Moving: Panic vs. Proper Packing

No matter how organized you think you are, or how good your intentions are, at some point every packing job devolves into panic packing. This point probably happens earlier for some of us. Likely most packing experiences include a combination of both proper and panic packing.

Panic vs. Proper Packing Explained

Panic packing is when any bag, box, or other becomes an attractive and suitable option for transporting your stuff. Things end up packed haphazardly and randomly. All in an effort to move things from point A to point B. It’s messy. And not always faster than proper packing, especially at the other end.

Proper packing, by contrast, is when you take your time. You thoughtfully consider the contents of each box, making sure to pack “like with like.” Or at least have some kind of system and order with the contents. Glass and fragile items are wrapped appropriately. Accurate labels are on the boxes. This sometimes takes longer to plan out, but usually results in an easier time unpacking, mostly because it’s obvious what’s in which box.

For my latest move, I had every intention of proper packing, though I knew some panic would set in. As events played out, the panic set in early in the process. The whole week was a jumbled affair of stuffing things in boxes. I started packing the kitchen at 11 pm the night before the movers came. I understood it would be messy.

As I hurriedly wrapped things, I questioned my absurd fondness for tiny ramekins. I had second thoughts about my obsession for lidded pyrex dishes. The real kind of pyrex that your grandparents had with glass lids, funky designs, and outdated colors.

I labeled each of the 12 boxes, “Kitchen.” My tired and deluded thinking led me to believe if I could get the box placed in the right room on moving day, we could find things. We did find everything eventually, but it took days. Even after emptying all the boxes, my coffee remained missing. After days of drinking instant coffee, I finally discovered it tucked into the refrigerator.

Possible Remedy to Panic Packing

Panic packing is an inevitable part of the process, but detailed labeling makes a huge difference. For some of the more jumbled, chaotic boxes, I wrote long descriptions for the labels. It helped a lot to find what I needed quickly in the aftermath.

Moving: Dealing with Transitions

One of the biggest challenges with moving is being in transition. This is likely one reason why moving can be a stressful event for most of us. By its very nature, moving signifies transition. The hard part is surviving the chaos of the process. These are the prolonged moments when your stuff is half-packed, strewn around everywhere, or piled up awaiting to be boxed. Or thrown haphazardly and randomly into anything that will transport it from A to B. And then… the aftermath.

Equally challenging can be unpacking. It can be hard to find what you need, when you need it. This is another moment of truth when you discover if your packing methods and skills were a success. Also daunting is figuring out where to put everything in the new space.

Moving Strategies to Survive the Transition

I’ve moved a lot in my life. Here are some strategies I have found useful.

Start early!

I like to pack and unpack fast, usually in a 2-week period. It’s not always pretty, but I find it minimizes the overall stress of the transition period when things are in limbo. However, to prepare for the packing blitz, I start the preparations weeks in advance. This process involves going through every room, drawer, closet, cupboard, etc. to get rid of anything that isn’t coming with me and prepare it to go straight into a box. One of my peeves is transporting stuff that I don’t want, or need, to keep.

Budget for extra services

I always budget money into the move for movers, Frog Boxes, and more recently cleaners. If I can delegate some aspect of the move that saves me time and stress, it’s totally worth the money for me. For example, Frog Boxes are reusable plastic tubs with interlocking lids. I find it very fast and easy to grab a tub, fill it, and close it without the hassle of taping up cardboard boxes and breaking them down later. As an added bonus, Frog Boxes stack nicely and make the move easier.


Another great tip is to make sure you always know where your priority items are. For example, I always designate a backpack for all my devices and valuable items such as my computer, phone, keys, wallet, etc. And I pack a suitcase with enough clothes for a week. Read more here.

Moving: Facing the Moment of Truth

Something about moving forces you to confront your true habits. Although moving is largely a huge pain, it provides valuable opportunities for insights. And honest conversations with yourself.

Every time I move I’m always curious to see if I:

  • kept up with my “to-do” projects
  • adequately deep cleaned behind and under the furniture often enough
  • managed to stay on top of the purging

When I mentioned to one of my friends I would be moving she immediately said, “Get rid of all your stuff. Throw it out.” I haven’t done that, yet, but it is tempting. I’m packing boxes with stuff that I haven’t seen, or used, in a long time.

To be fair, this past year has mostly been spent socially distanced and with my immediate family. Or attending the rare outdoor event. In other words, I haven’t had many opportunities to use a lot of things I would in a non-pandemic year. For example, this summer I wasn’t able to kayak. Hence, my paddling gear remained in the closet getting dusty.

You might think with so much time spent home I would have tackled ambitious and lingering to-do projects. Or purged routinely. Or deep cleaned often. The reality is, none of those things happened. Somehow I was very busy trying to rearrange my life to the “new” normal of online everything. Or how to get things done remotely. It might seem like that would be faster and easier, but in some cases it wasn’t. (Read more here.)

Another unforeseen challenge arose with routine purging. Being inside so much I was itching to go through my closets and cupboards. However, pandemic shutdowns meant few options existed for disposing of unwanted items. I didn’t want to generate bags of donations and then leave them laying around taking up space. Donation bins were closed for months in the early days of the pandemic.

Fortunately, donation bins have remained open during this second wave of lockdowns. However, I have bags of specialized recycling (i.e., cosmetic tubes, makeup containers, ripped clothing etc.) accepted only by certain stores. Now these particular stores are only open for pick-ups or delivery, definitely not for specialized recycling.

Do I move the specialized recycling and wait until I can properly dispose of it? Or abandon my standards and send it the landfill?

As for the deep cleaning, it didn’t happen often. In my mind, this accompanies routine purging.

Gateway to the World

Reading is one of my favorite pastimes. Even with so many new, exciting, magical, and addicting forms of entertainment available, I still enjoy reading with no frills. By “no frills” I mean reading a book or my ereader. My ereader is basic and monochrome. It doesn’t do anything fancy or have color. I can only read books on it.

In fact, I prefer reading without any distractions. Immersing myself in a story is relaxing. I love being transported to a new place, or envisioning another person’s life. Books open doorways. This seems especially important when so many of us remain isolated, or live with restrictions.

Books shine during a pandemic lockdown or quarantine. They’re the perfect form of entertainment. Plus, there’s a never ending supply of them. And they’re good for all ages. Even with restricted access to libraries and book stores, plenty of options exist to get books quickly and/or inexpensively.

My neighborhood has at least 4 community “libraries”. These are small boxes on the street where people leave or take books. I see people using them and titles change. They provide a free and relatively germ-free option for getting new titles during the pandemic. Plus they protect the books against the elements.

And finally, books are amazing for traveling to new places. All without the fear of inhaling re-circulated covid-infested air, like you might traveling by bus, train, or airplane. Additionally, books offer an infinite number of travel opportunities. With the right book, you can visit a different country, planet, or galaxy. Or be whisked away to a different time period. Or stay local and experience a different perspective.

Point being, the book can take you there.

Books vs. Ebooks – The Debate Continues

I can never seem to resolve my internal debate on books vs. ebooks, (read more about that here and here). Each format has its own benefits and downsides. During the pandemic, different aspects make each format attractive.

Books, paperback or hardcover, are perfect for unplugged, quiet time. Or reading aloud with others, making it a tactile and interactive experience. Ebooks can be browsed, borrowed, and read, all from the socially-distanced comfort and isolation of your home. No masks or sanitizing required.

Even so, I still miss being able to visit the library. The library is an important cultural hub. I hope they reopen soon.

The new Google Workspace: Productivity Booster or License to be Messy

Last month Google launched Google Workspace. In essence, Google rebranded existing products to make them more collaborative and added some new features.

I haven’t tried Google Workspace yet. On the surface, it promises to resolve a lot of common workplace challenges. This is especially true when many of us work and socialize remotely, from a distance. Based on my understanding, users can now integrate content from many different Google products. This will enable users to work seamlessly across chat, gmail, meet (aka video calling), drive, and documents. It’s innovative and modern.

The Records and Information Management Perspective

Products like Google Workspace show enormous potential to improve how we work in today’s world. Common trends are for people (aka users) to work remotely (or on the go) and collaboratively. People also use a variety of apps to communicate with one another. Examples include chat or text messaging, social media, email (including attachments), web-based apps like Drive, Dropbox, Slack, Office 365, etc.

Google Workspace aims to let users work seamlessly across (Google) products. From a records and information management (RIM) perspective, this usually amounts to a large mess. Initially, users love the convenience and ease with which they can get going. Project work is accomplished collaboratively, in real time. Users can edit one document simultaneously and see who is making which changes.

I personally love the online collaborative editing. It’s much cleaner than having each person edit their own copy which some poor soul has to aggregate into one version later.

However, all this working across multiple products and channels can get out of control very quickly. This is especially true when guidelines, rules, and best practices haven’t been established first. Users jump right in, adding documents, chatting, having meetings, sharing, collaborating, and working. It all seems to work great, in the beginning. Where it usually falls apart is when users need to find something from a previous project. Or locate a specific version of a document. Or piece together fragmented discussions over emails, chats, video calling, comments to determine how a decision was made.

The amount of storage available with Google Workspace plans irks me, both as a RIM professional and The Deletist. The basic plan offers 30GB of storage. Other plans offer storage in TB, per user! With so much storage, nobody would even consider deleting useless content.

The solution – hire an information professional to maximize the potential.

Digital Photo Sprawl

It’s amazing to me how fast digital photos seem to accumulate, everywhere. They end up in my phone and on my computer. This doesn’t even include many online places like Google Drive, Dropbox, emails, or social media.

Unfortunately, dealing with the sprawl takes time, commitment, and a lot of patience. This is partially because of the volume. And partially because of how difficult it can be to search for and sort images. Although many apps now exist to help sort, label, and categorize photos automatically. However, the date can also be problematic.

Many apps use the date as a way to group photos. Humans use this too, even though we often forget the exact date something happened. This is especially true when we all take photos so often. Also, some systems use the date of upload or transfer rather than the capture date.

WhatsApp Sent Photo Sprawl

Recently I discovered that my phone automatically saves photos I’ve sent through WhatsApp. At first I was puzzled why extra photos appeared when I connected my phone to my computer for uploading. For example, my phone indicated I had 500 pictures, but my computer would detect 600. After some investigating, I discovered why. My phone saved photos sent through WhatsApp. Even more annoying, my phone, or maybe WhatsApp, renamed all the photos. This means detecting duplicates is not easy.

To clarify, photos I receive through WhatsApp messages are saved, too. They are saved directly into a folder in my phone’s photo app. The photos I send, however, end up somewhere else. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to figure out where. Or how to disable the automatic save in the settings. When I searched online for an answer, everything was about managing the received photos.

It’s pretty annoying for a few reasons. It requires a lot of time to go through the duplicates manually to remove them. Uploading, reviewing, and organizing photos takes longer because of the hidden extras. Plus it takes up precious storage space.

I’m still trying to figure out where, or how, my phone stores all the sent WhatsApp images. Until then, I chip away at the sprawl little by little. True to my deletist nature, I try to review photos immediately after taking them to weed out the bad ones.