4 Tips for Packing for a Cross-Country Move

George Carlin once said, “Your home is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.” When you’ve lived in one house or apartment for a long time, you can easily accumulate a lot of stuff. Your stuff can range from blenders, clothing and accumulation of personal papers.

Some people load up their cars or rent a van and drive from the East coast to the West coast. While I love the idea of that romantic and liberating plan, I usually prefer to take the road less traveled (and I also lack a driver’s license with which to drive down that less-traveled road). Therefore, I will be flying from Boston to San Francisco. My plan is limit my stuff to two suitcases and one or two small boxes that I can ship.
I spend a freakish amount of time thinking about what to bring and what not to bring. I’m learning how to take the “overwhelm” factor away from packing.

Here’s my list of tips for saving your sanity while reducing your stuff to a nice manageable load.

1. Think about what you need rather than what you don’t need: This may seem like a subtle mental shift but it can make a big difference in your packing perspective.

It’s easy to look around your house and think about everything you’re leaving behind and feel stressed and overwhelmed. If you focus on only the items that are truly important in your day-to-day routine, you’ll be forcing yourself to focus on what you’re gaining rather than what you’re losing.For example, my friend recently had to downsize her belongings in preparation for her move from a 3 bedroom house to a 500 square foot (i.e.teensy-weensy) two room studio in New York City.

She was overwhelmed when she walked through the house determining which items she should get rid of. I suggested that she instead start by making a list of only the things she really needed to take with her. She reports that this method helped tremendously.

Start by going into each room of your home and making a list of the things that you actually use on a regular basis.

You can make it a game by asking yourself “If I were stranded on a desert island, what would I miss the most?” Except instead of the “desert island” part, you can substitute the words “shoebox-sized apartment”.

2. Use the “one-year rule”:
Sentimentality often overrules logic so I like to rely on the “one-year rule” for deciding whether or not I need to keep something. If you haven’t used it during the past year, you probably don’t need it.

3. Resist the temptation to bring everything in your closet:
Chances are, you do not actually need all the clothes that are in your closet (yes, ladies, I’m talking to you). Use this opportunity to clean out your closet.
Start by taking a good hard look in your closet and dividing into four piles (yes, it’s a list within a list!)
Pile 1: Clothing you wear all the time. This is the clothing you’ll want to bring with you.
Pile 2: Alterations pile. Get it fixed if you love it, donate it if you don’t.
Pile 3:The “I-hope-to-fit-into-this-again” pile. If it’s a wedding dress or prom dress, keep it. Otherwise, donate it. Why knock yourself out trying to lose 5 pounds – there’s already enough stress in planning an out-of-state move.
Pile 4: The “weather-inappropriate” pile. This is my favorite pile – it includes heavy winter coats and bulky sweaters that I won’t need as I move from Boston’s brutal winters to my new and much warmer climate of San Francisco. It makes me happy that I won’t need them next winter and can donate them.

4. If you can’t remember what it is, you probably don’t need it:
Take paperwork, for example. Once you file something, there’s a 98 percent chance you’ll never look at it again.

Scan the documents you really need. Sure, it’s a good idea to keep things like old tax returns. But do they really need to take up valuable real estate space in your suitcase?

Scan your papers and then you can sleep soundly knowing that if for some reason you need to produce a receipt for blender you bought in 2003, you’ll have access to it. This will free up valuable space in your brain for all your other move-related worries.

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