If you’re anything like me, you’re easily overwhelmed by spring cleaning, deciding on a new layout for your living room, and organizing your bedroom closet. (Welcome to the wonderful world of anxiety disorders.)

So, when it comes time to up the ante and move to a new house or apartment, the word “overwhelmed,” then, is reduced to a gigantic understatement. Your heart palpitates at the thought of cardboard boxes. You get lightheaded just thinking about all the nooks and crannies that are crammed with your stuff. Your skin gets clammy as you weakly try to formulate a plan of attack.

Instead of trying to do everything at once, break down the process into digestible steps.

1. Don’t procrastinate! As soon as you sign your new lease or set a move-in date after a new home purchase, get started with the below tips. Also, now is also the time to call around for rates with a moving company, if you choose to use one.

2. Before packing anything, place a large trash bag in each room of your house or apartment. Go through each room one at a time and throw away any items that you can’t donate to charity or can’t/shouldn’t take with you. (Here’s a partial list of what I threw away before my most recent move: a 2007 calendar, inkless pens, DayQuil that expired in 2005, three decks of less than 52 cards, and socks without mates.)

Limit yourself to one or two rooms per day and make trashing the unnecessary stuff your only move-related objective in the room for now. And if you need any inspiration to toss a few items (in both your old house and in your mind), check out fellow blogger Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar’s recent post about “existential editing”. Or, if you need a laugh, see what George Carlin has to say about all the stuff we keep in our lives. (Warning: the George Carlin audio is NSFW.)

3. Now, go through each room (one at a time!) and create a charity/give-away pile. Then, gather everything up from each room, toss them into the car, and drive them off to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or to any friends who might be able to breathe new life into your unwanted items. If there are any items that you have a hard time parting with, take photos of them.

4. Get boxes and packaging tape. (If you’re using a moving company, see if boxes are provided in the total price of your quote. If so, be sure to use their boxes instead of spending unnecessary money for boxes elsewhere!) Use an online calculator to determine how many boxes you’ll need…and round up. It is far more stressful to find yourself approaching the big day with not ENOUGH boxes than it is to have a few left over that you may need to give away.

5. Put together three or four boxes for each room of your apartment or house. Put those three or four boxes in each room and begin filling them with items that you need to bring with you but you’re certain you won’t need to use before the move. Example: if it’s summertime, pack up the winter blankets and the sweaters, the Halloween and Christmas decorations, and the like. Tape up the boxes only if you’re sure that you won’t need any of their contents until you arrive at your new place.

6. Use small boxes for heavier items, like books, and use larger boxes for the lighter stuff. Your back will thank you on moving day…and if you’re not in perfect shape, so will your lungs.

7. Have everyone in your family pack a duffel bag or suitcase with enough clothing, underwear, socks, toiletries, and medications to last three or four days. (Be sure to pack this in the car and not in the moving truck.) This bag will come in handy during the last few nights in your old place and the first few nights in your new place. If you don’t have the energy to unpack once you get to your new home, at least you’ll have enough to get by until you can find that box with your socks and underwear.

8. This recommendation logically follows from the fear of not being able to find socks and underwear: label all of your boxes. Include a general description of the contents of the box and the room into which it should be placed.

9. Pack an “essentials box” of items that you’ll need within an hour or so of walking through your new front door. Paper towels, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, dish soap, scissors, some garbage bags, and a utility knife are a few of the most important items, but you can find a longer list here.

You can also pack a separate “food essentials” box that includes snacks or ingredients for easy meals (think peanut butter, jelly, and bread) in case your new oven or stove needs some TLC before it works properly. Don’t forget to pack these boxes in the car and not in the moving truck!

10. As you get closer to moving day, put together three or four more boxes for each room and pack up the the remainder of your stuff. If you come across anything that will come in handy before the move, don’t pack it yet — save it for last. Think cell phone chargers or any electronic gadgets you might need for the car ride.

11. On your last night in your old home, be sure you (and your family members) are living out of their duffel bags or suitcases. By this time, everything that you wouldn’t take on a weekend trip should be all packed up.

Got any other tips to take the stress out of relocation? Please share them in the comments!

photo credit: elibrody