How to Unpack After a Move

Posted in Moving on May 11, 2023, tagged with moving tips

How to Unpack After a Move

After the herculean task of packing up your stuff, loading and unloading your moving van (or supervising your moving team), coordinating the logistics of your move, and arriving at your new home, there is still one final job to tackle: unpacking. It seems almost unfair that after all of that work, still more work awaits you. But unless you want to live in a sea of disorganized boxes, you’ll have to get started eventually.

If you find your motivation waning in the final legs of the moving marathon or you’re just not sure where to start the unpacking process, worry not. We’ll help you figure out how to unpack your stuff after a move, including:

  • What to unpack first
  • When and why to pause the unpacking process
  • What to unpack next
  • What you can leave till the end

Let’s dig in.

What To Unpack First

First things first—the essentials. These are the items you need to live in your new home in the first few days. Unpack these items the day of your move:

  • Your essentials kit, if you packed one 
  • Computer, internet modem/router, and other electronic devices
  • Items you need for work 
  • Bed linens and clothes
  • Towels
  • Toiletries, prescriptions, and personal-care items
  • Enough dishes, pots and pans, utensils, and flatware to get through a few days
  • Coffee maker or kettle
  • Soap—hand soap, laundry soap, and dish soap 
  • Tools—you will likely need these to put together furniture, decorate your walls, and repair small things around the house as you unpack

With these items unpacked, you should be able to get through the first week in your new place without having to frantically unpack boxes looking for things you need at the last minute. 

Pause The Unpacking Process

With your essentials unpacked, it’s time to pause. There are a few things to consider before you unbox anything else or start decorating. 

This is actually the best time to work on your furniture layout and tackle any painting or renovations you want to do before everything is unboxed and in the way. However, in the middle of a move, pausing to paint or make changes to your home can feel overwhelming, so don’t feel pressured to do any of these things. If it’s not something you can manage right now, you can always paint and make changes later. Plus, sometimes it helps to see all your items “in place” before you can start visualizing changes or better layouts. 

What To Unpack Next

After you have the essentials out of the way and any major changes or renos are completed, the room you unpack first depends on your priorities—do you work from home? If so, you should probably start with the office. Do you love or need to cook? Consider the kitchen

TSI TIP: Don’t get too hung up on finding the perfect spot for everything now. You will probably reorganize your kitchen layout more than once before it feels right, so focus instead on getting everything out of the boxes and into the cupboards. 

Whichever room you start in, it’s important to unpack the things you need on a daily basis first. In your office, this could mean the contents of your desk and your computer and printer setup. In the kitchen, you’ll want to unpack all of your regularly-used utensils (such as your favorite wooden spoon—we know you have one) and appliances (can openers, the microwave), and save specialized items for later. 

In the living room, you’ll want to set up your TV and any entertainment system components that you have. It feels a lot easier to unpack when you have a comfort show playing in the background. 

TSI TIP: Cut down boxes as soon as they are empty. This reduces clutter and helps provide visual confirmation of the progress you’re making. 

In terms of decorating and really properly finishing a space, we recommend beginning with the bedroom. It may be tempting to leave this space until last because it’s typically the least visitor-facing room in the home, but having your bedroom set up and looking how you want often makes your new home actually feel like home, and it can help you feel more organized in general. It’s also nice not to have to go to bed and wake up with a visible reminder that you still have so much stuff to unpack. 

Learn more about how to organize your home as you unpack: 

What You Can Leave To The End

The things that are easiest to leave to the end are typically also the most fun items to unpack. These are the items that make your house really start to feel like your home and look like your space, such as:

  • Decor items
  • Artwork and photographs
  • Collections and tchotchkes 
  • Candles
  • Books

The final unpacking phase should also include rooms you don’t regularly use and things you don’t currently need or that may actually be better saved for storage, such as: 

  • Out-of-season clothing
  • Seasonal decor
  • Seasonal outdoor furniture
  • Yard work tools
  • Boxes from the basement or attic
  • Guest bedrooms 
  • Dining room 
  • Garage


Unpacking after a move can feel daunting, but it has to be done. Make the process easier on yourself by:

  • Unpacking items you need on a daily basis first
  • Consider what projects would be easier to tackle in an unpacked home and tackle them before proceeding if possible
  • Resume unpacking, starting with the rooms and items you use the most
  • Save items you don’t need immediately for the end

Need help with the unpacking process? Consider hiring a professional organizing service to get assistance settling in. 

Need help unpacking?

TSI's professional organizers can help you unpack and settle in after a move. 

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