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11 things to do when moving into a new house

How to ease into your new living space

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So you made it into your new home, hopefully with the help of excellent movers who “packed a needle in a haystack,” as one reviewer from Virginia put it. While you have the biggest part of the move (packing and transporting your every possession) behind you, there’s still the job of settling in ahead.

To help make setting up your new home as seamless as possible, we’ve got a checklist with the steps to take both before and after moving.

Key insights

  • One important task to conquer before your move is to set up utilities at your new home.
  • Have some basics for the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen at the ready in a marked box for your first few days in your new home.
  • After your move, don’t try to unpack everything all at once; going room by room will keep things orderly and minimize your stress.
  • Feeling safe and secure in your new home is vital, so be sure to change the locks and check fire alarms ASAP.

What to do before moving in

Facing a bunch of boxes in your new home can be overwhelming. Where should you start? Fortunately, there are tried and true strategies when it comes to moving in. Here’s a roadmap to help you stay on track as you unpack.

Set up all the utilities

You don’t want to walk into your new home and flip the light switches only to be met with darkness. That’s why the first thing you want to do before moving in is to switch over your utilities to your new address and have them turned on before your arrival date.

“It's important to do this as soon as possible to ensure a smooth transition and avoid any inconveniences,” Joshua Haley, founder of Moving Astute, a moving and relocation blog, said.

Aside from electricity, you’ll want to put the gas and water in your name. Be sure to also research the best Wi-Fi, phone and cable providers in your new neighborhood. When you find a provider you like, set up service for a few days before you move in. The last thing you want to face on moving day is no internet.

Get a new lock and keys

Your new home may have only one set of keys, or there could be several pairs circulating among previous tenants and their loved ones, dog walkers and babysitters. It’s a great idea for you to start fresh with a new lock and keys for your new place so you can feel safe and secure.

» PROTECT YOUR HOME: Best DIY home security cameras of 2023

Change your mailing address

About a week before you move, take a moment to change your address either at the post office or online with the postal service. The last thing you want is to try to get important mail from your old home to your new house in the throes of unpacking.

It’s also a good idea to go ahead and update your address with your bank, doctor, insurance company and any other business or subscription providers.

» LEARN: How to change your address

Update your address on important documents

After you’ve updated your mailing address, it’s time to put your new address on important documents. These include your driver's license, vehicle registration, passport and any permits you have.

» MORE: Moving tips

What to do after moving in

Facing a bunch of boxes in your new home can be overwhelming. Where should you start? Fortunately, there are tried and true strategies when it comes to moving in. Here’s a roadmap to help you stay on track as you unpack.

1. Set up a command post

Before you dive into opening boxes, set up an area — the kitchen counter or island is usually a good spot — to corral your box cutters, phone and other stuff you’ll use consistently throughout the process. Making it easy to locate these items is ideal for when your home gets slightly chaotic during the unpacking process.

You also might want to keep a large box around for collecting all those little screws and random items you come across as you unpack.

Pro tip: Get a legal pad and a few pens to keep close. As you unpack, you can keep track of any to-dos that come to mind.

2. Check your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector

There’s nothing more important than your family’s safety, so take a few moments to make sure your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector are working properly before you settle in for your first night of rest.

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3. Do a deep clean

Your new home is a beautiful, blank canvas before you start unpacking. And this may be your one chance to clean every nook, cranny, appliance and shelf in your house.

Before you begin to arrange furniture or stock your pantry, take time to clean those things you may never get to again. This means wiping down every shelf, vacuuming the backs of closets and conquering tasks like dusting fan blades.

“Even if the previous owners or tenants cleaned, it's refreshing to start with a clean slate,” Haley said. Cleaning can also have a positive mental impact and help your home feel more like home. And getting an up-close-and-personal look at every surface of your new house will give you an idea of anything that needs fixing.

Even if the previous owners or tenants cleaned, it's refreshing to start with a clean slate.”
— Joshua Haley, founder of Moving Astute

4. Create an unpacking strategy

Start by unpacking the basics you’ll need to have a functional household. This usually means breaking out a few essential cooking items for the kitchen, bedding for the bedroom and towels for the bathroom.

After that, ask yourself what rooms you’ll use most in the coming weeks. If you work from home, that might mean setting up a home office before tackling the dining room. Or if you have kids, getting a playroom stocked with toys and games may be more important than hanging every picture in the kids’ room. (In this instance, keeping your children occupied so you can unpack may be a wiser choice than getting the decor just right.)

If you have kids in the house, you might want to set up their area ASAP so they can feel at home while you tackle the rest of the unpacking.

“Then unpack one room at a time to maintain organization and avoid feeling overwhelmed,” Haley suggested. Getting a room totally put together will help you stay on track and less stressed.

» MORE: How to unpack after moving

5. Pack as you unpack

We all have belongings we only use once in a while, from seasonal clothes to sports equipment. To get organized as you unpack, have storage bins or baskets ready for these items.

Having storage solutions at the ready will help gather these belongings and provide a central space for them to land as you come across them. It will also help you easily store them out of sight later.

6. Declutter as you go

No matter how effectively you got rid of things you no longer need or use before you moved, you probably brought along some clutter with you.

As you take things out of a box that’s been packed for weeks, you may find yourself less attached to knickknacks or books. Now is the time to also create a donate or sell pile instead of putting things that are no longer useful away.

» SELL WELL: Tips for a successful garage sale

7. Find your home utilities

When you have a moment to breathe, take a quick walk around the inside and outside of your home.

Find your circuit breaker box, water shut-off valve and gas valve. If any issues come up, it’s vital that you can quickly locate these.

8. Say hi to your neighbors

Once you feel a bit settled, take a moment to introduce yourself to your immediate neighbors. There’s really no substitute for a face-to-face meeting to get to know your community.

Neighbors will not only keep an eye on your home while you’re away, but they might also have great tips on your new area (e.g., best coffee shops, bars and restaurants).

Also ask when the local garbage pickup is; the last thing you want is to have garbage piling up as you unpack.

» TOO MUCH TRASH? How much does junk removal cost?

9. Get rid of boxes

Once you’ve emptied all your boxes, it can be tempting to throw them in the basement or garage to deal with another day — but this just puts off the inevitable.

Rather than let your boxes gather dust, you can put an ad on an online marketplace offering up the boxes to others who are moving. Or simply break them down and put them out for the next garbage pickup.

10. Create an emergency preparedness kit

If you didn’t move your emergency water and nonperishable food supply to your new home, now is the perfect time to see what emergencies your new area is most at risk for (e.g., flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes) and gather the right supplies.

In general, an emergency kit includes flashlights, batteries, first-aid supplies, food, water and a radio.

» IN CASE OF NO POWER: How do solar lights work?

11. Take a day off

Moving and unpacking are big, long, exhausting jobs. So don’t forget to take time to relax and recharge. Go explore your new neighborhood rather than push yourself to get everything done in an unrealistic time frame.

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    What are the essentials for a new home?

    As you settle in, you’ll likely be living in light chaos for a while. The best way to mitigate this is by preparing for your basic needs and any small emergencies that may come up in the early days of your move.

    Here are some of the essentials you should have on hand:

    • Bedding, bathroom and clothing basics: Ensure you have sheets, pillows, blankets and towels easily accessible for your first night in your new home. Other bathroom essentials include toilet paper and a shower curtain. Make sure you also have a bag with a change of clothes, toiletries and medications.
    • Charging cords: Charging phones, tablets and computers is a major part of daily life. Having a box of these handy for the first day of your move in will save you from trying to find a tiny cord in a box or bag.
    • Drinks and snacks: You may not have time to whip up a meal as you unpack, so have a supply of cold drinks and filling snacks on hand to power you through the day. Think bananas, apples, nuts, peanut butter, jelly and bread.
    • Basic kitchen gear: Have kitchen essentials on hand so you can at least whip up a simple meal — a few pots, a frying pan, basic utensils, and enough dinnerware, glassware and cutlery for your household. Or buy disposable paper plates, cups and utensils to use for the first few days. A coffee pot and microwave will also come in handy.
    • Cleaning supplies: Have a good mix of your favorite cleaning supplies on hand to get you through any small messes that occur as you settle in. Don’t forget hand soap and paper towels.
    • A toolkit: The first item in your toolkit should be a generous supply of box cutters (it’s not uncommon to lose track of them as you unpack). Also keep a screwdriver, hammer and nails in the kit so you can hang art as you go (or assemble furniture).
    • A first-aid kit: You’ll be doing a lot of physical tasks as you settle in. Having a basic first-aid kit for minor accidents will come in handy in case of minor injuries: “A basic first-aid kit should have bandages, antiseptic ointment, pain relievers and any necessary prescription medications,” Haley advised.
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