm a full-time DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects I cover on my blog Merrypad range ...

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