How to Clean & Pack a Room

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Follow this simple plan and you'll be able to clean and pack a room before you know it.

Things You'll Need

  • Moving boxes
  • Garbage bags
  • Packing tape
  • Broom
  • Wash rags
  • Vacuum
  • Soft packing materials such as newspaper or bubble wrap
  • Heavy duty cellophane wrap

Step One: Triage

  • Set up two boxes and one garbage bag. Mark one box "keep" and one box "give."

  • Divide the room into sections. This might be quarters or eighths, or it might be natural sections of the room such as "between the couch and the bookcase" and "the corner behind the door."

  • Go through everything in one section of the room. Clear the floor. Clear the shelves. Take stuff down off the walls. When you're finished here, that section should have nothing but boxes and furniture left.

    Stuff you intend to keep goes in "keep." Stuff you can sell in a garage sale, donate to Goodwill or give to friends goes in "give." Trash goes in the garbage bag.

    The key here is to move fast and make quick decisions. This is not the time to moon over old love letters. Look once, decide what to do and move on.

    As you handle each piece, seriously consider whether or not you will really need it in your new home. For example, if you haven't used it since the last time you moved it's probably safe to give it away.

    When packing fragile items, first scan the room for soft items you can use for padding (cushions, pillows, stuffed animals and towels are great for this). If there aren't any, use the packing materials you brought along for the job.

    Any items too large to fit in a box can be stacked neatly next to the boxes. You can bundle lighter items together using heavy duty clingwrap. Others you'll want to carry and pack individually.

  • As you fill each box, use the packing tape to seal it up. Mark the box with some notes about contents or the room you packed it in. Leave the box in the newly cleared area, or move it to a staging zone in another room.

  • Once finished with one section, take a short break for water and to stretch your back. Then move on to the next section.

Step One and a Half: Sorting

  • Once you've finished triage, you may feel the need to sort the stuff in the "keep" boxes. Keep in mind you'll have plenty of chances to sort when it's time to unpack, so feel free to skip this step.

    If you do want to sort, the process is as simple.

  • Line up boxes and label them according to usage ("files," "books"), ownership ("John's" or "Karen's") or destination ("office," "bedroom").

  • Go through each "keep" box and put the contents in the right box. As new categories occur to you, label a new box or use one of the newly emptied "keep" boxes.

Section Two: Moving

  • Decide where everything's going. Are you loading stuff directly into the moving van? Do you have a staging area such as the garage or front stoop? Is it just going into the kitchen for an hour so you can clean the heck out of the room? What do you plan to do with the "give" boxes?

    Know where stuff is going before you lift a single box.

  • Carry out the trash bags.

  • Move your boxes and bulky items. "Keep" stuff goes to its place, "give" stuff somewhere different. It's important to clear the room before moving furniture because you need space to maneuver the big pieces.

  • Unplug everything. Use the packing tape to attach cords to their appliances.

  • Move all furniture to your staging area. Remember to lift with your legs and to get help if you need it.

Step Three: Cleaning and Detailing

  • Grab the broom and sweep the walls, moving from top to bottom.

  • Use your rag to wipe down any marks or smudges.

  • Sweep and/or vacuum the floor.

  • Depending on your needs, you may need to see to some final details such as painting, replacing kick plates or scrubbing down appliances. With the room empty and clean, this is the best time to see to those last little bits.

  • Close the door. Resist the temptation to go back and take care of "one last little thing." You're done here.

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