You made it through moving day. Congratulations. I knew you would rock it. (If you haven’t moved yet, here’s some advice on how to get organized before your move.) If you recently moved, you may look around your new home filled with cardboard boxes and feel a little overwhelmed. Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered and I enlisted the help of professionals to help you create an organized home. Just follow this step by step advice and you can build a happy, beautiful, and organized home.
Grab a piece of chocolate, sip a cup of tea, and take a breather
If I could, I would send you a bouquet of flowers or a medal for your accomplishment. You managed to declutter, pack, and move every item you own in order to build an even better life for yourself in a different space. That’s no small task. Celebrate your success. High-fives all around.
Create a command station to help you stay organized
After the celebratory moving dance but before you begin unpacking your boxes, find an area in your home that will be your go-to spot for staying organized. Autumn Nyby, professional organizer for Space for Living Organizing, recommends that you make a home for your unpacking supplies and important papers. Create a box that contains box cutters, Post-It notes, and trash bags and keep it handy, so you can find your supplies as you unpack different sections of your home. In order to create a command station, Ann Marie Guenther, founder of That Girl Organizes, suggests you use a wall file or files inside a cabinet door. “I use a wall file in my laundry room and a magnetic board for announcements or events,” says Guenther.
Find your #1 or “heart” boxes to unpack
When you label your boxes before your move, Nyby recommends that you number the boxes with a #1, #2 or #3. Your most important boxes will be assigned a #1. Then, when you move into your new place, focus on the #1 boxes. I use a similar system for labeling boxes, but instead of using a #1, I recommend you put a heart on the boxes that contain your favorite items. For example, you could put a heart on the various boxes containing your favorite cookbooks, your vacation photos, and your fuzzy bathrobe. Then, when you unpack those items first, you will be surrounded by treasured items and your new place will instantly feel like home.
Begin unpacking your kitchen supplies first
Which room should you unpack first? The professional organizers shouted a resounding “THE KITCHEN!” In caps. Fine…they didn’t shout. But, I could feel the professional organizers’ passion emanating from them and they did unanimously declare you should start here. “I like to unpack the kitchen first since it is always the hub of the home,” says Jaimie Altman, owner of JA Organizing.
So, where do you begin to organize your kitchen? Cathleen Staley, owner of Simplify, says you need to unpack kitchen boxes and sort your kitchen items into categories. “Once you see all the items that need to be put away,” says Staley, “it is easier to determine the best spot for those things.”
Be thoughtful as you put away your kitchen items
As much as you want to empty out your boxes as quickly as possible, a little planning goes a long way to help you create an organized home after you move. “The biggest mistake clients make is unpacking items into any cabinet just to clear the counters,” says Guenther. “I had a client whose glasses were 25 feet from the dishwasher (yes, it was a big kitchen)!”
In order to avoid this common mistake, consider how you use your space. “Put the most used kitchen items in the most accessible spaces and leave the harder to get to spaces for less used items,” says Nyby. “For instance, think about where you would chop your veggies and do your mixing, and put the cutting board, knives, and mixing bowls close to that area. Plan the dishes and silverware placement based on where you’d be washing them, so they’re easy to put away and get out.”
To help you organize your kitchen, use Post-It notes like the professionals do. Jessica Litman, founder of The Organized Mama, describes her company’s successful organizing system: “Whenever we set up a kitchen, we place Post-It notes on all the drawers so we know where things should go. Once the items are in that cabinet or drawer, we tidy up the space. It just helps get those boxes out and the space situated.”
For an organized home, move onto the bedrooms next
Your bedroom is your sanctuary, a place to be intimate, relaxed, and happy. It’s easy to throw random boxes into your bedroom because you want the rest of the house to look acceptable for house guests. Don’t worry about them. No one expects your home to look picture perfect. Seriously, you just moved. Go easy on yourself. However, if you hide your miscellaneous boxes in your bedroom, it’s possible that they’ll stay there for a while. Take control of your oasis, organize your bedroom, and keep the non-bedroom boxes elsewhere. If you have kids, Altman recommends organizing the children’s bedrooms so they can get settled. “The kids find it comforting to have their belongings with them as soon as possible,” says Altman.
When we moved our family from Knoxville, TN, to the Chicago suburbs, I arranged the kids’ bedding first to make their new bedrooms feel as homey as possible. We moved in January and we needed winter gear for the Chicago weather, so I told the kids to look for a surprise in their shared closet. The kids hopped up and down with excitement when they discovered their winter jackets and boots. It’s the little things that create those happy moving moments.
Set up your living room to reflect your moving resolutions
As I discuss at length in my book, The Art of Happy Moving, one of the best parts about moving is the opportunity to recreate yourself and your life. Thirty-six percent of successful habit changes are attributed to moving, which is a crazy number. You can make your moving resolutions using this chart (and here’s a sample to help you out). Then, when you organize your living room, keep your moving resolutions in mind. If you plan to read more, create a book nook. If you intend to make meditation part of your daily life, build reminders into your living space with candles or inspirational quotes.
Declutter as you unpack in order to create an organized home
Hopefully, you had the opportunity to declutter before your move, but life happens and sometimes we run out of time before moving day. It happens to the best of us. “People tend to keep too much in the first place,” explains Diane Boden, creator and host of the Minimalist Moms Podcast. “This makes it harder to get organized in the new space.” Yes, it’s harder to create an organized home if you don’t declutter, but here’s your second chance.
As you unpack your boxes, look around your home and recognize the fresh slate that you have to work with. Do you want the item that you hold in your hand to be a part of your new life? If you love it, keep it. If you don’t love it, consider why you want the item to take a special place in your home. “The goal with minimalism isn’t to throw everything away,” says Boden, “but to be intentional about what is most meaningful.”
Hold off on buying organizational products
Before you rush off to Target or The Container Store to create your organized home, take a tip from the professionals and wait to see what you already own. “I like to organize first (usually with lots of editing) and then make the determination that certain bins, containers, or baskets might help in keeping things orderly,” says Cathleen Staley. “Clients often work the opposite way and buy lots of things at The Container Store hoping they will then be organized. Many times I find that clients already own things in their own home that can be useful.” Autumn Nyby agrees. “Use what you have,” says Nyby. “Shoebox lids and jewelry boxes make great dividers.”
Take it slowly and have patience with yourself and your space
You did the hard part…you moved. There is no reward for unpacking your boxes in record time. In fact, I recommend that you take the first couple weeks after a move to explore your new area. The unpacking will get done eventually. As Nyby says, “This is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes a while to get a home together and it probably took you a while to get your last home in order.” So, be patient. Savor your bedroom sanctuary as you slowly build your new home. In the meantime, have fun exploring the world outside your home.
Professional Home Organizers
Jaimie Altman is the Founder of JA Organizing.
Ann Marie Guenther of That Girl Organizes is known as the face of Facebook in Chicagoland. Her team works one hour from Naperville in every direction and preaches that with That Girl Organizes you will get organized and stay organized because she organizes according to your learning style. Visit Ann Marie’s website or follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest
Autumn Nyby is a professional organizer at Space for Living Organizing and co-host of the A to B Podcast. Visit Autumn’s website or follow her on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest. Listen to the A to B podcast.