4 Steps to Easier Unpacking

what’s in that box?

When faced with a move, you’re one lucky cat to have a moving company do your packing. I mean who wouldn’t want that chore done for them? But in my experience, it’s the unpacking that is the real chore.  Aside from accommodating your stuff to fit into a new space, you first have to figure out what’s in the box. That’s when you discover that maybe you should have purged some stuff before having it packed (or hire someone to unpack for you!). The labels the packers use may be deceiving, or the contents are so random you don’t even know where to start! These things (and many others) make the difficult task of unpacking even more difficult.

To me this is minutia. (photo by Liz West)

I unpacked for a client this week and WOW there were just some really random boxes! [surprise – it turned into my blog post] Some boxes were easy. In the box was exactly what the label said; that was about 1/3 of the boxes. Another third had what was on the label, plus little packets of stuff (I like to call minutia). Minutia slows you down; it slows me down. Minutia is the random packets of junk that movers scoop off the counters or from drawers that never had a real home, and won’t in your new place unless you make one. (No, it doesn’t all just go in the junk drawer!)

The last third of the boxes were just totally random. Knick Knacks with garage stuff, with laundry detergent… ugh. Opening a box of random items used to make me want to just close the box and go shopping, but I can’t, and neither can you. Luckily, there are steps to unpacking that combats random and keeps me focused; ultimately getting the job done.

Steps to Unpacking

ONE: Just start.

TWO: Establish categories

THREE: Deliver.

FOUR: Put things away.


Pull up your big girl panties, or big boy pants, and get started, knowing you have a plan (as will be outlined here). Procrastination will get you nowhere, and your mental attitude can slow you down. Tell yourself “I can do this”, and you will be able to do it! Repeat as needed.


As you unwrap and unpack, categories will emerge. You may have to open a few boxes to get categories to appear, but that’s ok, it’s part of the process. Just search for items that belong in the same part of the house or are alike. In my case the batch of random boxes resulted in these categories: Kitchen, Garage, Study, Decorative Items, Trash, Donate, Electronics (which had its own subcategories). That’s a lot of categories! The boxes were not assigned to a specific room, which is why they were so random. They were in the common area of the house which had the most amount of space to work, so that was fortunate. As your categories form, and there are a growing number of items, put them in a empty boxes to make the next step easier.


Deliver. In this step, you deliver the items to the part of the house it belongs in. Once you have either run out of space or you are done unpacking, you can deliver.  As much as possible, stay put unpacking and resist the urge to deliver items as they are unpacked. Save it all up to make one larger delivery and you will save time.


Put things away. No explanation needed here, however I will add that if you do not have any organizing products to help you contain your stuff, now would be a good time to go shopping. Or better yet, you would have already gone shopping and brought home a lovely assortment of organizing items that you can use in drawers and cabinets. That’s how things got so random in the first place – no containers to stop the randomness from forming!

Shopping Tip:

I always recommend, buy more than you think you will need; you can always return it (and be sure that you DO!) Take a quick inventory of the spaces in your new home, take pictures if that helps, and record measurements on your phone so you always have them, and go shopping. Moving into a new home is a good chance to replace the old grungy organizers (or wash them), and start fresh!

You can expect to spend 15-20 minutes per box on average, half the time to unpack and the other half to put items away, so work smart and remain diligent if you want real results. You will only drive yourself crazy if you give it a half hearted effort. It will quickly drain your energy and leave you feeling defeated. So adjust your attitude and commit to achieve!