Home Hacks

How to Move Homes Without Losing Your Mind

August  7, 2018

Americans move a lot. On average, each of us will move 11.4 times in our lives—I’ve personally moved 14 times between my infancy and adulthood, a number that surprised even myself when I counted it out on my fingers and gave me an odd feeling of...pride? Yes, I think it’s pride. Pride in having survived something so unpleasant so many times. Because moving, as pretty much anyone who’s ever done it can vouch, sucks.

Moving is expensive, from putting the money down on your new place to paying movers (or shelling out for pizza for your friends) to buying packing tape and bubble wrap. Moving can be emotionally taxing, whether you’re leaving your old place because of a break-up or a falling out with a roommate or a protracted fight with your landlord, or if you’re saying goodbye to a home filled with good memories. Moving takes forever, no matter how little stuff you might think you own; everything has to be boxed and wrapped and labelled, transported to your new place, then unloaded and unpacked, all of which takes twice as many hours as you think it will.

Sure, moving to a new home can be exciting: Maybe you’re starting a new job in a new state, or ready to try out a new neighborhood; maybe you’re moving in with your bf or bff; maybe you won the housing lottery at your college and get to live in the really nice dorm. But in my experience, the days surrounding a move are closer to the agony end of the spectrum than the joy end (and I’m an eternal optimist).

Shop the Story

All that whined said, moving doesn’t have to be pure agony. At every stage there are large and small things you can do to make the process of moving a little less painful and a little more fun. Here, in chronological order, are some tips and tricks for keeping your sanity this moving season.


KonMari the heck out of your home.

Whether you actually hold each object you own in your hands to see if it sparks joy (as Marie Kondo instructs in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or simply decide that you’re not going to need those two drawers of sweaters once you’re living in Florida, getting rid of things you don’t want to take with you on your move is your first step to sanity. Not only will you have less to pack once you start packing, but you’ll have less to unpack when you arrive.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Such a good idea! Thank you!”
— Sarah W.

Start this project early, say a month or two before you have to move, so you have plenty of time to go through each room of your house disposing of expired cans of soup (we all have them), donating that skirt you haven’t worn in six years, or deciding that it’s time to finally kick that broken side table to the curb.

Gather your materials.

Generally, you’ll need boxes of various sizes, newspaper and bubble wrap for protecting fragile objects, and lots of packing tape. For heavy items like books and pots and pans, smaller boxes are best: They’re easier to lift and generally more manageable. In my experience, the absolute No. 1 preferred box for heavy things can be found at your local liquor store on trash night. Boxes that once held booze are sturdy, small, and free, and most stores will happily hand over their recycling if you ask nicely. Boxes of other sizes can often be found for deep discounts via Craigslist or Nextdoor from people who have recently completed a move—or you can seek out a moving company that offers reusable plastic bins, which saves you the trouble of accumulating and then disposing of a million boxes, and saves the earth in a small way.

Some fragile items are best wrapped in bubbles, while others, like wine glasses, drinking glasses, plates, and bowls, just need a good newspaper swaddle to protect them from banging against each other. If you get the physical newspaper delivered to your home, good on you for supporting America’s hard-working journalists...and start saving those piles of pages a few months before moving day so you’ll have all the wrapping you’ll need.

The best moving-related investment I ever made was in a tape gun. Sealing up boxes and reinforcing edges is made so much faster and easier with this tool.

Tape Gun
Packing Tape


Pack strategically.

You’re going to have to pack everything, but don’t pack everything at once; work with a system. Start with the non-essentials in every room, those items that you’re not going to need access to in the days surrounding your move.

The easiest way to determine what you will and won’t need come moving day is to pack yourself a bag, as though you’re taking a trip. A few outfits, some clean underwear, your toothbrush and shampoo: those things go in the bag. Books, toys, off-season clothing, and your extensive nail polish collection will go into boxes. In the kitchen, be sure to leave yourself access to the things you need in order to feed yourself, but keep it spare (and pack your baking tools, no matter how much baking may be a stress-reliever or procrastination tool).

Throw a packing party.

You don’t have to endure the stress of packing alone. Call up some friends, pump up the jams, and set your people to work. Packing 500 books into boxes goes by a lot quicker when you have help, and there’s always the opportunity for a Sex and the City-style fashion show at some point.

Label with great specificity.

It might seem like overkill in the moment (or another annoying thing you have to add to your list of Annoying Things I Have to Do for My Move), but very clear labelling of boxes is something your future self will seriously thank you for. Instead of marking a box of books “BOOKS,” label it “KITCHEN/BOOKS/ITALIAN” or “LIVING ROOM/BOOKS/POETRY”; instead of marking a box of clothes “CLOTHES,” label it “BEDROOM/SWEATERS” or “KIDS’ ROOM/DRESS UP CLOTHES.” Unloading and unpacking will go so much faster when you know exactly what’s in each box and where it belongs.


Hire a sitter.

If you have kids or pets, ask or hire someone to watch them while you slowly lose your mind make your way through moving day. Whether you’ve hired professional movers or are DIY-ing your move, getting little creatures out from underfoot will make everything run more smoothly.

Come with cleaning supplies.

Chances are, your new place is going to need a quick wipedown (at the very least) before you start unpacking. Bringing a few key cleaning supplies like an all-purpose spray and a roll of paper towels or some rags will help you start life in your new home on a good, clean foot. And don’t forget a roll of toilet paper!

Take a deep breath.

Every hour or so, it’s a good idea to take a nice deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Maybe have a sip of water, too. You got this. You’re moving!

You Deserve a Treat!

What's your best hard-earned tip for moving? Let us know in the comments!

Grab your copy

It's here: Our game-changing guide to everyone's favorite room in the house. Your Do-Anything Kitchen gathers the smartest ideas and savviest tricks—from our community, test kitchen, and cooks we love—to help transform your space into its best self.

Grab your copy

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • someonewhobakes
  • Sarah Whitman-Salkin
    Sarah Whitman-Salkin


someonewhobakes August 7, 2018
I've moved 13 times, so I'm almost there with you! My biggest piece of advise re: packing is this: pack an "OPEN FIRST" box. In this box, put toilet paper, a couple towels and basic toiletries (you're going to want a shower ASAP after the sweaty moving process), and a set of sheets, pillows, and blankets. That way, you can at least use the bathroom and go to bed without unpacking everything, or, worse, trying to find the box with your pillows and sheets while you're cranky and exhausted and just want to go to bed. And if you know you might want to celebrate (or wind down), maybe your "open first" box also has a choice beverage and a couple of glasses.
Sarah W. August 7, 2018
Such a good idea! Thank you!