By Smith Banfield

Moving into a new apartment can be overwhelmingly stressful—especially when you’ve add kids to the already chaotic mix. To figure out how to mitigate some of the horror, we asked styling consultant Smith Banfield of Clear Space in New York City for her top survival tips.

1. When you move, you’re stepping into the future—but not everything you own needs to go there with you, because most of that stuff is from your past. Before you just empty drawers into packing boxes, take some time to go through everything and really assess if you have to bring it along into your new, and doubtless limited, space. That having been said, don’t make those decisions for anyone but yourself. My mother was really harsh with me about things she’d bought me that were expensive and she thought we should keep, but ultimately, she decided what was important to me as a child rather than letting me decide. So, don’t force your children to keep anything they don’t want. If you think it’s worth saving, donate it to another family that can’t afford it. And if your child really feels she needs to hang on to something, let her make that decision.

2.  Categorize things before you move! There are boxes that you know will live in certain rooms, so you can transfer things from the old kitchen to the new kitchen; if you have comparable space in the new place, you can even transfer things from the top kitchen drawer, the middle kitchen drawer, and so on—mark all your boxes clearly with the room and its place in the room. You may need to modify this if you’re moving into a smaller space. And you should definitely throw away anything item you wouldn’t purchase tomorrow if you found it in its current condition at a garage sale—like a disintegrating spatula. Curate! So many people who say, “I’ll deal with it later,” then they wind up with a pile of boxes in a room that soon becomes invisible, and you put a lamp on it. It’s self-sabotaging, when what you really want when you move is to step into a new life, with a clean slate.

3.  Take the time to measure every inch of your new space before you move in, and then take a hard look at the furniture you have, so you don’t move a bulky couch that’s not going to fit through the door—because remember, everything you put on the moving truck increases the cost. What I do is take blue painters tape and tape it down on the floor where I think any object is going to go. If it looks like a tight fit, like the king bed is not going to fit in the bedroom, you can decide to buy a smaller bed. It’s also important to slow down and analyze your space once you’ve actually moved all your stuff into it. Before you do a huge redesign, live in the space for six months, so you and your family will learn your habits in terms of how you use it. I know you want everything to be perfect, but it is a process. That goes for painting the walls, too. You can have your landlord put up a fresh coat of white paint, and then wait and see what the lighting is like at night, or in winter; this avoids the mistake of deciding on a pretty blue for the dining room, only to discover that there’s not a lot of light coming in in December and the blue just looks depressing. It might take an entire year for you to feel like you’re completely settled in. But that’s okay!

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