My Home Renovation: 8 Ways to Make the Most of a Move

Moving homes is a challenging, stressful and time-intensive experience, even if you’re happy about it. I couldn’t wait to get into my newly renovated apartment, and it was only a mile away. Yet the moving process was still incredibly complex and exhausting. I had to get rid of things I no longer needed (30 years of stuff!); box up what was left; transport it to my new place; unpack it all; figure out where it goes; and finish each space (which will still take me months). But with the help of professional organizer Lori Lehman—the consummate move manager—I was able to limit the pain, streamline the process and get everything done to make my new place livable when I moved in September. Here are eight guidelines I learned from Lori to make the most of a move.


Have a schedule: Resist the urge to dive in and start packing. There’s a ton to do before you get to that point. Working backward from when you need to move, make a schedule that incorporates each of the steps below and stick to it. In my case, Lori advised me to get started in May and I moved in September. Three months is optimal for major moves, but not everyone is lucky enough to have that kind of time (which is why Lori has a 10-person team of organizers to facilitate speed-moves). Lori says I was motivated and decisive, which is apparently pretty unique (I’ll take it!).

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Don’t be laidback about a move. Make a schedule and stick to it.

Purge, donate and sell: I was moving from an 1884 Louis Sullivan home in Lincoln Park to a late-1920s apartment in the Gold Coast; the two places were radically different in size, scale and style. Most of my furniture would be too small-scale for the expansive rooms in my new place, and both of my adult sons still had all of their belongings at the house. I purged my wardrobe myself using TheRealReal, which sent a consultant to help me. Lori helped me go through every square inch of my home and purge, then arranged to have some things donated and others sold through dealers she knows.


Purge, donate and sell was my mantra for months. (Image:

Measure, measure, measure: To paraphrase my realtor Julie Harron (“location, location, location!”), measurements are the battle hymn of every luxury interior designer. Only once you measure your new home can you decide what you can take with you or what has to go. We had the architectural plans for the apartment, but if they don’t exist it’s critical to make accurate measurements of all the rooms and storage areas (and that means closets, cabinets and every built-in drawer). Lori didn’t help me with this—after all, I’m in the biz—but she has interior designers on her team who do this for clients.

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Whether we use digital, laser or old school tools, we rely on hard data—namely exact measurements—to make sure we don’t make costly mistakes. (Images: The Home Depot)

Plan out where everything will go: Think through where it makes the most sense to put everything in your new place, from furniture and accessories to china, crystal and cookware to even tools and household supplies, and be ready to label boxes to go to these exact spots. Without planning, items can end up stashed in the wrong places in the rush to empty moving boxes, or they’ll be unpacked but not put away. Both options increase the work you’ll have to do. As an interior designer, I’m lucky. My team helped me figure out where everything would go and Lori helped me pack (and ultimately unpack) in a measured and methodical way.


We laid everything out to decide where it would go. (Image: pslehmaninc)

Prep every space: We had every room ready before we moved in (that means renovated, freshly painted and clean), which we think is obvious. But Lori says that was unusual; many people have to be told what to do. What isn’t obvious is to have the odd spaces you don’t think about ready too, like cabinets, drawers, closets or storage spaces. If they need deep cleaning, painting, dividers or liners, do that before you move in; you won’t want to go back and do it after you’ve put things in them. Lori helped me get organizers for cabinets and drawers.

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Every room was ready to be furnished when we moved in. (Image: pslehmaninc)

Label the right way: Remember my point about “planning out where everything will go” above. Lori labeled everything according to the rooms or storage areas where they were going to be unpacked at my new place rather than the location where the contents were kept in the home I was leaving. Label boxes to indicate exactly what’s inside and where it will go. It sounds so simple, but in truth boxes are often labeled too vaguely. For instance, there may be 30 boxes labelled kitchen or library and you have to look through each one to find a specific item you want to unpack first, like dishes to eat on your first few weeks in your new home.

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Lori has a bespoke labeling system that worked like a charm. (Image: pslehmaninc)

Have the right supplies: Lori advises to put box cutters in every room so you’re not searching for one that’s floating around somewhere. In truth, we all had them in our back pockets. The same with scissors. And keep your phone close by. If something valuable is broken, photograph it immediately so you can seek reimbursement from the moving company. Also put one or two empty boxes in each room to hold packing paper and bubble wrap as you unpack.

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Bubble wrap and box cutters…need we say more? (Images:

Have an unpacking plan: Putting boxes in the right room is a no-brainer; it makes unpacking a lot easier since you don’t have to run from room to room. Unpack the most important rooms first, then move to the less-used spaces in your home. In each room, work from big to small; unpack and place major pieces of furniture, area rugs and large items first. Then prioritize unpacking the most important items. For example, if I had kids, Lori would have unpacked their toys and made their beds first. In my case, we unpacked the kitchen and made the beds first. Also, we noticed that Lori designated one person to keep circulating between rooms to break down boxes and throw out trash.

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In retrospect, Lori forced me to unpack in a measured and methodical way, which saved time in the long run. (Images: pslehmaninc)

I’m moved in but there’s still work to do and Lori’s still in my life (and may always be; she’s invaluable on installs). I had to leave some furnishings in my old house since it’s still on the market, and Lori will help me finish moving that furniture or deaccessioning it through donations or sale when the place sells. And the moral of my story is to be methodical and organized when you move—or call Lori if it’s too much for you to manage alone.

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Lori and her team—we plan on using them for every client we need to move! (Images: pslehmaninc)

27 Nov 2019

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