How to Eliminate Some Stress While Unpacking From a Long Move

Alongside having a baby and getting married, moving and buying a home are among the most stressful experiences we face but ultimately enjoy. Even if you’re excited to have finally found your dream home, it doesn’t make the process any less harrowing.

First, you have to find your home, which can be extra challenging in a hot market. Then, you have to go through negotiations, escrow, inspections, meetings with loan officers, and so on all before you finally get the keys to your new place. And after all of that, you still have to pack up your whole life, move it, and unpack it in your new place. It’s a lot to manage, especially if you are buying your first home or moving a long distance.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to remove some of the hardship so you can have time and energy to enjoy this exciting time in your life. Here are eight ways to eliminate some of the stress you may face while unpacking from a long move.

Make a to-do list

Before you start collecting or buying moving boxes, the first step in making your packing experience less stressful is to make a comprehensive to-do list. That sounds basic, but having this list will help you have a clear focus and ensure you don’t forget anything.

You can customize your list however you like. You might start with general, big picture tasks such as, “sell and donate unwanted items” and “get packing supplies.” After that, you can break the bigger projects into smaller, more manageable tasks, such as “sort kitchen utensils into sell, donate, keep piles”, “photograph items for sale”, “list items for sale” and so on. 

From there, decide what needs to be done now and what can be done later. By prioritizing your long- and short-term needs, you can avoid a lot of last-minute hassle. You don’t have to do everything at once, but knowing all of the tasks will help you get everything done.

Have a budget and save for moving expenses

Buying a home is one of the most significant purchases most people will make in their life, and it’s even more costly when you add in moving expenses. By setting a budget early on you can start saving money and look for cost-saving options that will help you in the long- and short-term.

Declutter as you go

Doing as much decluttering as you can before moving is a great gift to your future self. It’s disheartening — not to mention a waste of your valuable time and energy — to move a box of dishes you know you’ll never use. There are several approaches for decluttering, but the simplest is to look at items as you go. Take the things you use and get rid of the items you don’t use, including any items that no longer have sentimental value. 

As an added bonus, by selling some of your items in advance, you can add some money to your moving fund. Even with your budget in place, last-minute expenses come up. You’ll have peace of mind knowing you can cover them in cash instead of having to put them on your credit card.

Pack by room

When you start packing, do it room by room. Doing this will help you better keep track of your belongings and help you avoid having items disappear during your move.


This approach to packing will also save you time in the future. You can move boxes directly into the room labeled on the box instead of building a daunting mountain of boxes in one place. This will also help you during unpacking because everything will already be in its place.

As an added step, label and set aside boxes with the items you most urgently need. For example, if you’re a coffee drinker, have one box with your coffee maker, a couple of mugs, and your favorite grounds so you will be able to make yourself a cup right away without having to dig through a bunch of boxes to find what you need. It’s also a good idea to set aside some essential tools, such as a hammer, screwdriver, and box cutter, which you may need while moving.

Rent storage

Depending on your moving situation, renting a small storage unit can be a good way to save you stress while unpacking. For example, if you are planning to decorate or renovate a couple of rooms, you can put the furniture and boxes for that room in a storage unit while you make the updates. 

Doing this will help you ensure that all of the items are safe and ready to be used once your home renovation is done. It will also help you avoid having piles of boxes and excess furniture crammed into rooms while you work. Having an organized, uncluttered space is helpful for your mental health, which will help you in the long term. 

Deep clean before moving in

Before you start moving into your new place, take the time to do a deep, thorough clean. Even if your home looks clean, it never hurts to do another deep cleaning before you have items in the way. While most homeowners will clean their homes before moving, there’s always a possibility that something will be missed. 

Prioritize those hard-to-reach surfaces that will be even more challenging to tackle once you move in furniture. That means shampooing and steaming carpets, polishing hardwood floors, and cleaning floorboards and closets. Mentally, you’ll find yourself more excited to unpack and settle into your new home when you’re working with a blank slate.

Tidy up as you go

Once you start unpacking, you’ll notice how quickly your pile of used packaging supplies grows. Rather than leave a pile of empty boxes, bags of bubble wrap, and wads of packing tape lying around your home, make a point to periodically pause your packing to dispose of your waste.

By doing this, you’ll avoid having a massive mess to clean up later, which may feel daunting after using so much energy to move and unpack. You will also keep your new space feeling cleaner and more open, which will improve your mindset. Just be sure to check all boxes and bags before you put them in bins to make sure no smaller items get lost along the way.

Ask for help

Remember you don’t have to handle everything alone and you can ask for help. Check with friends to see if anyone is available to join you for part of the process. You may find it helpful just to have some company with you while you work.

If your budget allows, there are also a number of packing, moving, and organizing services available at every step of the process. If you can only hire for one part, prioritize based on what you know will help you most as you settle into your new home.

About Thomas O'Shaughnessy
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