There are many upsides in downsizing to a smaller place — less to clean, lower expenses, you’re forced to simplify and be organized — but actually moving into the place is not one.
For a few days, it’s cramped, boxes end up everywhere, there’s nowhere to just store everything until you “get to it,” so moving into a small space is crazy-making. It can be less crazy-making, however, if you have a plan not only for where things are going, but for how you’re unpacking.
From before your move until after, here are a few tips to help you keep it together:
Before You Move
1. Get accurate measurements for all your new rooms. With small spaces, your options will be limited, so you might as well figure it out now. By measuring your furniture for your spaces and drawing a scale layout, you’ll have a good start, and one less hassle for moving day.
2. Color-code the move. Unless you’re paying professional movers, everybody eventually stops reading boxes and that box marked “dishes” winds up in the closet. This is what you get for paying them in pizza and beer.
With large colored stickers on the top/end of boxes, you can make it simpler for everyone. “Red sign’s on the bedroom wall? Oh, this red-stickered box goes there.” You could also have another color sticker for “urgency” on boxes, too, for things that have to be unpacked first. So, if you see the hot-pink smilie, you know that’s a priority box.
3. Snapshots. Do you like how your bookshelves look now? Do you want to lay things out the same way? Take snapshots of everything before you start dismantling, so you remember how to put them together. Likewise, make sure you’re packing objects together if they go in the same area, so unpacking and organizing are quicker.
4. Keep your layout plan close at hand. Have furniture placed in the correct spots. Pile boxes out of the way, in corners and closets. Get “urgent” boxes left in more accessible spots. Unpack the kitchen first. Take deep breaths often.
After the Move
5. Be flexible. Storage likely won’t work out how you thought, and you might need to rethink the way things go. Maybe the linens have to go in the hall pantry. Maybe the ironing board needs to be in the bedroom closet. Be prepared to Google for ideas when you’re hitting the creative-layout wall, and don’t count on everything making sense the “first” time you organize a spot.
6. Be patient. Don’t rush out to buy storage solutions right away. You may not be seeing all the possibilities, and waiting another couple weeks might mean you find a better way to solve the problem, whether by relocating some items, or by buying something for the spot. You could also underestimate what solutions you need, and it would be harder (and uglier) to incorporate extra solutions in than it would be to buy something more appropriate in the first place. Patience indeed, grasshopper.
7. Pick your spots. Get past the overwhelming nature of moving in by focusing on a smaller area. It might help to think of things you love having together and starting there. Like, you know that painting looks great over that chair, and you need that table beside the chair, so obviously that lamp could go there for reading. Well, there you go. That’s a finished space. Go for it and hang that painting first.
We always have some item groupings we won’t want to mess with, but the rest of the room can be a little more flexible. Build the area you’re sure of, and make the rest fit around it. You can always re-imagine spaces later, but you need to have a place to start.
8. The place will grow on you. What works today will likely be something you can improve later. We “learn” to live in our homes. From how the natural light places to discovering a draft makes your reading spot unpleasant, a lot can change as we inhabit our spaces over the course of a year. If you take the attitude of not trying to “finish” your home, but instead making it the best space you can for today, it’ll take some of the pressure off the unpacking phase, and save some of the customizing fun for later.
9. Contain the chaos. Unless you can take a couple weeks off work and have lots of people helping, the odds are pretty good it’ll take a few weeks to really finish your move-in. As you undo things, unpack boxes, and make progress, keep moving what’s left into compacted areas so the clutter doesn’t cover the areas and make your “vision” of the space harder to hang onto.
10. Enjoy yourself. This is your new abode, and you deserve to love where you live. Take the time to get it right, and know that the end result will be worth it.
Finally, please, recycle your cardboard boxes. Alternatively, listing them on the “free” section of Craigslist might help someone else’s move.