Seven Must-Do Steps for an Organized Move

The Organizing Professionals

Moving is life’s third most stressful event.  Whether you are moving across the country or across the street, moving consists of making thousands of decisions, typically within a short amount of time.  Throw in various personalities of your family members along with the physical exhaustion of packing and unpacking and it’s easy to understand why moving produces so much stress and anxiety.  Follow these seven steps to alleviate some of the stress:

  1. Create a Moving Timeline. Whether you have three months or three years a moving timeline keeps you on track, accountable, motivated! First make a list of all the items that need to be accomplished, then schedule a “To be completed by” date for each item on the timeline. 
  2. Begin a ruthless declutter. Begin in the least trafficked rooms and work your way around the room. Only keep the items you love, need, and use. Keep a donation bag on each floor of your home and arrange for frequent donation pickups. (If you live in Center City, make arrangements for frequent donation drop-offs).
  3. Start packing little-used items. If your realtor requires your home to look more minimal, or if you want to get a head start on packing, start packing items you may be able to live without for several months. Label all boxes on two sides plus the top so it’s easier to identify the contents.
  4. Contact Your Moving Company. As soon as you know your moving date, contact your selected moving company and ask for a morning start. (Some movers books two moves a day. You want your moving guys to be at their peak energy level).
  5. Go to to change your address online.
  6. Pace Yourself. If you are packing yourself, begin at least 4-6 weeks prior to your move. Begin with all wall art and other items you can live without, then progress to more used rooms and items. Pack up the kitchen last and unpack the kitchen first.
  7. Don’t have the time, patience, or energy for a DIY move? Contact us and experience the best move of your life!

Finding it challenging to let things go?  Read our previous articles, “To Keep or Not to Keep? That is the Question and How Much is Enough?
Click the links below for our recommended must-have packing supplies:

  • Moving Boxes: Uhaul get 5 stars from us for quality of their small and medium boxes.  They also have holes in the side to facilitate easier grip and carry.
  • Packing Paper: Uhaul also make good quality packing paper.
  • Packing Tape: No other packing tape comes even close to Scotch Heavy Duty Shipping Packaging tape (and we have tried everything!)
  • Bubble Wrap: The Home Depot make our favorite bubble wrap. It’s 24” wide with large bubbles and 100% recyclable.

Are Your Photos Still in Nasty Shoeboxes?

The Organizing Professionals

“You know, once we finish decluttering these rooms, we really should begin to tackle the photos,” suggested my dear client. “Absolutely, let’s take a look at the scope of the project,” I responded eagerly. My client, Wendy (not her real name) led me down to the basement, opened a door to a separate, small room stuffed with tubs, boxes, and crates; each filled with photographs and memorabilia. One hundred years’ worth in fact.

As a professional organizer, my poker face rivals any Texas Hold’em champion.  So, while gasping internally I simply smiled, looked Wendy squarely in the eyes and stated, “This looks like a fun project. I can’t wait to get started next week!”

And so, we began. Every Wednesday afternoon for three hours, like a pair of archeologists, we unearthed decades of memories inherited from various family members.  And as very few photos were dated, we also took on the persona of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as we sleuth-like deciphered the provenance of each photo. “Look, Mary is missing her front teeth. She must be six. That would be 1984.” “Your mom isn’t wearing her wedding ring, that must be before 1938.” Each time we figured out the year felt like a huge victory and propelled us with confidence for the next date challenge. After several sessions of exhausting mental math, we wised up and taped up a cheat sheet timeline of family milestones.

Now, how to organize it all? We could have organized the photos by family member but to simplify the process, we decided to create a temporary chronological filing system. We created a single file for the early decades beginning with 1920 as there were fewer photos.  By 1970 each year had its own file. This sped up the process of sorting the photos.

I love the variety of my job. No two days are ever the same, but I especially looked forward to these weekly sessions as we dived deeper into Wendy’s fascinating and oft painful family history. We sorted through countless photos of family members who perished in concentration camps. I found original Nazi propaganda leaflets written in broken English and dropped over the allied trenches urging the troops to desert. We discovered photos of Wendy’s father with Ingrid Bergman who visited the troops in Germany during WWII.  In later years, we dug up photos of Wendy’s father being honored at the White House and various International museums. I learned that after arriving in 1945 as penniless young immigrant from Europe, he spectacularly made his fortune as an art dealer.

As we pored through thousands of photos, Wendy made the decisions on what to preserve and what to discard and we established several sensible rules:

  1. No photos kept of buildings, tourist sites or scenery without family members present
  2. No blurry photos kept of anything!
  3. No doubles of photos
  4. No multiples of similar photos
  5. No keeping photos of people we don’t recognize
  6. No unflattering photos of anyone

Wendy was more ruthless about discarding old photos than myself. “Who’s going to want this?” She’d ask me. I made a case for future family members who, although not wanting to be inundated with thousands of scanned photos and memorabilia, would probably cherish a sufficient amount to be acquainted with their roots.

“You only have to do this project once,” I’d remind Wendy on days when it seemed the boxes stretched endlessly into the blackhole of a storage room. My other pep talk focused on the amazing gift she was giving her family. The investment of her time and resources would be appreciated for generations to come.

Earlier this month, we finally sorted through the last tub, gave ourselves a huge pat on the back, then handed over one hundred years of photos and memorabilia to be scanned by our professional photo organizer. Once the files are returned to Wendy, she can digitally access them, add her own notations to the photos and preserve her family history with as much detail as she sees fit.

Could Wendy have tackled this project on her own? Yes. Would she? Doubtful. It was a mammoth undertaking. I acted as coach, cheer leader and sincere enthusiastic spectator. Here’s Wendy’s comment on our photo organizing journey,

I have often asked myself why I needed Janet for tackling this project. I finally realized that I wanted to tell the stories behind each photo or article of memorabilia before relegating it the cyber-sphere. Janet was always patient hearing the stories and I’m grateful for her enthusiasm.

If you, too have a shoebox or ten of old photos that are deteriorating, the chances are you are procrastinating because you need your own coach.  With the increased time we are currently spending at home, there has never been a better time to get your photos in order. Your future self and family will thank you.

Check Out Janet’s Tips in Chestnut Hill Local’s “Keeping your kitchen clean and organized”

The Organizing Professionals

Janet Bernstein owns The Organizing Professionals, a home organization company serving Philadelphia and Montgomery counties. The Glenside pro typically works with either the client or her team of organizers to tackle a kitchen. She suggests homeowners work methodically starting from one end of a kitchen and making a 360, focusing on places where germs tend to harbor. 

Check Out Janet’s Tips in Philly Inquirer’s “How to Set Up the Best School Desk for Your Kid at Home”

The Organizing Professionals

“It can be any sort of container, from a shoebox to a plastic bin,” says Janet Bernstein, certified professional organizer and owner of the Organizing Professionals. “My colleague went to the store and let her kids pick out their own backpacks, and at the end of the day they put everything back into the backpack. It’s a great option, especially for getting younger kids to cooperate.”

Back to (Virtual) School: Winning Strategies for the Entire Family

The Organizing Professionals

“If they had told us back in March our kids would still be home in September, I hate to think how that would have affected our psyche,” Disclosed one of my friends. Yet, here we are. Whether you have grade schoolers, high schoolers, or college kids taking classes online here are some awesome ideas collected from the TOP team, friends, family and personal experience:

  1. “Give each other a pass,” Advises my college-aged stepdaughter, Ali. “Sustaining 100% motivation in this environment is not possible nor realistic. Our professors advised us to be easy on ourselves; that we will have ups and downs and that would be ok. This has helped me a lot.”
  2. “Understand the learning style of the child,” Urges Bridget, TOP’s director of admin.  With a 5th and 6th grader at home, Bridget noticed that, although her kids are close in age, one is self-motivated and the other requires more oversight. She was able to delegate more accountability to the self-starter which freed up more time for her to focus on helping her other child.
  3. Designate a consistent, daily workspace for each family member. A bedroom desk only works for self-starters and those who need a quieter environment. Others work and study better when in the company of others.
  4. “Go ahead and purchase the typical back to school items,” Recommends Gyll, one of our lead organizers and mother of two girls under five. If their work area needs to be cleared (because it also doubles as the dining table) a backpack not only simulates the classroom experience, it gives them a place to corral their items and a sense of ownership and excitement towards going back to school each day.”
  5. Generate some excitement around going back to school. Start a visual countdown calendar, have little kids pick out their first day of school outfit.
  6. Build break times into everyone’s routine! “When I let them shoot hoops or go for a bike ride between zoom calls and homework, they were happier and calmer.” Admits Bridget. (Check out our other blog on WFH Strategies to read about family afternoon teatime implemented by Janet).
  7. Create a cozy reading space. Whether a fluffy bean bag, a stack of cushions in a closet or a favorite armchair, reading is so much more enjoyable in a comfy spot.

As we approach back to school, we wish you all success in the upcoming academic year. Stay healthy and safe.

Janet and the TOP team.