The Low-Stress Guide to Packing and Moving in 4 Weeks

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packing and moving

If you’ve ever waited a day or two before moving into a new apartment to start packing, you’re familiar with the dreaded last minute stress.

Books, random knick-knacks, and your inherited collection of heirloom teacups completely lose their charm during a move. Once you’ve hastily wrapped your big ticket items, you may seriously consider tossing knick-knacks in the dumpster and handing out books to passersby on the street.

Sound familiar? Before you toss your teacups, we’re here to tell you that moving doesn’t have to be chaotic. In fact, moving can be a fairly simple–even exciting–process. All you need is one month and passable planning skills. Enter: this low-stress guide to packing and moving in 4 easy weeks. Let’s get started.

Week 1: Downsize Before Packing

Before you start mindlessly packing everything you own, take a moment to look through all of it. Ask yourself the hard questions: When’s the last time I read this book? Wore these pants? Used this food processor?

Luckily, you still have time to sell or donate these items if you start the downsizing process in the first week. Look at everything, big and small, and ask yourself if you can live without it. There are a few exceptions (seasonal items like Christmas ornaments are exempt), but if your first instinct is to say, “yes,” it’s time to toss, donate, or sell depending on the condition of the item.

Week 2: Take Care of Moving Details

Once your home is down to the essential items, it’s time to get detail-oriented. Once you check off the list below, you’ll feel much better. Don’t be intimidated by the number of tasks—most of them can be taken care of in under an hour. Simply divide them up throughout the week.

  • Get boxes from Craigslist. You may not even need boxes. But if you do, look for them on Craigslist “Free” section now. If you have friends who recently moved, ask if they have extras. Don’t waste money buying them at your local hardware store or spend valuable time checking parking lot dumpsters.
  • Finalize your inventory. If you decide to move with boxes, you will definitely need to know what’s inside of them. Type up a list of those items by room and you won’t miss a thing. Plus, you can take it a step further. Cut and paste items onto separate sheets, print them, then stick them to the right boxes so you’ll know the contents at-a-glance. Take it easy on this one, though. No need to itemize every hair pin.
  • Find movers. If you have friends who would be willing to help you move, make sure you set up a Facebook event or calendar invite in advance. It’s just not polite to ask for help the week before!
  • Make arrangements for pets or young children. This one is crucial. If you have a young child or a sneaky pet, consider getting a babysitter or pet sitter for moving day. Your child (or pet) will have lots more fun, and you’ll have more peace of mind.
  • Prepare to change your address. Never miss an issue of your favorite magazine, or an important bill or notice. Sure, most important notifications are virtually delivered these days, but that doesn’t mean you won’t miss Auntie Irma’s notes. Make sure you use the official USPS site to do this for free—there are plenty of lookalike sites that will charge you a free.
  • Switch utilities and cancel subscriptions. Your USPS Change of Address form will handle mail, but after a short time, they will stop forwarding magazines. Make sure you take note of the subscriptions you do and don’t want and forward or cancel accordingly. As for utilities, just log online or call and notify gas, electric, cable, etc. providers that your address will be changing.
  • Look for new doctors. In your haste to move, finding a new doctor might be the last thing on your mind. But when you have a bad sinus infection or your dog needs vet help, you’ll be happy you established doctors and vets close to your new home. (Don’t forget to transfer vet records!)
  • Take photos of complicated electronic setups. Before you start unplugging all of your electronics, stop! Will you remember which wires go where when you get to your new place? If the answer is “probably not,” then take a few pictures of the setup on your cell phone. Same goes for furniture that you disassemble. You’ll thank yourself later.
  • Make yourself a “care package” for move in. You won’t want to do this on Week 3. Trust us. Fill up a bucket or box full of a change of clothes, toothbrush and toothpaste (travel size is fine), a sponge, and flashlight. Just the basics you’ll need if you don’t reach your goal of unpacking by the end of move-in day.

Week 3: Pack Smart for Your Move

Congratulations! You’ve made it to Week 3. If you’ve followed the plan so far, you shouldn’t feel too panicky. You have a whole week to pack up your stuff! Here are a few packing tips to get you started.

  • Don’t unpack things you’ll have to repack (dressers, clothes). Simply tape drawers shut. If it’s really heavy, maybe offload it a bit.
  • Don’t leave small stuff lingering. Pack it up! Avoid a major headache on moving day.
  • Minimize boxes/packing materials. Use blankets or clothes to wrap fragile items.
  • Label and itemize boxes (if you use them). Use the inventory system we mentioned in Week 2.

Week 4: Get Moving!

This is when all of your careful plans come together. Get your friends together, coordinate with movers, or go pick up your truck. If you have young children or pets, drop them off to be watched. Grab your coffee and get going!


Once you get to your new place, you can rest assured that you haven’t missed a thing and you’ll be able to settle in much more quickly.
Planning a move to Tenleytown, one of DC’s best (and most walkable) neighborhoods? Sign up to get leasing updates on Tenley View, the newest luxury apartment community to pop up in the neighborhood. We look forward to welcoming you home!

Filed under: Lifestyle