Moving Essentials | Must-Have Items for Keeping Life “Normal” Between Homes!

Moving Essentials

This most recent move marks the 6th time in the last 10 years that Greg and I have packed up our home (with the help of professional movers, of course) and re-located. Over the years, we’ve had some pretty bumpy and miserable transitions due to rookie mistakes and poor planning. Like the time we slept on the bare carpeted floor for DAYs with our clothes rolled up as pillows because we didn’t think to bring the air mattress/pillows and refused to go out and buy new ones because ours’ were on the inbound moving truck. Or when we moved with Henry at 8 weeks old, and I packed ALL of his 6- and 9-month clothes in the car because “babies grow so fast, and we might need them before the trucks arrives;” and then we could never find anything we needed because the car was too full of baby stuff! #truestory

Well, the 6th time must be a charm because this move was our most bump-free one yet! We finally took the time to give some good thought to what all we’d need in the last house before checking out, on the road between homes, and in the new house before the moving trucks arrived…and then packed our cars accordingly. Yes, our cars were full; and yes, we had bags and bags of stuff to bring in and out of each place we stayed over the course of three weeks. But we were able to eat in more frequently, save money by not re-buying things we already own, and live relatively comfortably for an extended period of time without a majority of our belongings!

I realize not all of you wonderful readers out there are moving this summer or anytime soon. But I also know I have more and more military spouses out there reading, as well as other folks who have moves coming up, and thought this time-tested info was worth sharing. Use it this summer, send the link to a friend who is moving, bookmark it for later or just pass on through for today. I promise new-house content is coming SOON!

One last thing: these lists don’t contain the obvious things like clothes, hygiene products, and snacks – I’m pretty sure you all know you need those things when you travel! Instead, these are the things you may not have thought of but will be oh-so-thankful you have them when all your stuff is packed onto a truck! Also, each family and every move is so so so different. Keep in mind your unique situation, where you’re moving to, how you’re getting there, and what your family needs to be comfortable in mind at all times!

Okay…I’ve broken it down into four categories: Eating / Living / Kids / Valuables. Let’s get to it!

Moving Essentials | Eating

One of the toughest parts of living between homes/traveling is eating out for every meal. Not only do the costs add up fast, but it only takes a few days for the effects of excess calories/fat/sugar from restaurant food to take its physical toll. We have found that bringing just enough kitchen essentials to prepare simple meals and enjoy our creature comforts of morning cereal and coffee makes a huge difference. Here’s our must-haves for meal time and why:

  1. Paper plates, napkins, bowls, cups, and utensils. Moving time is not a fun time to be doing lots of dishes. You can certainly cut back on waste by packing plastic-ware and washing as you go, but the simplicity of paper really can’t be beat.
  2. Folding 6′ table. Sitting on the floor for meals gets old really quick. These 6′ tables that fold in half are WONDERFUL for eating meals on, and they still fit in any sized car!
  3. Camp chairs. Not just for meals, but also for watching movies/reading books on electronic devices or even just hanging out…chairs are better than the floor at any age; and like the table, camp chairs fold up for compact transport!
  4. 1 cutting board + 1 all-purpose knife. Have you tried cutting vegetables with a plastic knife? Not fun. Leaving back a single cutting board and a good knife allows you to prepare meals with ease!
  5. One pot + one pan + one cookie sheet. Between these three kitchen items, I am able to make a many of our favorite family meals.
  6. Ziplock bags. Cooking while moving is not completely enjoyable. To reduce the awkward and exhausting meal prep times, I often cook in bulk and then bag up leftovers for following days.
  7. Coffee pot + mugs. Greg and I are pretty serious about our coffee, and running out first thing to Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks gets time consuming and expensive. As ridiculous as it seems, keeping our Keurig and two real coffee mugs back is completely worth the hassle in order to have favorite morning beverage just as we like it!
  8. Dish soap + sponge + paper towels. Even if you go with paper plates and utensils, the pot, pan, cookie sheet and mugs still need to be washed. Keep back basic washing supplies to keep everything clean.

Moving Essentials | Living

I already told you our story about sleeping on the floor with nothing but our clothes as pillows. We’ve also been guilty of having to shower sans curtain because we forgot to keep one back/bring one with us and didn’t realize it until shower time! Here’s a few more of our Living Must-Haves…

  1. Air mattress. I used to think sleeping on the floor was no big deal. I must be getting old, because the last time I did it it was pretty much torture. An air mattress, while not the most comfortable thing in the world, is a big upgrade from the floor. Just don’t forget the pump!
  2. Bedding + pillows. Sleeping is a whole lot better with sheets and pillows. Just saying. Not only are they good to have with you for the air mattress, but you’ll know exactly where they are once your mattress does arrive in your new place!
  3. Shower curtain and/or liner. Even if you pack the curtain, leave back the liner to keep both mess and privacy in tact. Be sure to take it with you (or buy a new one en route) so you can shower comfortably in the new place as well.
  4. Towels. Air drying is fun and all, but really…there should always be room in the car for towels!
  5. Laundry detergent. If you’re going to be without your stuff and on the road for a while, doing laundry is inevitable. Movers usually won’t move liquids. Instead of giving it away, keep detergent with you so you don’t have to buy while in transit.
  6. Hand soap. The old home and the next home both need hand soap. I’ve been guilty of giving all our soap away when purging our liquids only to run right back out and buy new bottles because well…you need hand soap. Bring it with you. It will get used. Just bag it up in those Ziplocks while traveling to keep messes at bay.
  7. Clorox wipes. Even in an empty house, it’s nice to wipe down surfaces after meals or bath time. Keep a single container back and bring them with you to the new place to give it a quick wipe down before boxes are brought in.
  8. Step stool. More often than not, we have to paint and clean before moving out. Usually the step stool gets packed up, and we’re left asking neighbors to bail us out. Not a big deal, but this time we kept ours’ back, and it was used a ton. It’s now on our Moving Essentials List!
  9. Trash bags (not pictured). Even though the trashcans will likely get packed up, you will still generate a lot of trash, especially during clean out. Keep back a box of big trash bags that can easily come with you.

There are other items I didn’t list as “essentials” but might be useful to keep back depending your situation. Paint rollers/trays, a vacuum, cleaning supplies (don’t give them away until you’ve cleaned!), and a lamp (if you don’t have overhead lighting) can all be useful!

Moving Essentials | Kids

Moving is a stressful time for the whole family, but especially for the kiddos. Our little guy is handling this whole transition like a champ, but we’ve also tried to keep our routines and systems in tact to help him out. Keep in mind, our son is 4, so we are out of the baby stage that requires a lot more stuff! These were our must-haves for our son this time around!

  1. Sleeping bag/crib. Depending on the age of your child, you’ll need to consider something for them to sleep on. Pack’n’plays and sleeping bags are the easiest and most compact options for kiddos…although I’ve seen some pretty cute kid-friendly air mattresses as well!
  2. Music player/noise machine. An empty room (in the old house, but especially the new one) can be really frightening. Having Henry’s usual music helped him fall asleep without any troubles.
  3. Sippy cups. While Greg and I relied mostly on paper products, I did keep back Henry’s plastic sippy cups both for ease and his comfort. They keep spills at bay (in the home and in the car) and can be put right into the fridge for repetitive use.
  4. Books. Bedtime stories are part of Henry’s nighttime routine, and we really didn’t want to disrupt it during this transition. Even though he was in a sleeping bag in an empty room, he still had his normal series of events. Don’t bring the whole bookcase…5-8 books you can rotate between is perfect!
  5. Toys. Henry had to do a lot of playing on his own while we painted back our house and coordinated packing/unpacking with the movers. We strategically picked easily-packable toys that keep him entertained for long periods of time. We brought coloring supplies, a box of trains (no track) and a box of blocks, and he was good for three weeks!

Moving Essentials | Valuables

Finally, it is highly recommended that you keep any and all valuables with you in your suitcase rather than in the moving boxes. For safe travels, here’s how we handled our most valuable things:

  1. Jewelry. I am not a huge jewelry wearer, but I do have quite a few expensive pieces. As such, I use a two-part system to transport my jewelry. I use this jewelry portfolio for my costume-type jewelry that I wear more often and keep in a more accessible part of my suitcase. I then have a travel-sized solid jewelry box that can hold the rest of my collection. This box stays deeper in my suitcase and doesn’t come out while in transit. When in hotels, we lock this box into the safe if there is one.
  2. Important personal documents. Passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates, medical records, car/house titles/documents all should be hand-carried from one location to the next. I shared here how I organize these items and keep them safe while on the road.
  3. Camera and lenses. Nice cameras, as well as lenses should be personally transported as well. Use a bag especially designed for camera equipment to ensure everything travels safely.
  4. Computers/devices. Admittedly, we are a huge Apple/gadget family. Not only for my work here on the blog, but also in our personal lives, we use our devices a lot. We have a pretty hefty collection of expensive and precious electronics, and we choose to bring all of these items in our cars, including the big computer. We use the original box to pack/transport the computer and have cases and covers for our phones, tablets and laptops. All the small electronics are packed into one single “Electronics bag” so we can easily find it, access it, and bring it in to hotels with us as necessary.
  5. Cords/charging devices. Whether it’s for your phone, camera, laptop, portable tv…whatever…be sure you don’t let the packers box up your cords. Set them aside and keep them in a designated bag so you can find them and keep charged up at all times!

Greg always calls us “The Clammpets” when we move. Every.single.time. And for good and obvious reason: our cars are always packed to the gills with all sorts of crap things…some quite necessary, others not so much (although we’ve never had a rocking chair tied to the roof…yet!) The fact of the matter is when you move long distances and are faced with the possibility of living in temporary lodging or your new place without your stuff for long periods of time, there are just some creature comforts that make life a bit better and a bit more normal for all! With each move, we learn what things need to be added or can be kept off the list for next time.

I’d love to know: Do you move a lot? Do you have a “No Pack” list of things you keep with you during a move? I’d love hear what you load up in the car/suitcases!

Next week, I’m planning on revealing our Kansas house and showing you everything going on here! For now…back to unpacking!

See you Monday!

Megan

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10 Responses to Moving Essentials | Must-Have Items for Keeping Life “Normal” Between Homes!

  1. I admire your organization!

    We just relocated for the 5th time in the past ten years, so I can relate to a lot of the frequent mover issues. Although when it comes to lists of essentials, I actually think we may have gotten *worse* at it as time has gone on – it's as if we stopped worrying a little too much. In fact, until reading your line about jewellery, I just realized that I left a few pieces in a dresser drawer that I not only didn't carry myself, but that I forgot to check on now that we've arrived. I should go and do that now actually. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. These are great lists! Hubby and I moved across country a few times during his time in the Navy. At first it was just us, but the last moves involved little kids. Your ideas here are fantastic! One more tip for anyone that is using professional movers, if you don't want something packed – put it in your car. For one move I was pretty organized and had a collection of things that were going with me set aside. by the time the everything was packed and loaded on the truck, I realized my carefully selected things were gone! They arrived safely at the new house weeks later but UGH, I had to buy clothes and other things.

    The other benefit to loading the stuff in your car is knowing it will all fit. As you noted, it's easy to end up with lots of crap that you need. But if it doesn't fit, you end up leaving things behind which isn't helpful either. I loaded the car as though we were leaving before the movers arrived, then brought that stuff back inside once the truck was gone.

    My last tip is the "open me first" boxes. This is the stuff you need on your first night in the new house. Clean sheets for every bed plus pillows and blankets, pajamas and towels for every person, a complete outfit and underwear for each person, books/toys for the kids (remember, this is stuff they haven't seen in days/weeks so it's like brand new to them!), paper products for eating, stuff for cleaning, etc. And toilet paper – it's amazing how many times we moved and there was no toilet paper in the house when we arrived.

    This usually ended up to 2 boxes, but became more as our family grew. I just put everything together when the movers came and made sure I wrote OPEN ME FIRST on the boxes before loading. I could open these and have the beds made, everyone fed and entertained, and everyone went to bed clean. After days/weeks on the road it was always nice to have some familiar items close at hand so we could sleep well in our own beds at last.

    Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your world!
    Jen

  3. Just found your blog (searched for "removable toy bin labels") and I think I'll be spending lots of time reading past posts! We are also a military family with 7 moves in the last 10 years- your lists are great and have given me some new ideas! Your first paragraph had me laughing since there have defintely been moves where we didn't bring enough or brought too much. We've yet to have a smooth move, but we learn something every move that's for sure! This last time around though I've realized that I am not organized enough and there is just too much chaos nearing/during a PCS that I've actually bought duplicates or travel versions of some essentials and put them in bins labeled "DO NOT PACK" and can just pull those aside quickly next time around. I think the only thing I would add to your "living" list is a few tools (hammer, multitask screwdriver, etc) for those last minute fixes or quick needs at the new place. Thanks for the inspired info and hope you're settling into your new place 🙂

  4. Thank you! I love your blog, but this is probably your best post ever! 🙂 And I'll keep track of the comments… People usually have a lot of good ideas.
    /Ellen

  5. We have the "last shut/first open" box too. This holds tools for assembly/disassembly (you would not believe the number of times movers came and FORGOT their tools!), door stops, post it notes/sharpie markers (for labeling rooms, items to not pack, reminders, and lists), box cutters, 1 roll paper towels, 2 rolls toilet paper, extension cords, heavy duty ziplock bags (for corralling hardware), and painters tape (for attaching said hardware to the furniture it belongs with).

  6. We are not a military family but my husband and I counted up and we have moved 12 times in our 18 years of marriage! Call me crazy!! The upside to it is that moving that often really does cut down on the clutter. I have family members that have not moved in 10 or more years and they have waaay to much stuff. 😉 Packing and moving has gotten a lot less stressful because we realize what works for us and learn from each previous move. With another move in the next year coming up I'll definitely be bookmarking this page! thanks for all the great ideas.

  7. Now this is a list that I’m going to have to share with all my customers having removals in Sydney done! We try to make sure that they are prepared for the move, but sometimes, your things get the better of you and you end up with everything all over or nothing at all! Haha!

  8. Great post! My sister is moving with her family at the end of April and your article will be of a great help for her. I’m sure she’ll be very glad to have your suggestions on mind while working on their move. Thank you for sharing all this helpful information!

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