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What to Bring to a Temporary Living Space and How to Organize It

Last updated: 08-16-2020

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What to Bring to a Temporary Living Space and How to Organize It

Downsizing
What to Bring to a Temporary Living Space and How to Organize It
Moving out for a remodel or a short-term situation? Here are tips for what to bring and what to leave behind
Patricia Lee August 4, 2020
Houzz Contributor. Patricia Lee is a professional home organizer in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the co-owner of Tailorly with her business partner Jeanne Taylor. Together they create beautiful homes through decluttering, organizing, and styling. For more information visit www.tailorly.net .
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One of the big decisions you face during a home renovation is how to best live through it: Should you stay or should you go? If you decide that vacating your home seems like the best course of action, there are several steps you can take to make your time in a temporary living space go more smoothly. Incidentally, the same tips are helpful for handling a temporary living situation that isn’t due to a home renovation.
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As a professional home organizer, I help clients transition to temporary homes due to circumstances such as short-term job relocations, medical treatments far from home, college dorm living, gaps between permanent housing and (heaven forbid) displacements due to natural disasters.
In the latter case, of course, you have very little time to plan and pack. But if you are fortunate enough to have forewarning that you’ll be living in a temporary space, you can plan ahead. Temporary housing can be psychologically challenging, but you can do your best to avoid the “living out of a suitcase” feel and make it your own for the short term.
What to Bring to Your Temporary Home
Sometimes you know how long you’ll stay and how much space you’ll have, while other times your stay may get extended in temporary quarters smaller than initially envisioned, and for longer. It’s generally best to keep what you pack for your temporary living space to a minimum. This is not only because you’ll need to pack it up again, but also because too many items can make your new space feel cluttered and unmanageable, and you don’t want to invest too much money in a temporary space.
Depending on your circumstances, you may be packing two groups of items: some to take along, and others to put in storage, perhaps in order to rent out your home or empty it in preparation for a full remodel.
Clothing. Consider the different weather and seasons you may experience in your new location. If your clothing needs will differ from what you’re used to, you may want to wait until you get to your new town to hear from locals what works best there.
If space is limited and your temporary stay will last for more than one season, you may also want to consider rotating out seasonal items such as heavy winter coats during the summer and your summer wardrobe in winter, if that is practical.
Another consideration is laundry. Will your temporary housing include a washer and dryer, or will you need to go to a laundromat? Will your new environment and activities require more or less frequent washing? The answers to these questions may make a difference in terms of how much clothing you would need to bring to sustain you between laundry days.
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Housewares and food. While most furnished rentals will provide major items like sofas, beds, stoves, refrigerators, dining room tables and chairs, some accommodations may not include items such as microwaves, TVs or washers and dryers. Make an inventory list of your rental when you visit or ask your new landlord for one so that you can decide which housewares and appliances you may want to bring. Even if cookware, bakeware and utensils are listed on the inventory, you may want to verify the type and quantity.
Decor. If your stay will be longer than several months, a few decor items will make you feel more at home. Consider a throw, a pair of favorite decorative pillows, framed photos, a vase or two, and meaningful artwork small and durable enough to travel well. I’ve lived in many temporary spaces and find that I’m happier and more productive when I personalize my space a bit.
What Not to Bring to Your Temporary Home
Valuable items and important documents. Be sure to keep track of your most valuable and important items and documents, such as family heirlooms, expensive and sentimental jewelry, passports, birth certificates, house deeds, and tax documents. It is easy to forget which box you packed certain items in and where that particular box may be among the many you direct toward storage. (Not to mention that you may not want to label any boxes “important documents” or “valuables” and thus make them targets of theft.) Ideally, a family member or friend could do you the favor of storing some items in his or her home safe. Alternatively, you could place these items in a safe-deposit box at a bank or a private company.
If for some reason these options aren’t possible, bringing valuables along with you is ultimately better than putting them in a storage unit. But keep in mind that in a rental the landlord would have access to the apartment at any time.
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How to Stay Organized in a Temporary Living Space
Moving to a much smaller space can be challenging since you may have to adopt new habits to get things done around the house. You may no longer have a dedicated home office to make business calls, or multiple bathrooms to make morning routines smoother. You may also have to give up bulk warehouse purchases for the time being if your place is too small or you’ve lost garage space. Your goal should be to create a space that is streamlined, efficient and functional for your temporary stay.
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Arrange your items according to frequency of use. When you organize your new space, place your most frequently used items in spots that are the easiest to access. For example, if you bake only once a month, store your baking items on the top shelf of the kitchen cabinets and reserve the lower, easier-to-reach shelves for your everyday salad spinner. If you use only four mugs daily but keep 12 on a kitchen shelf for occasional parties, it’s more efficient to store the party mugs elsewhere and use the prime shelf space for everyday items.
The same principle applies outside the kitchen. For instance, for many people, toiletries, towels and pajamas should be more easily accessible than suitcases, formal attire or holiday decor. And while I’m not recommending that you bring a whole holiday shebang to a temporary space, a transportable selection of decor — Christmas stockings, for example, or a Hanukkah menorah — will allow you you continue your traditions no matter where you are.
Consider seasonal rotation. As with summer and winter clothes, some categories of items, like downhill skis, may be heavily used only for a season. To maximize the efficiency of your space, consider if it makes sense for you to rotate items based on your needs. If you anticipate rotating, be sure to arrange your storage unit so that your seasonal items are easily accessible. It would take a little planning, but you can apply the same principles of arranging according to frequency of use within your storage unit to make retrieving items as simple as possible.
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Consider temporary furniture for extra storage. If you still do not have enough space, a freestanding kitchen cart or bookcase may help. Perhaps you can get a used version from an online resource for free. Determine if any cost is worth the convenience the furniture will provide, and weigh that against the more cluttered feel of extra furniture in a small space.
How to Make a Temporary Living Space Feel Like Home
Keep in mind that most rentals do not allow alterations to the property, which means no nails or hooks in the wall, and no paint or wallpaper changes. That’s OK — you can appreciate artwork when it’s resting on a mantel or a side table. Museum or earthquake putty, used as directed, will help prevent the artwork from sliding or falling over. If you really want to hang something on the walls, consider using damage-free removable hooks or picture hanging strips. If you do go this route, be sure to follow wall preparation instructions exactly and comply with the recommended weight limits to ensure that the hooks or strips work as advertised.
Alternatively, your home can still feel warm and welcoming even if you don’t bring specific decor with you. Consider ways to decorate with everyday items. Plants can personalize a room, adding character and dimension. A serving bowl filled with fruit makes a colorful and pretty centerpiece for your dining table.
Although it’s very nice to have, decor is completely optional in a temporary space. Consider how long of a stay you anticipate, how far you’ll be moving and how large or small your new space will be. Of course, it is generally easiest to transport items that are small, portable and durable.
Your turn: Have you lived in temporary housing during a remodel or other transition? What did you learn from it? Please share your experiences and tips in the Comments!
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