moving and packing tips

Easy Packing and Moving Tips: Especially with Little Children and Little Time

Are you considering moving your family, including young children, when you’re short on time? Here are some tips that we used when we moved with little time, 6 month old twins, and a 2 year old! It can be done!

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Our Move with Kids

We packed up and moved our house in 39 days when we had a 2 year old and 6 month old twins. It was intense. As a stay-at-home mom you’d think I’d have all the time in the world to pack but between pumping for my twins, feeding them, changing them, cleaning up, caring for my 2 year old and my basic needs such as eating when I had the chance, there wasn’t much time or energy left for packing throughout the day.

We set our timeline to be short, just about 39 days because we needed to move to our bigger house asap. It felt like the walls were closing in on us! We were able to set a tight timeline because we sold our home through Opendoor and also happened to buy a house sold by Opendoor.

All that aside, packing is packing, no matter if you’re selling the traditional way or through a company such as Opendoor. It still is time consuming and has to be done.

selling our home to opendoor
Selling Our Home to Opendoor

Take Pictures

Call me nostalgic but I am glad I took pictures of our first home together before we left. Everything was still in place how it was before we started packing, I could see how cluttered everything was and how much we were bursting at the seams! It’s also just neat to see since it was our first home, we brought all 3 of our babies home to that house, and we learned and grew a lot in that house over the 5 years that we lived there.

I always appreciate our ‘new’ home even after being here for 3 years. There is nothing wrong with our previous home, it’s a great house with plenty of room for some, but just not for us long term. Looking back at photos as I have been while writing this blog post, I feel like I’m right back there which is kind of neat.

Even if you’re not nostalgic, take pictures of certain things if you want them to be arranged the same way in your new home. This was especially true for our kitchen cabinets. They worked well for us the way we had things organized so we wanted to keep them that way, for the most part. We had more cabinet and counter space at the new house so some things changed but where we put our bowls, plates, and cups are similar to where we did in our first home.

Below you can see our living room as it was in our old house and our bedroom as it was in our old house. In terms of the bedroom, the only thing to the right that you can’t see is our queen bed, a small walkway on either side of the bed, and bedside tables. Things were so cramped.

Our living room and bedroom were so crowded as we shared our room with the twins and we had 2 of everything in the living room.
Old House

Decluttering & Purging Before Moving

We knew we had a lot of things that we needed to get rid of before we moved. Though we moved to a bigger home, there are just some things we simply no longer needed. I’m sure you’ve got a similar scenario.

We got rid of so much on Facebook marketplace, sometimes selling it sometimes just setting it on the curb and posting it for free. We also had the DAV pick up some items and we donated a whole bunch of old textbooks to a huge dropbox we found out about that I’ll link below.

Here are examples of things that you may be ready to purge

  • Wedding Decorations – We did a lot of DIY for our wedding and still had everything for the centerpieces including 60+ glass tea light holders, tea lights, candles we never used, etc. We didn’t plan on using these things again nor displaying them, so we didn’t need to keep them. Yes, I still have my dress and many other memorabilia from the wedding that are displayed in a glass case in our bedroom (not including the dress, that’d be weird).
  • Baby Gear – Our twins were 4 months old when we started purging things and 6 months old by the time we moved. That meant that the premie and newborn clothes were no longer needed, as well as some other items that just didn’t work out for them or weren’t needed in the first place. It was nice to get rid of what we didn’t need, as we knew we weren’t having more children.
  • Clunky Furniture – We had some furniture that we knew we didn’t want at our new place. This included a dining room table that wouldn’t comfortably fit all 5 of us someday so wasn’t worth keeping, even though I grew up with it, and a huge entertainment center that we really didn’t want to move (again!!) If there are things that you aren’t sure about keeping around, whether you’ll use it in your new place, and whether it’s worth moving, try to save your back and the space and get rid of it before you move!
  • Old Exercise Equipment – You know that recumbent bike sitting in the basement that you used 10 years ago and told yourself you’d use again but just haven’t?! Yeah, that needs to go. If it is just going to be clutter in your new place and again, is annoying to move and not needed, then try to get rid of it before you move. (And yes, that’s me I was talking to, I needed to get rid of the recumbent bike…though I did keep the elliptical and I have used it more in the new house than I ever did in the old one.)
  • Outdated Clothing and Clothing that Doesn’t Fit – I’m horrible with this one, partially because I don’t keep track of trends so I don’t know if something is outdated. Haha! Really though, I still have my professional clothing from back when I was a school psychologist, though I have gotten rid of about 1/3 of it. I also still have clothing that is smaller than my current size because I HOPE that I’ll fit into it someday. Previously when I got rid of all my smaller clothing then I made a huge life change and lost 50 lbs so was kicking myself pretty hard after that. All that to say, if you have clothing that you honestly don’t think you’ll ever wear again, sell it or even better, donate it to someplace like the DAV who will come and pick it up from your curb (they do accept more than just clothing as well).
  • Old Towels & Blankets – Old towels and blankets that you don’t see yourself using again are great to give to charitable organizations such as those who help the homeless, animal rescue clinics, veterinary offices, and the DAV. Call your local service providers to see if they accept these types of donations before dropping them off.
  • Old Textbooks – Textbooks from your college days are likely not going to get touched again, depending on your area of study and current job. I keep many of my psychology books because they’re interesting and still are relatable year after year. Other books that I don’t think I’ll ever reference again though, I got rid of those, as did my husband. Surprisingly to us, many places don’t take donations of old textbooks but we did find a program with dropboxes all over that take old textbooks. Learn more here:
  • Other Books – If you have books other than textbooks that you want to donate, you could always stop by a little library location and drop a few off. Also check with your local library. Ours has certain days where they sell books that others have donated. The proceeds help the library be able to host free programs for kids and adult learning, among other things. It’s a win/win!

Acquiring Boxes

We kept our eye out on Facebook for free boxes around our area. Between my husband and I, we made at least 10 runs to various places to get boxes from people who had just moved or simply had a lot of boxes they wanted to get rid of.

We did buy some boxes at Lowes, especially their medium sized boxes. Those were very helpful.

One thing to keep in mind is not to get HUGE boxes because you’ll likely pack them too heavy. My dad will attest to me doing that when I was younger. Live and learn! We did acquire a few large boxes that we used for blankets and pillows but other than that, medium and small were great sizes.

As you’re packing boxes, try to pick them up from time to time during packing to ensure you aren’t making them too heavy.

Overall it’s best to pack boxes with similar items, such as kitchen items go with kitchen items. However, sometimes it is fitting if a box of plates is getting to heavy, to put some towels in the box that you were going to pack anyway. That way the plates are more cushioned and you’ve made the best use of your space.

If you’d rather have reusable totes, there are many options out there.

Rubbermaid Roughneck Clear 66 Qt/16.5 Gal Storage Containers, Pack of 4 with Latching Grey Lids, Visible Base, Sturdy and Stackable, Great for Storage and Organization
Rubbermaid Roughneck Clear 66 Qt/16.5 Gal Storage Containers, Pack of 4 with Latching Grey Lids, Visible Base, Sturdy and Stackable, Great for Storage and Organization
by United Solutions

MID TO LONG-TERM STORAGE: Perfect for attics, basements and garage storage where temperatures may fluctuate from hot to cold. Equipped with an audible snap-tight lid to ensure your items are protected from dust and pests. Built in handles make these totes easy to carry.   Clear base makes locating and accessing belongings easier.
HEAVY DUTY: Break-Resistant Material with the strength and durability of a Roughneck tote, these clear totes will not crack or buckle.  2X Stronger than other clear totes and designed to withstand harsh temperatures 0 – 115°  F.

 Price: $ 110.00 ($ 27.50 / Count) Buy now at Amazon
Rubbermaid Roughneck️ Storage Totes, Durable Stackable Containers, Great for Garage Storage, Moving Boxes, and More, 18 Gal - 6 Pack
Rubbermaid Roughneck️ Storage Totes, Durable Stackable Containers, Great for Garage Storage, Moving Boxes, and More, 18 Gal - 6 Pack
by United Solutions

HEAVY DUTY BUILD – Ideal for storing large and bulky items, holiday storage, dogfood, heavy tools or sports equipment, camping supplies, blankets and more.
NON- PERISHABLE FOOD STORAGE – Durable Rubbermaid Storage Containers are equipped with a stay tight lid that protects contents from moisture making them perfect for storing your dried food, rice, beans and paper products in bulk.

List Price: $ 134.00 You Save: $ 44.30 (-33%)  Price: $ 89.70 ($ 14.95 / Count) Buy now at Amazon

Finding Time to Pack

Even as a stay-at-home mom I didn’t have a lot of time to pack because I was so busy with our 6 month old twins and 2 year old during the day.

On the weekends, we set aside time to do the packing while the twins were sleeping and the 2 year old was occupied…for a little bit at least ? 

We also were lucky enough to be able to ask my parents to come over and watch the kids for a few hours while we packed. We were still in the house and took care of meals and such, just needed a bit more time away from the kids than however long the naps lasted to be able to power through packing.

Here are some ideas of when to pack

  • When kids are napping
  • Depending on the age of your kids, when they’re watching TV or using technology like an iPad (didn’t work for our kids, too young still, but may work for yours!)
  • Hire a babysitter, even just for a few hours, so you can focus on packing.
  • Ask a family member over to watch the kids while you pack. Ensure this is someone who won’t judge the mess that happens during packing and will understand it’s not a typical visit where you’ll be ‘entertaining’ and chatting with them, you need to pack.
  • At night when kids are sleeping, if you still have the energy by then!
  • While kids are playing in the next room – I did this a lot since we had gates blocking off the bedrooms and bathroom I was packing yet I could still see the kids and help as needed.

You also could hire someone to pack for you. Our moving company offered this but we decided we wanted to know what was in the boxes and I’m too much of a ‘control freak’ to let someone else do our packing!

Where to Put Boxes

We had an area where we put all the filled boxes that was away from the kids so they wouldn’t accidentally fall on the kids if jostled. Keep this in mind as you’re packing and stacking boxes, it can be a real danger to kids.

We didn’t use our basement much in that house, even though it was as big as upstairs, but with the stairs it’s just something that we didn’t use much with littles. Carrying twins up and down the stairs didn’t sound fun. Ha! We were lucky in that sense that we had a rather large area to put our boxes after we’d packed them up. We also had a basement full of stuff that we didn’t use on a regular basis so packing that stuff up ahead of time was easy, in a sense.

Since we bought and sold through Opendoor we didn’t need to get a storage unit to put our boxes while showing our house but if you sell the traditional way, you may need to. A storage unit or POD would be a great place to put boxes if you have one.

If you’re storing boxes in a storage unit, garage, or unfinished basement, be sure to scout out if rain will seep in and reach your boxes. We knew that our garage didn’t have the best seal so if we were to put anything in there to store we’d have to put it up about half way toward the house if we didn’t want any chance of it getting wet.

If you think that water might seep in and you don’t have the time or energy to test it out, you could use plastic tubs to pack with and use those as the bottom of your packing pile. I’ve included an illustration below of what this might look like. Of course, I’d hope that you’d do a better job stacking boxes on top of each other than this image but figured I’d at least get my point across 🙂

Using plastic storage bins on bottom and cardboard on top to ensure that no water will seep in and make it to the cardboard boxes if you're storing them in a garage, damp basement, or storage unit.

Labeling Boxes & Color Coding

This is my favorite part! We used a color coding system with sticky notes of different colors for each room of the new house. We also wrote the name of the room on the sticky notes, then adhered the notes to the boxes with packaging tape.

I loved this as it was easy to see how many boxes we had for each room and if we need to go back and find something that we packed accidentally, we could easily see which boxes to look in.

Below you can see boxes stacked upon boxes in our old house in the office we never used and the family room we didn’t use much either. It was great to have designated places for the boxes that were packed. You can see on some of the boxes they have a bright post-it note. It’s hard to see from a distance but it said “Master Bedroom”.

Further below you can see some of the various post it notes that we used for labeling boxes.

Picture of our boxes stacked on top of each other in our family room and office.
various post it notes with room names on them

Hire Movers!!

My husband and I had moved many times before, throughout college, our early professional days, and into our first home just 5 years prior. We had never used a moving service before, we always either moved on our own or asked friends and family to help.

However, this time was different. We had a whole house of things to move. We didn’t have several days over which we could move and we were sick of putting everyone out for the day to do manual labor by helping us move! So we decided to hire movers.

My husband was reluctant at first. He really doesn’t like to spend money unless it’s absolutely necessary, which is great, but in this case, I felt it was absolutely necessary. Once we started figuring out how long it would take even if we got our own moving truck like we had for our previous big move, we knew we just didn’t have the ‘manpower’ to get it done. Plus with kids this time, things were so different than before.

It’s been over 3 years since we moved and yesterday I told my husband that I was writing a blog post about moving and unprompted he said, hiring a moving company to do the actual heavy lifting and moving was the best check we’ve ever written. Or something like that. I fully agree!

We did scout out a few different moving companies, mainly getting referrals from friends and family members who had moved in the past. Online reviews are great a lot of the time but we wanted to know from people we trust and know personally as well.

We could have actually gone to the moving place’s warehouse and gotten free boxes to use but they were all the way across the Twin Cities so we decided not to. It was cool they had that option though!!

Hire movers if you can. It’s great having someone else take care of all of the physical labor and getting the boxes where they need to go so you can focus on your kids and ensuring things are going where they should. PLUS you don’t have to hurt your back or the backs of your loved ones!

Another bonus of that is you don’t have to bother friends and family to ask them to help you move, yet again!

The Day of the Move

As I mentioned above, we hired movers to do the heavy lifting. Once they arrived at our current home, I drove our minivan with the kids and our cat, and my mother-in-law followed me in her vehicle to our new house. That way we were able to get settled in the new house before the moving truck arrived AND we were out of the way.

During that time, I went through the house and put sticky notes on the door trim of each room with the corresponding name and color of the sticky notes on the boxes. This way it was very clear to the movers where the boxes went, which I’m guessing was a big help and made the job go quicker.

Labeling with colors and names also meant that we only had a box or two that was put in the wrong room, which was awesome to have that few to relocate!

When the movers arrived to the new house with the two moving trucks, we were ready to go! It was nice just having to stand there or even start unpacking some, especially the kitchen, while they moved boxes in. I also was able to tend to the kids as needed. My mother-in-law was awesome with the kids so we could focus on moving as well. My dad was there too, first at the old house to help clean after everything was packed up, and then at the new house. It was great having just a couple people around instead of having a full house of people loading and unloading trucks of all of our belongings, while I felt guilty about asking for help. Hiring movers was well worth it!!

Supplies to Keep in Mind

A Tape Gun or Two – if you and a partner are packing it’s very helpful to have 2; you could see if a friend has one you could borrow if you don’t want to buy another one. I also suggest a legit tape gun, not one of those plastic little dispensers that say they’re for moving. You’re just going to get frustrated with them (speaking from experience.)

Duck Brand Handled Tape Gun With Clear Packing Tape, 1.88 Inch x 54.6 Yard, 3 Inch Core (669332)
Duck Brand Handled Tape Gun With Clear Packing Tape, 1.88 Inch x 54.6 Yard, 3 Inch Core (669332)
by Shurtape Technologies
  • Designed for use with most packing tape rolls
  • Comfortable grip for taping multiple boxes
  • Great for packing, mailing and moving
  • Turn the adjustable tension control knob to the right to tighten if tape unwinds too quickly and turn the knob to the left to loosen the tape release for smoother dispensing
  • Includes one 1.88 inch x 54.6 yard roll of Duck brand clear standard packing tape
 Price: $ 17.99 Buy now at Amazon

Packaging Tape – this is a time it’s worth it to splurge and buy the good stuff. It’s worth it. I also suggest you get more than you think you’ll need. We had to buy more a few times. For example, I purchased this 6-pack on February 3rd and then again on February 11th. Lol

Duck HD Clear Packing Tape - 6 Rolls, 328 Yards Heavy Duty Packaging for Shipping, Mailing, Moving & Storage Clear, Strong Refills Boxes 1.88 In. x 54.6 Yd. (441962)
Duck HD Clear Packing Tape - 6 Rolls, 328 Yards Heavy Duty Packaging for Shipping, Mailing, Moving & Storage Clear, Strong Refills Boxes 1.88 In. x 54.6 Yd. (441962)
by Duck

HEAVY DUTY PACKING TAPE WITH STRONG ADHESION - HD Clear Duck Packaging Tape is made with an adhesive bond that strengthens over time for a long lasting hold, making it great for all your storage, packing and shipping needs.

List Price: $ 22.99 You Save: $ 2.70 (-12%)  Price: $ 20.29 Buy now at Amazon

Boxes of different sizes either from people on Facebook Marketplace (usually free) or stores such as Lowes.

Post-It Notes (or off brand) of various colors but all the same traditional 3×3 size

Sticky Notes 3x3 Inches,Bright Colors Self-Stick Pads, Easy to Post for Home, Office, Notebook, 82 Sheets/pad
Sticky Notes 3x3 Inches,Bright Colors Self-Stick Pads, Easy to Post for Home, Office, Notebook, 82 Sheets/pad
by Vanpad
  • PORTABLE SIZE --- 3 in x 3 in, 8 pads/pack, 82 sheets/pad
  • SUPER STICKY --- Strong adhesive, make sure sticky notes don't fall off, and removes cleanly as well
  • BRIGHT PAPER --- 80gsm sturdy stickies don't tear apart, curl up or spill ink
  • COLORFUL --- 8 Bright colors,Red, pink, orange, yellow, green, light blue, blue, purple. (Bright memo pads making your message more noticeable)
  • Can be pasted on the wall, blackboard, computer, desktop, refrigerator and almost all other smooth surfaces.
List Price: $ 10.99 You Save: $ 2.00 (-18%)  Price: $ 8.99 Buy now at Amazon

Marker to write on Post-It Notes

Sharpie 38262PP Sharpie Marker, Chisel Tip, 2/PK, Black
 Price: $ 5.68 Buy now at Amazon

Lastly, Say Goodbye

Before you leave your home, especially if you have children, try to have some time for them to say goodbye to the only place they’ve lived (in our case) and a place that was special to you as well!

This is something that I’m still deeply sad we didn’t have a chance to do. I meant to, it’s just once the movers arrived I was so hurried that I just got the kids and I out of there, I didn’t have us go back through to say goodbye to the house.

Yes, I realize this sounds dorky but my 2-year-old felt sad afterward that he didn’t get to and I still feel sad too, since I tend to ruminate on things.

I know that an amazing couple lives there now and are taking great care of the house and yard. Since it was an Opendoor house, we did have a few months that we could have gone back and toured the house before it was sold, but that wouldn’t have been the same as when it had all of our stuff in it of course.

If you want more decluttering advice, head over to the Rent. blog where I was named an expert in the article How to Declutter Before a Move, Room by Room | Rent.

Easy packing and moving tips especially with little children and little time text with image of a family of 4 carrying moving boxes.

Founder, Professional Blogger at The Way it Really Is, LLC | [email protected] | Website

As a mom of identical twins and a son two years older, I have gained invaluable experience in the realm, and chaos, of parenting. With a Master's Degree and Education Specialist Degree in School Psychology, I spent years as a school psychologist, helping children navigate through their educational and emotional challenges. Now as a stay at home mom and professional blogger, I combine my areas of expertise to help you in your parenting journey.

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