Tools for a Smooth Move: The Inventory Sheet-Labeling System Combo

The inventory sheet-labeling system at work, bringing order to chaos.
The inventory sheet-labeling system combo at work, bringing order to chaos.

In April, my husband and I bought a house and I declared the commencement of Operation Purge & Pack.

We get the keys this Friday, and as I’m kicking the packing part into high gear, I thought I’d share a favorite packing tool here in case you’re in the same predicament: the inventory sheet – labeling system combo.

This is my seventh move using it; it hasn’t let me down yet.

The Inventory Sheet

A reference list of boxes and corresponding contents, the inventory sheet is especially handy when you’re trying to find the obscure thingamajig you packed six months earlier, but can’t remember where you packed it.

How it works:

Create a blank grid with three columns. Beginning with the left-hand column, title the columns as follows: Box Number, Contents, Room. Then, as you pack your boxes, number them, write down what you’re putting in each one and where it’s going in the new place.

The Box Number and Room columns work with the labeling system described below.

Keep the ongoing list in a central location as you pack so you — and anyone else helping you pack — can easily find it and fill it in. Carry the sheet with you to the new place so you’ll have the information on hand once you get there.

The Labeling System

For the inventory sheet to work, you’ll want to couple it with a consistent numbering and labeling system.

I use four types of labels: box number, room (Living Room, Kitchen, etc.), Heavy, and Fragile. The box number and the room correspond to the entries on the inventory list and are affixed to every box. Heavy and Fragile labels are used when deemed necessary.

I stick two sets of labels on each box: one on top of the box and another on the front. That way if I’m facing a stack of boxes I can easily see the box numbers without having to unstack them all. I don’t recommend putting labels on furniture.

I’ve been using the same label templates to print these out since 2003; it’s well worth the few minutes to set them up.

This may all sound like a little too much effort during what’s already a busy time, but I swear by this system (says the control freak).

Just think: no more frantic opening of boxes to find something at the new place, simply scan your Contents column and voilà! You know which box it’s in and you know where to find it.

That alone is worth the extra prep work in my book. Try it, and let me know what you think.

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