Stacked packed boxes in front of window

How to Prepare for the BIG Move: Plan for an Organized Move

March 12, 2022

Originally posted on Commonwealth Senior Living’s blog, here is how we recommend you prepare and plan for an organized move:

Moving to a new home will always feel a little stressful, especially when leaving a family home filled with decades worth of memories and possessions. Luckily, the moving process itself doesn’t have to be chaotic or overwhelming. Organizing the move is key to reducing stress and making the transition more seamless.

Our team of organizers and senior move managers use this framework every time we pack and plan moves for our clients. They keep us and our clients organized and feeling in control.


If you have been following this partnership series between Commonwealth Senior Living and Abundance Organizing, you’ve heard me talk about the phases of move preparation: Planning, Get in Motion, and What to do with All the Stuff.

Give yourself lots of time to work through these steps. It can be quite an emotional journey to go through decades’ worth of memories and accumulated possessions. As a reminder, when downsizing, keep a focus on what MUST move to the new space, instead of what must be released.  Declutter with a critical eye — will that item really serve in your next chapter? Be prepared to invest both time and money in order to have a smooth transition. For example, you may need new pieces of furniture that are a more appropriate shape or scale for the floor plan in your new home. Reach out to a professional if you need help or get stuck during the downsizing process.


The time has finally come to plan the move itself. In this stage, we schedule all the pieces that will help you physically get the items from point A to point B. This step involves: hiring movers, connecting with your new community about move in day, and scheduling the pack and unpack. Planning in this phase means squaring away small details that can become big problems if they are not done ahead of time. For example, empty boxes at the end of unpacking day will become overwhelming if you have no plan for them.

Read on to make sure you are prepared for all the possibilities so that there are no surprises during your move.

Square Away the Details with the Community

When we touch base with our contacts at senior living communities, there can never be too much communication. Remember that most communities want to ensure that one resident’s move-in is not disruptive to other residents in the community (you’ll appreciate this attention to detail once you’re on the other side!) Here are some of the answers we want to know:

  • What is my assigned move-in day? Are there any other moves (in or out) scheduled for that day?
  • Is there a specific time of day we can move in?
  • Where does the truck need to go?
  • Where can other unpacking helpers park their vehicles?
  • What doors do the movers use?
  • What elevator do the movers use? And how far is it from the designated entrance?
  • How far is the apartment from the elevator? What other access points surround the entrance to the apartment, e.g.: neighboring apartments, trash room, activities room, stairwell, etc.
  • Does the community have COVID-19 restrictions or any other policies that dictate or limit how many people can be working on a move at one time?
  • Are there any other special protocols that need to be communicated to the movers, e.g.: use of masks or booties?
  • Do you need any additional keys to access any doors to help movers with unpacking?
  • Is there a time all guests need to vacate premises at the end of the day?
  • How do new residents usually dispose of the paper and boxes after unpacking?
  • What time is dinner and what is the best way to reach the dining room from the apartment?
  • How do new residents usually handle getting technology and Wi-Fi setup?
  • Does building maintenance hang wall-mounted televisions and art for incoming residents or do those services need to be added to the unpacking team’s checklist?
  • Who is our contact person on the day of the move?
  • Can we arrange for a welcome home tour on the day of unpacking?
  • Do you offer a hospitality suite or other onsite option for incoming residents to stay overnight between their pack and unpack?

Hire Movers

When the time finally arrives to schedule the move, make sure you hire movers that come recommended and with good reviews. Big bonus if the moving company is already familiar with the senior community and has already had experience with moving in new residents. Move managers usually have a list of preferred movers whom they have vetted for quality of service – two major components of our value are experience and resources. A strong moving company can make your transition even more seamless. The moving company should send out a representative ahead of time to go through your home and get an idea of the amount of items you will be moving. Ask every question you have about fees, insurances, processes, and timelines.

Ask for Trash Removal

Look ahead to move day, after you have unpacked all the boxes. At the end of the day you will be left with quite a pile of packing paper and empty boxes. Ask your mover when you first meet for an estimate if they come back and take trash. Move managers can coordinate this service as well. They may charge a fee but it is a headache you won’t want to deal with after unpacking all day! If your professional partners do not offer this service, check with your contact at the new residence and ask them how incoming residents usually handle the trash.

Don’t Forget Technology

Your contact at the community will be able to direct you to making the proper connections for getting technology up and running. If you have already planned out every piece of furniture, then you know where your cable hook ups need to be, where the wireless router will live, and possibly where your charging station(s) may end up.  This will make it quite easy to have someone pop in and get everything connected and working. Schedule service providers right away so you don’t get stuck without Wifi or TV!


Once belongings have been sorted through, furniture and the items that are left need to be packed and marked for the new location. When we organize our client’s moves, we make sure that all items are strategically packed and labeled based on where they are going in their new home. This technique is very different from movers, who will generally pack and label based on where the items lived in the old location.

Measure Twice, Move Once

I’ve mentioned in past blog posts the value in using a floor plan to help you determine what furniture and how many belongings can be accommodated in your new home. Start with large furniture and measure each piece. If time allows, measure smaller tables and chairs and find a home for them on the plan. Ideally, everything will be accounted for in the plan to make sure that it will all fit into the new apartment.

If a piece of furniture does not fit into the floor plan, it will need to be donated, consigned, or sold in Phase 3 of the downsizing process. It saves time, angst, and money if you go into the move confident that each piece of furniture has a designated home.

Separately Pack Personal Belongings

Before you begin packing, pack an overnight bag with clothes, pajamas, toiletries, medications, and any other personal belongings you may need during the time of the move. You can identify any items they may need during the transition to have on hand during the length of the move. Taking this step first before the packing starts will ensure that critical items do not get misplaced during the shuffle and chaos of a move.

Use Fresh, Consistent Moving Boxes

Many clients think that they can save money by using free second-hand packing materials. Reusing someone else’s old boxes or getting free boxes may seem attractive to reduce front-end costs. However, in our experience, costs – and the possibility of breakage – actually go UP. You can read more about the benefits of including fresh packing supplies in your moving budget here

Pack an “Open First” Box

Make a list of the items you use everyday and can’t be without and pack those items together. Typically, this category includes items like the coffee maker, a few coffee mugs, bathroom necessities like toilet paper and hand soap, bed linens, pillows, pet food, checkbook, etc. Make copies of keys so you can pack a set. Pack all these items in a box and label it “Open First.” Make sure your movers know it should be the last box placed on their truck so it’s the first box off.

Pack Boxes According to Where Items Will Live in Your New Home

For example, you may store books in your living room now, but in your new home you will have an office with lots of shelves. We recommend packing the books and labeling the box “Office.”

Depending on the size of the job during our packing jobs with clients, we often like to give each room in the new home a color. Place the same color label on the box and door of your new home office so your movers know where each box belongs. Marking and labeling each box is extremely important on the unpack side.

Label the boxes in the same places so that the items can be easily identified. We like to do two sides and the top so that the contents of the box are visible from a couple different angles. Figure out a plan that works for you and then make sure each box has clear writing or a visible label. We recommend the label include the designated room and a brief description of the items contained, e.g.: “Kitchen – Pot & Pans.”

Plan an Overnight Stay

It’s extremely rare to accommodate both packing and unpacking on the same day. Once your home is packed up, it’s best to plan to spend at least one night in a temporary space, whether that is with family or friends or in a hotel. Many communities offer hospitality suites that can accommodate incoming residents for a night or two while they are in transition.


When move-in day finally arrives, it can be quite emotional and overwhelming. When you have planned, scheduled, and prepared for the new home with special attention to the way you pack, you have set yourself up for success. The work on the front end of the move makes move-in day a lot more peaceful. Unpacking can be quite exciting and fun. Labeled boxes can make unpacking move quickly.

Here are a couple more tips for move-in day to make the move streamlined and organized.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

It is important on move-in day to keep communication flowing. The move itself needs to be overseen and coordinated with all persons involved. Keeping your contact at the senior community in the loop with all the moving details and updates is important to the flow of the move. The senior community will appreciate this, and you will find that their involvement will be helpful to the movers and your overall move-in process.

Make sure you know exactly where to direct the movers to go. You also want to make sure that any footies, masks, gloves, and anything else that is required for entrance to a building is provided and ready for your movers to wear.

Direct Your Movers

Tell your movers exactly where each item will go by using pictures, colored labels, and/or simply directing them when they enter your new home. Movers will unload boxes wherever there is space. Tell your movers NOT to put boxes in closets in your new home. Closets are the first place things go when unpacking. Ask your movers to keep boxes on the perimeter of each room where possible. That way you can get to any box without too much hassle.

“Open First” Box

Make sure you know where the “Open First” box is with the linens so that you can be sure to have the bed made. With our clients, it is always very important to us to make sure beds are ready to be slept in and kitchens are unpacked and ready for use on the day of the move.


There are still a couple important things to do after everything is unpacked. Boxes need to be recycled, basic supplies need to be obtained, and your loved one needs to know how to move around the community. The new place should start to feel like home in no time-just don’t forget to make sure your loved one knows where to find items after the unpack!

Get Rid of Those Boxes Fast

When you are done unpacking boxes, you’ll be left with tons of paper and empty boxes. They can take up space fast! Once boxes are empty, they need to be broken down and recycled. Our teams always designate one out-of-the-way spot for all empty boxes and paper to be staged until unpacking is completed.

Don’t forget to contact your mover or move manager to coordinate taking trash/recycling if that was part of your original plan.


Plan with your move manager or loved ones how basic supplies and groceries will be purchased and stocked once all boxes have been unpacked.

Tour and How-to

Plan for time during move-in to get a tour of this new community and perhaps meet some neighbors. Learn how to get to the dining area from your apartment. This activity is a good one to tackle when the boxes are stacked high, and the unpacking team and movers are busy doing their thing!

After everything has been unpacked, have the unpacking crew walk you through all your household spaces. After such a big transition, you want to be unable to find the trash bags and bath towels! This tour will make you feel more at home. Arrange for someone to walk you through the operation of any new appliances or electronics, like a new cable provider and its unfamiliar remote. In the case of a large move, it often makes sense to schedule the appliance/electronics how-to the day after a move, so you have more mental stamina to take in information.

Hopefully, these moving tips will help keep you organized and in control. Always be generous with your timelines. Planning and scheduling the move ahead of time will keep things from getting chaotic or overwhelming. Strategic packing techniques help move-in day run smoothly.

Although leaving a family home will always be a little stressful, organizing the move is the key to reducing stress and making it a more seamless transition. Following these tips will help you to stay in control of the move and give you confidence that you are already on top of all the details. Remember that there are many professionals in the marketplace and on staff at the community who are experienced and prepared to help you. Reach out whenever you are in need of guidance or support.