Whether an unexpected relocation has been dropped in your lap because of an exciting job opportunity or you’re a procrastination packer, sometimes a speed-run packing session is just how it has to be when you’re gearing up for a move.
Between planning your move, gathering packing supplies, hiring long-distance movers, finding a new place to live, and packing up your home—all while balancing the regular demands of your daily life—it’s easy to find yourself desperately wishing for more hours in the day.
If you’re facing a last-minute move and are struggling to figure out where to start and how to get everything packed up by moving day, take a deep breath...you can do this! Just follow these steps:
1. Find out what jobs the movers will do
When you’re crunched for time, there is no sense in doing something you don’t absolutely have to do. If you’re hiring movers—and for moves with short turnaround time you should seriously consider it—find out exactly what services are included and what they are able to help you with before you begin doing it yourself. If your moving company of choice doesn’t offer in-home packing services, there are companies that do offer these services exclusively, or you can hire people from a service such as TaskRabbit.
Keep in mind that higher service levels or hiring additional help for packing will be more expensive than packing yourself, so be sure to factor this cost into your moving budget. If you’re moving for work and your employer is covering your relocation costs, document any additional packing costs in detail.
For more information about when and how to hire a moving team, check out our Ultimate Guide.
2. Make a plan & recruit helpers
Don’t think too far ahead, as that way madness lies (a.k.a. becoming overwhelmed by the immensity of the moving process). Instead, focus on breaking everything down into easily manageable tasks by making a to-do list of everything you have to get done, grouping those tasks by room and the order in which they have to get done, and then starting to check them off.
With your to-do list ready, it’s time to call in all of your moving favors, assuming it is safe to do so and you are not breaking any COVID-19 protocols in your state or city. Anyone you have ever helped move within your pod should be called upon as soon as possible. Friends and family who can safely lend a hand should be asked as well—a last-minute move calls for all hands on deck. Make sure you supply masks and hand sanitizer and keep everyone working in separate, well-ventilated rooms where possible to keep your packing party pandemic-friendly.
TSI TIP: If the prospect of asking friends and family over to help you pack during the pandemic is too much, seriously consider investing in a higher level of packing services. Professional movers have COVID-19 protocols in place and know how to pack quickly and efficiently—it’s literally their job.
Need some help putting together your moving to-do list? Download our printable moving timeline and checklist.
3. Pick up packing supplies
In order to pack your belongings, you will first need boxes, tape, packing paper, and cushioning material. Pick up your supplies ASAP so you can start using them right away.
If you’re not sure what supplies to get, check out our posts on how many boxes you'll need and how to pack boxes properly (including a printable packing supplies checklist).
Unless you have less than a day to get packed, you should try to make time for decluttering, even if it is minimal. Taking a few moments to sort through which belongings you do and don’t need will save you space, time, and money in the long run.
There are two tactics you can take during a time-crunched declutter:
- Be utterly ruthless and donate/throw out as much as possible. This approach is beneficial because the fewer belongings you have, the fewer items you have to pack, and the cheaper your move will be. However, you do run the risk of declutterer’s remorse on the other side of the move. If you’re worried about regretting your decluttering choices, try using approach #2.
- Skip it (for the most part) and deal with decluttering during the unpacking process. Separate out only the easy decluttering candidates and avoid the heartache of having to make tough choices during a high-pressure time and experiencing regret later.
With your plan of attack selected, you can start sorting your stuff into piles to keep, donate, or toss, placing “keep” items directly into a moving box.
Get more tips for decluttering before you move.
TSI TIP: Don’t forget to drop off your donations, recycle your recyclables, and throw out your garbage. Don’t hesitate to delegate these jobs—this is a great task for one of your helpers to handle. If it’s not an item they can drop off, ask them to arrange for a charity to pick it up. Learn more about what to do with your decluttered items.
5. Get your go-bag ready
One thing you definitely need to do, especially when you’re not able to take the time to carefully label all your boxes, is make a bag or box of essential items you will need in the first 24 to 48 hours of arriving at your home. Each person in your home (including pets) should have their own essential moving kit. In this bag or box you should include items such as:
- Prescriptions and other daily meds
- Changes of clothes, including PJs
- Essential technologies (phone, laptop, chargers, etc.)
- Important documents & ID
- Earplugs and other sleep-essentials
- One towel and set of sheets
Learn more about what to put in your moving kit.
6. Enter the smooth brain zone
This is not the advice we would normally give, but when you are really under the wire, it’s okay to make organizing a problem for future you. Pack delicate and breakable items first and carefully, label them accordingly and then turn off your brain. Don’t worry too much about what you are packing—the important thing when you are up against a deadline is getting things in a box.
Here are some tips to help you get you on your way (and give you permission to do these things if you are a person who has a hard time not organizing as you go):
- Stick to the to-do list you made earlier and do not forget to share it with anyone who has shown up to help you move—they need to know what to do without asking.
- It doesn’t matter if items belong together, just get them in the box.
- Skip labeling the box in detail, and just indicate what room it belongs in and whether it contains anything breakable.
- Use soft items as packing material. While this is not advised for protecting breakable items, items like socks, towels, and clothing can help fill space in boxes and prevent shifting.
- Make an assembly line in which one or more people make boxes and pack, and one person handles taping shut, labeling, and stacking the boxes.
- Leave clothes on the hanger. Wrap the hanger hooks with elastics or string, wrap the clothing around the hangers, and put it in a box.
- Leave clothing in the drawer. To keep it from flopping around, cover the drawers with saran wrap and tape.
How to Pack for a Move Quickly - Conclusion
When you don’t have time to procrastinate on packing, put together a plan and start getting things done as soon as possible. It will become easier and feel less overwhelming once you dive into the process. If you’re not sure where to begin, just remember to:
- Find out what your moving team will do
- Make a plan
- Recruit help
- Pick up your supplies
- Declutter your belongings
- Pack a bag of essentials
- Start packing things into boxes
Get more moving advice on our blog.