There are a million and one moving guides out there and they’re all filled with terrific advice. They’re all organized and detailed but there’s something missing. There are guides to moving into your first apartment. There are guides to moving into your first home. There are guides to moving out of your starter home, and guides to help you downsize once your children have left the nest. But I saw nothing for the single mom responsible for packing up a family of four. And let’s face it, we’re a unique category.
I need to be budget aware, but I also need to be aware of my own time constraints and physical capabilities. What separates the single mom from the rest is the absence of a strong and abled body. And while I am many things, capable of lifting and moving heavy things, I am not.
The first thing I did was to shop around for moving companies and book a date. I lucked out and found a mover within my budget who was able to move me on the date specified right away. Many moving companies will pack for you but I decided to save a little money and pack myself (Ugh!)
I also hired a young handyman to help with some heavy lifting and take a couple of truck loads of stuff to the dump - old lawn furniture, old air conditioners, etc…
I don’t want to worry about leaving this place spotless so I’m hiring a cleaning crew to come in and scrub from top to bottom once we’ve moved out.
So that leaves me with the packing… Oh the packing…. It’s so damned overwhelming. We’ve been in our current home for seven years. And the amount of crap we’ve accumulated is positively ridiculous.
1 house = 3 bedrooms, 1 living room area, 1 kitchen and dining area, 3 bathrooms, 1 attic, 1 basement, 1 garage and 1 3-season porch… that’s a lot of packing for one person!
Because we’re going this solo, we’ll need a little bit of extra time - extra time to plan and extra time to pack. If you are able, ask for help in whatever capacity you need. If you don’t have extra time and you can take a day or two off, I strongly encourage you to do so.
First things first…
Edit the Contents of your home
Whether you’ve been at your current home for a year or 10 or even 20, you will no doubt have a lot of stuff you’ll want to get rid of. Whether you toss, donate or sell is up to you and how much time you have. For $50 a truckload, I hired a young handyman to do several dump runs for me. This saved me countless hours and was one of the best decision I’ve ever made! Goodwill has also been the benefactor of everything from children’s clothing, clothing we’ve fallen out of love with, shoes that have gotten too small, other household items that have been accumulating over the years, planters, vases and more planters and vases… a coffee maker that was never used, books, lamps, wicker baskets, etc… I can’t tell you how good this feels! I have a pile ready to head off to a consignment shop as well.
While editing make three piles:
For some things I have decided to err on the side of caution. I’ll transfer some items over to the new place and get rid of them if I don’t need. The storage needs will be different and I don’t want to get rid of something that I may need and then have to spend more money replacing it.
You will still likely end up packing things you won’t want or need, but this is a great way to start.
Got kids? Have ‘em help
If they’re young, they’ll be quite limited in what they can do. If you have pre-teens, teens and older, depending on when they’re around there’s plenty they can do to help. My daughter packed up her room as best as she could do before heading off to college. Once she was out of the house, hers was the first room completely packed up. I stripped her beds, emptied out what was left in her closed and vacuumed the room.
The boys can pack their clothes and their games. I’ll have to take care of the breakables, strip their beds and go through and declutter.
The boys were also instrumental with helping me declutter the house by making numerous trips to the basement, and garage to help create my donate and dump piles.
As for the packing I decided it would be best if I tackled that myself. I wanted to ensure things were properly packed, wrapped, protected, etc. I also wanted to know what went into each box (not that I can remember a day later) and marked them the best as I could do. I’ll fill up my SUV with items that we will move, silver, and items that will be transported in large totes, open bags, etc and have the boys help carry those items into the new location.
Make sure you have plenty of the all-important items on hand
These will include:
packing tape and duct tape (multiple colors)
kitchen garbage bags
freezer size bags
*Take advantage of recycled moving boxes
I went to U-Haul and spent about $150 on packing supplies to get me started. This included large, medium and small sized boxes, bubble wrap, wrapping paper and tape. U-Haul also has a recycle bin filled with paper and boxes that people have returned when they’ve moved and unpacked. Some days it’s full, other days not so much, but it’s worth checkout out a couple of days a week. Another thing I love about U-Haul is that you can return your unused boxes for a full refund provided you keep and present your receipt.
Take to Facebook groups and Nextdoor to source for boxes and moving materials. I’ve gotten so much packing material through Facebook alone. So save a tree and re-use those boxes!
Organization is key!
I admit to not exactly being the most organized individual. Some will tell you to have all your items packed in order from how you want the contents delivered to your new home, a last in - first out, if you will. But my brain doesn’t quite function that way. I simply label each box by room and try to remember everything I’ve packed inside. And I’ll be honest, that doesn’t always work for me!
Use your spare sheets, pillows and blankets wisely
Sure, you could toss all your linens into a large box and get them ready for the next linen closet. Or you could use these materials wisely. I like to line my fragile boxes with extra duvets, pillows and blankets for extra padding. I take pillowcases and sheets and roll them into spaces where pockets need filling. Of course you’ll still need packing paper, but you’ll use much less.
Unless you’re moving into your first post college apartment, (and that’s not my readership!) I’m not even going to tell you to not hire a moving company.
Got unmatched socks?
If your household is anything like ours you no doubt have lots of socks who’ve lost their mates. Instead of tossing them, put them to use. They’re great for wrapping up smaller items like glasses, small vases, votives, perfume bottles, candlesticks, figurines and other breakables that you may have around the house.
Put your camera to use
Before you unplug your televisions, modems, printers and whatnot take a picture of the back of each item so you can see exactly which cord is plugged into which spot. This is a major headache preventer. It will have been a long day, and by doing this you may actually be able to toss off your shoes, kick up your feet, Netflix and chill…
When to pack what…
My daughter is away at college. Her room was the first to be fully packed.
I haven’t really started the boys’ room yet. Their games are packed as are some of their books… I’m saving this one for a few days before the move.
My room has been a slow and steady work in progress. I’m emptying items that I’m not currently wearing into suitcases and boxes. Because it’s still warm out, but no longer sweltering, all my summer items are packed. And because the cool weather hasn’t arrived yet, my winter clothes are all packed.
I’ve tossed shoes, purses and bags into oversized Ikea bags that a friend lent me.
The rest of the clothes will get packed a couple of days before the move. I’ll leave a few items out in my “overnight bag.”
The living room
The first things I packed were all my books and coffee table books.
I then packed artifacts and artwork.
I still have to empty the contents of my desk which I will do the morning of, or the night before the move.
Throw pillows and lamps will get packed the morning of the move.
Start sorting through the bathroom by tossing everything that’s not being used such as nearly empty bottles of shampoo, conditioner and lotion that have just been sitting around, old razors, toothbrushes and any medicines that have expired. Designate a box or bag for all the items that will be moved, but are not currently being used, and the day of the move the rest of the items can get tossed in there. You will be amazed at everything that gets tossed!
The Kitchen and Dining areas
I have two sets of dishes. I packed the set that gets used the least.|
I packed vases, stemware, soup bowls, etc that I can go without for a few weeks.
I will pack the rest of the dishes at the end of this week, with one week before the move. I have plenty of paper plates.
All serving platters and oversized plates have been packed.
I still need to pack coffee mugs, and will do so this weekend. We’ll be fine using paper cups for a week.
Mixing and serving bowls will also get packed this weekend and as will most kitchen utensils.
I will pack up all the appliances (safe for the coffee maker) this weekend, a week before the move.
I will save pantry and fridge items for the day of the move, and will do the same for all the under-the-sink-items, including cleaning supplies, dishwashing detergent, sponges, garbage bags, etc…
Sorting through the clutter - Donate or toss old magazines, books, small appliances, pots, pans, any glasses or dishes that are not being/have not been used in a while.
Pack an overnight bag
You’ll want a bag filled with the items you’ll want for the first night and morning in your new home. This might include:
Something comfortable to wear the first evening in your new home.
Something to sleep in
Something to wear the following day
Necessary toiletries such as: toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, lotion, any medicine you take on a regular basis or something you may need such as acetaminophen, allergy meds, etc
Phone and laptop chargers
Books, notebooks, etc
Pack an overnight box or two
Have a box or two that you can access easily after the move. In this box you’ll have everything you will need for the first evening, night and morning in your new home such as:
Bedding for the beds
Towels, blankets, pillows, etc
Coffee maker and necessary supplies
Kettle for tea
Paper plates, napkins, etc
Dishwashing soap and sponge
Windex and paper towels
Moving is messy business. Do be sure to have basic cleaning supplies on hand at your new home. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’re knee deep in your post move mess. You will want to have the following on hand:
A few garbage bags
Vacuum cleaner - make sure that there’s a new bag in the canister
Broom and dustpan
Windex and wipes
As you start to unpack your boxes keep one large box somewhere convenient to store the rest as you start to break them down. Do the same for you paper packing materials. Create a post on Facebook letting others know that you have moving materials for those who might need them.
Pick up a few necessary food items for the kitchen
If you’re moving on a weekday the morning after will be just as rushed as you scramble to get kids off to school and get yourself off to work. Whether you pick up a few items at a local convenience store, make a quick grocery store run or arrange for a grocery delivery, you’ll want to have a few basic things in your fridge and kitchen if you’re not able to transfer the contents from your current kitchen to the next location.
Some items you may want to have on hand:
Bread/English muffins or bagels for breakfast
And of course we couldn’t forget the all-important wine or Prosecco!
Hire a cleaning service!
Hopefully your new home is so clean you’ll be able to eat right off the floors… The last thing you are going to want to do after spending weeks packing and then moving is to clean the home you just left. I strongly suggest hiring a cleaning crew to do a top to bottom wipe down. It’ll be one less thing to have to worry about.
How you can help
I’ve had friends offer to help me move, but I always feel strange accepting that request. It’s a lot of work. And I’ve hired movers to handle all the heavy stuff.
I will ask to borrow an SUV or two because I know there will be a few last minute things that won’t make it onto the moving van.
If you want to deliver a home cooked meal, you may want to wait a couple of days so that pots and pans have been located and unpacked along with plates and silverware.
Prepared meals are always nice to receive.
If you send over a bottle of wine you may want to include a bottle opener or purchase a bottle with a twist off top. And perhaps a plastic cup/glass or two.
As are gift certificates.
But perhaps nothing is more convenient for the first couple of nights than an UberEats delivery!
If you have time to stop by after the move help unpacking will be as appreciated as help packing.
Are you electronically savvy? You can always offer to reconnect phones, televisions, printers, modems, etc…
Offer to help take kids to school or bring them home if they don’t take the bus.
Offer to help take the kids to their various sporting events or extra curricular activities so Mom can unpack.
Or even just offer your company while Mom unpacks.