It sounds easy, I know. What is so hard about unpacking boxes? You just take everything out of a box, set it somewhere, collapse the box and move on. The goal is to clear all the boxes out of the house in record time, right? Not so fast. For a truly organized house that will stay organized in the years to come, the key is in unpacking correctly and efficiently.
The most important step in unpacking actually happens well before your move, during the packing stage. If you pack all like items together in the same box, clearly label each box with its contents and the room it belongs to, the unpacking process is so much easier than if the packing stage involved throwing random items in boxes together as quickly as possible without any thought. Let’s face it though, we’ve all been there! Sometimes a move is unexpected, sometimes it coincides with an extremely busy time of life, and sometimes we are just overwhelmed. The reality is that it is not always easy to make time for packing, which can make unpacking slightly more challenging.
Let’s start with the first important fact: As with any organizing, it will always get worse before it gets better! Remember that you might need to live with clutter for a few weeks (months) to properly unpack, but the result will be worth it in the end. So many times, we have the desire to remove all boxes from the house as soon as possible so that it can appear that we unpacked and settled in with record speed. To do this, we often shove items in closets and drawers with the intent to get to them later. I love this intent! It works so well in theory, but the reality is that we are far more likely to just continue piling junk into the unorganized closets and drawers than we are to ever properly go through them. So I encourage you to resist this urge!
However, I also encourage you to remove your items from the boxes right away. How do I explain this contradiction? Temporary clutter. The first step in all organizing is to group like items together. Unpacking is no different. You need every hair accessory with all of the other hair accessories; you need every spatula with every other cooking utensil. The worst feeling to have while unpacking is to completely organize a drawer beautifully, only to find another box full of the item you thought you had just finished unpacking. While it is so tempting to put items away as soon as you take them out of the box, it is much more useful to group these items first.
The easiest grouping comes on moving day. If you didn’t have time to properly pack, you ideally still had time to write which room each box should go to. That is the first step of grouping, making sure each box is in the proper room.
Next, tackle each room one at a time. Let’s say you start with the kitchen (because you have to eat!) Remove all kitchen items from all of the boxes and start to group them. Common groups include: cooking utensils, pots & pans, dishes, small appliances, etc. Remember that unpacking is a marathon, not a sprint. Reward yourself for minor accomplishments along the way. When you have all items from an entire room grouped out in front of you, it is a great time to take a breather. Even just clearing all of the newly emptied boxes out of the house can be a good way to help you visualize all you have accomplished.
The next step is often a mental activity – deciding where each group should be located in the new room. Some people will know exactly where they want each group, other people like to plan out the space, to maximize efficiency. For some people, like me, drawing out a plan can be really helpful so that you don’t forget anything.
When your plan is completed and you know where you want everything to go, start putting everything away neatly. In this stage, you can add drawer/shelf organizers to really customize your space, or you can simply place items where they belong. At this stage, I love to add labels to everything! When every drawer and cabinet is laid out in a way that makes sense and that way is explained to everyone living there, it is much more likely that the items will stay where they belong. Ultimately, your level of detail is completely up to you. Once every item is in its place, you have finished an entire room! Congratulations! Now is definitely time for a celebration and a break.
If there is no hurry to unpack, try to tackle a room a day. Most rooms can be completed in only a couple of hours and this will put you at a good pace to finish unpacking in a decent amount of time. If you are in a rush, still tackle things room by room. Never move on to the next room until the one you were working on is completed. Not only will you feel a huge sense of accomplishment, but you will also avoid the nagging thoughts in your head about a room you left uncompleted while you sit in the next room trying to unpack it.
I’ve said it already, but I’ll say it again – resist the urge to simply shove items in random places! Odds are that you won’t be able to find them when you are looking for them and you will likely never go back through them to sort it all out. If you use this system, tackling each room individually and unpacking all items before putting any away, you will be on your way to a beautifully organized home from the start!