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    How to Stay Organized While Unpacking Your New Home

    Does this scene seem familiar?

    Anxiety is running high as the move-out process begins, starting with watching all of your treasures loaded onto a truck. Later, at your new destination, tension takes over as you become overwhelmed with the task of unpacking hundreds of boxes. 

    We’ve all been there and know these stressful feelings well. 

    If you’re one of the thousands of military families on the move this summer, you’ve probably been searching for the best tips on how to make the most of your move. 

    Take heart! With a little forethought, many of the move-in bumps can be smoothed out by determining your priorities and adding organizational techniques to the chaos.

    Pre-Plan Before the Boxes Arrive 

    Before the movers arrive, think about how you would like their assistance. Some families prefer that movers only help with large items, such as furniture placement and bed setup. Others take advantage of the moving company’s contractual obligations, which vary. This language often states that they are required to unbox everything and place the items on a safe surface, but not necessarily where they logically go—drinkware in cabinets, for example.

    moving boxes in front of homeImage from Canva

    Either way, you’re left with the nitty gritty of unpacking, which becomes overwhelming without a plan and the acknowledgement of the need for flexibility. Prepare yourself in advance as much as possible with grace, knowing that moving is stressful and the process is rarely perfect. Most military families have a least ONE box stored in the garage that goes unopened! 

    Moving into military housing and need inspiration? Check out Quick and Easy Tips for Decorating Military Housing.

    Don’t forget to inquire about the empty boxes. Depending on the moving company, they will remove what you’ve emptied that day only, while some will return to collect, and others will leave them entirely in your care to discard. Learn the recycling days for your street and think about posting online to offer the remaining boxes to other military families in need. 

    Here’s one more thing to keep in mind: Don't Forget These 5 Expenses in Your PCS Budget.

    Create an unpack plan tailored to your family's priorities.

    More often than not, military families prefer to a have a working kitchen, bathroom, and bedrooms as quickly as possible to create a bit of normalcy before intense unpacking starts. But your family may have different priorities. Perhaps a homeschool space or home office is important because of due dates and work obligations. 

    Interior of private library at homeImage from Shutterstock

    As a family, decide which rooms are most important, and start there. Older kids should be able to empty the boxes in their rooms and begin to put away bedding and decorative items. In many cases, younger kids won’t able to physically help unload, so defining an area where they are out of the way of foot traffic and have access to a solid collection of entertainment is a high priority. 

    If you prefer, create a written schedule of what rooms to unload on which days. This technique could be a motivator to visualize progress and add another level of organization. 

    Locate your necessities

    Some items, such as a week’s worth of clothing and toiletries, are helpful to have on hand during the actual drive or plane trip. Other necessary items should be boxed and labeled clearly and searched for early during unloading. These items could include small hand tools, pet accessories, important paperwork, and extra phone chargers. 

    Household tools and planningImage from Shutterstock

    Plan a design for each room.

    Before unloading too many boxes in the room, step back and try to envision large furniture and rug placement, even if you only have a few minutes before the furniture arrival. If you are lucky and had access to the house before moving day, a visual reminder is helpful to communicate with the movers where the furniture should be placed. 

    Do your best to avoid multiple rounds of moving furniture which mitigates damage to the floor and furniture pieces. Later, when time permits, lay artwork against the walls in approximate placement before adding the holes. 

    Take a look at some unpacking best practices for first-time movers.

    Practical Tips for the Whole House

    • Unpack your most essential items first. 
    • Create a design plan for each room to avoid moving furniture again.
    • Tackle the details that lay the groundwork for future unloading. For example, line your pantry before loading food or insert shelving systems in closets before the wardrobe boxes are emptied.
    • Early on, consider having groceries delivered. Food on hand helps everyone feel more at home. 
    • Home life has to start sometime, even if you're not completely moved in. Take a break from unpacking to visit a local attraction or retail shop. An ice cream run usually brings smiles all around. 
    • After the majority of the work is done, don’t toil in the remaining chores you’ve put off. Schedule a small amount of time each day to finalize details in the home, then move on to the business of meeting neighbors and enjoying your new location.

    family moving into new homeImage from Canva

    After the Big Unpack

    Hopefully before the departure date, you’ve purged unnecessary items, but military life often leaves short timelines to manage an entire household pack-out. If you’ve uncovered items that should have never made it on to the moving truck, make their disposal part of your move-in plan, by assigning space in the garage or basement for an eventual run to the garbage dump or donation center. 

    Military moving is not easy. Take advantage of our moving check lists and apps such as My Ultimate PCS to organize your move and de-escalate the stress from moving into your new home. Weeks later, when there are a few quiet moments, jot a few notes about how to handle the next move more efficiently. 

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    How to Stay Organized While Unpacking Your New Home

    Dawn M. Smith


    Dawn M. Smith

    Dawn is a real estate and military life writer who has a serious HGTV habit. When she is not writing, her teen daughter, Army husband, and golden retriever keep her busy through chauffeur duties, travel planning, and long dog walks. Dawn is pleased to share her experiences with MilitaryByOwner readers who are hoping to simplify military family journeys of all kinds. Follow Dawn on Pinterest for more ideas and resources and visit her site at Dawn M. Smith Custom Content Creation.

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