What to Unpack FIRST in your New Home

Unpack New Home

Check out my article originally posted on the MilTribe blog here.

Unpack New Home

Imagine that you’ve just PCSed to a brand new place. You’ve been searching for a place to live for the past few weeks and FINALLY found one that you think will be perfect. Such joy! The excitement of the military life where you make so many big decisions in a matter of days.

Adapting is what we military families learn to do, and so, for a few days, you make do with paper plates and cups and air mattresses. Then the day arrives for your household goods (HHG) to be delivered….yay!

You can’t sleep the night before because you’re anticipating the delivery and imagining where everything will go. It’s exciting, having a blank canvas where you can create your own style and repurpose décor to give it new life! But it can also feel a bit overwhelming when that truck pulls up in front of the new house.

For a few hours the front door revolves as the movers move swiftly through, holding precious cargo. It’s fast paced, and a lot of questions are asked about where boxes should be placed and furniture set up.

After the movers have gone, I prefer to do my own unpacking so I can create a system that works for my family. I start with the most important room in the house, one that is central to all that happens in the house, the kitchen. The kitchen serves multiple purposes, and it’s where the coffee is, so we know it’s essential! Here are three steps I follow to get started:

Step 1: Open Every Relatable Box

What I find easiest is to open every single box marked “kitchen” or something kitchen related and get a good idea of what I have. (Remember that I haven’t seen all of my stuff in a few weeks, if not a couple of months).

Step 2: Review Kitchen Layout

Once I have an idea of what I have, I take another look at the layout of the kitchen and what kind of space each cabinet has. I like to be strategic about where I place items, so that they make the most sense. Example: I want the pots and pans near the stove and the cutting boards and other food prep items near a place that has counter space.

I like the spices to be accessible near the stove so I can grab at a glance. But we know that those little guys can take over the kitchen, if we aren’t careful! I love the different options for storing them. I’ve seen a lazy-Susan used inside a cabinet or even a mop utility holder, hung on the inside of the cabinet door to store the spices without taking over all available shelf space.

If you see there is a lot of headroom in the dish cabinet or under the sink, use freestanding shelves to create vertical storage and maximize the available space. Shelves like these are available through several retailers – Bed, Bath and Beyond, The Container Store, Amazon, Walmart and Lowes are just a few.

Step 3: Unpack Items That Have a Home

I unpack each box in its entirety, one by one, unless it’s full of things that I know I don’t have a place for yet. As each one is unpacked, I put away the items that I’ve picked a home for and all others are set out on the counter. As things collect on the counter, I try to group them as well (utensils, measuring cups, Tupperware, etc.).

It’s interesting because, even though all of my belongings were grouped together in my last kitchen, somehow they’ve split up. So I may find a couple spoons, spatulas, etc. in a box with pots and pans. The others may be in a box with plates or seasonings. It’s like a treasure hunt.

Once a majority has been unpacked, I start looking at what supplies I have and can re-use to serve a purpose in my new space. For example, an old basket I had used in a shower once became a holder under the kitchen sink for gloves and the scrub brush – an easy and effective way to keep clutter from the sink area.

I was also able to use an old wire CD rack (would have held about 10 CDs) to store my Tupperware lids. It has made finding the right lid SO much easier and it doesn’t look as chaotic in that cabinet. Win, win!

Soon enough, the space starts to come together. When all of the pots and pans are nestled together in the cabinets near the stove, they hum a little tune. And I LOVE to use those little Command™ hooks to help store and hang pot lids or measuring cups! You can also use them on the back of a cabinet door to hang measuring spoons and other space-hogging tools.

I adjust my plan as needed throughout the unpacking process. But, I find that, overall, these steps cut back on the changes I need to make later. There is something about having your kitchen in order that makes the rest of the unpacking process a bit less stressful.

I hope these steps help, as you continue on your military spouse journey! You’ve got this!

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  1. Seana Turner

    I love the point about unpacking items that have a home. This gets things out of the boxes without too much mental energy. I also typically suggest that we unpack things that are bigger in boxes than they are in their home, such as bedding. Pillows are huge in boxes but not on beds:)

    • Melissa Rogers

      I definitely agree! 🙂 Certain things can be packed in extremely bulky ways. Less space is taken once they’re opened and removed from the boxes.

  2. Crystal Barton

    I was surprised to read the words PCS’d and HHG. Wow!!! A fellow organizer AND military wife! I’m so excited! Moving becomes second nature to military families. It’s no wonder we like things organized and orderly!

    • Melissa Rogers

      Awww, Crystal! I love that so much!! Yes, we NEED the order in this military life! So great connecting with you!

  3. Globejamun

    Wow… I’ve faced so much of this… ur tips are great. Gonna keep coming bk and reading.

  4. Tahnee Flack

    Some really great advice! I’ve always started with the kitchen……for the same reasons thanks for Sharing such a practical post. Xxx


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