How To Prepare For a Successful Move

How many times have you attempted to prepare for a successful move to a new home? Not counting local moves or college, I have made nine major moves {to a different state or, in one case, country} in my adult life. While we don’t yet know exactly when or where, a tenth is imminent. 

Being prepared in advance is critical for a successful move. Even if you utilize a moving company, there are so many ways you can make the overall experience more organized and less stressful. You can start some weeks, even months in advance; others you will be need to take care of closer to your move date. 

This post will address all the behind the scenes work you need to complete to prepare for a successful move and smooth sailing on moving day.

Three yellow-beige decorative boxes stacked on top of each other. Text reads: How to prepare for a successful move.


Even if you have not been in your current house/apartment for very long {as a military family, we have been averaging about two-and-a-half years} you have undoubtedly accumulated a lot of stuff since you moved in. Now is the time to evaluate everything critically and let go of what you can.

Start small if you must: Kids outgrow clothes and toys, random things collect in your closet, and books hang around collecting dust. Just walking around the house for a few minutes could probably nudge you to consider ditching at least ten things. 

Even if you utilize a moving company, there are so many ways you can make the overall experience more organized and less stressful. Click To Tweet

One advantage for us is that we move so frequently it is easy to remember if we used a particular thing while we lived in our current house. This gives us a better sense of whether or not we should hang on to a specific item. Looking at something still boxed up with moving company stickers on it, and realizing you have not opened it and did not miss it makes it easier to let go. 

Don’t forget big stuff, too, like furniture. Just because it has always been there does not mean it is useful or necessary. Consider the layout of your new home, and if you would prefer to use that space for other things.


Once you have made a good sweep of the entire house, remove anything you do not intend to keep as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

Try not to postpone or overthink this part. In all likelihood you will not change your mind and you will not have regrets. We have decluttered our home dozens of times over the years. I can count on one hand the number of specific items that invoked even a twinge of maybe I should have kept that

Personally we have made several donations to the Vietnam Veterans of America. In many cities they will come directly to your home to pick up your donations, as long as individual items can be handled by one person {i.e., no large furniture or appliances}. 


Now that you have pared down a bit, organize what remains in a way that makes sense. I like to start by cleaning out closets, cabinets, and drawers. 

While your bedroom closet is probably the easiest place to start, you really have to go room by room and work your way through the entire house. Don’t forget the kitchen cabinets, pantry, coat closet, desk, linen closet, and anywhere else you have stuff behind a door or drawer.

You may have already started this as part of the finding-things-to-donate process. I have found the best way to accomplish this is to take everything out {and I mean everything}, clean as necessary, and put only the things that truly belong there back in.

Likely as you do this you will find more to donate, but even if not just seeing how neat and tidy everything looks will put a smile on your face. 

We have decluttered our home dozens of times over the years. I can count on one hand the number of specific items that invoked even a twinge of maybe I should have kept that.  Click To Tweet

In addition to donation items you missed the first go-around, you will also probably find several things that belong in another part of the house. Move them to their correct home {or find them a new one}.

Once you have dealt with all these “hidden” areas—or simultaneously while going room-to-room if that works better for you—you will also need to deal with things “out in the open”—like bookshelves and lamps and knick-knacks and countertops. Again, the important thing here is that every item has an appropriate home. As a general rule, if you pick something up and realize it is in the wrong spot, move it right then without setting it back down.

Another tip: Put anything small that you want to keep together {e.g., nail polishes, hair accessories, fridge magnets,} into Ziploc bags so they don’t get tossed around or lost. You can even take it a step further and box up small, like items in advance, such as extra toiletries or your junk drawer. {You know you have one.}

Blond woman smiling as she holds up a large cardboard box. Text reads: Ways you can prepare for a smooth moving day.


Once you have decluttered, donated, and organized, now it is time to clean. 

You want to move a clean, organized house. You may think who cares it’s all going in boxes and I’m just going to have to re-organize it on the other side anyway. But trust me when I say it will make your life 100 times easier when you start unpacking.

As you declutter and organize, you should also be wiping down cabinets and shelves and bookshelves. Vacuum the couch cushions. Dust everything before it gets wrapped up. Send kitchen chairs free of crumbs, wipe down furniture, take big toys outside and hose them off. {Don’t forget patio furniture while you’re at it.} 

You will probably still want to do a thorough clean of the closets, windows, floors, etc. after all of your belongings are out of the way, but this will save you valuable time later.


I like to try to finish as many open consumables {e.g., personal care products and household cleaners} as possible beforehand. Some things simply should not be packed {e.g., any cleaning supplies that could be potentially flammable} while others would just be a pain if they oozed over whatever they are packed with {e.g., an open shampoo or conditioner bottle}. To play it safe, we like to use up as much as we can so there is simply less to deal with.

You will also of course want to use up as many non-perishable food items as possible. While technically not a big deal to move cereal boxes or cans of soup, do you really want to waste time packing and unpacking that kind of stuff? {I do usually pack less-frequently purchased items like spices even if they are open, as long as the dates are still good.} 

While completing this step, you will want to take a closer look at the medicine cabinet {if you haven’t already}. Do not move expired or unwanted meds. {If you need guidance on how to dispose of them properly, check out these guidelines from the FDA.}

This would also be a good time to verify what medications and first aid supplies you intend to travel with and put those aside. If you need a refill or any over-the-counter meds, do it now while you’re thinking about it.


This will look different depending on how many days you will be spend in a partially packed house and/or living out of a suitcase and/or traveling to your new home. 

We usually pack our suitcases similarly to how we pack for most vacations, but instead of one outfit per person per day, we typically go with four per person max. Yes, we may need to do laundry multiple times, and yes, we might be tired of the clothes in the suitcase by the time our household goods arrive at our destination. But, four changes of clothes times five people is more than enough to worry about.

Make sure to consider weather {moving from warm to cool? cool to warm?}, activities you might do while in transit {e.g., swimsuits for a hotel pool}, and entertainment for yourself and the kids {books, Kindles, small toys, art supplies).


All of our recent moves have involved a moving company coming to our home and packing everything and loading it on the truck, so if you are executing a completely DIY move some of this section might not apply. 

First and foremost, if you don’t want it packed, get it out of sight.

In our experience, movers will pack every nonliving thing that is not nailed down. I cannot even count the number of people I know who have found trash or dirty dishes neatly packed with their household goods upon arriving at their destination. 

Prepare for a successful move for your pet as well. If you have a dog or other animal that needs more space and will have to be let out you may want to find a sitter for the day or board him or her. Other pets {like our kitty} can simply be put in a small room with food, water, and litter {bathroom if you have more than one, or the laundry room} for the day. You will need to make sure anything in that room that needs to be packed is outside of the door and you clearly mark the door as not to be opened.

You can also put your suitcases and anything else you don’t want packed right away in the “pet” room if you have one—or alternatively, in the trunk of your car. If there is something you want/need to leave out all day {e.g., cell phone} it’s best to have it on your person so it’s doesn’t accidentally end up in a box. Make sure the trash and recycling are taken out and all receptacles in the house are clean and empty.

Here’s a trick for “hiding” items you don’t want packed: Put them in the refrigerator, the stove, or the microwave. Seriously, they may try to pack last night’s lasagna dish from the sink, but they will not open any of these. Whatever you might still need in the short-term until you walk out the door {food from the pantry you still plan to use up, the coffee pot, dishes and utensils for a night or two, laundry detergent} can be easily hidden in one of these spots.

In our experience, movers will pack every nonliving thing that is not nailed down. I cannot even count the number of people I know who have found trash or dirty dishes neatly packed with their household goods. Click To Tweet

You may want to also park your car on the street or at a neighbors. Make sure it’s far enough away that it’s not blocking access in/out of the driveway, garage, front door—wherever folks are going to be moving about.


Most important with any major event like this is to maintain perspective. In all likelihood, the actual “move” itself will be one day, or perhaps a few days tops. Everything will probably be fine, and like most of life, thinking about it will be worse than actually doing it.

If you follow these steps for how to prepare for a successful move, you will be as ready as you can be. Know that when you arrive at your destination, you will have done everything you can to make this next life transition as painless as possible.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. You can also sign up to receive new posts via e-mail here.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Avatar

    I love this post! I’m actually about to move to an entirely new state so I love these tips!

    1. Valerie

      For as many times as we’ve done it, we are always learning new things with each move. Best of luck to you, Sammi. Thanks for stopping by today.

  2. Avatar

    I am moving in a couple weeks so this is very helpful! Thank you

    1. Valerie

      Thank you, Sally. I’m glad you found it useful. Best wishes on your upcoming move.

  3. Avatar
    The Wicked Wallet

    As someone who moves quite often I found this article very insightful. Great tips 🙂

    1. Valerie

      Thank you!

  4. Avatar

    Great tips, thanks! Moving is never easy. These tips should help!

    1. Valerie

      Thank you, Sharon. I appreciate you stopping by.

  5. Avatar

    I hate moving. I did it last year and again this year and it is just so stressful and hope I don’t have to do it anytime soon.

    1. Valerie

      I actually enjoy the getting ready part, even though I know the last week or so before I will be a ball of stress. But I also enjoy putting together a new house, so I just concentrate on that and try not to think about the actual traveling and getting all the stuff there part.

  6. Avatar

    Great tips! I am actually in the decluttering stage. We’re doing a little at a time. It will be a while before we move and I didn’t want to be doing this all at once at the last minute. I hate moving! 😔

    1. Valerie

      I feel like I’m always in that stage, ha! Because we move so frequently, I constantly have an eye out for what won’t make the next move.

  7. Avatar
    Jenn Summers

    I have always loved to move, I know I must be insane haha. My house is so full of stuff that I’m sure we no longer need I think we need to move three times to get rid of half of it hahaha! These are really great tips and the reason I like moving so much.

    1. Valerie

      I love it, too! We are looking at moving again in the next few weeks, so we are deep into the decluttering and cleaning phase. I arranged a donation pick-up time for next week and every day between now and then we are tackling something new. Looking forward to moving into a nice, new, clean space.

  8. Avatar

    Very helpful post. Great advice. I have never used a mover so this was great to know what to do if we ever need to use a moving company.

    1. Valerie

      Thank you for stopping by, Collene.

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