So, We're Buying a House--need Tips!

Updated on March 16, 2014
X.O. asks from Naperville, IL
25 answers

Neither organization nor planning is my forte, so please help me out. What's the best way to start packing up my house and getting ready to move? I suddenly feel utterly overwhelmed by what we have to do. We close in 60 days and between having 4 kids, managing 3 properties, and just general living I am stressed by the thought of getting it accomplished.

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So What Happened?

Thank you so much, ladies! I'm feeling much better about the task at hand and have been taking many of the suggestions already. Thank you!!!

Oh my gosh, Cheryl, that is a fantastic post! Thank you for the details!

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answers from Los Angeles on

I think the biggest help was NOT moving stuff I didn't want at the new house.
Standard organizational trinity: keep, pitch, donate.
Then pack.
Good luck!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

How do you feel about hiring movers? My neighbor did that. One day they came in and packed up 99% of the house. On moving day, they came back, packed up the rest and loaded it up. Then they unloaded at the other end.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

We moved about 6 months ago - my first move with children. I had a small house, two kids who were both home as it was summer (7 and 2). I packed all the kitchen stuff that I don't use all the time, then all the seasonal stuff (Christmas, Easter, etc.). I packed most of my room when boys were asleep - and their rooms, except for one box of toys/books per child when they were out playing with Daddy. Husband packed garage at night. We finished kitchen one week before - leaving one box with sippy cups, a pot, a colander, and a few other basics. We did the suitcase thing - like vacay for two weeks - one per adult, one shared for the boys.

BIG TIP: My children were at my parents when my husband and I did the final walk through after the movers had taken everything out. We asked if they wanted to come say goodbye to the house. They declined and we did not push. Major mistake. To this day, they believe that we left stuff at the old house. Younger child still asks to go home! Neither can tell me what we left - just that we left things there. If we move again, everyone goes to tell old house goodbye.

Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Always write what room the box will go in on 2 sides of the box. Not on the top. Because when you stack the boxes up, you can't see the top, but you can still see the side.

Keep yourself from being overwhelmed by starting small. Pack for 30 min at a time. If you do it consistently, you'll be amazed at how much you can pack up in 30 min.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Some of the best $$$ I spent was allowing the moving company to come on and pack up my rooms, especially the kitchen.

Start slowly and set your goals a little higher each day. Look at the bottom line... Your new home! The movers will help you unpack as well!


5 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Get plenty of boxes and tape. We didn't have much luck with free or cheap boxes on Craigslist so we bought ours. I like Lowe’s boxes because they have built in handles and are pretty sturdy. We plan on using them to store seasonal decorations and the remainder will be given away to family for similar purposes. Buy more boxes than you think and buy them on the small side. Moving heavy boxes is a pain and when they are stacked, they tend to crush each other. Smaller boxes prevent you from overloading them. I used more small and medium boxes than anything else. Primarily I used large or extra large boxes for my kids' bulky but lightweight toys and our out of season clothes. Also I would tape the flaps upright and stow my art work in those extra large boxes.

If you think you need it, wrapping paper, bubble wrap and plastic wrap. My philosophy about the wrapping paper type supplies was I had no intent of moving items only to have them broken in transit. Whatever I spent on bubble wrap and wrapping paper was better than replacing broken items on the other end. Besides I reuse all of that material for my seasonal decorations or pass it to family to do the same. I did use some of my linens to wrap pieces but it is less bulky to use wrapping paper. So far in my unpacking I have not found one single broken piece out of several dozen boxes of china and other extra fragile pieces.

As far as actual packing I took it one room at a time. I started with my least used room and packed it completely. Then moved on to the next room. I even packed all but the bare essentials in my kitchen. For about three weeks I cooked with only one pot, one spoon, salt, pepper, plastic cups, normal silverware and paper plates. I labeled all of the boxes on the side. We designated one room close to the front door for storing all boxes and unnecessary furniture. I didn't do extensive lists because I didn't see the need. Instead I marked important boxes 'priority' which meant they needed to be unpacked first (bathroom essentials, kitchen essentials, linen and towel essentials, clothes, toys, important documents). As you are packing throw things away and create a donation pile. For each room I would have two huge black trash bags - one for trash and one for donation. As I packed, anything I didn't want to keep went immediately in one of those bags.

We just moved and it was a hassle only because my kids are so young (3 and 1). I packed mostly when they were asleep. The move was stressful for them so they were clingier than normal which only added stress to the process. We had to be extra patient with them, talk them through the process and sometimes abandon any plans to pack just to give them the attention they needed. More than once my 3 year old told me not to forget to pack him in a very worried tone. Sigh. I won’t lie; it was a stressful process. However, being in your new house makes it worthwhile. Just don’t ask about the unpacking process because the stress only continues! Lol… Good luck.

P.S. We sold, moved into storage, were homeless refugees, bought and moved out of storage all within 6 weeks. It can be done but every day do a little something so there's not too much to do at the very end.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Ok here is my advice. The neighborhood you fall in love with. I would drive around it different times of the day. Are there kids playing outside? Just because they have swingsets doesn't mean the kids play outside.
Does the neighborhood have louding yapping dogs? Loud neighbors until late into the night?
Don't get a house at a bottom of a hill...water problems. Many times mildew in basement. Don't purchase a house with a flat roof. Talk to the neighbors has the area flooded? Flooded recently or ever? Do you loose power very easily?Check with local police station are there petopiles less then 1 mile from your house? Less then 5 miles? Where? Check at the school your children would be attending. Does the school have a no bully policy? How do they rate academically within your state? Did anyone die in your house? My last house was haunted. As appealing as it is to be near a stream or a body of water. It could beca potential for floods and drowning. Good luck.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Congrats!!! Can you call on friends to help, either watch your kids or come over to help. How about hiring help?

ETA: I do have an acquaintance that is a professional organizer, I believe she is a SAHM and does this on the side. If you decide you need someone like this, LMK

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Head over to Michael's and stock up on a ton of multicolored duct tape. Color code all your areas with the tape so when it comes times to unpack you know exactly which boxes go where and can unpack quickly. Make sure you have a master list of what goes where.
Start with all the things you won't need right away, the good china, extra linens, nick-nacks, pictures, mementos, books. Those types of things. The obvious of donating out things as you go. If you need to make a daily trip to the donation center to make sure it keeps going out and doesn't accidently get packed up do it.
Each day I would just pack as many boxes as I could starting with what we needed the least for the time we were in escrow. As we got closer I packed the everyday dishes and we went to paper plates and stuff.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Like Gamma said, start with books. Make sure you have BOOK boxes, not big boxes. Books are heavy and the last thing you want to do is hurt yourself. Make sure you label boxes with what's in them and what room they go into.

While you're doing this, definitely start throw-out pile and a give-to-charity pile. You want to weed out as much stuff as possible while you're going through your things. It's really important to not just shove stuff in boxes just so that you can go faster...

After you finish all the books, go to the kitchen/dining room and start getting out everything that you don't really have to have in order to cook and serve for everyday. You need to go through this, too.

Be careful with the pictures. I'd do these LAST because if you aren't having a moving company pack these up, you could end up breaking glass and damaging frames. It's easy for these kinds of things to get knocked around once there's a host of boxes sitting around...

Children's clothes next - make sure you have all the ones that are too small OUT of the house. Have all the ones they aren't wearing now boxed up with their names on the boxes. You can also write "Too big-summer/too big-winter" etc.

Toys - really pack those puppies up! The kids will be SO glad to see them two months from now! Only keep out a small percentage.

Linens - really go through them and pare down. Probably some won't fit your new house scheme. That's alright. Don't drag them along if they won't work.

Your clothes. Be honest. Do you wear them ALL? Pare down your closet. It will make you feel better. Your husband should help with his.

If you have a garage, MAKE your husband deall with that stuff. Egads - I'm sure you have enough on your plate!

Oh, and if you want to put items on your shelves exactly the same (I'm like that!), take a picture of the shelves so that you remember what goes where. I couldn't find the pictures from a few moves back and all my crystal, pictures, specific books, bookends and items I had so carefully chosen for my shelves ended up sitting in the floor of the room for a week. It took me THAT long to get my head together for where things should go. I hated that...

Once you've done all this, you'll be able to see your way to the end!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Start by going and getting boxes that can be carried when packed with books.

Start by taking your books off the shelves. These boxes should be as full as possible and then placed on the floor of the garage or storage pod or storage building you're putting everything into.

Then once those heavy duty boxes have made a strong base you can go to another thing. Perhaps pictures. I like to pack my pictures off the walls with towels between and around them. If yours are more fragile you may need to buy some flat art boxes to put them in, they go in standing and stay that way in a rack.

As you do laundry start sorting out the hard winter clothes. We won't have much more ice and snow this year. Maybe one more time. I do think we're past the single digits.

When I take the clothes out of the dryer I sort clothes that can be worn at the beginning of next fall into a keep box. I sort the clothes that can't be worn then into a give away box. I keep long sleeve tees and jeans in the closet until the end of March, first of April. I don't take out sleeveless clothes or shorts until the days are always warm in the high high 60's and low 70's. Then I get out capri's and short sleeve clothes. I have all the winter stuff put up by the end of April. Kids can wear hoddies and light weight jackets and jeans and tee shirts for quite some time.

Pack everything you're keeping for next winter and take the stuff you're not keeping to a nearby donation place.

Pack up dishes you don't need every day, pots and pans, glasses, holiday dishes, anything you can do without put it in a box and pack it up. Use paper, Styrofoam, plastic, etc....get everything sorted out and packed or in the give away box.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Check with Criag's List and Freecycle for moving boxes.
We got all ours for free this way.
As you unpack on the other end, offer them up so you can get rid of them again the same way.
What we did for fragile items was we wrapped things up with linen closet things until we ran out and then used newspaper/bunched up plastic grocery bags for what was left over.
Pack up your jewelry/coin collections/etc in a box and keep it with you (move it in your car) - don't let movers or anyone else handle that stuff.
As you pack up, label each box - what's in it and where it should go in the new house.
Our last move was long distance (4 hr drive away from our old house).
We rented a moving truck, did all the packing ourselves, and hired help on each end to load/unload.
My husband bought a really good moving dolly and we had plenty of old sheets/blankets to use between large pieces of furniture.
If the kids are too young to help, have someone watch the kids on both ends - have a room for them to be in (to keep them from getting under foot) with snacks/toys.
We did take out food on both ends for a few days till I had my kitchen set up again.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

The first trip we made was to the uhaul store. I did buy some boxes but the biggie thing for me is they sell this kit that has different colored boxing tape 2,3 or 4 bedrooms plus all the other rooms in the house. When your packing use the clear tape for the bottoms of the boxes but this colored tape on the box top. then when your moving the moving people know which room to put the boxes into. we put a piece of tape on each bedroom / other rooms door frame so that they would know where to put the boxes. It made moving day so much smoother to know that the kitchen stuff was in the kitchen instead of the basement lol. also

start packing all unneccassary stuff now. all dishes and pots and pans you use only occasionally. all extra bedding / towels etc, all toys, all books and knick knacks, pictures off the walls. misc under the cabinets. we packed most of the kids clothing from other seasons. you can start the toy packing each day and only keep a few things each. and then stack those boxes somewhere that the kids won't see them daily.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

Congrats on your new home.

You have gotten good advice from the other mommas on rooms and things. Another thing you might want to do during this time is to eat up what you have in your house like canned goods/frozen goods. This will lighten your weight as well.

My experience on moving is from the military side. We would get orders any where from three weeks to six months in advance of the move. We would go through everything we had. Any clothes that did not fit, were out of season, you did not want to keep were given or thrown away. Any furniture that you do not want or is in need of repair was thrown away. If there are magazines you like and you can scan the article do so now and avoid the clutter of the mags. If you have glassware or china, pack it up now so that it is done right and won't get broken. Any old medicines that are out of date or are left over from illnesses get rid of them.

I have to go along with TF about the professional movers packing you up. I usually had three of them two would do the house and one would be in the dining kitchen area. I seem to have all the gadgets a kitchen chef wants and the crystal and china to serve them on.

One thing to remember is to keep the garbage out of sight like thrown away so that does not wind in up in move as well. Packer will pack anything and everything.

Have a great move.

the other S.

PS We always knew when it was time for orders as that was when the house was starting to fill up with "extra stuff".

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Well, I had a list all done and thought I had pressed post...but didn't. I hope I'm not too late...

1. Create a master list. This will help you stay organized. This master list will encompass what needs to be done in each room.

2. Get moving supplies.
a. boxes or Rubber maid tubs.
b. duct tape.
c. markers - colored ones to match the duct tape is a good idea
d. scissors
e. ziploc bags (sandwich size)
f. moving or packing tape

3. Get organized. On the Master List - assign each room a color.
a. Since I PREFER the colored Rubbermaid tubs - they are more sturdy and hold more stuff, use the assigned color for each person and room - so when things are being pulled off the truck? There is a color code associated with the box/tub and room...
b. if you do not want to spend the money on tubs (I have sold mine in the past and kept a few for birthday and Christmas present storage) I would buy colored duct tape. They have awesome colors now and even patterns. So on the master list - I would put the color next to the room.

4. Go room by room and remove anything you haven't touched in six months or doesn't fit anymore. With 4 kids and such - I would DONATE to Goodwill instead of having a garage first response is garage sale to help defray moving costs...that's me.

5. Assign each person a room. I believe you have two older boys (7 and 9, right?) the younger ones can be "aides". Each person would be responsible for putting clothes in the boxes or tubs.

6. Use blankets and sheets as packing material for pictures and art work.

7. If you have kept the original boxes for collectibles? Use them. (obvious, i know...but sometimes people forget and just move the box of empty boxes from the attic to the new house...)

8. If you can afford it? Hire a moving company to come in and do this for you. I know some people don't like their stuff being touched by strangers, but sometimes, it just makes more sense to have someone else do it. Even if it means them picking up the boxes and taking them to the new place.

9. Take this opportunity to document your household inventory.
a. take pictures of the collectibles and art work
b. take pictures of the TV(s), DVD players, XBOX, Wii, etc. and write the serial numbers down.
c. if you have expensive clothing - like fur coats - take a picture of it.
d. Take pictures of the beds - especially once you get the mattress off so you KNOW how to put it back together.
e. Keep the screws, nuts and bolts for EACH item - attached a ziploc bag and taped to one of the bed posts...
f. do the same for artwork - pull the nails and hooks you have used and attach them to the back of the artwork...makes life much easier when you are unpacking.

10. at the new house? Put the tape color on the door of each room. Make a floor plan of the house and attach it to the front door or even go to Michael's and buy the tri-fold cardboard presentation and put it on sounds like hard work - but it's not. It might take 15 minutes and the kids will WANT to help...

11. On moving day? Get the kids OUT of the house. Either in day care or at the grandparents house...makes life much easier.

Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Beaumont on

What helped me a lot was lots of lists to keep me on track. Getting a jump on the packing by deciding what could go to charity and what we could do without until we moved in (that stuff got packed and put to the side immediately) got me way ahead of the game so the only things left were what we needed on a day to day basis. And by all means, start collecting the boxes you need!! Get more than you think you'd ever use. You'll be fine, with 4 kids and managing properties, you have to be more organized than you think!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Great advice from the mamas as usual!
One more thing, in case no one mentioned it. Get an apron with lots of pockets, so you can carry around scissors, multicolored tape(that was a really good idea), and multicolored sharpies as well. You'll be less likely to lose all the supplies if you're walking around with them!
Also, I like the advice of getting or paying for help. We had our cleaning lady do a lot of the packing, especially the pictured and the dishes, which can be time consuming. It is so worth it to lay out a little more money for a lot less aggravation. Also, donate and/or sell as much as you can!! All the best on your move!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i'm a disorganized twit, so i'm glad to see how much excellent advice you have here (except for the weird one telling you how to house-hunt, apparently they didn't actually read your post.)
so just want to say congrats!
did you get the one in the master-planned community? are you excited, beyond the very natural stress?
:) khairete

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Its easy to feel overwhelmed. Pack one room at a time. Leave a weeks worth of clothing available for everyone (like on a vacation) The kitchen and the bathrooms would be the last rooms to pack. Then, when you do pack these up, pack up all the non-essentials in these rooms. As your packing things up, make sure to have plenty of boxes, old newspapers for packing breakable stuff, and bags to get rid of stuff to give to a charitable organization.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

We had the inusual advantage of having two homes for months-so we could take our time and move things as room painting was finished. I used to work for a company that sold moving containers (just like POD). It was one of the few things I could confidently recommend. That way you can toss items/boxes in there as you ge them packed.
I also went through things and donated what we didn't want to take. Have the kids help (if any are old enough). Give them a donate box and a box to pack. Really encourage the benefits of donating!
I'm SURE you can find printable moving lists. There are some lovely organized women out there who make lists for everything. I'm a one day at a timer myself, lol. If I had a list-I'd lose it. Or pack it.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Bloomington on

I'm stressed for you. My husband & I have 4 kids also& desperately need a bigger house but I just don't have it in me to deal with showing our house & moving.
You can do it ! Just dive in & ask for help.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

start with books and china and non essential kitchen items.
Then set aside or mark items from your kitchen you will need up until moving and immediately after moving (like your basic cook ware, some, plates, cups, etc). Once you've set your kitchen essentials, pack the rest of the kitchen. Move your own kitchen essentials in open crates so you have them on moving day when you arrive at new place.
Similarly, pack up suitcases for each family member like you are going on a two week vacation. Live out of your suitcases and pack up all other items.

mark boxes per room.

I actually hired a service to pack me when moving with a baby. I packed a suitcase and kitchen, coolers, and bedding like we were going to vacation in an understocked vacation rental house, so had basics handy until the process was complete.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

hit up a restaurant for free boxes. Ask to talk to a manager to ses if you can come in shortly after delivery to pick them up. Liquor boxes are the best for your kitchen items! They have extra dividers to put between plates and are ready for glassware. They are small for the heavier items which means you wont over load them. Larger boxes for toilet paper/to-go containers, paper towels are great for linens and clothes. If you can get paper boxes (that reams of paper come in) they are ablsolutely the perfect size for clothes. Try to pack a few boxes everyday of things you dont need. Label the box with the room they will go in IN THE NEW PLACE. You can itemize and number your boxes if you want but I found that as more of a hassle. Keep a box nearby for things you dont need anymore. when you have a full box put it in your car and drop it off at a donation center the next time you go out. Happy moving.

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answers from Philadelphia on

I found packing to be pretty easy. The hard part for me was deciding if I really wanted to move something to my new home.

I am not a procrastinator and wanted to get a jump start on packing. I started with my curio and that took all of 5-10 minutes. If things are organized it is really pretty easy. So declutter as much as you can.
I found the hardest rooms to pack were the garage and basement though.

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answers from Atlanta on

We just moved from California to Georgia two years ago.

We had already used our last military move, so we had a moving company come in and pick up the boxes we had packed and move our furniture. I learned a lot from our prior moves, even if people were coming in to pack us up.

We used a color coding system, much like Wild Woman states. Like you, I have 4 boys who are all old enough to help out. So each of them had to pack a suit case of clothes for one week and back pack for things to do in the car while we drove from California to Georgia.

We couldn't afford all the tubs, so we mixed it up. I got some off freecycle and bought some and used boxes with colored duct tape for each room. The hanging wardrobe boxes you get at U-Haul are great!! You can sell them after you unpack. People will buy used ones!

It doesn't sound like you are moving across country, but I would suggest that you pack a suitcase for each child for one week of clothes and a back pack for toys.

On moving day, we all went through the house and said bye-bye - the boys were able to see that nothing was left behind of theirs. When the movers showed up, the boys directed them to their rooms. The movers liked that everything was color coded, it helped them and they organized the truck in the same way.

We too used our blankets and sheets for wrapping pictures and larger items.

I hired a cleaning company to come in after we sold and moved out to do the final clean. They cleaned out the cabinets, refrigerator and stove. The new owners loved it. Even sent a thank you note for leaving it so clean, which is a first for me.

it really does help to break it down into rooms, then it's not so daunting to feel like you are doing it all at once.

Decluttering will make a huge difference as well. We had a huge garage sale and made about $750 and got rid of almost everything. Whatever was left over, we drove to our local shelter and donated there. My boys get involved in garage sales! It's funny. They manage their own section and make deals with people. They got to keep the money from their area. They used it along the trip to buy souvenirs.

Can't tell you how important the ziploc bags were for us! We learned that from our military moves - the packers would take apart the bed and put the parts in a baggie and tape it to one of the pieces of the bed! Everything was right there ready to be put back together when we got to the new base!

1 mom found this helpful
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