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When you're planning a move, it pays off to be organized. Once you have all the paperwork for your new apartment completed, it's time to start packing. Ideally, start packing several weeks or even months before moving day. The key is to work from least to most essential.

Start packing the least essential items first. These include off-season clothes, mementos, and holiday decorations that may already be in storage. If you have a spare bathroom or bedroom, pack things from those rooms next. Continue packing items that you don't use daily, such as seldom-used kitchen appliances, any extra bedding, your movie collection, etc. This is a great time to donate or throw away non-essentials that you won't have use for at your new apartment. It's better to get rid of unwanted items now than to move them and pay extra to keep them in a self storage unit.

When it's time to finally pack the essentials, you'll first want to prepare a suitcase with everything you need for several days. Pack a bag with clothes, toiletries, personal electronics and their chargers, and a few snacks. This way, you won't have to dig through moving boxes if you need something important during the move. You may also want to prepare a suitcase or box with some cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and hand soap so that your new apartment is ready to use right away.

With your overnight bag packed, you can finish packing everything in your apartment. It's helpful to pack one room at a time and label the moving boxes accordingly. You may want to keep a running inventory of everything that goes into each box. For example, label a box "Bedroom #1" and then on a piece of paper or your phone, write down all the items in box #1. This way, you'll have a handy reference when you unpack, especially if you will be keeping everything in a storage unit temporarily before moving into your new apartment. For large items that will not fit into a moving box, such as furniture, be sure to obtain protective pads and plastic sheets to protect them during the transition.

When moving day finally arrives, you'll want to move all the furniture, kitchen items, bedding, and essential items into your apartment. To make unpacking and organizing easier, move the non-essentials into a self storage unit. Your items will stay safe and protected until you've settled into your new apartment and finished unpacking. If you find that you really don't need those non-essentials or you don't have room to keep them in your apartment, they can stay in storage until they're needed or donated.

Once you've gotten settled in, relax by exploring some of the sites in your new community! Find a museum or nature preserve near you, and enjoy!