Moving into a new home is an exciting but stressful time. It’s also an opportune time to address your clutter problems head on and start your new space on the right foot.
As tempting as it might be to unpack quickly by shoving things in drawers and closets, taking the extra time to get organized will save you headaches in the long run.
If you’re ready to organize your new home while you unpack, use these tips as your guide. You’ll be a new home organization expert in no time!
Pack a Moving Essentials Box
This tip will require a bit of foresight, but having a box with your must-have items can make unpacking so much easier.
Start by thinking about what you’ll need to use in the first hours or days in the new house. Consider items like toiletries, a change of clothes, or a child’s favorite toy. Then, identify the tools you’ll want handy for the unpacking process. These might include items like scissors, a box cutter, or your spare house keys.
The idea is to save you from wondering where your essential items are buried in a sea of boxes. Set this box aside to be packed in your car (not the moving truck!) so you can access it right away. Then, either unpack your essentials box right away or make a point to keep it away from other boxes. If your essentials box gets lost in the madness as soon as you get inside, it won’t do you much good!
Plan Ahead to Avoid the Rush
One of the biggest mistakes people make when they organize a new home is trying to rush and do it in a day or a weekend. If possible, plan ahead by adding an extra few days off to fully unpack and organize. Speeding through the process just means you’ll end up cutting corners, leaving you with organization issues down the line.
If you have small children, plan a few moving activities to keep them occupied. Or, if possible, enlist an extra set of hands with a babysitter or grandparent. You’ll be able to tackle your house organization with a clearer mind knowing the kids are staying out of trouble.
Unpack and Organize Room by Room
Many people approach unpacking by picking up any box and tackling whatever is inside. Unfortunately, that “unpack as you go” strategy isn’t the most helpful. Why? It’s too easy to get distracted by a box in the bedroom while you’re unpacking the kitchen, and you won’t have context about how a room’s items all fit together.
Instead, it’s best to categorize your unpacking and go room by room. Before you start unpacking, make a quick plan for which rooms you’ll tackle first. Then, make sure that all of the boxes for that area are accessible. This is especially important if you have a staging area for unpacking, like a garage or storage unit.
Pro-tip: When packing, label (or color-coordinate) all your boxes with their designated rooms to make it easier to unpack room by room.
Most moving experts agree to start with the kitchen first. The sooner you unpack the kitchen, the sooner you can cook at home and save money on eating out. Kitchens also tend to be centrally located in the home, so you’ll have one major area that feels “finished” right away.
After the kitchen, you may want to tackle bedrooms, bathrooms, or a living room next. Save rooms like guest bedrooms or offices until the essential, most lived-in rooms are unpacked.
Declutter as You Unpack
While you’re unpacking, make sure to have a pile for donations and a pile for trash. If you packed in a rush, you might not have had time to declutter, but you should before putting things away. Even if you did declutter already, you’re likely to find items that don’t feel as essential in the new space.
As you’re unpacking, if you see an item you haven’t used in a while, put it in the donations pile. If you didn’t use it in your old house, you’re unlikely to use it now just because you’re in a new home. You can always review the donations pile when you’re finished unpacking to double-check that you have what you need.
Organize a New Home with Stuff You Already Have
When you’re organizing a new home, it’s tempting to splurge on new supplies to make the process easier.
Thankfully, there are tons of creative organizing hacks around the internet. Online hacks tend to have one thing in common: they use average household objects instead of expensive tools and containers. A few examples are plastic magazine racks to organize hair accessories and tools, spice carousels to organize loose garage tools like screws, or mason jars to organize cupcake liners.
Before you rush out to Target to buy a bunch of storage bins and totes, start by cataloging and repurposing items you already have. You might be surprised by how much you can tackle without spending a dime! Watch the video below for four more simple organization hacks using common household objects. These tips are perfect for small, pesky items like bobby pins, electrical wires, and small office tools you can’t organize.
Unpack First, Then Decorate
As you unpack, you’ll likely find décor items alongside your other things. While it might be tempting to start decorating your new space right away, save the décor for after you’re fully unpacked. Once all the essential items are put away, you’ll understand where your design items fit in.
Because every home is different, you may find that you have more or less wall space than you did before. You might need to prioritize which items you hang up or display. You might also be able to decorate in clever ways that don’t require putting holes in your walls, like leaning a picture frame against a wall instead of hanging it.
Time to Start Organizing Your New Home!
Moving may be daunting, but with a strategy in place, unpacking and organizing will set you up for success in your new space. If you’ve always struggled with how to get organized after moving, these tips are sure to make the process easier—and maybe even a little enjoyable. You can do it!
More Moving Resources:
- 5 Essential Tips for a Less Stressful Move
- How to Protect Your Furniture When Moving
- How to Plan a DIY Home Renovation + Budget Spreadsheet
Editor’s Note: Originally published May 9th, 2017, and was revised on June 30th, 2023 with more information.