Packing First Step

By Annika Mengisen
Special to

Anyone who's ever moved has had that "deer in headlights" feeling when their entire household suddenly looms over them in menacing mountains of stacked boxes.

Some people freak out and begin tossing all their stuff into garbage bags or rolling up fragile items together in a newspaper version of a burrito.

Sandee Payne's first moving experience came when her military husband was reassigned from New York to Missouri.

"I had only heard stories about the dreaded (moving) process and was about to face it head-on," said Payne, moving expert and author of Move Your House.

Since then she's moved multiple times and has formulated specific theories on packing. Payne's tips -- which sound a bit like a therapist's advice -- are good for when you have no idea where to begin.

    1. Stay focused and take a breath. Concentrate on the room you're standing in and prepare one room at a time. Focusing on individual tasks is always easier than trying to take on the whole job, Payne said.
    2. Simplify. Let go of the things you don't want before packing so you're not tripping over half-dead house plants and remnants of your magazine collection when you're trying to pack your living room.
    3. Hold on to those comfort items -- like the stereo you're using to blast some motivational hard rock - and pack what you use least often first.
    4. If items have many small pieces, (like desk items, collections and toiletries), pack them together in a clear plastic closeable bag.
    5. Doing the laundry can be therapeutic - and nice to have done after you're exhausted from the move.

    6. Get yourself a package of markers and write a detailed list of the contents in each box that you pack - you're tackling unpacking stress and staying organized.
    7. Draw up a household inventory. Payne suggests a written list, videotaping or (for the tech-inclined) a digital photo library. While it takes some work, this step can help put off moving anxiety and give you recourse if anything goes missing or gets damaged in the moving process.


Put receipts and warrantees for valuable items in a binder or envelope along with your inventory. Hand-carry this home inventory with you.

If you get an organized and level-headed start, chances are the pattern will continue throughout your moving process.

Annika Mengisen is a freelance writer who edits the Freakonomics Blog for The New York Times.

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