Moving into a new home is equally exciting and stressful. The house-hunting process is finally over, the paperwork is behind you, and they finally hand you the keys. But now you have the challenge of making this blank slate (or sometimes a not-so-blank slate) your own. Assembling furniture, hanging hundreds of decorations, painting over that awful kitchen color, and various repairs can easily overwhelm a new homeowner. Here's a few tips to limit the stress and maximize the enjoyment.
Locate the important stuff
If you haven't already, locate the locations of the "need to know" areas in your home. These include the main-water shutoff valve, the electrical panel/breaker box, security system panel, attic access, and water heater. The average homeowner won't likely need to access these areas very often but if a pipe bursts or you blow a breaker, you won't be in the mood to go on a scavenger hunt. If you are super Type-A, make an organized list with the item and it's location to keep in your files that you or others can refer to when needed...(laminating optional).
Replace the HVAC filters
While you are walking around looking for all the above locations, go ahead and note the return-air duct locations. They could be in the ceiling or in the wall--or even in the floor if your home is an old one--and are usually larger than your normal registers. Pull out the old filter, note the size, and replace it. Keep this size in a note in your phone for easy access when you are at the home improvement store. You want to get in the habit of doing this a minimum of quarterly, monthly if you have allergy or asthma sufferers, or if you have pets that shed.
Don't get locked out!
Before we get too far along, go ahead and prevent the disaster of getting locked out on move-in day. If you didn't get a spare key from closing, head on down to the hardware store and get a couple keys made. You can grab you HVAC filters while you are there! Hide one somewhere inconspicuous. For tips on places OTHER than under the welcome mat read this!
Clean it up!
In an ideal world, the sellers kept everything spotless and hired a detail-oriented house cleaner to wipe every trace of life from the home before you moved in. However, that probably didn't happen. It is so important to start the move-in process with a clean slate. It's not always fun, (unless you are the Type A person mentioned above) but you'll feel better knowing the floors you are kneeling on, the shower you are bathing in, and the carpet your child is crawling on is starting from a place of "clean".
The best way to tackle a whole-house cleaning is to start at the top and work your way down. That way, you aren't knocking dust onto the surfaces you just cleaned. You know, 'cause gravity. Ducts, light fixtures, walls, doors, windows, trim, then floors is a good order for a general cleaning. Once the vacuuming is finished, you know you have a clean house ready to be lived in.
Stay organized, even if it feels slower at first
Now that everything is clean, you can start bringing things in. But before you do, make a game-plan with your movers or your unfortunate friends. A few minutes spent on the front end can save hours of time answering mover's questions or looking for a misplaced box. Once you start unpacking, compartmentalize. Focus on one thing at a time or you will get overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. Start with the essentials, and work your way systematically through what you'll need that day. Breathe. This too shall pass.
Create and Protect Your Sanctuary
Ok, now before you go tackling every box and improvement project leaving your whole house in chaos, claim one room as a sanctuary. Be kind to yourself and create a space that is a untouched by those corrugated cubes. Try to finish unpacking that room as soon as possible. Even if it's not completely done by the time you're ready to crash, remove all the evidences of "unfinished" from the room. Through the rest of the move-in process, when you start to feel overwhelmed, you have a place to go to recharge.
Make a list of improvements and repairs
It's tempting to start every project right away. You have a dream for this home, and you're ready to see some progress. With visions of ship-lap you climb on top of the unpacked kitchen boxes, hammer in hand, to go all "Chip Gaines" on that wall. But hold on! The goal is not to simply start, you want to set yourself up to finish.
Start by making a list of what you want to accomplish. Prioritize that list, and then make a timeline. You don't need everything done tomorrow, and there is nothing worse than living with 100 unfinished projects. If you aren't a DIYer, start a relationship with a trusted handyman professional to start knocking out your list. If you are a DIYer, pick the projects you want to do yourself, then find a trusted pro to tackle the rest.