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Pack it up: Hills resident seeks organizing tips

Photos Courtesy of Amanda Kuzak
Before belongings are loaded onto a moving truck, develop a plan for what you’d like to have come off the truck first – it will need to go into the truck last.


Our Los Altos home just sold. We have no idea where we are going or what we are doing, but I wondered if you had any packing suggestions for me? We have to be out June 1.

– Pamela

Well, Pamela, you are in luck. This topic is fresh on my brain with all of the relocations that we’ve been organizing lately. To answer your question, I am going to break down an actual move that we recently coordinated and organized here in Los Altos and share my favorite tips along the way.

We were hired by a family in Los Altos Hills to help them move to a new home in Carmel. They decided to swap their large 5,000-square-foot home with a small yard with a large property and a smaller 1,800-square-foot home. With the priorities set, we created an action plan and scheduled sessions.

The power of purging

We started with purging – you can never purge too much when you are moving. By the time you pay to pack, box, move, unpack and rehome an item, you should really love it.

For this project, we divided the house into zones:

• Living room/family room

• Coat closets/linen closets

• Master bedroom

• Children’s/guest rooms

• Home office

• Kitchen/pantry/dining

• Garage/yard/miscellaneous

When you are purging prior to packing up, I recommend moving around the room clockwise or counterclockwise so that you can track your progress. Have a plan for removing the items you’ve designated for donation out of the house so that they don’t creep back in. Plus, you’ll need all of the room you can get to pack and stack boxes.

Professional organizer tip: Try to avoid having friends and family “rescue” items out of your unwanted pile of stuff. The reality is that cousins/siblings/neighbors will think they need something, but they either never come to get it or will talk you into keeping it. Instead, choose a charity to work with and take a second to soak up that feeling of freedom from clutter.

For this project we purged and purged and purged. My van hauled away two large loads of clothing, housewares and toys. As we went through each zone, we also packed up items the family wouldn’t need to use for the next two weeks – until moving day – starting with low-priority zones like the dining room and ending with high-priority zones like the kitchen and master bedroom.

Professional organizer tip: Buy boxes uniform in size so that they are easy to stack and label. Always label them for the room they will be going to at the new house. For this project, we had to map the items from one room to a totally new room. For example, everything from the playroom, office and family room headed to an art studio cottage at the new house. Instead of labeling the items from the room we packed them from, we labeled them as “art studio” so that the moving company would know exactly where to carry the boxes on moving day.

Moving day

If you are working with a professional moving company, make sure to be organized on the day of the move. Develop a moving plan if you have specific needs and goals; for example, if there are items that you’d like to come off the truck first, they should go onto the truck last.

Professional organizer tip: Be sure to have overnight bags packed for two nights for you and your family with medications, clothing and chargers for electronic devices. As for valuable items – jewelry, financial documents, gift cards and cash – it’s best to keep them with you at all times.

Take advantage of the fresh start by putting bedding and linens into clearly marked boxes on the morning of moving day so that they can be washed at the new house before they go onto beds.

Professional organizer tip: If you are bringing cable boxes, stereo equipment and televisions, take a photo with your smartphone of how the cables are set up before you disassemble. Detach cables and wind them up in clearly labeled Ziploc bags.

On moving day, the only sight you want to see is an empty moving truck. But before you get to that stage, you’ll need to direct traffic and let the movers know where you want your items to be placed.

Whether you are hiring a moving company or moving yourself with friends and family, do yourself a favor and make a sign to label each room to eliminate confusion.

Professional organizer tip: Eliminate distractions on moving day. Take advantage of the help you have on hand and be available for questions. We often play the role of the homeowner when we manage relocations for clients, and we make sure not to take calls or breaks because we want to keep the project moving as efficiently as possible. Clear project management will yield a savings on moving costs and better results at the end of the day.

All of your pre-move purging and packing will pay off once moving day hits. If you think it would be easier to deal with everything at the new house, you are wrong. Even if a company is paying for your relocation, be sure to purge prior to having a team of packers come.

Once the moving truck pulls out of your driveway, hit the ground running in top priority zones. Our goal is always to unpack and organize the kitchen first. The next priority zone is to tackle children’s bedrooms and then onto the master bedroom and bathrooms. Living spaces, offices and garages are always saved for the second or third day, depending on the speed we are working at.

Professional organizer tip: Unpack one room at a time. If you bounce from one space to another, you’ll end up with a big mess. Choose a room to work on and start by unpacking every single box. Sort the items as you go and then create a storage plan and put things away.

Pamela, I hope these tips help get you moving in the right direction as you start to purge and pack for your upcoming move.

Amanda Kuzak is a Los Altos-based professional organizer and estate liquidator. For more information, visit

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