How to Pack for Moving

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When some people hear that I’m moving, they sigh and say, “I could never go through that again!” And there’s some science to back that up; when you look at lists of the most stressful events in a person’s life, moving is ranked right up there with divorce.

Michael and I selling our home and taking a glamourous year-long “holiday” in a beautiful house while we look for our next fabulous home. Yes, you may laugh at that. You know how I love change! So really, this move is not going to be that particularly stressful for me, though I won’t speak for Michael. For one, we aren’t changing communities. We’ll still live in Nashville, and still keep the same circle of friends, so there won’t be earthshattering changes to our lives — really, just some changes in what we see out our front door.

Before we make that move, though, we’ve got to pack. And packing can be difficult. Of course, you can hire a moving company that will come in and wrap everything perfectly, moving every object into your new home and putting it (approximately) where it was in your old home. But done right, a move can be a cleansing exercise, a way to force yourself into simplifying your life. It’s just going to take a bit of work on your part.

Here’s my advice about how to make moving a positive experience.

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  1. Take your time.

If you rush into packing, you’ll end up shoving 90 percent of your stuff into boxes the week before your move. When all that stuff arrives at your new house, you’ll just be unpacking the same mess you had in your old one. Instead, take your time, and force yourself to decide what you really want to keep.

Downside: This will take about 900% more time than just shoving things into boxes.

  1. Take it piece-by-piece.

Look at every item, every single thing you own, and consider its place in your life. Take this as an opportunity to go Marie Kondo on everything. If it doesn’t spark joy, then don’t put it in a box. If it’s a maybe —something you don’t love but don’t feel you can just get rid of — put it in a box marked “One Year” and set it aside. (We’ll get back to that in a later post.)

Downside: When you have to tissue wrap and box every item, they stop sparking joy pretty quickly.

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  1. Donate and discard.

Sure, have a garage sale if you have time, but never forget that your first goal is getting rid of extra stuff, not getting an extra fifty cents for a chipped candleholder. Instead, invite over younger friends and relatives who are just setting up house, and let them just take what they want. After that, cart it all off to some worthy nonprofit.

Downside: It’s hard to find a charity that will accept 20 boxes of 40-year-old decorating books. And yes, this did happen to me.

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  1. Refinish and refurbish.

A move is a great time to get maintenance done on your furniture. If you need a sofa or chairs recovered, or a table refinished, sending them to a restorer or upholsterer saves you room on the moving truck. It also gives you a little bit more room in your new home to move things around, since your beautifully refinished furniture will arrive at least a few weeks after you move in.

Downside: You’re probably going to discover you’d rather have a new sofa. What do upholsterers do with abandoned furniture?

These are easy steps, and they take nothing more than time and planning. When you arrive in your new home, you’ll be opening boxes that hold only your favorite treasures. And what better way to start fresh than that?


Mary Spalding is a Nashville based interior designer with over 30 years of experience. She has overseen countless home revitalizations, renovations, and restorations. She can be reached with your projects and ideas at mary@spaldingway.com.

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  • Thank you for sharing your experience of downsizing and moving with us! I am not moving anytime soon but I am going to take some of this advice~

  • Mary-

    Love this post!
    I too – love to move and edit down only what I love and what sparks joy!
    It’s so cathartic and cleansing…

    Take only what you really love! And start fresh. – xo