Congratulations on moving in to your new home! Right now, it probably doesn’t look much like home. It probably looks more like a sea of monotonous cardboard stretching as far as the eye can see. The boxes all look the same, and they seem to multiply when you turn your back. How do you bring order to the chaos? One key is to prioritize how you unpack.

Open Up Your Ready Box

Remember in the previous blog post, I urged you to pack a box with essentials that you would need immediately upon arrival at your new house? Time to open it up!

  • Put toilet paper in all of the bathrooms if there isn’t already a roll. I’ve been surprised how many times homeowners take the toilet paper with them when they move out. Also, put hand soap in there and a towel, or a roll of paper towels.
  • Designate a space that you can keep at least somewhat clear for snacks and drinks. Make sure that everybody can access it (but you can keep an eye on what younger children are eating and drinking).
  • Keep your tools handy. Try to return them to the same place after you use them. It’s all too easy for them to get lost in the debris of boxes and paper.

If You Have Children, Start in Their Room(s)

Kids’ rooms should be at the very top of your list. For younger children especially, making their room feel as familiar as possible will go a long way towards easing the transition into your new home.

  • Assemble their beds as soon as possible and make them. Remember those clean linens that you carefully packed before you moved out of your old home? Little ones might even be able to take a nap while you do some more unpacking.
  • Unpack and assemble or set up any storage, e.g. bookshelves, cubbies, etc. Don’t start unpacking boxes until you have some place to put their contents.
  • Let your kids help unpack their clothes, toys, and books and put them in their new places. Depending on their age, you may even be able to let them handle this on their own.
  • While you probably won’t want to spend hours decorating, hanging one or two special favorite items on the walls will make it feel like home. Well worth the time!

Tackling the Kitchen

The kitchen should be high on your list to unpack. Apart from being the ‘heart of the home’, moving is hard work and you’re going to need to eat.

  • If you’re going to line your shelves, do that before you start unpacking. Ditto for drawer organizers or silverware trays. Make sure that you wipe down shelves and drawers thoroughly and dry them, especially if you are using adhesive liners. Dirt, crumbs, and water will keep the liner from staying in place. And you definitely don’t want mold growing under your shelf or drawer liners.
  • Before you open a single box, make a plan for where you are going to store things. Consider the layout of your kitchen as well as what you will use most often. Generally, upper cabinets are best for lighter weight items, or more frequently used items. Lower cabinets are best for pots and pans, heavier items, and infrequently used items. Think about the dishes and cups that you’ll use every day and locate those things in cabinets close to the dishwasher. Put pots, pans, casserole dishes, etc. near the stove or oven.
  • If your items were packed in newsprint packing paper, you shouldn’t need to wash them before putting them away. Of course, if anything looks dirty, or was wrapped in bubble wrap, newspaper, or other non-clean materials, a quick spin in the dishwasher is probably a good idea. If you decide that you want to wash all of your dishes and cups just to be safe, then unpack those first and get the dishwasher running.

Unpacking the Kitchen – Box by Box or All at Once?

People tend to have very strong opinions on how they want to unpack. Some want to open one box at a time and put away all of the contents before they move on to the next box. Others prefer to unpack all of the boxes (or have the movers unpack them) and put all of the contents on flat surfaces, then put everything away. There are benefits and drawbacks to both approaches. Ultimately, it comes down to whether you packed yourself or had professional movers do the packing; personal preference; and sometimes, available space. Personally, I prefer the ‘all at once’ approach for the following reasons:

  • You can see everything you have to put away. If you have cups and glasses in three separate boxes, you will be able to group them together before you put them in the cabinet.
  • It is easier to measure for shelf placement. You’ll know exactly how much space you need to accommodate your bowls, plates, cups, etc. when they’re all stacked on the counter together.
  • I find that it minimizes rearranging. You’re more likely to choose the best location for your items when all of your options are in front of you.
  • On the other hand, your kitchen will look like a disaster area during the process. Some people get overwhelmed by that. So, if you’re one of them, I’d advise going box by box or at least modifying the all at once approach to minimize the visual chaos.

Unpacking the Kitchen – First Things First

There needs to be a method to the madness of the unpacking process. Make sure that you have your box cutter, measuring tape, and pen and paper handy.

  • If you have adjustable shelves (as all cabinets should but too often don’t, and don’t get me started on THAT), move them to the appropriate positions before you start moving items into the cabinet. Measure, or at least eyeball, how far apart you need to space them based on what items you’ll put in there.
  • Start by unpacking dishes, silverware, and cups – the items that you will use first. If you followed the ‘move in before you move out’ philosophy, hopefully your boxes are packed and labeled to make this easy.
  • As you are unpacking, make note of the cabinets that need a little help to be more useful or efficient. Write down what you need and the dimensions of the cabinet. For example, maybe a lid holder is just the answer to that ‘not quite right’ pots and pans cabinet. Or you could really use a stackable shelf to maximize your mug storage.
  • If you have a smaller kitchen without a lot of cabinets, plan where you will keep the things you don’t have room for. For instance, if you use your large slow cooker 2-3 times a month, you can store it in the pantry. And maybe the roasting pan you use 2-3 times a year can go on a shelf in the garage. The key is to maximize the space you have and use it to store the things you use most often.

Moving On

Where you go from here in your unpacking depends on your home, your family, and what time it is when you get to this point.

  • Get your own bed set up and made. You’ll be exhausted by the end of the day and the last thing you want is to be ready to crash and have no place to do it. So put your clean sheets and pillowcases on.
  • Make sure that your bathroom is functional. Unpack the toiletries you brought in the ready box. Personally, I always want to take a shower after being surrounded by boxes all day.
  • Living rooms and family rooms are relatively quick and easy rooms to unpack. If you want to get a quick ‘win’ and check something off of your to-do list, get one of those rooms set up. It’s always nice to have one room that you can walk into that looks ‘done’. It can serve as an oasis in the chaos. Of course, if your room has lots of bookshelves, knick-knacks, or complicated entertainment systems you may want to leave that for tomorrow.

Enjoy your new home! If you are struggling to settle in on your own, find a professional organizer in your area.