14 Tips and Tricks to Help You Unpack Efficiently After Moving

by Michelle Patterson on May 9, 2022

Moving is in itself a monumental project taking a lot of planning and time. Once you have made it to your new home along with your belongings, a new challenge arises: You need to replicate the packing process but in reverse. In this process, you need to figure out how to unpack and to organize a new home. While this new project might seem challenging, there are steps you can take to make the process go as smoothly as possible.

To assist you in deciding which boxes to unpack first, we’ve created a list of tips and tricks to help you get started:

1. Make a plan before moving

Before moving in, make a plan to organize your new home instead of trying to do it in a day or two just after moving in. Take a few days off if necessary, to give you enough time to find a new home for your belongings in your new residence. If you have small children, plan activities for them or have a grandparent or a babysitter around to lend a helping hand while you focus on putting things in their places.

2. Clean your new home

Ideally, you should stop by your new home and clean it before your move-in day. If that’s not possible, you should make sure you wipe and clean all surfaces before unpacking. You will want to ensure that floors, closets and cabinets are clean before placing your things there. Besides, getting the cleaning process out of the way will help you better focus on unpacking.

3. Begin unpacking your essentials box(es)

The first thing you want to unpack is your box or boxes of essentials. These contain items you will absolutely need as you get settled into your new home, such as toiletries, a few changes of clothes, chargers, plates, cups and utensils. You should have your box of essentials packed before your move to make sure you have your basics within reach without going through all the boxes.

4. Unpack room by room

You might feel tempted to go through all the boxes at once, but efficient unpacking takes time and needs a good system in place. You could end up unpacking several boxes and you might discover it takes longer to put belongings in their places in all the rooms. The solution to this issue is to be strategic about your unpacking and tackle one room at a time. Start with a specific room and stay on task until that room is completely finished. Of course, breaks are allowed and so are snacks — reward yourself after a job well done!

5. Start with the kitchen

The kitchen should be your top priority when unpacking. Start with flatware, pots and pans and dish towels. Consider your kitchen setup before creating storage “zones.” Plates, cereal bowls and coffee mugs should be put on lower shelves, and items you use frequently such as pots and pans can be placed in cabinets above the oven. Flat pans (baking sheets) can fit in the lower drawer of the stove — you’re saving space while you create practical storage. As for the sink-related items such as dishwashing soap, sponges and cleaning supplies, make room under the sink. Use the Mr. Yuck stickers if you have older children or put them higher up if you have smaller ones. Remember to connect main appliances to the power supply, for example the stove, the coffee maker and the toaster. Leave everything else for later.

6. Bedrooms are next

On your first day, assemble your beds and use sets of bed sheets to make them inviting. This way, you can relax after a hard day’s organization. If you still have time, and potentially some people to help, start unpacking linens for the bedroom. Make room for them either in the bedroom or create a dedicated linen closet — a much more practical solution in our opinion.

7. Prioritize the bathroom too

While the bathroom will be functional by default, with its essential appliances already working as required, you will still need to unpack the shower curtain, towels, washcloths and toiletries to make the room fully usable. A fully stocked bathroom gives that homey feel that every home should have, right?

8. Tackle common areas

Once private areas such as bedrooms and bathrooms have been tackled, you can move on to common areas such living rooms, dens and playrooms. Involve the whole family as this will help children become more responsible in putting things away if they were part of the decision-making process, whether it’s finding a spot for the remote control or using their toy cubbies effectively.

9. Organize the entryway

The entryway is the first and the last area of your home where you spend time. Make sure you also get a handle on this area after you move to avoid having a disorganized spot in your home. Either use the entryway closet (if you have one) or make good use of shoe cubbies to keep the floor shoe-free. Go vertical with hooks so your coats can have a home too. Remember to create a dedicated spot for your mail by the door. Either add a basket or a small box for all your correspondence.

10. Storage areas need attention too

The garage, basement and other utility rooms are last to get your attention after a move, but it’s important to “set up shop” the right way in these areas too. Start out by unpacking the basic tools and materials you’ll need to use around the home. Begin with utility shelving units and storage containers. Leave unpacking the deck, patio and landscaping tools for last, as you’re not going to need those items in the first few days. If you’re moving during the summer, you can always set up the grill so you can barbecue while the kitchen is still being sorted out. 

11. Get cords organized

To avoid your home becoming the next set for “Jumanji,” create an organization system for your cords and electronics. Secure cords along the baseboards, if you can’t hide them altogether. Use metal twist ties to keep several cords neatly together. Place all unused cords in one basket but wrap them individually so they don’t become tangled.

12. Declutter as you go

Ideally, you should have decluttered prior to packing, but moving is a complicated process, so you might not have checked this step on your to-do list. If that is the case, you can declutter as you go. Whether you might find items unnecessary or you can’t find room in your new home, you can either toss, donate or maybe use self storage for useful items you can always reuse. Furniture, seasonal clothing, and decorations are some of the belongings that are most often put into storage. A 10x10 self storage unit is the most common size that people rent, but larger units are also available if you have more items you want to keep away from home.

13. Break down boxes as you unpack

As you unpack boxes, you might be tempted to put them aside and move to the next box. Doing this will just leave you with extra chaos to deal with later. Instead, break down each box as soon as you finish unpacking. Create a dedicated corner for flattened boxes that you eventually bundle up together either for recycling or for donating to friends who could use them if they’re moving. Save a box or two if you have a crafty side or you simply wish to give your children a new arts and crafts project.

14. Leave decorating for last

As you unpack, you will find that beautiful vase which you can imagine placing on the dining room table full with your favorite flowers. Resist the urge to start decorating until everything else has a home and the place has a semblance of organization. Once each room is unpacked and the furniture is put in place, you will have a better sense of which ornamental item goes where. Also, make sure to use what you have before making a Target run to buy organizers or cute new decorations.

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