The Unpacking Order: Where To Start First

How to unpack after a move

A common sight during a move is the giant mound of boxes. Whether it’s at the start, when packing up, or at the destination before unpacking, it can be a little overwhelming. When everything you own is sitting in boxes, where do you begin? Hopefully, you followed our packing tips, so everything is packed well and somewhat organized. (And if not, we have some tips to help!) Take a closer look at the best way to unpack after a move to get settled as quickly and as easily as possible. 

Family unpacking after a move.


Unpacking tips

Get started with the unloading and organization with this advice:

  • Start with cleaning and repairs. Ideally, repairs would take place before your belongings get delivered. But if painting or major maintenance is required, it’s easier to do in an empty home. A clean, fresh house is like a blank canvas.  
  • Set a target unpack date. This isn’t a hard-and-fast deadline, but instead a date to work backward from. If the goal is to be settled within a week, you’ll need to cover a lot of ground each day. If it’s more like six months, just set smaller mini-goals along the way. Make an unpacking calendar, and stay on task.
  • Find the “open first” box. Hopefully, things like tools and paper towels were put in an “open first” box when you were packing. Locate this and get everything ready to work.
  • Have tools ready. It’s helpful to have simple tools like a hammer and screwdriver on hand for assembly and set up on move-in day.
  • Sort boxes by room. Organize boxes in the room that they belong before opening anything. It’s much easier to move closed cartons before they’re opened.
  • Break down boxes and paper as you go. After a box is emptied, break it down and stack the cardboard up for recycling. Take empty packing paper and other materials and place them in bags to set aside. This will prevent having to go back through piles of paper and empty boxes to make sure they’ve been unpacked. 

The best way to unpack after a move

Ultimately, deciding which rooms to be unpacked first depends on your family’s needs. Determine what rooms and items are needed first, and start there. Remember that every box doesn’t have to be emptied to work through an area. For example, on Day 1 the bed and bedding could be unpacked and set up, but the contents of a nightstand could wait for another day. Here’s a common order for unpacking:

  1. Bathroom. Start with hanging up the shower curtain and unpacking the towels. It’s easy, and being able to take a shower after a hard day’s work is nice.
  2. Kitchen. Unless takeout food makes you happy, the kitchen is the next place to start. It takes a bit to unwrap each piece and get organized, so plan some extra time for this.  
  3. Entertainment. Setting up TVs, game systems and other electronics involve hooking everything up correctly, so allow extra time for this, too. Then enjoy some much deserved rest time, and take in a show! 
  4. Clothing. If you’ve been living out of a suitcase, getting clothing unpacked may help you feel more settled. 
  5. Everything else. Depending on your target unpack date, you may be able to take some time with everything else. Be sure to use care when unwrapping artwork, mirrors, knick-knacks and other fragile items.

Have questions about unpacking? 

Leave a comment below! We’re here to help your move from start to finish.