Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Moving/Organizing Advice

I know someone who reads here who might be in need of some help. I thought I'd make an effort at writing down my processes for the moving/organizing thing.
Just to get this stuff in print before I forget...

Thanks to my husband's 20 year Army career, I've had lots of practice at moving. Ask any career military person and they can tell you moving stories. Good and bad. Fortunately for us, our stuff never caught fire on a moving truck. Our storage goods were not in a warehouse in Missouri that burned up. We never had all our crystal broken. As a matter of fact, very little was ever lost, stolen, or damaged. 

I consider this both a matter of luck and planning. 

The day the movers arrived to pack, I was always ready. This meant advance planning and work. If you're disorganized, those packers can't work fast and efficiently and they sometimes might not be as careful as they could be. (I've seen people cooking breakfast while the movers wanted to start packing. NOT a pretty picture.)

Here's how I did/do things:

At least one month before a move I start organizing. Being a packrat by nature, this is a difficult process for me. So I break it down into parts.

I would start in one room. Pick a corner of that room. Start at the corner. Now go through every drawer, closet, box, container and work your way around the room. 

Here are the questions to ask yourself when contemplating an object:

1) do I love it?
2) does it bring me joy?
3) is it useful?
4) is it beautiful? 

Be truthful with yourself. We all have things we've kept years past their useful lifespan. We all have things we once thought were great, but now our style has evolved. 

Create these categories for your objects. 

Keep. Discard. Donate. Sell. 

The discard pile. Nothing is more satisfying than removing junk from your house. Makes you feel good. Refreshed. Ready for a new start.

Donations. You can give to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or a host of other agencies. You can give to friends. Enemies. Freecycle!!!

Sell. Why not put somethings on craigslist or in a consigment shop? Make a few bucks. After all, you're going to be in transition and it's likely you'll want money for pizza!

Keep. If the previous three piles are small, maybe you need to examine your keep pile again. Either that or you are already the most organized person in the U.S.A. Stop being sentimental. Got tons of your kids artwork? Have you ever considered taking digital photos of it? I know some of us love our purses and shoes, but if you sell some of these now, you can buy more later. There will always be shoe stores somewhere. I promise. 

I do this in every room in my entire house. Including the basement and storage areas. 

I try to stop shopping for groceries and eat my way out of my pantry and freezer if making a long distance move. This never totally works. But I found with planning, I usually didn't have that much food to give away. 

Yes. This takes time. But it saves you time. And money if you're paying for the move. 

It's almost been six years since the last time I had to do this. Trust me there are days when I wish someone would get PCS orders and I'd have to start the process. Without a move looming over me, I'm slow to organize the house further. Though every once in a while, that urge comes over me. And I start opening drawers.


Anna van Schurman said...

You can come to my house to help. I've set a deadline of April 30--the neighborhood yard sale.

Lisa said...

This is the first time that we have stayed in a house for more than 4 years. It seemed that as soon as we got married, we were picking up and moving either out of state or just across the city - thus, giving me reason to declutter. Now, without that "threat" of moving, our closets and drawers are stuffed with sentimental clutter. Guess it is time for some spring cleaning! It is a good reminder to get organized and declutter one's house every so often. It does truely make you feel good and in control.
Take care.

C in DC said...

7 moves in 7 years was enough for me. We've now been in DC for 12 years, and it seems weird.

Our worst disaster was when the delivery movers opened a crate from the wrong side and put the crowbar through the back of my bookcase, and then had the nerve to tell us that we couldn't claim it because the bookcase had been marked as dinged on the inventory.

I'll add to your list - move "like" things together. Put all of your towels in one closet. Put all of the toys in one room. I also recommend following behind the movers and writing on the boxes what's really in the box. (We once had a box labelled towels that had 3/4 of my cooking pans in it.)

Also, empty all trash cans and clean all dishes before the movers come. Anything that you use while they're there needs to be cleaned or taken out immediately. Nothing is worse than opening a box of dirty dishes or rotten trash or gross laundry.

All but one of our moves was cross-country or cross-ocean. That's six times that I donated condiments to friends or church pantries. A lot of charities would love your leftover cleaning products, too.

Finally, from our last move, most of our stuff ended up in storage while we renovated our house. When we started to bring stuff out of storage, we opened the boxes outside and only took inside the stuff we truly wanted to keep. About a third of the stuff (including all the packing materials) went directly to the trash or recycling. Another third went to the Salvation Army, and only a third went into the house. I still have one closet under the stairs of some decorative items that I either need to find a place for in the house or purge it.

Sara Leigh said...

So you realize that I've had 28 years to accumulate and stash stuff in this house. Right now, I'm in a state of paralysis, and coming down with a cold yesterday is not helping. But I'm trying to decide what room to start in. Perhaps Jane's bedroom, as it is the least daunting. What I really need is for a gang to come in and just ruthlessly tackle the task of dividing things into those piles. I'll happily review the piles and judiciously edit if necessary. Sigh.