So. Apparently, in order to renovate our apartment, we have to pack everything up and move every single thing out of it.

When I started this whole renovation and redecoration journey (all of which there is no physical evidence of yet, besides blog posts, mind you), I don’t think I really let myself understand the work involved in making this happen. Picking out a new couch, a countertop, bathroom tile and designing a few built-ins is the fun part. The hard part is packing up our entire apartment and essentially moving out, so that the renovating can begin.


I asked Rachel Rosenthal of Rachel and Company, a professional organizer based in DC, to give me some pointers. She’s the one who came over initially to assess my purging and reorganization needs, which ended up being the catalyst for this whole renovation. She helped me understand that moving out is also an excellent opportunity to tell my kids— NO, YOU DO NOT NEED 5000 STUFFED ANIMALS. We are giving some away and throwing stuff out.

I’ll let her take it from here!


Whether you move every year or have been settled in your space for decades, the packing process can be overwhelming. Or, if you’re renovating your space and need to relocate for a few months, deciding what needs to go, what needs to stay, and what should be stored can be difficult to pinpoint.

We recommend the same thing to all our clients. Before you pack a single box, it’s important to invest time in purging. You need to figure out what items you’ll have room for in your new space and which ones are worthy of your new, clean slate. Trust me— you will thank yourself on the other end of your move, when you are only unpacking items that you want to welcome into your new (or newly renovated) home!

Regardless of the size and scope of your move, these tips can help to streamline the process and create a better (or at least less stressful) experience.

1) Choose how you will move.

Your budget will help to make this decision for you, but it’s important to figure out how involved in the process you want to be/need to be. If you are doing it yourself, you’ll need to give yourself extra time to buy the supplies and carve out time in your schedule to pack and unpack. If you’re hiring movers, then we recommend getting a couple of quotes to compare prices and levels of involvement that they offer.

2) Know your options.

In our experience, moving companies are pretty flexible with their involvement. You just have to know to ask for their options. Most companies offer everything from DIY packing to full service options, which are: (1) they drop off supplies in advance to let you pack on your own, (2)  they just pack the big stuff and breakables (like TVs, art, and china), (3) they pack the entire house, and (4) they pack everything and then unpack everything and remove the boxes from your home.

3) Think about storage.

Think about where you will be storing your larger items and boxes during a renovation. Does the moving company have a storage facility you can use? Do you need to look for other storage companies in the area? Will you need access to any of the stuff you put in storage throughout your renovation?

4) Map out your floor plan.

Before you pack, think about your future space and what will fit. Will your future living room fit your existing couch? Will your utility shelving unit fit in your new garage? Are you downsizing and no longer need guest bedroom furniture? Make a plan to dispose or sell these items so you aren’t stuck dealing with them on the other end when space is limited.

5) Declutter and donate.

Choose one room to focus on at a time, and touch every item in that room to determine how it should be categorized. Remember: while the item might not take up much room in a box, you will eventually have to find a place for it in your new home. If it’s not something you need, love, or use on a regular basis, let it go. Go through every room in the house and categorize all items: KEEP, DONATE, CONSIGN, and TRASH. Set a “donation date” during the last month leading up to the move out date. Schedule for a donation pick-up or carve out time in your schedule to drop off items at a local donation center. Make appointments to consign your clothing, furniture, or other household goods, way before your move out date.

6) Take inventory.

When you pack a “miscellaneous” box, it likely will remain a “miscellaneous box” after your move, tucked away in the corner of a room because its contents are too daunting to put away. Take the time to categorize items and keep “like with like,” creating a detailed inventory so that you know where to find what you’re looking for, without having to dig through each box.

7) Create a packing system.

Assign each room a color using colored tape (i.e. kitchen=red, bathroom =blue, etc.) to make it super easy for everyone involved to know where the boxes should go, as they are being brought back into your new space. For categories that can include multiple rooms (bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, etc.), we recommend adding the specific room name next to the tape. So, if you want to label the Master Bathroom box you would use blue tape and the text “Bath-Master” to signify where the box should go in the unloading process. Take it one step further by numbering each box (so blue tape, “Bath-Master” #1). As you prepare for the move and are creating your inventory list, make sure to add a “Room” and “Number” column. Add the details (Bath Master-#1) next to the items on your inventory list that are packed inside so that when you are looking for a specific item (like your coffee pot, socks, band-aids) during your unpacking, you don’t have to open each and every box to find it.

I know my process is more time consuming than throwing everything in a box, but both moving and renovating is a purging opportunity you don’t want to miss. The less you have, the more you new space will feel like a fresh start!


Rachel and Company is a professional organizing firm led by Rachel Rosenthal. Since 2007, Rachel and her team have worked with over 2000+ busy families to create homes that are both functional and beautiful. Rooted in the belief that organization can be achieved by all, Rachel and Company emphasizes solutions that are easy to use and enhance a home’s existing aesthetic. Check out her site for consultations and follow @rachelandcomp on Instagram!