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Unpacking Strategies: How to Unpack Efficiently and Quickly

Of all the parts of moving, unpacking is one of the best. You’re almost done, and settled family roominto your new home. And unlike a lot of moving chores, unpacking can be fun and exciting, as you set up and decorate rooms. But it’s best to approach it with a plan, and a goal of getting it done efficiently and quickly.

Now, what efficient means to you and your household may be different from everyone else’s idea of efficient, but general guidelines will help you out. You want your home set up and functioning as quickly as possible, with minimal disruption in the days following your move-in date. That doesn’t just happen. A good method is to unpack in the reverse order in which you packed.

Get those areas you use daily set up first. On move-in day, after the movers are gone, prioritize bedrooms, getting beds set up and enough clothes for a few days unpacked. Do this first, so that you’re not struggling to make beds and find pajamas at bedtime. Getting enough of your bathrooms unpacked so you can shower away the moving day grime is also a good idea.

Anything you can’t function without should also be day of move priorities, especially any medical equipment. Some people prioritize setting up the TV, others the stereo, because that’s the first thing they turn on when they come home. If you need coffee to function in the morning and the coffee maker wasn’t in your first night box, set it up and find the coffee before you go to bed.

A good goal for the first full day is making your kitchen and dining areas fully functional. Connect large appliances, if necessary, and unpack pots, pans, utensils and dishes, and countertop appliances. But before you start unpacking, think about traffic flow and what cabinet arrangements will be most efficient; otherwise, you may find yourself rearranging al the cabinets in six months.  

After the kitchen, turn your attention to living areas like family rooms, living rooms, dens and offices. If you work from home, getting an office or workspace up and running should be a high priority, after the kitchen.

A good rule of thumb is to flatten boxes as you empty them; keep one large box intact and put flattened boxes into it. Another large box can be used to corral bubble wrap, paper and other packing materials. Designate a spot –preferably a garage or porch, but definitely out of the way— to hold until trash/recycling day.

Some other items to take care of in the first couple days are hanging curtains and window shades so you have privacy in bedrooms, getting kids’ rooms unpacked so they’ll settle in faster, and setting up your laundry area.

After all your daily use items are unpacked and important areas of your home are set up, turn your attention to things like off season clothing and sports gear, setting up a garage, and unpacking decorations. If you have a lot of framed art, unwrap the frames and test layouts by leaning artwork against the walls, but it’s a good idea to wait until you’re satisfied with furniture layouts before hanging anything.

Two things many families find helpful are to set a realistic deadline for when you’d like to be all unpacked, then work to make it. An end of unpacking reward for meeting that deadline can help keep the entire family motivated. But meeting that deadline is important: You’ll settle into your new home more quickly if you’re not constantly tripping over boxes or stressed out by tasks left undone.

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