FLYing Lesson: FlyLady’s Moving Tips

Every week, we have several FlyBabies that holler HELP:

“We are moving, and I don’t know where to start. We have to put this house up for sale, and it is awful. Please tell me what to do.”

“We are moving cross country, and I don’t know where to start to pack.”

“When we move, I don’t know how I can unpack and keep the CHAOS of the move from overwhelming me.”

These are some hard questions, but there are two simple answers:

  1. BabySteps! You have to break the job down into smaller parts so it doesn’t overwhelm you.
  2. Don’t move anything you don’t love. Moving is a great time to start doing a mass decluttering!

With a SHE mentality, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and paralyzed when looking at the whole picture — packing everything, moving everything, then unpacking everything. It seems like it’ll never get done. But, there are some simple rules to follow that will decrease this burden you feel.

First things first: you need a plan. SHEs usually wait until the very last minute to start doing anything under the guise of, “I work better under pressure!” But see, nobody works better under pressure. It stresses you out and can make you sick, which is the last thing you need when you’re trying to move, unpack, and take care of your family on top of it all. You need breathe first and get a note pad and start to make a plan.

Packing Supplies

For every recipe, you need a list of ingredients. So think about what you are going to use for the job of moving:

  • Boxes: These can be purchased at a moving supply company (check your yellow pages). They may also sell used boxes at a reduced rate. You can also go to liquor stores for their boxes. Keep in mind that you do not need to get huge boxes, because they will be too hard to lift when filled. Keep them at a manageable size.
  • Packing Tape: Be sure and get plenty of tape to seal the box top flaps. It is not that expensive, and it is worth having enough so you don’t have to stop and run out to buy more. Also, get the dispensers to hold the tape, and have more than one if there will be more people helping pack.
  • Scissors: If you don’t get the dispensers, you will need scissors. Just remember: scissors can be hard to keep up with while you are packing!
  • Garbage bags: Preferably, the kind that you can see through, that way you will not have to reopen the bags to see if it is trash or something you packed that would not fit in a box. Get very strong ones. Mark them with colored ribbons for code.
  • Colored Magic Markers: I use colored ones so I can give each room a different color, and that way, when we are unloading the truck, all I have to say is: “Yellow boxes go in the kitchen, green in the bedroom, purple in the living room,” etc. Then you can post the color of boxes over the top of the doorway to that room. Colored ribbon works great to tie around the garbage bags; stickers and markers usually don’t work because they either fall off or you can’t see them. Clothes are usually in these bags, so raid your sewing stash for old ribbon or your Christmas stash for Christmas ribbon. It is cheap and easy to recognize. Decide ahead of time what your color codes are going to be and put those supplies in the room. Just don’t label all the boxes “Misc.” or “Stuff” and “More Stuff”! You can also give the boxes a number and put the contents of that box on your notepad, so you can find where the item is without tearing open each and every box — and creating even more CHAOS! As far as labeling the boxes, if you start packing up the things that you will not need, and start at one and label in ascending order, you will know that the boxes with the lowest numbers can be unpacked last. The higher-numbered boxes are the ones with the stuff you use the most.
  • Newspapers or Newsprint paper: This is for packing your dishes and other breakable items. You can never have enough newspapers. Go to the recycle bins and get some. You may have to ask permission!

Getting the House Ready to Sell

Remove the Clutter

Now, let’s talk about getting the house ready to sell. This is usually a precursor to the big move. Right now you are so overwhelmed with the clutter you don’t know were to start.

This may sound like a drastic move, but if you can afford it, order a dumpster. It will give you place to toss things. Or, you can call for daily pick up from the area thrift/charities stores. You just have to get the stuff you don’t need or want out of your house as fast as you can.

If you run around like your head is cut off, you are not going to accomplish anything. Just start in one room. You can even start to pack up the stuff you will not be needing at the same time. Pick up an item and ask yourself:

  • Are you worth moving?
  • Do I love you enough to go to all this trouble and expense to pack you up?

You are going to be so surprised at how much stuff you can actually do without. This is the key to getting the house ready to put on the market. Once you get rid of the clutter that is making your home too small, you may not even have to sell! This has happened.

Only keep the stuff you absolutely love and use regularly.

Get rid of all the clothes you don’t wear, too.

Beginning to Pack

Now, back to packing. If you will take your time and not be rushed about this, you will do a more efficient job and not be so stressed out. Do not make yourself sick over this, because it’s not worth it. Slow and steady wins the race, remember?

If you have plenty of time to prepare for the move, you can have everything labeled and ready to load on the truck all before the final day — no stress and no worry. Also, you will be able to find things when you get to your new home. Take BabySteps and each day pack up five boxes and keep them in the room that they belong in. Color code the boxes and number them. Label on the outside the contents or which drawer they came from and put it on your master moving list. Get a clipboard and keep your lists together. Keep your moving supplies together, too.

Now, let’s talk about what you are going to need when you get to the new house. You don’t want to be ripping open boxes looking for things. Before you start to pack anything, think about what items you are going to need when you walk in the door of your new house:

  • Cleaning Supplies
  • Rubber gloves for cleaning the bathroom. I know this may sound funny, but the bathroom held someone else’s germs, not your family’s.
  • Disinfectant. You may need to clean your new home before you can unpack. You may have to race the movers to the new house!
  • Vacuum, broom, mop. You may not use them, but you will need to know where to put your hands on them as soon as the movers have finished unloading the truck.
  • Rags and paper towels for cleaning.
  • Basic kitchen utensils: A skillet, pot, and maybe even your crock pot. Then a spatula, sharp knife, silverware, dishwashing liquid, dish towels, paper plates, napkins, and glasses.
  • Simple food: peanut butter, cereal, crackers, bread, coffee, sugar, etc. You may have to make a grocery run for some fruit and snacks for the kids.
  • Clothing: Also in your possession you will need a couple of changes of clothes for each person in the family; everything from underwear to socks, shoes, and pajamas.
  • Personal items: You will need a basic bathroom bag. Everyone’s toothbrushes, razor, shampoo, soap, tooth paste, and of course toilet paper and towels and washcloths. Don’t forget your makeup, hair dryer, or contacts if you use them. You don’t want be tearing open boxes and hunting for this stuff when you are getting ready to crash in bed with mattresses on the floor.
  • For the first sleep in the new house: Pack some sheets and blankets for each person’s bed and an alarm clock. This should be just enough to help with camping out while you are working on getting the new house put together.
  • A phone and your packing supply bag that has garbage bags, your inventory, and the labels you made for each doorway so the movers will know where to put the boxes without you standing at the front door directing traffic. By having labels, you’ll be able to start cleaning and unpacking as things come through the door while the movers do the moving work. Starting with the kitchen is often the easiest, because that’s where your family spends a lot of time and the room you use the most. It’s also especially important to unpack the food that you may have moved. If you are moving frozen food, you will need good ice chests to pack it in. A good idea would be to plan your meals so you use up all your frozen and refrigerated food before the move and give the leftovers to your old neighbors before you leave. Start over with fresh stuff in your new home.

Before You Leave The Old House

Now, before you leave the old house, make sure the power is on at the new house as well as phone. This way, you will really not be in the dark. Also, think about having a cleaning service come and clean the old house for you. Your attentions are not there anymore; let some one else do it for you. The realtor can even hire someone for you.

When the Moving Truck Arrives at the New House

When the moving truck gets there, you will need to be the director. Have the children stationed in their new rooms (so they are out of the way, unless they are big enough to fetch and tote). Tell the children not to start dragging out their stuff until the furniture is in their room and they have a place to put their clothes.

Main rule here: As you unpack it, put it where it goes and break down the boxes and throw away the paper. Do not start another box until everything is put away.

Once everything is in the house, you are going to have to feed this hungry mob. Either plan on going out for dinner or throwing something in your crock pot. You can get creative with this one if you want. Toss in a roast, a package of onion soup mix and a bag of baby carrots and some new potatoes. Or, heat up some canned or jarred spaghetti sauce and boil up some pasta and serve with a crusty loaf of bread. You could even pack a table cloth and spread it over some boxes for a picnic dinner. What a memory! Your first real meal in your new home. But… it is understandable if you just go out!

The next day is when your head starts going crazy. You got everything into the house, but now you have to unpack it and put it way, and you have so much to do, and you don’t know where to start. Where to begin? You start your morning routine. Yes, your morning routine. The first thing you need to do on the first morning in your new home is get yourself dressed to shoes, do your hair and face, and then, as you get ready, start picking up after yourself. Head to the kitchen and start breakfast.

While you are having your breakfast, don’t look at how much you have to do; enjoy your breakfast and only concentrate on making a list of the most important things to do first. That will keep your home running smoothly. Here are some things you might want to start with:

  • Get the washer and dryer hooked up.
  • Get the dishwasher running.
  • Buy groceries for the family. Make out a list. Or, if you have an initial grocery shopping list that you made while you were doing your planning, grab it from your moving notebook.
  • Put on something for supper or have some idea of what to fix.

Now you have a plan.

Then, after you take care of your priorities, you can start to unpack one box at a time. Only do five boxes, and then stop, rest, and have a drink of water. You may want to go to the next room and do five boxes in there; just rotate around the house putting things away. Remember, as you unpack things, if you don’t have a place for it, you may not need it. Don’t just start putting those things in a pile; decide where it should go. Don’t put off making that decision until you have a whole room filled with your indecision!

This move can be peaceful if you take it slow and steady and not stress out. You did not get packed up and moved in a day, and you are not going to have the house put back together in a day. Stick to your plan and take BabySteps unpacking. After you have the basic household items unpacked, just take five boxes a day and put things away where you want them to go. Toss out what you really don’t love or need and put the things you do love in its new home.

This move can be a clearing experience if you take it step by step. You can do this. All you have to do is have a plan and follow your plan. Your new home should radiate the love you have for yourself and your family.

Tips From Our Members…

We have gotten some wonderful tips from FlyBabies about what worked well for them while moving:

Things to think about first

  1. Our move was short distance, and for the clothes, we took the drawers out of the dressers, carried the dressers to the truck, then replaced the drawers. It’s not a good way to get rid of clutter, but it’s easier than packing clothes neatly. This is good for a do-it-yourself move — professional movers probably wouldn’t do it.
  2. Here is my tip about moving/decluttering: INSTEAD of the EXPENSIVE ($400/week in my town) dumpster for serious decluttering, we rented a UHaul truck ($30). We put all the trash, including trash furniture, into the garage. That took about four days. We then rented the truck for one day, loaded it up, and drove (with our kids to help) to the dump. There we were able to unload all that trash for free. And, there were a couple people there who were picking through our stuff as soon as we unloaded. They were taking old furniture (even broken furniture). I guess it’s true that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure! That was a BIG savings! Oh, I did have to go buy some work gloves for the kids (another $24).
  3. I moved three times in a year, and two locations were furnished condos before we moved into the new home we built. After living with someone else’s few household supplies, I very quickly came to realize what I really needed, what I missed of my own (cookbooks and ceramic mugs), and what I could easily do without. While we were planning the move, I laid out my kitchen, planning the most convenient location for dishes, silverware, pots and pans, etc. to make unpacking easier. I laid out my plan and began unpacking the kitchen shortly after the movers left. I had my cabinet for plastics all set up (I had to buy a few things in the condo) and was happily unpacking when I came upon a dishpack box (they’re pretty big and tall). It was full of plastics — dozens of souvenir cups, warped and stained containers, containers with missing lids, and more! I sorted through the box, keeping only the containers I really used and liked (just a few) and took the rest to Goodwill. It was so nice to have a plastics cupboard that I could actually use without digging through for mates.
  4. Another tip for moving out day and moving in day is to purchase a simple little apron with big pockets. It has two large pockets so you can carry around your markers, precut pieces of ribbon, your notebook (if it’s small enough), or at least a small notebook that you can make notes in and transfer to your larger notebook. They have these as a waist type and the type that hang from your neck and tie around your waist.
  5. Pack only what you want to move and then invite Good Will or whomever in and say “Whatever you want, take.” They’ll bring a truck and move it all out, including clothes, furniture, whatever. What’s left will be mostly trash and a few things you can take to a drop off place. I haven’t tried this, but it’s what I’m going to do when we leave here!
  6. We moved recently, and a new neighbor was getting ready to move away — she took a bunch of our boxes (especially the dishes crates and wardrobe boxes) and the packing paper. Yes, it may have taken me a moment longer to flatten/fold the paper rather than squash it, but it was getting reused! So, keep an eye out for someone moving in (especially if it is a government or other move the employer pays for — our professional packers were VERY generous in their use of boxes and paper). A plate of cookies or a casserole for your new neighbor just might provide you with more boxes than you can deal with!
  7. Another tip specifically for those of you in the military, PLEASE ask housing about the moving allowance! It is a little more hassle, but it works wonderfully! They give you an itemized household contents list, and it gives you a great chance to do some 27 fling boogie-ing! Having to write that you have six years of magazines with dust on them… well, you get the idea! By going through housing, they WILL reimburse you for your expenses, including U-hauls, meals, and hotel rooms en-route to your new duty station, plus you get a standard bonus for moving yourself (ours totaled up to almost $2000). That way, you can itemize your home contents and get back the money you spend on your supplies. You must be diligent about receipts, though, so get a folder for them! Happy moving!
  8. Hi, I just moved, and I asked at church if anyone knew where I could find boxes. I found a family that had just been moved by their company, and I got moving boxes for free, even the wonderful wardrobe ones. I also went to a business that I was a regular customer with and asked for packing material. I was able to get all kinds of it — bubble wrap, white packing paper, and peanuts. I went to the newspaper and was able to buy 10 pounds of unprinted newspaper on the roll for $10.00. I had more than enough. You are right about the tape — you do need lots of it.
  9. Pictures with glass. Always wrap separate and pack so they are standing as they hang. DO NOT LAY FLAT!
  10. Pack the boxes solid, even if you have to fill in with crumbled paper or peanuts. This keeps them from collapsing. What a mess if the bottom of the stack of boxes collapses. By solid, I mean nothing shakes or slides around in the box.

Get rid of the clutter first!

  1. I gave away a bunch of my stuff when we last moved. One of the local non-profit groups with a thrift store had a particular day each week they would come to my zip code. They probably thought I was nuts, but I had them put me on the schedule for weeks — the fellows who picked up the usable items would just laugh when they ended up at my house again! I had a spot in the garage for the upstairs gleaning and a spot in the basement for the downstairs. The men could move just about anything because they were strong and there were two or three of them. They also would come right after I finished my yard sales, too. Also, I rented a U-haul trailer. Spending money when I had a perfectly good old pickup truck to haul things goes against my nature, but local rental wasn’t too bad, and it gives you a covered, protected place to put your giveaways as you sort. You can even lock them up and put your bigger items in there, too, like furniture, old appliances, etc. Then you can hook the thing back onto your car and drive it to its donation destination! Plus, if you are a pennypincher like me, as each day passes, you know you are paying to keep the trailer, so it forces you to make up your mind and get the thing filled, emptied, and returned to the U-haul center! I may end up doing this again even without moving, because despite paring down a bunch with the move, I still kept too much stuff. For the thrift-minded — I have seen people advertise all of their moving boxes for sale for a minimal (compared to new) amount, say $30-50 in the classifieds. Some will put the whole bunch in there for FREE. Maybe this isn’t a good suggestion for SHEs, but you could turn around and sell them after you move or return the favor and give them for free to someone else.
  2. One thing that helped me tremendously during moving was a timer. At the time, I was totally addicted to chatting on BBS (before Internet), and it was almost impossible to drag myself away from the keyboard. (I was so bad I’d DREAM about chatting, wake up typing on my pillow, haha!) Anyway, I started packing early so I’d have plenty of time. I’d allow myself 30 minutes chatting, 30 minutes packing, 30 minutes chatting, 30 minutes packing… You know how much you can get done in five, 10, or 15 minutes already… I got most of the non-essentials (books, china, decorations, etc.) packed in a very short time and stacked out of the way against a wall. It was one of the easiest moves that I can remember, clutter and all! Next time, definitely a 270 fling boogie beforehand! 🙂


  1. Moving — apple boxes are great. They have a lid so you don’t have to tape (unless contents are tiny.)
  2. Check with your local pharmacy for boxes if you can’t afford to buy new ones. The boxes the vials come in are a great size for books and most other things. If you’re thinking ahead, they will save the boxes for you every time they get vials, which is several times a week! That way, you’ll fill a few and get a few. And the pharmacy will also get boxes from time to time that are divided for glass bottles (you can pack your glasses in there and smaller knick-knacks).
  3. We broke down our boxes, stored them flat on the porch (in order of size), out of the way, ran a free ad in the local shopper, and sold the whole batch for $50. A little extra change in our pocket, and the boxes were disposed of by someone who needed them.
  4. We kept one big box for the kids to make their own ‘house’ — they were having fun, and it gave me time to unpack uninterrupted.
  5. Every time we move (and it’s been quite often as of late), we go to the local bookstore and ask if we can raid their cardboard dumpster. They almost always have a separate dumpster just for the cardboard, and the boxes are usually collapsed so you can fit more of them in the car. These boxes are very sturdy. They are usually medium sized boxes and are easy to carry when packed. The best part is they’re FREE!
  6. Go to the grocery store for banana boxes. They are a great size, the top fits down completely over the bottom, and they have handles!

Packing paper

  1. If you can get it, the plain newsprint style paper is worth it, even if you have to scrimp, to the point of surviving on just PB&J sandwiches, carrot sticks, and water for a while. Get the paper from the moving company or U-Haul, or the box company, or even from the newspaper folks (some sell or give away roll ends). You NEED the unprinted on stuff. Why?! With newspaper, you are gonna be covered with newsprint. It comes off of your hands, onto the doors, the cabinets, the walls, your dishes, the bisque figurine that was all you got when your gramma passed away, your face, your kids, etc. What’s worse is it happens at THIS end and it happens at the OTHER end. Forget it! Moving is stressful enough; us FlyBabies don’t need any more stress!
  2. I always wrap dishes in plastic wrap before padding with newspaper. That way they don’t get ink on them and can be put away once the paper is removed and the ink washed off my hands, and I don’t have to pay for unprinted newsprint.
  3. I like to try to collect the cartons with tops that copier paper and printer paper come in from anyone I know in an office, especially for packing books. They’re very sturdy, have hand-hold cutouts on the sides, and are small enough that they’re not back-breaking to lift when filled with books. Since they were meant for the heavy weight of paper, there’s no worry of the bottom giving out.
  4. To make things easier (and cheaper) on my last two moves, I used towels to pack the dishes, so there was no trash to throw away and no mess to clean up. The towels cushioned the dishes, and when I unpacked a box, I just folded the towels back the way they belonged. At the end of every box, the dishes went in the cabinet, and the folded towels either straight to the linen closet or into a laundry basket on the kitchen floor to be put away when it was full.
  5. A while back, I found that I was moving every year. Instead of newspaper or any paper for wrapping breakables, I would use my towels and clothes to do this. The clothes were good for laying in between plates and dishes. And once you were all moved, as I unpacked, I just refolded everything into their proper drawers and shelves.
  6. Newsprint (the paper that newspaper is printed on, but it is blank) isn’t terribly expensive and is available at most places that sell packing stuff.  It is MUCH better for your dishes and other items, because you don’t have to worry about the ink rubbing off. I bought two boxes at $13 each, and I have most of the second box left over. I have two sets of china and two sets of “everyday” dishes, to give you an idea of how far it goes.
  7. Using unprinted newsprint is important for three reasons:
    • The ink won’t get all over you and your clothes (and your couch, and your kids…),
    • You don’t HAVE to wash your dishes after they are unpacked because they aren’t filthy, and
    • There are some items that really shouldn’t be washed in soap and water (many decorative items) or are hard to get the ink off of (plastics).
  8. I recommend paper plates between the dishes! They cushion them wonderfully! And you can still use them afterwards!
  9. One other hint for packing is not to use paper (especially not newspaper) but to use plastic bags. They pad things well, and nothing needs washing again at the other end. Ask your friends to save them for you so there is no expense.
  10. Here is another tip from a military wife who has definitely been there! We have moved 11 times in the last six years, and this does work. My method is a little different, but saves money if you are a little tight. Everyone knows where bath towels go, so I use my bath towels as padding for my breakable stuff: dishes, keepsakes, etc. I carry the towels in by the handfuls and pad my boxes with them. Once we arrive, as we finish unpacking each box, I use the time to weed out the old, ratty ones and TOSS THEM OUT! Then I put the nice ones away as we finish up. It isn’t quite the typical “FlyLady method,” as in they aren’t in the “bathroom box,” but anyone can put away the towels, and it gives you a chance to walk away from the room for just a few minutes and catch your breath. And since the bathroom has always been the FIRST place I get set up (obvious reasons, LOL), it also gives you a chance to go from an unpacked room into a finished room and gives you HOPE that you will get it all done!

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