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How to Pack like a Pro Moving: Cross Country Move

Moving is a stressful time!

Add a child to the picture and the stress multiplies.

Add two or more and you may feel like you’re in over your head!

But, you’ve got this.

You can handle anything, you’re a mom, remember! And that’s just what us mom’s do; we handle situations when they come up, and if need be, turn into SUPER MOM’S.

I originally wrote this while getting ready for a big cross country move with my husband and two girls. All the way from one coast of the U.S. to the other coast.

Approximately 3000 miles of driving. To be exact, 2898 miles on the road with a one year old and a four year.

I know, I know, some of you may be thinking why in the world would I be doing this to myself? And, the answer is that my husband was planning on going back to school in the fall and wanted to work in a national park.

This would give me opportunities, as well, such as being a stay at home mom. It obviously gave me the opportunity to write about moving and help you in case you are planning a move, too!

In this post and my next couple posts I will provide tips and hints to make your moving experience more pleasant than my own. Aren’t you lucky!!

Make LISTS!!

writing lists

Yes!! I love lists and being organized and things like that. And, how can you even start to think about moving without lists?!? It’s pretty much impossible!!

This was going to be a fun family trip for us!

At least my four year will be able to remember parts of it.

We’ll take tons of pictures to help remind us of it and to show my little one year old when she’s older so she can see just how it was that we came to live on the west coast when she was born on the east coast. I know it won’t be something easily forgotten!

To help us not forget anything important from the east coast, that we wouldn’t be able to live without, like a blankie or a favorite stuffed animal; I have kept organized. I have my lists that I oh so love.

Now, most of our packing is done, just everyday essentials left.

But, let me tell you how it is; how packing should really be done. Just in case you haven’t moved in awhile or are stressing out because you have no idea where to even start. And be forewarned, I LOVE LISTS!

Get the Ultimate Moving Planner!

This is the moving planner I wish I’d had years ago while moving with kids, and will be using again the next time my family moves! Be sure to check it out HERE, I love how I can easily fill it out online and print just what I want, or simply keep it updated on my phone. It’s so easy to use!

$5 moving printables


Before you even start thinking about packing, you need to start decluttering.

I would recommend to start this vital step ASAP! Like, as soon as you find out that there’s a possibility to be moving.

Plus, life is just so much less stressful and more fulfilling when you actually have less stuff. It can be quite amazing, actually!

If you don’t already attempt on a regular basis to get rid of unneeded items, start now!! This is your sign!! It’s also nice to keep a clutter free home!

You know the items in your home that just take up space and drain your energy; get rid of ’em!

Now would be the best time to start. Or at least do this as soon as you find out that you’re going to be moving.

Believe me, it will help reduce stress and be easier to pack when you are free of items that you do not need or love. If you don’t even know where to begin to declutter, read this.

I had a whole room dedicated to items that we needed to get rid of from our home before packing, and no joke- the room was almost full; such a relief to get rid of it all!

This will most likely be an ongoing process during packing…..and through out life in general.

I already know I will get rid of more clutter after the move. If it doesn’t have a home in our new home then out it goes, no need to keep something that doesn’t have a place to be.

Read How to Keep a Clutter Free Home!! if you need help figuring out how to keep the clutter and unneeded items out of your home!

It’s best to have belongings you love and that bring you joy, and that has its own place in your home; than to just have ‘stuff’. It truly is a freeing feeling!

Just make sure you know what to do with stuff you are getting rid of. Whether it be selling it (know where you can sell it), donating it, or throwing it out. You need a plan for it, not just a place to store it!

a messy childs room that needs to be cleaned, organized, and decluttered, before moving

Packing Supplies

After you declutter, or maybe just when you’re ready to actually start packing things up (cause you’ll probably never really be done decluttering). The next step you will want to take will be gathering packing supplies.

What you need will depend a lot on your style and how organized you want to be.

But, the basics are boxes, packing tape, and something to wrap breakables in so they won’t break.

To keep your head on during the whole moving process you should probably also grab a sharpie to write on the boxes to describe what is in each one, or at least what room they will belong in. If you want to go all out then you should grab:

  • packing tape
  • sturdy boxes/ bins
  • colored index cards (different color for each room)
  • sharpie
  • tape for colored index cards to stay on the boxes/above door of room they belong in for new home
  • list of all our items in each box with a piece of colored tape at the top (printed and whole punched into our “move” binder that we all love because it helps keep us sane)
  • bubble wrap for breakables(or lots of plastic bags that you somehow end up having hundreds of anyways, or some type of clothe/tissues/paper towels, anything that will help prevent items from breaking. Be creative here, packing supplies can get pricey, and if you’re like me then you may not want to spend a lot of your moving budget on packing supplies; renting a moving truck or trailer is expensive enough!!)
  • garbage bags- for clothing (that aren’t packed into dressers) or stuffed animals(because we all know our kids have about three hundred of these and its easier to squeeze these into the trailer, or back of our vehicles when in bags rather than in boxes)

*Instead of colored index cards, you could use the printable box labels from this Moving Planner, that match the door labels also included!

What to pack when

Once you have your packing supplies, you can start packing up needed belongings.

But, start with the items you won’t need til after the move.

And, it is perfectly alright if all you have is the basics for you packing supplies.

Sometimes it’s not practical to go all out! Even if you would love to; things get in the way, and it can be difficult sometimes to be that organized if you have a time restraint, or kids!!

The first items you should pack will include any holiday décor, clothes you wear in a different season, any decorations you may own, yes, even the ones that are out now!!

No one is going to care if your house isn’t beautifully decorated while you’re in the process of packing up all your belongings. Unless, of course, if you’re trying to sell your home, then these may need to wait til a later date to be packed up.

Also, pack up anything in the kitchen that you’re not specifically planning on using again until after the move.

The kitchen (the heart of the home…and the most difficult room to pack up)

If you’re anything like me, then the kitchen is going to be the hardest room to pack!!

My number 1 tip, if you do any type of baking at all; leave out a baking sheet!! I can’t even count the number of times I had to unpack and repack mine because I thought I was done using it.

Or, if yours are old, you could always just buy new for your new home, they’re cheap enough to do so. I didn’t, and now, even a year after moving, I still wish I had bought new ones!

Honestly, all I have left out  til about a week before our big move was enough dishes/silverware for four, the coffee pot, toaster, microwave, necessary utensils, pots/pans, and of course our food!

All other kitchen items had been packed up. Even my nutribullet that I love and have used almost everyday since I got it, was packed.

This type of packing could be done around a month or so before the big move.

Really, how often do you use a whisk or your crockpot?

Ok, YOU may use your crockpot often, but I don’t. So, away it goes into a box with other ‘like’ items that belong in the new kitchen in our new home.

You get the idea. And same goes for every other room in the house.

Pack Room by Room

To go room by room usually makes the most sense. Even if you aren’t going all out with organizing your packing, you are least going to want to keep all items in a single box from the same room.

Or, packed with items that will be in the same room at your new home! 

Seeing as how the number of rooms from old home to new home may differ. Our move is having us downsize! Going from a large four bedroom farm home with plenty of storage, and a creepy basement I never even step foot in (and mice that were impossible to get rid of- one of which destroyed my favorite robe!), to a two bedroom home with not a lot of storage space.

It will be soo nice to just let go of all the items we don’t need or love. This is the push my family needed to declutter, and I am welcoming it with open arms!!

Less stuff = less stress, smaller home = easier and faster to clean!

Start Packing up Stored Items (if you’re keeping them!)

And to bring us back from that tangent; if you have any storage rooms, you may want to start packing up all items you can from there. Or better yet, go through the stuff and get rid of what you can, first!

After storage rooms, I packed my stuff from our bedroom up next (my husband packed up his own stuff in his own boxes). First I packed all of my belongings from the top of my dresser; I can live a few weeks without jewelry and make up/ hair stuff. It’s not like I even use any of it very often anyways, just some items I love and an eyeliner. If you haven’t gone through these items in a while; make sure all jewelry you are keeping is in good condition and no make up/ hair stuff is expired. If so, they will become fast friends with your garbage!

Next, you may want to pack up any books/movies you have. Especially the movies that have digital copies, you will still be able to watch your favorite movie when it’s already packed up. What a genius idea!!

Keep on Packing, keep on packing…..

boxes and packed belongings for a move

Keep the process going and pack up everything you can from every room, and don’t forget about getting rid of clutter along the way!

Another tip, don’t even bother packing up all the kids toys til you absolutely need to; they will find a way to get into them! I must have packed up toys at least 10 times before the boxes were taped shut and put into the room with our ‘done and ready to go’ boxes. And, my girls still had some of their toys out til moving day, but not as many. Basically, just the toys that they brought in the vehicle with us for the trip.

My husband and I had a similar amount of personal items left out til the end, as well. Mine consisted of a cute little black basket that I have all my planning supplies/writing supplies in, along with my laptop. As for clothes, we had season appropriate clothing out. Whatever that meant for the time of year it was….we had snow storms a few weeks before our move, where I didn’t even want to drive, and then it was in the 50’s!!

You will Need to plan a little (or a lot!)

As you get closer to the move date you will need to start planning the actual trip! How exciting is that?!

I started planning the trip AT LEAST a month in advance. But, then again, I like my lists, and I like them to be as complete as possible. And, I was working 3pm to midnight at a call center, it usually wasn’t too busy after 10pm or so; so I needed something to pass the time, just in case my co-workers were on calls when I wasn’t. I probably wrote a couple duplicates of my lists, but that’s ok. You will need at least a few lists. Such as:

  • a list for stuff to pack in the vehicle with you
  • items you need to buy before the move
  • items you will need to buy after the move
  • a ‘first’ grocery list for you new home
  • a list of everywhere/bill/office or person you need to change your address for
  • things you need to do before you leave your current home(repairs if renting)
  • things to do when you get to the new home
  • setting up appointments for utilities/internet to be turned on at new home (can’t live without that internet)
  • planning out how to move everything into your new home when you get there (we planned on buying a gate and keeping our kids in their room so we could both bring things in)

The lists goes on, but those are the major lists/plans that are absolutely necessary for a big move. I left the navigation and the ‘how to get there’ up to my husband. He’s the one who drives.

Just one more list….

I was side tracked again by my list. But, they are a life saver, especially when running off of little sleep and a poor memory and kids running around. Yes, even my one year old was running around like her older sister, creating chaos like little tornadoes. She started walking around a little before she was 9 months old! And I could go on forever with my lists. But I will end my lists, for this post anyways, with just one more…..then back to packing like a pro!

Items to gather closer to the actual move date:

  • plastic bags for garbage
  • garbage bag for clothes that are worn during the trip that will need to be washed when we get to our new home
  • reusable shopping bags for food and drinks for the trip
  • duffle bags/ suitcases for clothes and hygiene items for the trip
  • bag for kid chosen items for the trip
  • first aid kit, along with other emergency prepared items that may be needed

*If you want a complete list of what to pack for the trip, if you have a big move, check that out here!!

Live out of boxes for a week or so

Alright, so back to packing as promised. Get ready for the toughest part, wanting to be done packing but still needing to use your stuff!!

The best way to go around this obstacle is to pack up everything and live out of boxes for a week. Make sure you pack your bags for your trip and store in a place where the kids won’t get into them! That way you’ll be all ready to go when it’s time. Just a couple of quick boxes to pack and then onto the truck or trailer.

It may be easiest  eating wise to not do anything fancy, and if possible to use disposable dishes/cutlery this week. But in all seriousness, I didn’t! Remember me, with no dishwasher in the home I’m leaving; easy enough to just quickly wash a dish or two. What I did do though, was pack up all but one of each item per person. So, each person had one bowl, one plate, one spoon/fork, and one cup out. This doesn’t include our water bottles and coffee mugs.

Stop buying groceries

By this time you will have to have all your food out of the cupboards and hopefully almost all gone as well. Anything not eaten up, should be given to friends or family who can use it. If it hasn’t been opened yet or doesn’t need refrigeration then you might as well bring it with you. Cold or opened items are to be left. We started to use up our food about a month or two before our expected move date. This is necessary to prevent wasting food, plus it will save you money and force you to be a little creative.

Only buy what you need and shape meals around what you already have! This should be a no brainer, it’s part of how many people meal plan and prep already, to save money; works even better when you have more stress on you to use up your stock of food!

*If you need help planning meals for your last couple weeks at your old home, be sure to check out this MOVING MEAL PLANNER!!

Final Notes

And there you have it. How to pack like a pro!

Start by getting rid of things you don’t need or love. Gather packing supplies, and then pack up everything you own from least used to most used!

Please comment below and let me know if I forgot anything, we are all human you know, and mom’s…with possibly poor memory. Seriously, my lists are need be things that I could not live without! Tell me what’s on your list for How to Pack like a Pro Moving.

Get these FREE Moving Printables!

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