Ultimate Guide To Unpacking: Tips For First-Time Movers

Moving can be a daunting experience. In addition to the transition of adjusting to a new neighborhood, and possibly new jobs and schools, there is also the overwhelming task of cleaning, unpacking, and organizing. If you are preparing for a move, read on for some simple suggestions that will ease the complexity of this life change.

What to do before you start unpacking?

Once that moving date is set, it’s easy to get excited and try to do everything in one fell swoop, but when it comes to moving remember to think about the place you want to live, not just the place you want to leave.

An empty apartment or house can be a new opportunity, like a blank canvas. It’s always easier to repaint a tired-colored wall, spruce up hardwood floors, or take on a home repair project before there’s a couch or television blocking the way.

Here are a few things we recommend you complete before you start unpacking:

1. Paint Your Walls

If you’re thinking about repainting your new space, try to give yourself a few days before you have to be out of your old place to let primers, first, and second coats dry before you push furniture against the walls. Here are a few quick painting tips:

2. Prep & Re-Touch Your Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors are beautiful, easy to sweep clean, and look great with an accent rug, but they can show wear in high-traffic areas. If you’re not ready to drop the money on professional refinishing, consider this inexpensive trick to bring out the best in your wood floor.

After thoroughly cleaning your floor and allowing it to dry, scuff the area lightly with 150-grit sandpaper, and then apply a generous coat of pure tung oil. Be sure to follow any thinning instructions that come with the oil, and give your floors enough time to dry. If you need to walk on the floors while still tacky, use waxed paper rather than cardboard or paper, which may stick to the oil.

3. Complete Any Home Repairs & Replace Appliances (If Needed)

If you need to move anything large or bulky out, like a washing machine or refrigerator, it may go without saying that it’ll be a lot easier to do before you move your new items in.

Likewise, if there are any major repairs or furnishing replacements, you’ll want to take care of them before plaster dust and wood shavings get into the fibres of your carpets and furniture.

4. Create A Floor Plan For Furniture & Large Items

There’s nothing worse than arranging all your furniture and artwork into your new home only to realize it doesn’t work or fit in the space. Save yourself time, effort and holes in the walls by creating a plan of what will go where.

Take measurements and map out where you would like to place your furniture and hang large items, so you can make sure everything goes into its proper place right from the start!

Helpful Tips To Efficiently Unpack Your New Home Or Apartment

Before you start unpacking the first box you see, it’s important to develop an unpacking plan or schedule so that your unpacking has a purpose. This plan starts at the packing stage with a detailed inventory list of each room and clearly labeled boxes. We recommend following our Smart Guide To Packing, which will help your unpacking feel a lot more organized.

The next step is to clean! Cleaning should be done before you attempt to unpack anything so it won’t slow down your unpacking. We recommend packing a small cleaning bag that includes essentials like rags, general cleaners, wipes, paper towels, etc. Not sure where to start with cleaning? We recommend the following items to start:

  1. Kitchen cabinets
  2. Refrigerator
  3. Bathtub and showers
  4. Stove
  5. Washing machine

Once these items are done, you can work your way to vacuuming, dusting, wiping down countertops and other surfaces.

Friendly reminder: before you unpack everything, you may need to assemble furniture or at least organize it around your home so that it isn’t all in the way. If you hire professional movers, like us, we will move your furniture into your home or apartment directly where you want it to be as well as reassemble it.

Now that you’ve finished cleaning and you have your boxes organized per room you can begin to unpack! However, remember to pace yourself. Don’t just open all of your boxes at once to be left wondering in which room and what box to begin, start with just the boxes that contain absolute essentials. Your essentials will usually include:

  1. Your overnight bag (toothbrush, change of clothes, pyjamas, etc)
  2. Any food packed and moved with you
  3. Necessary medications
  4. A few dishes
  5. Required paperwork and keys
  6. Any required toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, etc)
  7. Towels and a shower curtain (if needed)
  8. Clothing and shoes (for the current season)
  9. Necessary bedding or sheets
  10. Pet food and other essentials

Having your essentials unpacked will help make the rest of the unpacking process a little less stressful, so you’ll be able to take your time.

What room should I unpack first?

Deciding which room to unpack first will depend on the person, their home or apartment size, and what room they feel is most important. However, our movers usually recommend the following room by room breakdown for first-time-movers:

1. Bedrooms

Since you have to make your bed up for the first few nights, you might as well unload the rest of the boxes and clothing for your bedroom! Having a quiet, clean space to retreat to at the end of moving day is going to save you a lot of stress.

If you have spare rooms make sure to make up each bed and pack away linens for each room. If you have kids that are old enough to unpack, ask that they unpack their own rooms — so you don’t have to! This will help free up some of your time and relieve any additional moving stress.

Before you unpack any items or clothing, make sure you’ve completed your furniture placement and made a plan to organize your closets and dressers. This will help make unpacking clothing and other smaller items quicker and easier when you know exactly where everything should go. How you organize your bedrooms will look different to everyone, so do what works best for you.

2. Bathrooms

Another essential room in your home or apartment is the bathroom. You would have unpacked some essentials such as towels, toiletries, and a shower curtain, but now it’s time to unpack and organize the rest of your belongings. This includes hair tools (straighteners, hairdryers, etc), makeup, additional cleaning supplies, or other non-essential items.

Take your time organizing these items into their designated sections of the bathroom. Not everyone will have a large luxurious bathroom, so it’s important to make sure everything is organized and in its proper place so you won’t feel cluttered or overwhelmed when you go to use the bathroom next.

3. Kitchen

You’ll need to nourish yourself daily so it’s best to get the kitchen out of the way next! In most cases it’s the most used room of the house, especially if you’re moving with kids. If you hired movers, your island chairs or kitchen table may already be assembled and moved into place. If this step is complete, hook up any essential appliances next, like your refrigerator (if you haven’t already), toaster, microwave, etc. Then you can move on to put away any additional non-essential food items you brought with you.

Lastly, you can begin to unpack the rest of your dishes and utensils along with other items like any unique kitchen gadgets, Tupperware, etc.

4. Office

Now that you have more of the essential rooms in the house unpacked and some more experience organizing your belongings, it’s a good time to tackle your home office space. Not everyone will have a home office, but it’s common for different rooms to be used as a home workspace. If you hired movers, your desk and other larger furniture should be put in place and possibly any computers or monitors. If not, we recommend planning ahead when packing and taking images of your home office setup along with labelling cords to make your setup simpler as you unpack. You’ll want to start unpacking and setting up any computers, printers, or televisions first.

It’s also important to take your time unpacking any necessary paperwork and other files so that it’s easy to access them when you need to. Remember, the more organized your workspace, the better you will feel!

5. Family Room

Your family room should be a pretty simple room to unpack once you’ve tackled the others. If you hired movers, your couch and television should already be set up, which leaves just a few other items like movies, blankets, throw pillows, video game systems, and decor. As a reminder, plan ahead when packing entertainment centers with images of the setup and labelled cords to make unpacking and reassembling a breeze!

6. Garage, Storage Rooms, Sheds, etc.

Now that the rest of your home or apartment is in livable condition, it’s time to tackle your different utility rooms. These rooms and storage areas may take time because many of us have more tools or miscellaneous cords than we need. Properly labelling items before packing is a great way to keep unpacking organized and quick, however, depending on the new size of your utility space, it may take additional organizing time to get everything in a place that you want.

Unpacking Strategies To Help You Unpack Like A Pro

Now that you have a plan on where to begin, be aware of some personal strategies that you can implement to add some sanity to the whole unpacking experience:

  1. If you have children underfoot and have not yet unpacked all of their toys and belongings, simply allow them to set their imaginations free with boxes as they become empty. Children have a wonderful capability for creating imaginary scenarios with nothing more than empty boxes.
  2. If you have roommates or other family members moving with you, let them unpack their own rooms. This will free up some time for you to complete other rooms in your new home.
  3. Think about additional things you might need now that you didn’t before. For example, your old apartment may not have needed a kitchen drawer organizer or cabinet liners, but your new home does. Consider these things and get them ahead of time.
  4. Give yourself a deadline because procrastination will hit you, even if you think it won’t. However, don’t punish yourself if you don’t meet it, that’s okay. Try scheduling a housewarming party to help you unpack quicker and stay on track.
  5. If unpacking is feeling too daunting, start with something easy to get the ball rolling. Getting one small box done may be enough to get you to finish another, then another!
  6. If unpacking room by room doesn’t work for you, consider doing a little bit at a time. For example, grab a few items that need to go to the office if you’re passing by on the way to the bathroom.
  7. Don’t put on a movie or tv — unpacking can be boring enough, don’t tempt yourself with a distraction. Try music instead! We recommend creating a playlist just for unpacking!
  8. Don’t hide boxes away, this makes it hard to know what to unpack next. Next thing you know, that box will still be there a year later. Keep your moving boxes out in the open, which will force you to unpack them.
  9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. No one wants to be that person that asks their friends to help unpack, but we can’t always do things alone. If you don’t know anyone just yet this could be a great way to break the ice or to learn who the true neighborhood helpers are — just don’t ask a complete stranger or ask someone to unpack any sensitive paperwork.
  10. If you struggle with procrastination, try to come up with a list of triggers and how to avoid them pre-move. This will help you stay on track and be less tempted to put it off.
  11. Give yourself mini-rewards in between unpacking tasks. For example, going to buy your favorite Starbucks drink or order from your favorite take-out place when you complete a room or a set number of boxes.
  12. Consider leaving small children or pets with family or friends (if possible) during the first few days to ensure they’re more comfortable. This also helps them get out of the way so you can feel more productive unpacking the most important items.
  13. Leave the decorating for last, this may seem like a mid-move per room fun reward task, but it can set you off track. Some of us are perfectionists and this should really wait till everything else is done.

Although it can be tempting to save money by doing everything on your own, don’t hesitate to hire a moving company. Residential movers can simplify your packing and unpacking experience tremendously. Movers have the right vehicles, manpower, and experience to offer peace of mind.

Lastly, remind yourself that although the initial unpacking process seems daunting, it will soon be a distant memory, and you will be fully adjusted to your new home and community.

Are You Planning An Upcoming Move?

Contact our movers today to help you move, reassemble, and pack your belongings to make your unpacking experience less stressful!

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