No matter how exciting life in a new place promises to be, no one looks forward to the process of schlepping all of their stuff from one place to the next. Here are our best moving tips for getting through the ordeal with your sanity intact:
Minimizing Moving Stress
- Don’t try to deny that moving will require a lot of effort. Telling yourself that your upcoming move “should be easy” will only lead you to procrastinate on key tasks and set you up for frustration and disappointment. Better to be pleasantly surprised if the move ends up being easier than expected.
- Plan for everything to take twice as long as you think it will. When making your master moving plan, make sure to include significant time buffers, especially for unpredictable tasks like selling furniture, and large tasks, like cleaning out the garage.
- Divide and conquer. If you’re moving with a partner or a group, you can minimize bickering and eliminate the risk of having tasks fall through the “I thought you were going to…” cracks by assigning specific responsibilities to each team member.
- Start packing early. You can start packing as soon as you have an official moving date. Begin with items that you don’t use very often.
- Understand what your moving company will and won’t move. If you’re using a moving company, read their guidelines. Legally, moving companies can’t transport hazardous materials such as explosives, corrosives, and flammables. Perishables, plants, and special items like grand pianos may also be a no-go.
- Plan to move valuables yourself. These include any important documents, sentimental keepsakes, cash, and other high-value items such as jewelry and collectibles. Most moving companies won’t knowingly move these types of items due to the potential liabilities involved.
- Document everything. Take photos of all major pieces of furniture that accurately capture their current condition. Even if you don’t want to list the contents of every box and bag, document your total box count so that you’ll know if anything has gone missing.
- Pack a bin (or two) with all the items you’ll need right away. This should include clothing, toiletries, a shower curtain and towels, bedding, coffee making supplies, etc…
- Get the new place truly “move-in ready.” If at all possible, switch on utilities and make sure the place is well cleaned before you move in.
- Explore your new neighborhood ahead of time. This can be particularly important if you have kids and pets. Knowing what you have to look forward to—and where to get essentials like groceries and pizza—can help ease the transition and serve as motivation.
- Say goodbye to neighbors before moving day. Pausing for small talk or emotional goodbyes while you’re trying to load the moving truck will only detract from your forward momentum (and annoy your helpers). If you’re close with your neighbors, consider hosting a goodbye gathering a couple of weeks before you leave.
Moving on a Budget
- Get rid of as much stuff as possible. Moving unwanted items is a waste of time and money. Use your upcoming move as an opportunity to seriously declutter.
- Sell what you can. Donating is great, but if you start sorting your stuff a few weeks ahead of your move, you’ll have plenty of time to sell things like furniture, electronics, and collectibles. Raising a few hundred dollars in this manner can help defray moving costs.
- Use up freezer and pantry items. Save money on groceries during the weeks leading up to your move by using up the food items you have on hand, while reducing the amount of heavy canned and dry goods that you’ll need to move.
- Use your suitcases, bins, and baskets to pack. You’ll need to move these things anyway, so you might as well use luggage and other empty containers to load up your belongings.
- Use clothing, towels, and blankets as packing materials. While this definitely won’t speed your unpacking process and can create a lot of laundry, you can save money on bubble wrap buy using your soft goods to protect breakables.
- Use packing paper instead of bubble wrap. An alternative to both bubble wrap and the clothing-blanket-towel method, packing paper is cheap and relatively eco-friendly.
- Hire movers for furniture only. While you may not want to pay professional movers to move all of your possessions, you can save yourself a lot of hassle by hiring a moving service to deal with your heaviest, most unwieldy items.
- Avoid movers who charge by the hour. Many modern moving services charge by the piece, which can be perfect if you need to keep your costs low.
- Ship belongings via Amtrak or Greyhound. If you’re moving long-distance, both Amtrak and Greyhound Package Express can provide low-cost alternatives to traditional moving services.
- Ship books via media mail. Books are heavy and difficult to move in large quantities. Luckily “media mail” rates are low. According to the current rate chart, you can ship 70 pounds of books for $34.55.
- If you’re moving for your job, save all receipts. If you’re moving in order to take a new job or relocating for a current employer, you may qualify for a tax deduction.
Genius Moving Materials & Tools
- Stretch wrap: A larger, sturdier version of the plastic wrap you may use in your kitchen, you can use stretch wrap to protect furniture and to bundle loose items such as pillows and blankets together. You can even use it to bundle stacked boxes together, making them easier to move with a dolly. Stretch wrap comes in different widths, with 20 to 60 inches being standard.
- Zip ties: These make it easy to bundle items such as cables and cords, clothing hangers, and kitchen utensils together.
- Furniture sliders: Adhere these to the underside of heavy furniture and/or appliances so that you can easily slide pieces across hard surface flooring. If you need to slide items across carpet, you can use a plastic runner to create a smooth surface.
- Rental moving boxes: If you’d like to eliminate using cardboard altogether, you can rent sturdy bins from several services, most of which will drop off and pick up boxes as needed.
- Nesting reusable bins: If you suspect you may be moving often during the next few years of your life, you may want to consider investing in your own plastic bins. If you get a variety that stacks together, you can store a large supply of bins in a small space.
- Moving blankets: These can be used to wrap and protect furniture and to slide heavy items across smooth surfaces.
- Furniture lifting straps: Also sometimes called “forearm forklifts” or “shoulder dollies,” these straps are designed to make carrying large, heavy items much easier.
- Dollies: Both regular hand trucks and specialized furniture dollies can make your move much easier.
Packing Like a Pro
- Distribute packing supplies throughout the house. Save yourself from endless walking back and forth by placing an ample supply of boxes, tape, pens, labels, and other packing materials in each major area that needs to be packed.
- Use standardized box sizes. Eliminate the need to call your friend with a math degree to figure out the most efficient way to jigsaw all your boxes into the moving truck. Choose one or two box sizes at most to dramatically simplify your load-in process.
- Box or package all loose items. If it’s not a piece of furniture, box or bundle it. You don’t want to get stuck making dozens of trips carrying odds and ends when loading and unloading your truck.
- Pack heavy items in small boxes. You may be tempted to cram 500 pounds of books into your dresser drawers (then attempt to move the dresser with the drawers in place), but trust us when we tell you that this is a recipe for disaster.
- Pack plates on their sides, like records. This greatly reduces the stress on each individual plate, and thus decreases the chance of breakage.
- Use special inserts for packing glassware. These cardboard grids can help protect mugs and glasses.
- Photograph the contents of each box. Then print the photos and tape them to each box’s exterior. This is a particularly good strategy for boxes that may end up in storage, or not getting unpacked for a while.
- Label all sides of each box. Skip labelling the top of each box, as you won’t be able to see this labelling when boxes are stacked together. Instead, label all box sides so that you can easily see where they belong, no matter how they’re stacked.
- Place furniture hardware in sandwich bags. Then label each bag and tape it to the appropriate piece of furniture.
Getting the Most Out of Your Movers
- Have everything ready to go. If you’re hiring professional packers, be ready to vacate the areas they need to pack. Have everything packed and ready for your movers the night before they’re scheduled to arrive.
- Get any required parking permits for your moving vehicles. If you’re moving to or from a busy urban neighborhood, make sure to get parking permits that will allow you to reserve curbside parking as close to your door as possible.
- Clean your kitchen and bathroom before movers arrive. This is particularly important if you’re hiring packers, who may have to spend significant time in these areas getting your belongings into boxes.
- Place anything you don’t want moved into a clearly defined separate area. Walking movers through a house, pointing at items, saying, “This goes, that stays, this goes, that stays,” is inefficient and leaves room for mistakes to be made.
- Get moving-day babysitters for kids and pets. Nothing can derail a move like having excitable and/or stressed-out little ones underfoot. Even if you’re moving long distance, plan on getting your kids and pets out of the house during the move-out process, then collect them before you leave town.
- Make sure everything is sturdily packed and easy to carry. First, when you’re packing boxes, make sure you’ve adequately taped the bottoms. If you’re using free, pre-assembled boxes, this means applying an extra strip of tape to their bottoms. Second, don’t overfill boxes—this makes them hard to carry and likelier to burst open. Third, ideally none of your boxes should weigh more than 25 pounds, especially if anyone will need to carry them down long hallways or up or down flights of stairs.
- Be available to answer any questions. Make sure all movers have your phone number and keep your phone with you at all times.
- Provide beverages and snacks. During the move, have refreshing drinks and portable snacks at the ready. Save the beer and pizza for after you arrive at your destination as carb-heavy food can make movers feel lethargic.
Moving Etiquette: Moving With Friends
- Consider NOT asking your friends to help you move. If you’re at the stage of life where you and your friends are busy with fast-paced professional jobs during the week, it may be time to stop asking your nearest and dearest to give up evening or weekend time to help you move.
- Offer to trade them a comparable favor. No matter how kind-hearted, no one really wants to work several hours in exchange a beer and a slice of pizza. If your friends are unlikely to move soon themselves, offer pet or child care, help with a home renovation, yard work, or anything else you can think of that might suit their needs.
- Don’t ask them to stay all day. Can you move most of your stuff yourself and just ask friends for a few hours of help with the heavy stuff? Do it.
- Know exactly what you want them to do and communicate clearly. Everyone benefits when you help make the process as efficient as possible with good project management.
- Don’t stand around while your friends are working. Don’t disappear to a back room with your phone or wander across the way to talk to your neighbors. If your friends are working, it goes without saying that you should be, too.
Moving Etiquette: Moving with Professionals
- Stay out of the way. Once you’ve communicated any necessary details, try to stay out of the immediate areas where movers need to work.
- Resist the urge to offer advice. Shouting “Careful! That’s breakable!” every few minutes really isn’t helpful. Try to avoid micromanaging movers. No one does their best work with a supervisor breathing down their neck.
- Consider tipping. Official moving charges almost never include a gratuity, so if you’re movers do a great job, you may want to tip them. The amount you should tip will vary depending on the scope of the project, but 5% is standard when this bill is a few hundred dollars or more.
- Set up and make beds for all family members. Getting this done right away will ensure you get a good first night of sleep in your new home.
- Put up shower curtains and set out towels and toiletries. Functional bathrooms are a must, especially after the sweaty business of moving is done.
- Set up coffee-making equipment. This will be key to a good first morning and will help fuel your unpacking efforts.
- Order pizza. As soon as you have the essentials unloaded, order enough pizza for everyone who’s helped you with the move, and congratulate yourself on a job well done.