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Mortifying Moving Tales: How Long It Really Took to Unpack That Last Box


You’ve moved! That’s right, you’ve somehow managed to pack up your household and successfully cart everything to your new digs. Congratulations!

You might heave a sigh of relief once the moving truck pulls up its ramp and peels off, but you aren’t out of the woods yet. There’s just one final step: unpacking. And it turns out this final leg of the race can drag on. And on.

According to a recent survey by Duck Brand tape, it takes Americans an astounding 182 days on average to unpack their last box after moving to a new house. And that’s just the average. It can take much longer—or shorter—depending on how you go about it. Here are some stories from homeowners who ran the gamut from speedy to seriously sluggish—and what we can learn from each tale.

42 days

“We left our 6,000-square-foot home in Tennessee and arrived at our 4,200-square-foot home in Illinois on June 3,” recalls Kathleen Thometz in Western Springs, IL. “Six weeks later, I headed to New Jersey on vacation to see my family. At that time, my house was completely unpacked and decorated, including curtains.”

Lesson for the rest of us: To unpack in such record-setting time, Thometz not only labeled her boxes clearly with the room where they should go, she also packed many items in clear bins to make them easy to identify. Plus, she and her husband really blocked out the time to get it done.

“I unpacked for two straight weeks, 13 hours a day,” she says. And rather than try to do double duty by unpacking while caring for her family, she says, “my husband took off work and cooked and took care of the kids so I could focus on unpacking.”

While not everyone can devote that much time to finishing this task so fast, it helps to lay out a timeline for yourself, suggests Dustin Montgomery, digital marketing specialist at Moving Blankets USA.

Start with a room you’ll use frequently, such as the kitchen, and work during set time periods to stay on track. Scheduling times when family members or friends can help unpack or watch children will also speed up the process.

6 years

“My family made a big state-to-state move six years ago,” says Elaine Thompson in Salt Lake City. “Most of the stuff was left in a storage unit back home.”

While they meant to go back and get the stuff sooner, time passed. By the time they did get back and unpack those boxes six years later, “it turns out we didn’t need or want most of it,” she says.

Lesson for the rest of us: While renting a storage unit might seem necessary, watch out—it could become a clutter crutch that enables you to hold onto things you don’t really need. Even worse, if you’re paying for that storage, it’s a waste of cash. And storage units aren’t cheap. A 200-square-foot unit might cost anywhere from $150 to $230 a month.

“If there are boxes you haven’t opened after living in your new home for six months, they should be seasonal items or family heirlooms,” states Jodi Holzband, moving expert with “If not, they are probably good candidates to donate or sell.”

And if you want to reduce the number of boxes you have stored and are having a hard time letting go, “ask a friend or family member to help you make those tough decisions,” adds Holzband.

10 years … and counting!

“It has been 10 years since we moved into our new house, and some of my husband’s stuff is still in the box, the way he packed it,” admits Susan Bozinovic in Northville, MI.

Bozinovic’s husband works in education, and the unpacked boxes hold books, including some hard-to-find editions. Originally, the books were going to be displayed in the home office, but the couple changed plans and now they are in the basement.

Lesson for the rest of us: “I can’t tell you the number of times I have been in a client’s home and asked about a taped box,” states Ben Soreff, a professional organizer at House to Home Organizing. “They always say, ‘Oh, that box is from three moves ago.'”

But beware: Boxes in a garage or attic space could get damaged by the weather or rodents. So if they’re valuable, keep them in a dry, climate-controlled area, ideally in plastic bins that are resistant to mice, moisture, and other problems.

As Bozinovic notes, “Since the books are rare, we put them in boxes that will preserve their integrity.”

If you get to a point where you can’t recall what’s in that box sitting in your basement, open it!

“See what’s in there before moving it to another location,” advises Montgomery.

Otherwise, you could just end up moving something you could have jettisoned instead.


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