Five things you can do the day after you move in to help your home feel like YOURS

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House move- 18th & OliveYou’ve just finished moving the last box to your new place. Or you’ve plopped your suitcase down on your new bed. You’re a few blocks from your old place, or you’re on the other side of the planet. Even the smoothest of moves is stressful — but what can you do as soon as you move to make your space homier?

There are probably a TON of moving experts among the Offbeat Homies. My credentials? I once moved 6 times in 12 months. It was hard to find “home” then. But even when you don’t know how long you’ll be staying, these tips will help you feel more comfortable.

  1. Add your scent. You know when you’ve been gone for a few days and you open your front door and become suddenly aware that your house has A SMELL? The smells in homes come from so many sources — perfumes, aerosol sprays, air fresheners, cleaners, foods, pets — so if you’re able to, grab a little something that you can set up to give your new place a familiar smell. If you’re clueless as to how to pack your scent, consider baking. Nothing makes a home smell cozier than fresh bread. Not a baker? Cheat with a freezer pack of oven-ready rolls. Kelly and Lesa (Prom - May 1978)
  2. Speaking of food, you can also eat a favorite meal. Cook it or order it or pop it from a Pringles can — I know it’s hard for me to feel ill at ease with a steaming baked potato and sour cream on my table.
  3. Prepare photographs for display. It’s kind of weird nowadays to have actual printed photographs, so it will be helpful to select digital files beforehand. Upload a few different sizes of favorite photos — family members, you and your partner, your friends with your iguana, a funny art car you saw at a music festival — pick them up at your local Walgreens (or what have you) and pop them in frames or pin them on boards. Heck, tape them to your door. Having familiar faces around will make the new place feel more like your own.
  4. Decorate the walls. Hang posters. Scarves. Get your photos up. Make a painting if you have to — having goodies on the walls instantly warms a room.
  5. UNPACK. You don’t have to go crazy; unpacking sucks. Focus on putting your most important items in their place. My husband loves to do this as soon as he lands in a hotel room: socks go in drawers, dress shirts hang in the closet, toiletries are in the bathroom. The sooner you can get into a routine of interaction in your space, the more at-ease you’ll feel. Put things in your linen closet, organize the silverware and get your hula hoops on the hook.

On your next move or extended stay, put these into practice to make your home feel like YOURS. Now. What one thing did we forget to include on this list?

Comments on Five things you can do the day after you move in to help your home feel like YOURS

  1. I’ve also spent what feels like way too much of my life moving. I read a lot and I love books, so I cart my enormous library with me each time, and I don’t feel at home until I have my bookcases put together and filled with books.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing! We’ve been living in our flat for a little more than a year now (“we” being the Boyfriend and I), and last weekend when I finally had a moment to relax I realized that it still doesn’t feel like home to me. It’s more like “his place where he lets me stay permanently”. We’ve got the smell (cats!) and the food (I love cooking), but I’ll take up the photgraphs challenge and the decorating challenge right away.

    (Funny how I am definitely not into decorating, although I am the girl… *lol*)

    • My husband decorates our house! And he’s a motorcycle, ex-fireman, welder man! I just don’t think he trusts me with a hammer, which is probably a good choice!

  3. I have a ritual of unpacking. I set up my speakers and blast some 80’s tunes and hang this embroidered wall hanging from India above my door. That’s how I mark a space as my own, even before digging out my toothbrush. The wall hanging has been with me on two continents and for every move I’ve made for a total of 5 rooms.

    • That’s almost exactly what I was going to say.

      I moved at least once a year for 5 years, all to places I wasn’t allowed to decorate (mainly student accomodation) so I couldn’t do anything permenant.

      The first thing I’d do was plug in my CD player and put a favourite album on, then put up my posters and wall hangings and whatever space I was in instantly felt more like home.

    • Whether it was moving into my college dorm rooms/apartment or my current home or the new house we’re moving into next week, the first thing I do when packing or unpacking is blast some tunes. The nice thing now is that instead of the weak barely audible sound from my laptop speakers, my roommate blasts them from his awesome high quality speakers. Good thing the roommies and I all have similar taste in music!

  4. My husband and I live with my mom and brothers…got married and graduated at during the recession…fail. So we’re going to be moving to our first place in April. My brother is coming with us, so we’ll have our favorite posters, the deer antlers, and I’ll be damned if we don’t somehow convince my mom to make chocolate chip cookie dough so we can bake them after we get everything moved in. I’m going to blog about the whole process – it helps me process.

  5. For me it helps to unpack the kitchen, bathroom, and make the bed. If there’s a made bed in the bedroom, then I feel like I belong there. A fun thing that one of my friends would do when she’d move is order a pizza and have it delivered to the new place. It is sort of an aknowledgement that it’s your home if the pizza guy is bringing you food there.

  6. I always set up and organize my bathroom first. It’s the smallest room in the house and it makes me feel better in the mornings if I have all my drawers and cabinets organized and fresh towels hung up ready to be used. It makes the task of setting up the whole house a bit less daunting if I can say “at least I have one room completely done.”

    • When I moved into my last apartment (which I’m leaving in 2 weeks after being there 2 years), the first room that was complete was my bathroom and it made me SO happy! I’d gone from a tiny bathroom with a dark shower stall and the entire bathroom covered in blue tile.. the toilet was even blue! to a light-filled bathroom with lots of beige and lavender, might not seem too great but it was light! And it was unpacked and cleaned! It was my favorite room in the house for at least a month.. at least I had ONE place where I could go and it would make me happy when the rest of the place was a disaster still!

  7. Every time I moved into a new dorm/apartment in college, including when I studied abroad, the first thing I would do is make my bed. When my mom was helping me move in freshman year she made my bed; she said when her mom moved her in that she made HER bed, and when I was born, my grandmother had made it her duty to make up my crib. It was the tradition, more than the bed-making, that made it feel like home; it just turned it from an unknown place into a place where I had brought in that element that follows me wherever I go. Most people probably don’t have that tradition, but a little ritual like that can go a long way, especially in a place like a dorm, where it’s only going to be home for a little while, and you can do so little.

    I’ve found that what really makes a place feel like home for the first time is coming back to it exhausted. When I moved into my second dorm, it was coming back from a long, grueling rehearsal in the August heat: even though it was completely bare and all I’d done so far was make the bed and unpack a few outfits, going home felt great. When I studied abroad, it was the first time I came back from a weekend trip to another country. Exposing yourself to even MORE unfamiliar things makes what you already know feel better in comparison. I always have trouble sleeping in new places, so the combination of having the bed nice and made and tiring myself out makes it much easier to fall asleep, and then it doesn’t feel so strange.

  8. The first thing on my to-do list of moving into a new place (I moved 5 times in 3 years before I ended up where I am now) is make the bed and hang a shower curtain (if needed). You know you’ll be sleeping at some point, and a shower is usually nice after a long day of moving.

  9. make the bed. as silly as it sounds, it like “hey, i live here. i have somewhere to sleep!” it always makes me feel at home.
    plus, i love having all of our pictures up. do we have a million pictures of ourselves up? yep. does that make us vain? slightly. but it makes us feel like we’re home 🙂

  10. Definitely another vote for make the bed first, it also serves a practical purpose, as soon as you feel tired you can get into bed, instead of having to make it first and get even more tired and fed up.

    I like to get some nicely scented flowers and we also always seem to end up watching Totoro in the first few days of a move, so I vote for watching a favourite film to help with that home ‘feeling’.

  11. The first thing I always do is put the bed together (usually make it, but meh as long as all the components are there I’m fine) and set up the bathroom. That way no matter how much we get done that day/night I can get ready and go to bed, then get up and get ready in the morning. Otherwise I feel all wonky. Besides that, getting the kitchen set up is a big deal to me because that’s where I spend a lot of my time. And the ever traditional It’s-been-two-weeks-lets-rearrange-everything-again-because-it’s-not-quite-right move.

  12. yes, yes, and yes.

    but don’t forget to relish the utter silliness that happens before you make it feel like home.

    one of my very favorite photos is from the day we moved into our house. my girlfriend sitting on a de-cushioned, sideways couch in the dining room with a beer that it really looks like she’s feeding to the dog. and neither of them even like beer.

  13. The first thing that makes me feel like home is getting my bed put together, from frame to sheets and pillows. It helps me find restful sleep in a new and strange place and typically your sheets have that ‘home’ smell you are looking for!

  14. I have to say, I am horrible and getting pictures and such up! I have been in my current apartment for one year, and still no pictures or art up!

    However, when I move (which I do a lot lol), here are the most important things for me:
    – Internet and Computer. I love having internet and I love being on my computer. My husband is exactly the same way. It is our “thing” so they are set up ASAP
    – Bed with clean sheets and a proper bedspread. I know other people who set up a variety of things but sort of “camp out” and leave their sleep area for later… not me. That first night I want to be IN my bed.

  15. I have a mild case of obsessive compulsive disorder (the mild part is maintained with years of therapy and medication), so anytime I move to, the first thing I do is check every lock in the house to make sure they are all fully functional. I know this is less “sentimental” than everything else, but a home will never truly feel like mine until I’ve sprinkled a little bit of good-ole neurotic behavior on it. =)

    But the second most important thing to me is making sure all of my bookshelves are set up. That’s what really makes my home feel… right. I can sleep on the floor as long as my books are set up in their “arranged by color” system on my bookshelves. Haha.

  16. I’m about to move again, this will be the uh 5th or 6th time in 12 months.. I think, I have lost count. I’m so glad this article was written because I’m moving into a proper house with just the boy and am looking forward to nothing more than having our own space for the first time in our lives and having our own items.

  17. Timely article, as I’m in the middle of moving. Again. Fourth time in three years. Yuck. I have boxes that still aren’t unpacked from the last one.
    Being Irish and English (at the same time), my family motto is something along the lines of ‘there’s nothing that a cup of tea can’t put right’.
    I never feel completely settled anywhere until the kettle goes on. Everything else, bed, books, computer, etc., is details.

    • I generally plug the electric jug in and let it boil while i’m making up the bed. By the time the bed is made i can make a cup of tea and sit on it while surveying my kingdom of mess. (and while i’m doing that the boy is usually setting up the internet, so i make him a cup as well. priorities!)

  18. CURTAINS. Curtains make a place feel like it’s yours.

    I have had the same purple panne velvet bedroom curtains since I was about fourteen. I made them myself. To me, they mean “I live here now.” Unfortunately, they’ve lived in my closet for a year, because the apartment complex I live in has very strict window rules, but once I transfer to a UC, they will go up again. Even if I don’t have a window.

  19. Photos and art up on the walls are important to me for making a place feel like home. I actually get a little anxious moving into a new place with all those white walls. The sooner I can decorate the walls, the better.

  20. Excellent tips. I’ve been living with my mother in law since I moved out of my aunt’s house when I was 18. In a few months we’ll finally be getting a home of our own. I can’t wait.

  21. This might be because of my 3 most recent living spaces, but I always give the space a good deep cleaning before unpacking and spreading smells (and cleaning in and of itself has some nice smells, especially if you use some method or other nice smelling cleaners, yum).

    The most recent house I moved into the people had just left tons of their stuff, like 7 couches, 2 fat recliners, baskets of clothes, etc.: it was a party house in its last life. So yeah, lots of elbow grease and 5 months later we’re still not unpacked completely, and we still have most of the couches, which come springtime at least 3 are going curbside. It’s slowly feeling more like a home (especially after we repainted the master bedroom and replaced the toilet). It’s saving grace is the computer lab/gaming room in the basement and a separate room for my studio 🙂

    • Cleaning = YES! The first thing I do to make a new space feel like home is to deep clean the bathroom. Nothing makes me feel more comfortable in a space than knowing that my tush can safely touch the toilet.

  22. I’m about to move across the continent and I plan to do the same thing I did the bazillion other times I’ve moved and set aside one box, clearly labeled that will be opened first. In it will be all my tea drinking things – tea cups, tea pot, kettle, tray, fancy sugar cubes and a tin of leaf tea. (Why, yes, I am of British heritage!) Perfect for that moment when it feels like I’m stuck in some nightmare world of never-ending boxes and just need to take a break. I’ll probably throw in a couple of fluffy towels as well as plane flight + unpacking will most likely = unholy levels of grime. My tea ritual has served me so far through twelve or so cross-city moves and one international move and hasn’t failed me yet.

  23. Incidentally I find it can really help to start thinking about this in advance, especially if you haven’t moved for a while.

    While you’re still in your old familiar home, before you start packing everything up, take some time to think about what makes it feel like your home (I think the comments here show it can be different for everyone) so you know what to do first when you get to your new place.

    It also means you can make sure whatever you’ll need (pictures, music, bedding, tea etc.) is easily reachable when you get to your new place instead of somewhere in one of 50 identical boxes!

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