Moving EasyBoxes. Tape. Bubble wrap. Even with all of the necessary supplies, moving is probably ranked within the top five least enjoyable experiences for most people. It becomes even less enjoyable when the time frame to move is shortened. Our recent move—from beginning to end—began in March and ended in May. We had two months to “pack or pitch” our belongings as we began the process. 

I considered myself to be pretty good at the moving thing until we moved as a family for the first time. I’ve lived in four states, and I’ve moved nine times. I even moved twice in one month when a friend got a job where I had recently moved.  We decided to live together. Yes—I actually chose to pack and unpack again in the same month. I think this is where any possible future as a packrat disappeared!  

But adding in all of the things that children acquire can make the task to pack seem endless. Let me say one word: Legos. Yes, you can cringe. The thought of packing the Legos nearly put me over the edge. Then, I opened the closets: toys still in boxes, new with tags (and now too-small) clothes, school portfolios for the past few years, and other things that had not seen the light of day for quite some time. 

Making decisions about what is or is not meaningful can become blurred when the accumulation begins to overwhelm you. Yet, this is what makes moving an eye-opening experience, and where the ability to distinguish between what is needed and not needed can be made clear. 


Pack and toss with purpose. Consider why you are keeping the things that you are packing. I envisioned how I wanted my new home to look—clean and airy—so I had to make some tough decisions. For me, it was my books. It felt like some sort of betrayal to slim down my collection. Yet, as I looked at the dusty titles on my shelf, I realized that I didn’t re-read most of them, nor did I plan to. So, I kept books that were signed, that had been given to me at an important time in my life, or that I read several times. Having a clear reason for keeping things makes decision-making easier when deciding to keep or to donate. Kids may have a difficult time determining why they want to keep something. Henry would often respond with “because I like it” or “because it is mine” when asked this question. We talked to him about how often he used it, if he had outgrown it, or if there was someone else who could use it more. Our questions to him did not always have an immediate response, but it was a starting point for him to reflect on why he wanted to keep certain items. 


Tackle one space at a time. This goes for both packing and unpacking, and it is a great way to keep the kids involved without overwhelming them. Choosing to work in one area or space at a time makes the progress visible as well. Whether it is one room, one closet, one bathroom, or one bookshelf, there is a sense of accomplishment in being able to complete something off of the checklist.


Get everyone involved. This may seem like a daunting task—including the kids in the packing and unpacking—but, in the end, they will learn important lessons about working together and taking care of their belongings. Henry spent time deciding which baby books to keep and which to donate. He chose to keep some series and donate others. He used the same process with his stuffed animals, and he decided to keep ones from places we had visited. When he unpacked his boxes, he remembered that these things—the most important ones—would have their own place in his new room.  This task gave Henry responsibility for his belongings, helped him make decisions, and involved him with the move.   


Pack in threes. One box is “keep”—another is “trash”—and the other is “donation.” When moving our family, packing items with this mindset quickly helped us reduce the accumulation. The Legos, clothes, games, and stuffed animals were intimidating, so having a system to declutter while packing made the process more efficient from beginning to end. My theory has always been to spend more time on the packing—deliberate packing—so that the unpacking is easier. This “three-for-one” process lessened the number of our belongings quite a bit. And, we were not “living” out of boxes for very long once we moved into the new house.  


I like to think of moving as preparing for a new journey, whether we are moving nearby or far away. We learn things about ourselves and each other, and we identify the things that are most important to us and our family. We can look at a move with apprehension over the tedious nature of packing, or we can look it as an opportunity to make meaningful decisions about eliminating some of the excess from our lives to teach our kids that less is more. 

Deirdre Johns is Mom to Henry, an eight and a half-year-old lover of animals and nature. She has been teaching English for thirteen years, currently at Hilton Head Christian Academy, and has lived in the Lowcountry with her family since 2012.