How to Actually Start Packing
I was out to dinner with a friend last week when she shared a familiar problem: She was moving in five days and she just couldn’t bring herself to start packing. As someone who has moved almost once a year for the past decade, I get it. Packing is a big task. There is absolutely nothing easy about taking everything single thing that you own and putting it safely into boxes. Packing is also deceiving—it always seems like it’s going to take way less time than it really does.
All of this is to say that if you are having trouble getting yourself to start packing, you are not alone. Many of us struggle with motivation when it comes to jumping over that first hurdle, which in this case is building that first box, opening that first drawer, and just diving in to an ultimately unavoidable project. And since your move is happening whether you give yourself two days to pack or two weeks, you may as well save yourself as much stress as possible and get started sooner rather than later.
There’s no magic bullet to getting the ball rolling on packing (if there was, you better bet I would tell you), but there are things that you can do to spur yourself on. Here are some of the biggest ones.
Figure out how much time you’re really going to need
Procrastination is all well and good, but there’s a fine line between putting something off until you have a fire under your belly and putting something off until it’s impossible to accomplish without loads of extra stress. If you’re finding it a struggle to start packing, take a moment to think realistically about your move and how much time you’re really going to need to get all of your packing done.
You probably don’t need me to tell you that the more stuff you have, the more time it’s going to take to get your home packed up. Figure that at the very least you will need three to five days to pack up a one-bedroom home, a week to a week and a half to pack up a two bedroom home, two weeks to two and a half weeks to pack up a three bedroom home, and so on.
Gather your supplies
You can’t pack if you don’t have moving boxes. Make gathering your supplies the first thing you tackle so that you have what you need when you’re ready to start. Don’t forget about the less obvious supplies, like permanent markers for labeling boxes and that spare roll or two (or three) of packing tape.
Start with the smaller tasks
As with anything you’re having trouble starting, knocking a couple of small tasks off of the list is a great way to start building momentum. Don’t think “I have to get my entire kitchen packed up,” which is a major to do. Instead, think: “I have to get my utensils packed up” or “I have to clean out my pantry.” Or go even smaller: “I have to take down the pictures on the refrigerator” or “I have to get my knives wrapped up in packing paper.” The goal is to take something that seems unmanageable—packing up everything in your home—and to break it down into a bunch of tasks that are actually quite easy to accomplish on their own.
Do a little bit at a time
Speaking of breaking down your packing to do list into manageable parts, stop thinking that you need an entire uninterrupted day to start packing and instead do what you can when you can. Build boxes while you watch TV. Get just one shelf of your bookcase packed up. Empty the contents of your junk drawer into a shoebox, label it “junk drawer,” and call it a day. Every single one of these things has to get done eventually, so it’s just a matter of whether you do it when you’re down to the wire and scrambling to get on top of an endless list of tasks, or if you cross just a few things off of your list every day
Get rid of stuff
The less stuff that you have, the less stuff that you have to pack! Even if you haven’t left yourself enough time to really organize all of your belongings, you always have the option to separate things as you go, sorting unwanted items into either a “toss,” “recycle,” or “donate” pile. So instead of finding the time to pack your class notes from college or that stack of clothes you never wear, get rid of them
Know when you’re out of time to procrastinate
The thing that makes packing procrastination a whole different beast than unpacking procrastination is that there is a deadline on how long it can go on. Like it or not, the moving truck is arriving on a certain day, and when it comes, you have to be ready to go. I am actually a big proponent of the idea that giving yourself a tight timeline for packing is a better alternative to giving yourself too much time (it’s stressful either way—may as well limit that stress to as few days as possible), but there does come a time in all packing journeys when there’s nothing to do but just dive in and get it all done. Consider what that time is for you, and then add on another day—just to be safe.
You’re going to have to start packing eventually. Give yourself time to drag your feet, but when the time comes, be ready to hit the ground running. It might not be a fun task, but it still has to get done. Take a deep breath, grab that first box, and get to work. You’ll get it done!