How to Have a Productive, Stress-Free Move

August 29, 2022

Reading Time: 12 minutes

Let’s Get Moving: How to Have a Productive, (Mostly) Stress-Free Move

For the second time in as many years, my family and I just moved! And surprisingly, it was nearly STRESS-FREE. If you think that’s not possible, you need to listen to this episode to learn what inspired our recent move and how we planned financially by setting goals and sticking to them.

Heads Up: Episode 138 is little less about productivity and a little more personal! But don’t worry — there are definitely a few productivity lessons sprinkled in if that’s what you’re here for. 

Not everyone knows this yet, but in early June, my family and I moved to a new home in a new city. And yes, it seems like a total surprise considering we’d just moved a year and a half earlier! But amid this move and all of the financial planning and logistics that went into it, I realized there were some lessons to be learned! 

Moving is no simple task. There are lots of moving parts (pun definitely intended). Whether you’re doing a solo move across town or across the country with the help of a moving company, there’s SO much to coordinate. It could easily make your head spin into a rabbit hole of productivity-less frustration. 

I want to save you some of that spinning! 

It all started with a vision

The catalyst came back in 2018. And it all started with a vision. 

I don’t mean a hallucination or anything like that. I mean a vision for the future. If you’ve been following this blog or any of my social channels for a bit, then you know how strongly I feel about basing time management on your vision for the future and your core values. (Vision and Values are actually Milestone #1 inside the It’s About Time Academy!) 

A few years ago, when I took the time to craft my vision for the very first time, it included living in a specific area in Louisiana. I’m a Louisiana girl born and raised, after all! I grew up in the piney hills of the north, went to LSU in Baton Rouge, and lived in New Orleans for a while, too.

A special place

There’s a special place that has always held my fancy, though, and it’s called the Northshore. It’s a collection of small towns just across Lake Pontchartrain, which borders New Orleans. The Northshore’s still technically considered the New Orleans metro area, which means it’s 45 minutes away from world renowned restaurants and historic spots in the city. But it also has the feel of a small Southern town straight from the pages of Southern Living. 

Between the lush forest landscapes, historic homes lining the lakefront, quaint downtowns with antique shops, art galleries, fun restaurants and coffee shops, and bike trails and breweries, it’s just big enough to have everything you need and more — but just small enough to feel manageable. 

I love it. 

When I cast that first vision all those years ago, I knew that the Northshore was where I wanted to live, to put down roots and grow our family. 

This was back in 2018. And by 2020, my vision came into reality. We moved from New Orleans across the lake to Mandeville, and I was absolutely certain we’d be there for years. 

Then, the pandemic hit. 

A fresh start

After just a few short months in our gorgeous new home, Scott’s job, like so many others’, was affected by the pandemic. They moved us back to the Baton Rouge area. Although we knew it was the right decision for our finances and Scott’s job, it wasn’t what we truly wanted. 

The move never sat right with us. We knew that someday, we’d move back to the Northshore and back to our dream… we just didn’t know when or if that would be possible. 

After almost a year in our new city, though, we started to see a path for moving back — but we knew it would take a lot of support. As you know, I believe in getting coaching and support whenever there’s an area of life you feel strongly about, and this was one of those. So, we started working with Kristen Ricupero, a financial coach, in July of 2021. You might remember her from Episode 49 of the It’s About Time Podcast

Financial Fitness

With Kristen’s help, we did a complete audit of our financial situation, including everything from our mortgage and outstanding debts like credit cards and car payments, to car and life insurance. We wanted to figure out how we could make a move back to the Northshore financially feasible. 

It started by making little changes and tweaks that snowballed together. Getting the right amount of life and car insurance to protect us in the event of an emergency without paying through the nose and trying not to spend more than we needed to. Kristen helped us get into great shape financially.

Next, we set big goals

  • Pay off debt
  • Buy a car
  • Save for a downpayment
  • Save for moving expenses

We stuck to those goals diligently, keeping our vision in mind the whole time. The key came in those last two goals — the down payment and moving expenses. Because as soon as we’d saved up for them, we knew we could move without taking any big financial hits to our everyday functioning budget while still being prepared for everything. 

It’s important to note that, as much as we wanted to hurry up and move, we worked toward one goal at a time, instead of putting effort into all of them at once. Oh yeah, and we budgeted for some fun, too! 

Tracking our spending

To accomplish our goals, we needed to start tracking our spending, which we did with EveryDollar. It took some time to get used to checking in with EveryDollar daily, and I still need reminders, but whenever I’m regularly checking in and organizing our transactions, I feel more in control and confident about our finances. 

The REAL process 

So, let’s dive into the home buying process and how we ended up where we are now. First, we considered building. We even met with a builder about a specific piece of land in the exact neighborhood we wanted. But we got a dose of reality when he explained that supply chain issues, labor shortages and delays could mean we’d be under construction for at least a year, and we wouldn’t even get to build the house we wanted because of the size and shape of the lot. 

I’ve heard that building is one of the most stressful experiences, and I’m not interested in going through all of that, and waiting a year unless I’m building my dream house. So basically we could build a house that wasn’t exactly what we wanted, and it would take at least a year to get into it — but it would be in the exact neighborhood we wanted. Or we could cross our fingers and wait for houses in the neighborhood we wanted to hit the market, or we could expand our search. 

So we decided to expand our search. We worked with a realtor who had great relationships in the area, so we were able to find out about homes before they were listed. He found a great home on a quiet street in a nearby neighborhood with an amazing backyard view that had basically everything we wanted. We were able to move quickly, see the home, make an offer and get under contract. 

Then the fun really began. 

Our next step was to get our house photographed and listed – and getting a home list & show ready with little kids is an adventure. If you’ve ever heard that saying that cleaning your house with toddlers is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos – that’s basically how it goes. You vacuum up goldfish cracker crumbs in one room, and a basket of toys you just picked up gets dumped out all over again. Or all of the books get pulled off the bookshelf.  

Fortunately, our listing agent, Katy Caldwell – if you’re a fan of Hustle Humbly podcast, then you definitely know Katy – was incredibly organized and made the entire process as stress free as possible. Plus, she came through before photos and ensured that throw blankets were in place, furniture was styled to maximize the space, and everything was good to go. Then after the photographer wrapped up, we peaced out for the weekend. 

Get out of Dodge

One thing that really made the whole selling process easy was this: after we got the house photo ready and the listing photographer worked his magic, we packed up and went away for the weekend. In the 3 days we were up in North Louisiana visiting my mom, there were 38 showings. 

Being out of town meant we didn’t have to leave the house at the drop of a hat with our kiddos, and we could just relax while all of the showings took place one after the other. Katy let all of the agents know that we wouldn’t be reviewing any offers until Monday afternoon, so that took the pressure off of the potential buyers, too.  

Once the house was under contract, we kicked off the next adventure: purging and packing.

Purge and pack 

Step one actually started before we even listed the house. Before taking photos, and opening up the house for showings, we did a lot of decluttering, taking down things like personal photos and decor items. We took down curtains, the girls’ name signs in their room. Big toys like Millie’s play kitchen and doll high chair. Wedding pictures, framed photos. Even extra pieces of furniture. We put things away in plastic boxes and tucked them in the garage or in the backs of closets. 

When it came to the rest of the packing, we actually started with our girls’ toys. Millie and I picked out a box of “favorite toys” and put them in a plastic box in the living room. This box held all of her go-to toys and books, plus of course some of Bitsie’s little toys. Then, one day while the girls were at daycare, I packed up the rest. 

There were two things that made our packing process easier:

My packing kit. 

It drives me insane to walk around the house looking for the packing tape, and rummaging through drawers for a permanent marker to write on the moving box. So, at the beginning of our packing endeavor, I ordered a 6 pack of packing tape, and I rounded up no less than 7 black sharpies and two pairs of scissors and tossed them in a small Amazon box. 

This was my packing kit. Nothing fancy, but it kept all of the tape, markers and scissors in one spot so I didn’t have to run around and look for them. 

My box labeling system

I’ve moved 13 different times since graduating from college in May 2008, so you could definitely say this wasn’t my first rodeo. When you’ve moved as many times as I have, you want to keep the system as simple as possible, and you want to know where to find things when you arrive so you can unpack based on priority. 

Here’s what I do: Every box gets a number, and I write that number on every side of the box. MAYBE I’ll write “kitchen” on one side, but I’ll write the number on every side of the box except the bottom.

Then, on a separate sheet of paper, I’ll write the number and either the room the box goes in, or a short description of what’s in the box. In the past, I’ve kept this list on a clipboard, but for our most recent move I used a giant post-it note, you know like people use at workshops for brainstorming? We just stuck the giant post-it to the wall in the back hallway, and every time we packed a box, we updated the list. 

Here’s why this system is so awesome and efficient.

1. When you’re unloading boxes and trying to move quickly, it’s a huge pain to look on all the different sides of the box for some kind of labeling to know where to put it. You want to make sure it’s labeled on all sides so no matter which side of the box is visible, you can see a label of some sort.

2. It’s a lot faster to write a number on 5 different sides of a box – all four of the sides, plus the top- than it is to write kitchen 5 times. Plus, you’re going to run out of markers faster that way. 

3. The system also gives you an accurate count of the number of boxes you’re packing, so you’re able to tell movers, or friends and family – we’ve got x number of boxes. 

Easy right?

4. It actually makes communication on the day of the move SO much easier and it makes the move in faster. If your list is on a clipboard, just stand at the front door and direct traffic. 37? Dining room. 42, kitchen. 17, nursery. OR if you use a giant post-it note page like I did, you can roll it up when you leave the house, and then unroll it and stick it up on the wall by the front door whenever you arrive at your new house. Our movers LOVED that they could just check the list and head straight to the designated room. 

5. Finally, if you hang on to your checklist, whether it’s a clipboard or a wall post-it, as you unpack boxes you can cross that number off the list. This can show you your progress, even when your house feels chaotic because stuff is everywhere. It can also alert you to missing or misplaced boxes, and because the number is written on all sides of the box, you can head from room to room and look for that specific number.  

The work continues

Moving can be one of the most chaotic experiences in life. After you’ve gone through the sometimes (often) stressful process of buying, selling, packing, and moving, all you want to do is relax and rest already! But the work continues, because you now have to unpack this new home that’s filled to the brim with boxes and feeling very upside down! 

My solution? In addition to budgeting for moving costs, budget for a professional organizer. Many of them also offer moving services, like Sara West, who joined me for Episode 73 of the It’s About Time Podcast

The (not so) dreaded unpacking

Sara had helped us unpack when we moved from Mandeville to Prairieville. I was 34 weeks pregnant during that move and, although I was in nesting mode, I knew I needed help to feel settled and ready in time for Elizabeth’s arrival. The last thing I wanted was to bring a baby home from the hospital and still have unpacked boxes lining the hallway, and with Sara’s help, I didn’t have to worry about it! 

So hiring Sara for this move was a no-brainer. Sara and a member of her team came three days in a row, for eight hours a day. In those three days, every single box was unpacked. Every single closet was organized. She unpacked our kitchen and pantry in a way that was intuitive and maximized every millimeter of space. Our office was set up and work-ready on the first day. 

Whenever I share that I hired a professional organizer to help us unpack, sometimes I’m met with “oh my gosh, that is genius! I never would have thought of that!” But very often, I hear, “Oh, I’m way too type A to let someone unpack for me.” Or “I could never have someone organize my things, I have to do it.”

Don’t hold yourself back

So here’s the thing… If you LOVE organizing and think it’s super fun, then by all means, organize, color code, and set up your systems to your heart’s content. But if the thought of organizing or unpacking stresses you out, yet you feel obligated to do it because you feel like you have to – then hiring a professional organizer is for you. 

There are people out there — people like Sara — who are incredibly talented, efficient, and probably even better at organizing than you are. If you’re avoiding organizing your pantry, or you have a closet that’s out of control, or the thought of unpacking after a move gives you anxiety – you can hire someone to help you.

If you believe that you’re too Type A to give up that control, here’s my challenge to you: Direct your Type A energy to something that really matters. To something that only you can do. 

3 days after we moved in, I hosted a 4 hour workshop for a client at their annual kickoff. The venue for the workshop was about an hour from our new house. Instead of being neck deep in boxes, I gave a workshop, connected with female community leaders, and gave them encouragement and tools to have an amazing year of service. Then I drove back home and arrived to find my kitchen completely and impeccably unpacked. 

Direct your energy where it counts

I’m happy to direct my Type A energy where it counts, and I hope that encourages you to do the same. Sara unpacked and organized our kitchen much better and much faster than I could have on my own.

Plus, having someone else unpack and organize for us meant that we were able to relax and enjoy our home so much sooner. We even hosted our families for a father’s day cookout two weeks after we moved in. 

So there you have it! We moved, again, after less than two years of living in the Baton Rouge, and it wasn’t a headache in the slightest. Okay, so maybe there were a few headaches, but it definitely wasn’t as stressful as it could have been. I hope this gives you some ideas and inspiration to test out as you’re planning and prepping.  

If you want to get even deeper into the world of time management and organization so that you, too, can have a stress-free move, you can check out It’s About Time Academy here

In this solo episode, I talk about:

  • What inspired our recent move
  • How we planned financially by setting goals and sticking to them
  • What I’ve learned from moving 13 times since college graduation
  • My packing process and my number one recommendation for getting unpacked and settled stress-free

Links & Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Related Episodes

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