Organizing BEFORE You Move: Save Time and Your Sanity

So, you’re moving! How exciting and yet, utterly terrifying.

Moving doesn’t have to be your worst nightmare, though. It CAN have the potential to be only a mildly scary mini-dream. Below are a few tips to help you tame that moving beast while staying organized and at least partly sane.

Visualizing the New Place

Firstly, let’s start by visualizing your new place. Moving into a new home can also be the start of a new chapter in your life. Homes are often a marker in time when you think back and say, “it was when we were in the yellow house on Drury Street, or was it still when we lived at the condo?” Each home has a different feel and elicits different emotions. Looking forward, what kind of vibe are you wanting from this new place?

A few major factors that determine this are:

  • Location
  • Decor
  • Size

Each of those factors play into and off of each other. It’s not likely to feel like a quiet, relaxing oasis if you’re on the corner of two busy streets and you probably won’t get that authentic southwestern feel if all of your furniture and decor is mid-century modern. If you’re decreasing or increasing the square-footage, think about your current furniture and how that will physically fit in the new place.

Drive around and map out the new neighborhood. Think of some specific decor pieces that you can visualize beautifully placed in your new space. Taking measurements of the new rooms, your current furniture, and planning the furniture layouts beforehand can save you time and frustration when you realize mid-move that the new sectional doesn’t fit down the basement stairs.

Create Moving Notebook/Folder

Use whatever you have to keep all this moving-related info together. You don’t have to get super fancy with a hyper-organized, tabbed and color-coded binder, but having one place as your go-to can save you a lot of time when searching for your moving info.

Some good things to keep in here are:

  • Research (moving companies, storage units, internet/cable providers, new utilities and trash companies, etc)
  • To-do list:
    • Utilities to Turn on/off
    • School Paperwork to Transfer
    • Change of Address, Notifying Relevant Parties of Address Change (banks/credit cards, magazines/subscriptions, HR at work, etc.)
  • Moving Schedule, Appliance Drop-Offs, Carpet Cleaners, Etc.
  • Donation Center for donate items
  • Recycling Center for post-move boxes/packing paper

I also suggest creating individual folders for the following paperwork. Though most of these are moving-related, you will need to hang on to this info for much longer.

  • Loan/Closing Documents/Lease
  • Appliance Instruction Manuals
  • Warranties

Lighten the Load

Now, onto the most important part of this whole shebang. Do not bring anything to the new house that you didn’t use or love in the old house. If it’s broken and you don’t have solid plans to fix in with-in a few weeks, it’s time to go.

Before you move is the perfect time to “trim the fat”. A couple great areas to focus on de-cluttering and pairing down are:

  • Kitchen appliances and utensils
  • Bathroom and bedroom linens
  • Each family member’s wardrobe
  • Books and Media
  • Children’s toys

Now is also the time to go through those old boxes in storage that you’re not quite sure of the contents, yet have drug around to the last two or three houses with you. Odds are that they are full of items that don’t serve you anymore.

If you’re thinking that they are mostly keepsakes and memorabilia, it’s still a good idea to go through them and purge what you don’t absolutely love and want to still be holding onto 10 years from now. Chances are that the the last time you went through those old boxes, it was probably a lot more important to you to hold on to that high school graduation tassel than it would be to you now.


Now that you’ve gotten rid of things you don’t love or use anymore, it’s time to start packing up what’s left. It’s a good idea to start packing the items that are the least accessed/used and finishing by packing the every-day items. Starting this processes early will save you the most time and eliminates a lot of that last-minute scrambling and stress.

A couple tried-and-true packing tips:

  • Mostly use small and medium boxes
  • Put EVERYTHING in boxes
  • Put related and like-items in the same box
  • Label each box with:
    • What room the box should be taken to
    • What is mostly in the box

Selling Your Home

If you are listing your current home to sell, pack up as many of the household items as you can. While your home will be shown, it’s vital that there is no clutter anywhere.

  • Remove any non-neutral decor, especially personal photos and knick-nacks
  • Remove kitchen counter top appliances, store food out-of-sight
  • Keep bathroom and laundry counter tops clear
  • Give storage rooms a purpose, i.e. stage as a craft/sewing space etc.
  • Create illusion of space by moving some furniture to storage
  • Pack and store off-season clothing and shoes
  • Pack and store majority of children’s toys – especially large bulky toys like play kitchens, riding toys, etc.

Compile a Moving Essentials Kit

Alright, now you’re ready to move! It’s also a good idea to create an essentials kit with some of the items you will need to access right away that will save you from having to rip open and dig through boxes just to find one or two items. Here are just a few things that are great to include in your moving day essentials kit:

  • Toilet Paper
  • Towels/Paper Towels
  • Trash Bags
  • Soap: hand, dish, multi-purpose spray
  • 1 Dish Set/Disposables, Silverware, Cups
  • Box Cutter
  • Light Bulbs
  • Shower Curtain
  • Set of Bed Sheets for each bed
  • Teapot/Coffeemaker
  • Baby/Kid Items


Now it’s time to unpack and settle in! This part can be especially overwhelming. Below are some tips to help it stay a little less chaotic and a little more manageable.

  • Start unpacking right away
  • Only unpack one room (fully) at a time
  • Put things where they should permanently live as you unpack
  • Tear down boxes and move to recycling as you go

Additional Resources

Check out this thorough Organized Moving Checklist from the Container Store to make sure you’re staying on point.

Also, if you’d like some help getting your move organized, de-cluttering, or sorting through storage items, please contact me, I’d love to help!


Before and After Pics


Busy Professional Man's Closet - Before and After

  Organizing and Containing Bathroom Items - Organized and Contained Bathroom Items Before and After  organized closet before and after From Closet Chaos to Closet Tidy - Organized Closet and Room Before and After


Photographers Home Office - Before and After 1 Photographers Home Office - Before and After 2 Photographers Home Office - Before and After 3 Photographers Home Office - Before and After 4 Catch All Home Office - Before and After 1 Catch All Home Office - Before and After Dumping Ground Home Office - Before and After


Un-Packing a Catch-All Garage - organized garage before and after left side Dads Tool Bench Organized - Before and After Cluttered Garage - Before and After

craft rooms

 A Sewing Room - Before and After A Craft Room Rediscovered - De-Cluttered Craft Room Before and After A Craft Room Rediscovered - before and after of an organized sewing counter

Basements and Storage

Organized Basement Storage - Before and AfterOrganizing a Storage Closet - Before and After Organized Storage Closet

play rooms

Organizing a Toy Room - Before and After Organized Toy Room Organized Play Room - Before and After

laundry and linen

 Creating Laundry Room Storage - Before and After Stuffed Linen Closet - Organized Linen Closet Before and After

unpacking into organization

Unpacking a Kitchen 1 Unpacking a Kitchen

Making A Workshop Work

Part of a workshop’s job description is to do some pretty heavy work.   It has to house all the things that are needed to do a job.  In my client’s case the construction business is the name of the game and there are so many facets to that.  His workshop was not doing the work it needed to make things easy to find and ready to go!  Making A Workshop Work - messy workshop

There were too many things on the floor blocking the shelves….


Making A Workshop Work - messy concrete and paint

Or blocking other equipment that needed accessibility.


Making A Workshop Work - messy lawn care

The solution was to do some sorting and consolidating on the shelves and some rearranging.  So that they went from this….

Making A Workshop Work - messy shelves


To this!   My client was actually the genius that thought of pulling them out from the wall, back to back,  and I wholeheartedly agreed and felt a smidge sheepish that I didn’t think of that myself!!

Making A Workshop Work - organized shelves


And once the consolidating happened all the piles on the floor were able to go onto those shelves.


Making A Workshop Work - organized concrete bags

Making A Workshop Work - organized lawn care


We also made a home for the wood on the wall and I loved how it turned out!  Unfortunately, as is the case a lot of the time with me,  in my excitement to get started I failed to grab a picture of the large shelving unit that the wood was stored in before, but my client will tell you that it wasn’t working out!!!


Making A Workshop Work - organized wood on the wall


And the finished view, beyond the wood  is the following……


Making A Workshop Work - organized workshop


OH, I was all about making a workshop work and I think we did!


Project by Nicole in Kansas City

Making a Workshop Work - Organized Before and After Workshop

Tidy Up That Garage Space!

Garages!  This client was ready to get hers tidied up!  And she was glad she could call in some help!  She had already started identifying like items and gathering them in totes on the shelves outside her entry door. Tidy up that garage space - messy shelvesWe clarified what she wanted on each shelf and also took into consideration the priority of the convenient grab!   Other items were moved to locations further from the door.   Tidy up that garage space - tidy shelves

Onto the other portion of shelving and miscellaneous items that tend to gather in garages!Tidy up that garage space - messy garage

This part just needed a good going through so everything came off the shelves. Recent law school paperwork was condensed and housed in airtight tubs.  Tarps,  grill covers and fountain covers were folded and gathered into a tote.  Small stacking bins were re-homed next to the existing shelves from another part of the garage.  Coolers were wiped down. Then the focus was turned to some shelving and cabinets that had been overwhelmed with paint, automotive, pesticides and fertilizers.Tidy up that garage space - undesignated shelves Tidy up that garage space - undesignated cabinetAll of the paints were moved from the shelves to the bottom of the cabinet with doors to keep them tucked out of sight.  Fertilizers and pesticides were paired down and combined in the cabinet as well.   We them put all the automotive on the shelves in plain sight for her husband to see the inventory!  Tidy up that garage space - designated shelves

And when it was all said and done, the fabulous sight of ……Tidy up that garage space - tidy garageI think we heard some angels singing!  Light from heaven shown upon us and my client danced into her house!  Okay, okay, I am exaggerating a little, but we were happy we had a chance to tidy up that garage space!  For real.  Great client, great day!

Project by Nicole in Kansas City

Tidy-up-that-garage-space- organized garage before and after

Organizing Garage Storage

Garages are one of those places that ends up storing a little bit of everything for easier access. This specific garage was right off of the kitchen, making it a handy spot for overflow kitchen appliances and different cooking related items.
This client also likes to decorate for the holidays, so she has some tote boxes stored here with Christmas decorations in them already.  However, there aren’t enough, so the overflow gets scattered.  She also uses this space for storing cleaning supplies, kitchenware, and small appliances.  She keeps one car in this space, but it is a two car garage.
Organizing Garage Storage - garage wall before
There were some leftover construction supplies, (mostly tile) on the floor. I moved these to her husband’s workshop, which is in a separate building behind the house.  The large green metal box is for her husband’s tools, and she told me not to store anything on top of it (he doesn’t like that!).
Next, I neatened up the cleaning supplies, and I made sure that things like pesticides were kept on a high shelf to protect her grandchildren from getting into them.
This client had some good, sturdy shelving units, so I moved the microwave oven and the small broiler onto one of them. This unit already had kitchen supplies and small appliances on it, so this was a logical place to put them.
Next, I put all of the holiday decorations into large plastic tote boxes, and these were organized by season.  She had some Christmas wreaths, and these were stored on top of the refrigerator and stand-up freezer. These would be better in wreath boxes, and the client said that she would get some next winter. They aren’t available during the summer, when this organization was done.
Organizing Garage Storage - garage after
On one side of the garage, there was a large folded-up rug.  She said that she didn’t know what to do with it, so I suggested that I sweep the floor and lay it down, right there in the garage! Seeing that she stores only one car in this space, there was room for the rug closest to the door house door of garage which is that’s right where the decorations and kitchen supplies are kept! It will feel so nice on her feet when she has to dash out to the garage to get something.
So there it is! Ta-dah! Garage storage all ready for the holidays.
This client was very happy with her garage, and I’m sure that her husband will like it, too!
Organizing Garage Storage - garage after full
Project by Tina in Austin
Organizing Garage Storage - Organized Garage Before and After

Unpacking a Catch-All Garage

When moving, we all have that one last space that often acts as a dumping ground for the stuff we aren’t quite sure what to do with ey. A lot of the times that space ends up being the garage.

This newly combined family had just moved and had slowly been unpacking their garage which had become the catch-all from their move.
Un-Packing a Catch-All Garage - cluttered garage left

A lot of what was in the garage was garage-related stuff like camping, sports equipment, tools, and boating supplies. Each of those areas were sorted into piles and while going through the contents, we were able to donate and trash several items that were no longer in play.

With the addition of some garage shelving that was picked up at the local home improvement store, we arranged the three largest piles onto their own shelving unit. Closest to the door was camping and coolers, next was all of the kids outdoor sports equipment, and closest to the garage opening were the boating supplies for better accessibility. On the back wall we stored all of the tool type of items on a shelf and fold out table by the door.
Un-Packing a Catch-All Garage - organized garage left

On the right side of the garage, we used the wall-side for storage, and moved all of the seasonal, luggage, and rarely accessed items up on the high shelves.
Keeping what you use more often most accessible is key in keeping your space organized. Having the designated shelves for each type of storage will also help in keeping items more contained.

Check out these awesome before and afters!
Un-Packing a Catch-All Garage - organized garage before and after left side Un-Packing a Catch-All Garage - organized garage before and after right side

Project by Shawna in Austin