How to Unpack After Moving (in Less Than a Day)

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When you’re moving into a new home, unpacking is likely the last thing on your mind. So many other things have to come first: signing for the new place, setting up utilities, and packing your stuff up in the first place. But when you finally arrive at your new place and are ready to set it up, the new challenge hits you: how do you unpack after moving?

Unpacking your home quickly takes patience, determination, and a good system. While we can’t provide the first two, we can provide an effective system to get your home unpacked fast. Follow these steps to get your unpacking done in less than a day (and still have time to decorate).

Step #0: Pack with Unpacking In Mind

Your first step in the unpacking process counterintuitively begins while you’re packing in the first place. Unpacking will be much easier–and quicker–if you follow a few rules:

  • Keep an inventory of what’s in each box. To do this as quickly as possible, assign each box a number and write it on the inside and outside flaps. Before you tape the box shut, take a picture of it with your phone, with both the contents and the number visible. 
  • Color-code (or at least label) your boxes. It will make life easier for you and any moving help you’ve hired. 
  • Keep boxes specific to a room. Don’t load a box with a mix of kitchen items and bathroom pieces, or bedroom decor with living room storage. 
  • Pack everything you need to make your bed in one box. Pillows, blankets, and sheets should all stay together. Repeat the step for each room, so you have a set of easily accessible boxes to set up your beds on your first night home. 
  • And pack an open first box. This should have all the stuff you need to get through the first 24 hours in your new place: a fresh set of clothes, water bottles, your toothbrush, a roll of toilet paper, and any medications. 

Step #1: Put Boxes in Their Appropriate Rooms

Moving boxes
Source: Transport Executive

This one seems logical, so it should be easy. When you or your moving help are unloading boxes, put them directly in the room where their contents belong. It’s much easier to do this on moving day, when you’re already in the groove of moving and are willing to lift heavy boxes a little bit further.

Step #2: Tackle Your First Room, the Bathroom

You know the phrase, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”? You’ll find that phrase pretty relatable when you need to hit the restroom during the move and find that you don’t even have toilet paper on hand. Living without a bathroom is not fun, so it’s best to get unpacking it out of the way first.

Now, when we say bathroom, we don’t mean “unpack every single towel you own and place it appropriately.” Spare towels that belong in the linen closet can be unpacked later, so set them aside. But getting the essentials set up–your shower curtain, toiletries, toothbrush, and hand soap–will make your bathroom livable and keep you focused on just that room. 

 Step #3: Unpack Your Bedroom

Now that you’ve got a place to get clean, it’s time to unpack your relaxation space. Start by arranging your furniture how you want it, as it will be much easier to do now than when your stuff is added to it. Then, find the box with all your bedding that you packed earlier. Make your bed so that even if nothing else gets done, you have a nice place to rest at the end of the day. 

Once your bed is set up, start unpacking other bedroom items, like your nightstand essentials. Clothes will naturally come next, but don’t get sucked into perfectly hanging each and every piece. Unpack the essentials–your daily ware and any items that need to be hung up ASAP–for the time being, then come back for the rest on a later day. Before you know it, your bedroom is ready to go.

If you have kids or live-in relatives, unpack their bedrooms next using the same methods. Then, you can move onto your next room. 

Step #4: Tackle Unpacking the Kitchen

The kitchen might just be the least liked room to unpack in a home. It’s perhaps the most compartmentalized room in your home, and as such, it has a lot to unpack and organize. So before you start opening boxes, it’s a good idea to figure out how you’ll set it up.

To make this easy on yourself, slap a blank sticky note on each cabinet and drawer. Then, label each sticky note with what items you want in that space. This will be your guide as you unpack, and will help you mitigate any issues–like running out of space–before they arise. Once everything is labeled, just unpack and place your items in their designated spot. 

Step #5: Set Up Your Living Room

First of all, take a deep breath and relax, because you’re more than halfway there! The most difficult rooms in the house are done, and now, you get to move onto the fun rooms, starting with your living area. 

Unpacking your living room is a task that can easily prove distracting, as this is likely where you keep most of your entertainment: video games, books, movies, etc. If you know you’ll get distracted by this, leave this task for last and finish unpacking in the living room and the other rooms in the house first instead.

Step #6: Unpack Your Home Office

If you have a home office, unpacking this is going to be a bit of an adventure. Not only are there office supplies to sort, there’s internet to set up, computers and printers to get connected, and likely a few more bookshelves with distracting books. Our strategy? Start with the big things and wind your way down to the smaller stuff. Set up your electronics and furniture before you unpack small office supplies and optimize your desk arrangement. Leave any certificates or awards in their box for now–we’ll come back to these in the decor phase later.

Step #7: Take Care of Your Guest Bedroom

You’re almost done–your guest room is the last room you’ll unpack, and you’ve already learned the right order for this. Start with the furniture arrangements, then unpack your bed, followed by your clothing and other items, just like you did for your bedroom. 

If your spare room is also home to some long-term storage, keep that in mind while you’re unpacking. Keep space set aside in that room while unpacking for other long-term storage pieces to avoid running out of spots later.

Step #8: Closets and Excess Items

By now, you’re down to just decor and excess stuff. Set aside the decor and focus on the last bit of major unpacking in the process: closets.

Linen closets, spare storage, and bulk items are your next focus. Go back and gather the extra towels from when you were unpacking your bathroom, and hunt down that box of out-of-season clothes you set aside while doing your bedroom. Take these items out and unpack them where you’d like them to live–in a hallway closet, in your spare room, wherever–until the only thing left to unpack is decor. 

Step #9: Decorate Your New Home

The final step: decorating. Technically, this is an optional step, as you don’t have to do it today. Some experts recommend living in your home for at least a month before you start decorating to get a true feel of the place. But if you’re still going, there’s no time like move-in day to make your new house feel like a home. 

Whether you’re still planning your move or you found a few furniture pieces while moving in that just don’t work, Dolly can help. Our Helpers and their trucks can help with moves, junk removal, large item donation, and more. We can make your move easy so all you need to worry about is unpacking. 

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