Last week, I was having dinner with a friend when she mentioned a common problem: she would be moving in five days and couldn’t seem to pack. I’ve moved almost once a year for the past decade, and I understand. Packing is a big job, and taking everything you own and safely storing it in boxes is not easy. Packing is also deceiving – it always looks like it will take much less time than it does.
All of this is to indicate that you are not alone if you are having problems packing. Many of us struggle to become motivated when it comes to overcoming the first obstacle: constructing the first box, opening the first drawer, and embarking on an ultimately inevitable project. And since your move is underway, whether you give yourself two days to pack or two weeks, you might as well save yourself as much stress as possible and start as soon as possible.
There isn’t a magic pill for packing (if there were, you can bet I’d tell you), but there are some things you can do to get started. Here are some of the most important ones.
Determine how much time you need
Procrastination is OK, but there’s a difference between putting something off until you’re sick of it and putting something off until it’s difficult to complete without a lot of extra stress. If you’re having trouble packing, take a moment to think realistically about your move and how much time you’ll need to pack everything.
You probably don’t need me to remind you that the more belongings you have, the longer it will take you to pack your house. Consider that packing a one-bedroom house will take at least 3 to 5 days, a two-bedroom house will take 1 to 1.5 weeks, a three-bedroom house would take 2 to 2.5 weeks, and so on.
Gather your supplies
If you don’t have moving boxes, you won’t be able to pack. Make gathering supplies your priority so you’ll have everything you need when you’re ready to begin. For a solid estimate of how many boxes you’ll need, use a free online packing and moving calculator. You can then quickly locate and purchase goods and boxes online. Don’t forget the less obvious supplies, like permanent markers for labeling boxes and that spare roll or two (or three) of packing tape.
Start with the small tasks.
As with anything you’re having trouble getting started, taking a few small tasks off the list is a great way to start building your momentum. Don’t think, “I need to tidy up my entire kitchen,” which is a big thing to do. Instead, think, “I need to put my utensils away” or “I need to clean out my pantry”. Or even smaller: “I need to remove the pictures from the refrigerator” or “I need to wrap my knives in wrapping paper”. The goal is to break down anything that appears overwhelming, such as packing everything in your house, into a series of chores that are each very simple to complete on their own.
Do a little bit at a time.
When it comes to breaking down your packing list into small bits, forget about the idea that you need an entire day to begin packing and instead do what you can when you can. For instance, while watching TV, you can also assemble your boxes. Fill a shoebox with the contents of your junk drawer, label it “junk drawer,” and call it a day. Each of these things has to get done some time, so it’s just a matter of whether you do it when you’re on the clock and struggling to top an endless list of tasks or whether you cross a few things off your list each day.
Get rid of the stuff you never saw.
The less stuff you have, the fewer things you have to pack! Even if you haven’t had time to organize all of your belongings, you still have the option of separating stuff as you go, sorting unwanted items into a “throw-away,” “recycle,” or “donate” pile. So instead of finding time to grab your college class notes or that pile of clothes you never wear, get rid of them.
You don’t have time to procrastinate!
What makes packing procrastination a completely different beast than unpacking procrastination is a deadline on how long it can continue. Like it or not, the moving truck arrives on a particular day, and when it comes, you have to be ready to go. I’m a big proponent of the idea that giving yourself a tight deadline to pack is a better alternative than giving yourself too much time. Still, there comes the point in all packing trips where it’s all done! Think about what time it is for you, then add another day to it to be safe.
You’re going to have to start packing at some point. Give yourself time to drag your feet, but when the time comes, be ready to start on the right foot. It may not be a fun task, but it needs to be done. Take a deep breath, grab the first box and get to work. You’ll get it done!