Attempting my eighth move in the last eight years, I’ve honed the ability to pack up and move out efficiently through painful processes of trial and error. Granted, some trips were less organized than others, leaving random tchotchkes around for the landlord to deal with (sorry!). However, my last move was one of mental necessity: I wanted to know that if I got the last-minute opportunity to work abroad, I would be ready to take it in a heartbeat, emotionally and logistically.
Most of us have had the wonderful experience of staring at the enormous task ahead and having absolutely no desire to tackle it.
Here are five things to remember when you are trying to move out in a hurry. They focus on the needs of people traveling with little to no excess baggage allowance, but the same tips can be applied to local or domestic travel as well!
1. Accept the mess.
First things first, don’t be intimidated by the upcoming clutter. Getting everything out in the open may be totally against your inclination towards order and cleanliness, but it will help speed up the process so the task gets done and you can get on to the dusting and vacuuming of the moving process. As Steve Miller says, you have to go through hell before you get to heaven.
2. Make piles.
Designate a space, table, chair, or corner for each of these piles:
- Throwing Away
- Giving Away
- Maybe (most importantly)
The Maybe Pile is essential to the efficiency of the process because it lets you make a temporary decision and move on to the next item without oscillating about a particular item for an hour.
You can, of course, pick and choose necessary piles as they pertain to your particular moving situation. For example, as I move from the Czech Republic to Australia (with a short stop in Los Angeles), it won’t be helpful or necessary to give items away or store them. So I’m making only Taking, Throwing Away, and Maybe Piles.
Also, it’s not necessarily important if these piles are tidy, boxed immediately, or out of the way. They will simply help you to see what and how much you are dealing with before packing things up.
In fact, you don’t want to box the Taking items yet because you may pare them down further. The exceptions are the Give-Away and Throw-Away piles. You can box or bag those as you go so that you aren’t tempted to pull the items back out. It will also let you move bags to a more out-of-the-way space as they fill up and are no longer needed for decision making.
3. If you see it, move it.
There are many techniques for attacking your items.
Some people start with clothes; others start by separating their favorite belongings first. Personally, I like to start with an area I know will be mostly Throw Away. It’s liberating and motivating to start the process by throwing a bunch of useless things away (read: old bills, mail, notes I no longer need).
Then, choose another corner of your world, and simply pick up items one at a time, immediately following your gut by putting them in whichever pile you feel first.
Not everyone is comfortable with such emotional decision making, and other people simply may not know yet what they need, hence the Maybe Pile. If you have to think about an item for more than a full minute, put it in Maybe, and move on. You’ll come back to it later.
Then, literally, move every single item you look at — pictures, picture frames, stamps, postcards, paperclips, random socks, cups, sandals, phone covers you no longer use, everything!
4. Separate what you need.
Once you’ve gone through a big majority of your items and your departure day is approaching (anywhere from one week to one day ahead), start separating only the items you’ll need before departure. Remember to keep this section as small as possible. You don’t need three kinds of toothpaste or four dresses, for example, if you are leaving tomorrow. I like to choose items from Throw Away for this so that I don’t have to worry about laundering or packing these items at the last minute.
5. Toss, toss, toss!
Every once in a while, take another look at Maybe items. But, again, don’t stress about them. Once they are in Maybe, items can sit for a bit. When you have a better idea of the size of your Taking and Storing Piles, you’ll have a better perspective on the Maybe items. It’s okay to be sentimental, but it’s just as acceptable to be practical. You can throw away old birthday cards when you move, for example.
Just remember that though tossing items may seem scary, who wants to buy things again just because you threw out the original? We all need considerably less than we think. Additionally, having less can help clear your mind and focus your life. This regular purging is my favorite part of being a frequent mover and traveler!
Of course, honing in on what’s important to you and learning to make decisions (even about little things like whether you really need your six types of coffee makers) is an acquired skill. Hopefully these tips can help you to make the moving and endless decision making as painless as possible.