Everyone who's gone through the stress of moving knows the feeling: You're finally putting your feet up in your new home and breathing a sigh of relief after the movers have gone. All the worry and months of preparation have finally come to an end. And then you realize you’re surrounded by a mountain of boxes you must unpack.

Removing those piles of boxes and setting up a new home can be nearly as stressful as the lead-up to the move. But an organized plan, started early, is the key to packing (and unpacking) success. At least two months ahead of your move date, devise a packing plan and think through the following eight parts to the plan.

1. Get Clever with Your Labeling
  • The first part of any good packing plan is a foolproof labeling system. If you make it clear where things should go in your new home, you won't have to waste time and energy moving boxes around after the movers leave.
  • Every box you pack should have a designated spot in your new home. You can label each one with a room name or number, or use different color tape. Whatever system you choose, stick to it and be consistent.
  • Make sure you have everything you need for your labeling system, including colored tape, markers, and stickers. You'll also want to have a good pair of box cutters and packing tape handy before you go to work.
2. Be Smart About Loading
  • Think about how the boxes will be loaded onto the moving truck. If the truck is packed correctly, you'll be able to unload it in an organized way. If you put the kitchen boxes on the truck last, for example, you can start unpacking those necessities while the movers continue unloading.
  • You don't have to label each box in the exact order the truck must be loaded, but you should have a general idea of what needs to come off the truck first - and mark those boxes "load last."
  • It's also a good idea to keep a floorplan of your new home on hand for reference and to direct the movers once you arrive with all your boxes.
Pro Tip: At your new home, someone should stand at the front door to direct the movers and check things off as they come in. Put a label on the door of each room to ensure that, for example, the kids' bathroom boxes don't end up in the guest bathroom.

3. Don't Overpack Your Boxes
  • Back injuries are the most common moving-related mishap, so take care to avoid over-packing boxes. Instead, aim for a reasonable weight of 20 to 25 pounds per box, which most able-bodied people should be able to transport.
  • To balance out the weight of heavier items, stuff the extra spaces with lightweight materials. Instead of bubble wrap, use old newspapers, towels, and blankets - even your kids' stuffed animals make good packing material.
4. Be Diligent About Decluttering
  • Before you move, do away with the clutter. You'll want only the essentials at your new home - extra stuff will only add to the stress of unpacking. Many big-box stores like Best Buy accept outdated computers, TVs, appliances, and other devices for recycling.
  • Check with your local stores to see what tech stuff you can get properly dispose of. Review the best ways to get rid of your junk. 
5. Stay Organized
  • Keep related items together as much as possible.
  • Tape cords to appliances and devices so you don't lose them in the shuffle.
  • Take pictures of everything before you disconnect any wires. It will make things much easier to set up in your new home.
  • If you stick to your plan, you shouldn't have too much stress on moving day. Your main job will be supervising the movers and making sure everything is loaded and unloaded correctly.
Need ideas on how to make unpacking easier when you're moving? We have tons of tips here.
When it's finally time to unpack, remember that you can (and should) take your time. If you've packed properly and have your essentials on hand, you don't have to rush unpacking everything else. Living among boxes for a few days can be stressful, but it'll be better in the long run to be thoughtful about how you unpack.
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