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

A Maximized Pantry

This client had a freshly remodeled kitchen but since moving everything back in, she hadn’t quite found the right place for it all.

We started on the black hole cabinet space that I know is meant to make the best of a corner but, in every kitchen I’ve seen, those corner cabinets have more of a tendency to lose things!

A Maximized Pantry- congested corner cabinet

Below the counter, a great space with lazy-susans included but a bit a of everything down there, too.

A Maximized Pantry - congested lower corner cabinet

We started doing a little rearranging in some of the other cabinets to make things more convenient and then dug right into the top corner cabinet, emptying it completely!

There were canned goods everywhere and a lot of things my client didn’t even realize she had!  As we emptied we tossed expired food and grouped like items.

She had a fabulous pantry space that we emptied as well!  Here is the pantry before:

A Maximized Pantry - messy pantry

With all the food emptied out of the cabinet and pantry we were able to find a good location for it, a category at a time.  We took into consideration the frequency of use and HEIGHT of the items.

We maximized every bit of space!   The outcome was quite nice!

A Maximized Pantry - organized pantry

An up close of the second pull-out shelf sure put a smile on my face!!

A Maximized Pantry - close up of organized pantry

Wonderful!!! After all that food was squared away we had tons of empty space in the upper corner cabinet!!  The top shelf housed bulky, less used dishes and pitcher.

There was a plastic container that came out of the pantry with baking supplies in it…. it was purged, the remaining items went back in, and were added to.

It was decided that since baking wasn’t a frequent happening at her house, the best place for baking items was third shelf in the corner cabinet. Cake mixes and other baking supplies fit perfectly on the sides. The tub pulled out all the items in the center making everything else in the vast expanse of that shelf easy to access!

For the lower two shelves my client already had some lazy susans that are perfect for those areas when they start filling up.

A Maximized Pantry -extremely less congested corner pantry

Under the cabinet we kept most of the large items that were already there, just did some straightening and had space to store all of the extra condiments.

A Maximized Pantry - organized bottom corner pantry

There it was: another happy kitchen ready to take on the demands of life with room to spare with a maximized pantry!


Project by Nicole in Kansas City

Solving The Walk-In Pantry Puzzle

Solving The Walk In Pantry Puzzle-overflowing kitchen table

I was excited to start my day with a pantry organize!  I knew this walk-in pantry was going to be a big job and my client got a jump on the work of clearing a lot of the pantry before I got there.   So when I arrived I knew we’d better get busy!   My client had admitted to being overwhelmed and we needed to find the perfect equation to not only get everything back into the pantry but also make it WORK!  The items from the pantry were also on the kitchen counter….

Solving The Walk-In Pantry Puzzle- pantry overflow on counter

Solving The Walk-In Pantry Puzzle- overflow on kitchen counter

And a side table between the kitchen and dining room…


Solving The Walk-In Pantry Puzzle- pantry overflow on side table


To start solving the walk-in pantry puzzle, I tackled what was still in the pantry first.   There was a pretty good mix of dishes, serving items and food.  To the left there were mostly pans, cookbooks and a variety of dishes but there was also some food items mixed in helter, skelter.


Solving The Walk-In Pantry Puzzle- messy left side of pantry


I turned my attention to gathering all the dishes and cookbooks and shifting them to the left  side.  I also took into consideration how often items were used and worked to get smaller items in the corners so they would be easier to remove.


Solving The Walk-In Pantry Puzzle- close up


Solving The Walk-In Pantry Puzzle- organized left side of pantry


I loved being able to add a cute cream and sugar dish with matching salt and pepper shakers in front of the cookbooks!  Although it’s hard to tell, the shelf above that are all of the client’s graters/choppers/slicer/dicer type items with knives tucked in on the far left.  There was enough room to add a cookie press (or three) on the right side of that shelf as well.   Normally when there are duplicate items we encourage our clients to pick the favorite and donate the rest.  In this case all three cookie presses were used at the same time for holiday family cookie baking days!  So they were allowed to stay!!  🙂  For the other shelves it was a matter of finding like items and arranging them in the best possible stacking scenarios.

Then it was on the right side of the pantry!  This is where most of the food items had started and I worked to solidify them ALL going there.

Solving The Walk-In Pantry Puzzle- messy right side of pantry

Expiration dates were checked and a lot of them were discarded due to expired dates.  Then flours, sugars, beans, pastas, cereals and snacks were added to containers that the client had purchases before our session.   My label maker had smoke flying off of it as I made sure labels landed on items not easily identified by sight!  🙂  We also condensed and used every bit of the wire shelving on the wall.

Solving The Walk-In Pantry Puzzle- organized right side of pantry

Then for the last area,  front and center when you walked in the pantry.  This space had shelves and drawers. a lovely thing!

Solving The Walk-In Pantry Puzzle- disorganized shelves


Several of the big items fit in this section well, so they got to stay where they were while excess things were cleared away.  Coffee, cereal  and snacks fit nicely onto the shelves above.  Paper towels worked wonderfully in one of the drawers.

Solving The Walk-In Pantry Puzzle- organized pantry shelves

When everything was happily in it’s new home, we exited the fully stocked pantry to a clean surfaced kitchen!  Here is the dining room table….

Solving The Walk-In Pantry Puzzle - completely clear kitchen table


and the side table ready for the holidays……


Solving The Walk-In Pantry Puzzle- organized side table


and the kitchen counter!!   It was a good, good day!

Solving The Walk-In Pantry Puzzle- organized counter


Project by Nicole in Kansas City.


Unpacking and Organizing Kitchen Cabinets

For this kitchen unpack and organize the client had recently moved and was not sure about where in her kitchen to place certain items.   Their family loved to cook and had lots of spices.  We started by clearing a cabinet and gathering the spices from the various places they had ended up in the unpacking process.
Now, they were all right by the stove where they would be a hand’s grab away!

kitchen organize - cabinet of spices
In my excitement to get started I failed to grab a before picture!

I alphabetized all the spices on the lazy susans so they would be easier to find:
The bottom right shelf was designated for all the spices that were used most often.
The middle shelf on the right side had baking items in the back and sugars for coffee in the front.
On the top shelf the bulk and overflow spices found a place.
All of the bulk spices that were in bags were put in airtight containers and labeled.  Having them in containers not only extends shelf life but also maintains a cleaner look and maximizes space because they can be stacked.

After the spices were finished we moved on to the cabinets establishing the best place for each grouping of dishes.
Here is one of the cabinets that had some of the dishes for baking but not all of them.

kitchen organize - cabinet without purpose

All the baking dishes, liquid measuring cups, and mixing bowls were rounded up and added to this cabinet. Lids were placed underneath or to the side of the dishes they belonged with.   A designated place for like items is also helpful for putting away and maintaining organization, not only finding them!

kitchen organize - cabinet with purpose

In the baking cabinet we used up every bit of space that we could! The following before picture you can see that it had tupperware and a salad shooter that headed off to their place, leaving room for baking overflow and then some, after!  This client still had some unpacking to do so the extra space was a welcome sight!

kitchen organize -cabinet without purpose 2

All in all, another great day of unpacking and organizing kitchen cabinets!!

Project by Nicole in Kansas City



Organizing an Austin Kitchen

Every space, after a while, get’s unorganized due to misc. items placed in random spots. This kitchen is one of those examples. Busy families seldom get the time to take a 4 hour break to re-organize their kitchen.

Enter: professional organizers.

This client had a pretty good idea where she wanted her kitchen items. She stuck sticky notes on the outside of the cabinets so that we could stick closely to their current main areas for things.
The non-kitchen stuff was moved to the pantry and to dining room storage, while the remainder was straightened up, and re-homed.

Organizing an Austin Kitchen - Cluttered Counters With Mis-matched Cabinet Items

The pantry, after a while, had gotten pretty mixed up. The pantry items were sorted according to what type of food they were and the clutter on the floor was cleared out. All of the shopping bags were stored together.

Organizing an Austin Kitchen  - Organized Pantry Shelves Before and AfterOrganizing an Austin Kitchen - Organized Pantry Floor Before and After

Every cabinet was re-worked according to what type of kitchen item it held. Appliances were stored with appliances, and baking containers were nested together with other baking items.

Organizing an Austin Kitchen - Organized Floor Cabinets Beforea and After

End result: clean, clutter-free counters and every kitchen item in it’s specific home!

Organizing an Austin Kitchen - Clean and Clutter Free Counters


Organizing For Every Room

This day was such a joy!
After planning to work solely on a bedroom and closet organize and finishing with plenty of time, we attacked not only a hall closet but also under the kitchen sink as well as some bathroom areas!! Now that is a happy day and I think my client felt like she got her money’s worth!!

We started in the bedroom closet that she and her husband shared. The top shelf of the closet had been used for all of their jeans. Because it was a bit high and jeans were used often, the stacks were hard to keep in stacks and often in disarray. Without the space to store off season clothes the couple previously did not do a seasonal switch with their clothes. We had to change that! But not too drastically!

We pulled all of her sweaters out of her drawers and put them up on the top closet shelf, separating the stacks with bins to help keep them in stacks. She wanted be able to grab a sweater if needed!

The husband’s sweaters were put into an under the bed clothes bag. How often does a man reach for a sweater once the seasons change? We agreed on NEVER.
My client had washed every stitch of clothing they owned (how awesomely prepared!) so we would be sure to fit it all in! And we did with space to spare!

She had started using the front to back stacking method in a couple of her drawers and so we did that in ALL of her drawers… and his!
This utilizes the space so much better because there is no gap like when a stack is dropped in from top to bottom.
Organizing For Every Room!- messy drawerOrganizing For Every Room!- organized drawer

After we had put everything away and dressers were cleared on top, all of her pretty items were moved from the smaller dresser in the corner to the larger dresser.
Organizing For Every Room!- time to simplify his dresserOrganizing For Every Room!- organized bedroom dresser

We had a double purpose for that. Not only to be seen more often but also as a deterrent to things that would want to start stacking there like they had previously gotten in the habit of.
Organizing For Every Room!- messy bedroom dresser

With time on our hands she flung open her hall closet with a groan!

Organizing For Every Room!- unorganized hall closetOrganizing For Every Room!- organized hall closet

We sorted through items that needed to go to the garage or bathroom and quite a few went to the get-rid-of pile! Good job!

Finding that we then had hardly anything in there we cleared out under the kitchen sink (oops! forgot to grab a before picture until we had everything out!) and only returned the ones she used on a regular basis.

Organizing For Every Room!- unorganized under the kitchen sink

Organizing For Every Room!- organized under the kitchen sink
The others found a new home in the hall closet.

With that great shoe organizer on the door, we decided that the bathroom should get in on this action!

Organizing For Every Room!- unorganized under the bathroom sinkOrganizing For Every Room!- organized under the bathroom sink

So we started under the sink, purging expired items and sending most of the less frequently used medicines to the shoe organizer.

We then had room for items from the overcrowded bins on shelves to go under the sink.

Organizing For Every Room!- cluttered bathroom storage area

Organizing For Every Room!- uncluttered, organized bathroom storage area

One thing lead to another and everything felt pretty gosh darn good when I left! Another great day of organizing!!!

Organizing For Every Room!- before and after organized closet

Project By: Nicole in Kansas City