1. List and confirm move-in details in advance
There are dozens of variables involved in even the most straightforward move. Just one misstep or miscommunication can lead to delays, so clarify every part of the move-in process in advance.
Confirm the check-in time and where to pick up your keys. Ask how much time the check-in process will take and where you can park. Waiting for the keys, circling the block or dealing with a parking ticket isn't a fun way to start your move-in day.
If you have large furniture, request the dimensions of the doorways in your apartment, as well as any other doorways or elevators that you'll have to move the furniture through. Ask about alternate arrangements for oversized items. If you need to reserve the elevator in advance, do it by phone or email as soon as possible so the landlord can alert your future neighbors.
Ask about any official or unofficial moving protocols you should observe. Unloading boxes from the truck onto a landing or hallway, temporarily parking in front of the building or moving in very early or late might be efficient for you, but it could irritate your neighbors. You don't want to start on the wrong foot.
2. Unpack essential items first
Unpacking can feel chaotic, so take a moment to locate the items you need to use immediately. Then, find a place to store them for the first day of moving, when the household is in flux.
Put your new keys on your keychain right away so you don't lose them. Then, make a conscious decision to put them away, so they're not covered up by moving day clutter.
This is especially important if you'll be in and out of the apartment a lot. It's all too easy to tuck our keys inside our jacket or purse (just like we do every day) only to leave that jacket or purse behind as we go downstairs to grab a load of boxes.
Charge your phones in an accessible place so it's available when you need it. Ideally, you'll have packed charging cables and devices together, so you don't have to dig through boxes to find them. (Many unpacking tips are really packing tips in disguise!)
Put your purse in a central location so it doesn't get buried under boxes or spill its contents all over the floor. Consider leaving your wallet there, as well. All that bending and lifting can make it slip out of your pocket easily.
Designate a spot for important contacts. These will include the property management office, utility companies, your bank info, friends and neighbors nearby and your new workplace or school.
3. Do a clean sweep
The previous residents should have cleaned the apartment before they moved out. Check to make sure this was completed while your landlord or property manager is present at check-in. If there's a problem, they'll help you troubleshoot.
If there's nothing major to report, glance over the interior to make sure that you'll be unloading your belongings into a clean environment. Pay particular attention to floors, shelves, cabinets and drawers. It's easier to do this when the apartment is empty.
4. Unpack anything perishable
One of the simplest unpacking tips is to unpack anything that can melt, spoil or settle as soon as possible. The kitchen is a logical place to start. Put food in the refrigerator and freezer. Take ripe and fruit and vegetables out of boxes so they don't rot.
Most delicate items like plates, glasses and pottery will be safely packed away. But heat-sensitive items like candles and liquids can make a mess if they melt or spill in boxes. Some cosmetics, skincare items and medicines are also temperature sensitive, so make sure they're stored appropriately, especially if you're moving during the summer or winter.
5. Make a home for pets and plants
This is also the time to set up a temporary home for all living (but non-human) things in the apartment. Water your houseplants and put them in a sunny spot. If they've been packed up for a while, they might need more water than usual.
Then get your pets moved in. Plug in the aquarium to keep the water temperature consistent. Set up the bird cage, hamster wheel and lizard habitat. Make sure all enclosures are shut tight so your pets can't escape.
If a cat or dog will be tempted to run out while you or the movers are bringing in boxes, designate someone to care for the animal during move-in. Or, stock a room with food, the litter box, a bed and toys and shut the door.
6. Break unpacking down into steps
Decide how long you want the unpacking process to take and give yourself a deadline to complete the task. External deadlines like the first day of school or starting a new job are very motivating. If you don't have a firm external deadline, set your own.
If you can't get your unpacking done in a day, then break it down into manageable parts. Completing a task feels rewarding, so chopping moving up into a few hours a day or a weekend might make you feel more productive (and less exhausted) than plowing through and finishing at 4 a.m.
Give yourself a small reward for every unpacking session you complete. It might just be a walk in the park, watching a movie or taking a nap. Then, determine a big reward for when you're fully unpacked. It'll keep you motivated throughout the process.
7. Distribute your boxes
Some people like to set aside a block of time to unpack everything at once, while others prefer a slow and steady approach. Some like to work room by room, while others do a little bit at a time. Some prefer to stash boxes out of sight, while the sight of a room full of unpacked boxes makes others feel anxious.
Deciding where to store boxes during the unpacking process depends on your personal preference and your available space. If you can tolerate a little bit of temporary clutter, do your unpacking quickly or if your apartment is on the small side put boxes in the rooms where they'll eventually be stored.
If you have a large closet, spare room or storage space, it might make sense to store boxes there. Just be aware that, while it can feel satisfying to tuck moving boxes out of sight, it can also prolong the unpacking process.
8. Unpack like you're staying overnight
One of the most overlooked unpacking tips is to make sure you can fully use your new home right away. It's no fun to collapse after a long day of unpacking boxes, only to spend the next hour looking for your sheets and pajamas in a fog of exhaustion.
So, make sure you have food, plates and utensils unpacked for when you get hungry. Put soap, a towel and toilet paper in the bathroom. Stock the shower with soap and shampoo.
Put linens on the bed. Unpack your alarm clock, pajamas and clothing for the next day. Set out your toothbrush, toothpaste and any skin and haircare items that are part of your routine.
9. Unpack key rooms first
Set up your most-used rooms first for maximum efficiency. Start with the kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms.
Wipe down kitchen surfaces and set the fridge and freezer to the proper temperature (at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit for the fridge and 0 degrees Fahrenheit for the freezer, according to recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Organize the cupboards, linens and utensils.
Move on to the bathrooms. Unpack toiletries and towels. Stock the shower or tub if you haven't already. Then, finish setting up the bedrooms. Put extra linens away, hang up clothing in the closet and fill the dressers.
After you set up the most essential rooms, arrange the larger furniture in the living room and dining room and set up home offices and bonus or transitional spaces. It can actually be helpful to wait to plug in the television and computer until unpacking is well underway since they can distract you from your goal.
10. Organize as you go
Every apartment is different, so the storage solutions and organizational strategies that worked in your last home might not translate well to this one. Take the time to set up each shelf, drawer, closet and room in the most efficient way. It'll save you time in the long run.
Note any organizational items you need to make the space function well. These can include small things like a spice rack, shelf liners and extra hangers, as well as larger items like storage cubes and bins, shoe racks and shelves. Add them to a shopping list as you go and purchase and install them right away.
11. Delegate tasks
The unpacking process will go more quickly if everyone who lives in the home divides the workload. Even young kids can handle putting their toys in a toy box or books on a shelf.
Don't be afraid to delegate additional tasks to make unpacking less stressful. Order take-out instead of cooking if the pantry isn't fully stocked yet. Let a friend walk the dog. Arrange to have cleaning supplies or household essentials shipped to you instead of taking the time to go to the store.
12. Tackle those last boxes and bags
Unpacking tips seem unnecessary early in the process. You're full of energy. Putting away large items is satisfying. You can tell you're making progress. But actually putting away every small item is a real challenge.
It seems like everyone who has ever moved to a new apartment has a box or bag that they dread. You know the ones. They're full of random odds and ends that you don't want to throw away but that don't really belong anywhere – loose change, scraps of paper and broken pencils, random charging cables, magazines and shoelaces and junk mail no one has claimed.
Sometimes they've never unpacked and moved from apartment to apartment with us. If you haven't touched yours since your last move, throw it out or recycle the contents immediately. You haven't missed anything in it, so you clearly don't need it.
Give yourself a short deadline to deal with these last bags and boxes. Set a timer if you need to. Resist the urge to toss them back in the closet. You're not truly moved in until you unpack everything.
Don't make it harder than it has to be
Moving is challenging. But a few simple unpacking tips can make it less stressful and more pleasant to settle into your new home.
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