Moving soon? Moving can be a messy, expensive, back-breaking effort, so I feel for you.
In the 30 or so years we’ve been married, we’ve moved a total of eight times. I don’t like it much, but I have to say, I’m pretty danged good at it, so I thought I’d put together some tips to share with my readers who are going through the same thing.
When it comes to moving, my husband and I apparently have a deal, although I don’t remember ever agreeing to it. ALL packing, organizing, cleaning and prep-work falls to me. His contribution seems to be mainly lifting heavy furniture and putting the moving boxes where I tell him to.
Now that I think about it, maybe that’s why I hate the job of moving so much! But on the other hand, one of us has terrific organizational skills and one of us DOESN’T, so it does make a certain amount of sense.
Moving IS definitely an expensive and labor-intensive task, however, by being smart about how you do it, you can save yourself a lot of time, money, and aggravation.
So, let’s get started with the pre-move planning – this may be the MOST important part of your move. Check out my printable moving planner at the end of this post. It’s chock-full of helpful moving checklists and printable labels to help you organize your move and even track your moving expenses.
1. Pre-move planning
By now, you have probably decided to put your house on the market and you may or may not have found the house you are going to move to, and set your move-in date. That’s OK, there is still a LOT you can do at this stage that will make things ten times easier when you get down to moving day.
This is a great time to start decluttering your house. This will make for fewer items to move and also make your house look 10 times better during the “for sale” period when strangers are traipsing through your home.
Besides some really thorough decluttering, one thing we did that was really brilliant was to rent one of those pod things and put it in the driveway. That was wonderful because we could pack up a few boxes each night and just haul them out to the pod.
When we were ready to move, they picked the pod up, set it down in the driveway of our new house, and not one thing was broken! And it was surprisingly inexpensive – maybe $75-$100/month – about what you’d pay for a good-sized storage place.
Another thing to do is to start making a plan. Mentally divide your belonging into three categories – low priority, medium priority, and high priority.
LOW-PRIORITY Stuff – Books, CD’s or movies you won’t be needing for a while, out-of-season clothes, holiday decorations, special occasion dishes, etc. – anything you think you can safely manage without for the next 3-4 months. These things will be packed first (in clearly labeled boxes) and placed in the far rear area of your Pod or storage space.
MEDIUM-PRIORITY Stuff – Out-of-season clothes, bank statements and old tax records, extra sets of towels and sheets – basically anything you could do without for a month or so without significant hardship. The medium-priority items are the ones you are going to start packing up after you have sold your house, but haven’t had the final closing. You have a move date set, but it’s a few weeks off yet.
HIGH PRIORITY Stuff – Everyday dishes, toiletries, your day-to-day clothes, food, microwave, and other small appliances. Obviously, the high priority items are the ones you will need down to the last few days before the move, and will likely be the first things you’ll need to unpack in the new house. Be sure to mark these boxes accordingly.
The preplanning time is when you are going to purchase your supplies to keep your move organized. Don’t wait until the last minute or you’ll pay a lot more. You will need a set of several Sharpie markers, some color-coded labels (a lot of them) – I like these pre-printed labels
and you’ll start accumulating newspaper or a giganto roll of bubble wrap
and cardboard boxes. If you can find identically sized moving boxes they will stack easily.
My best tip for boxes – scout around your neighborhood for someone who has recently moved in and ask if you can have their empty boxes. They will likely be delighted to have someone to haul them away.
Second-best tip – haunt the produce section of your local grocery store – the produce boxes are sturdy and plentiful. You just have to catch them before they go into the trash compactor.
My Third-best tip – Look at these cool MOVING STRAPS. They make everything you lift seem 66% lighter by using natural leverage. It’s also way easier on your fingers because you are using your shoulders to support the weight. Perfect for heavy mattresses and couches!
At this point, you are also going to figure out your actual move strategy. Are you going to use professional movers, or long-suffering friends? My suggestion is a little bit of both. I use my friends for the easy stuff – boxes, plants, clothes, etc. Then I use a professional mover for anything large, heavy, expensive, or delicate. In our last move, the professional movers damaged our big screen TV and a few other items.
I documented the damage and was able to get a claim paid for several hundred dollars. I would rather have had my stuff not be damaged in the first place, but if it had just been a friend, I would have just been out of luck. If you do decide to use movers, start checking around for prices and recommendations from friends, especially if you are moving long distance.
PS: Movers appreciate a steady supply of snacks and drinks, plus a cash tip at the end of the day!
If you have little kids or pets, this is a great time to get them out from underfoot. Have a grandparent or a friend take them somewhere else for the day. Particularly with cats, they get frightened with all the noise and confusion and may try to run off or hide somewhere. Board them for the day if you have to, but don’t depend on isolating them in a room with a note on the door because sure as anything, someone is going to open that door at some point and let them out. We’ve done that and it wasn’t fun trying to coax our terrified cat out of the heater vent!
With your helpers, be cheerful and appreciative – play upbeat music and keep a handy supply of drinks, bagels, and pizza on hand to keep them happy and motivated. Same thing with your professional movers – take the time to learn all their names. Having a supply of snacks and a generous cash tip ready at the end of the day means you are likely to get much better service.
Set up a clear game plan – explain your color system to them and put post-it notes on each room to let your helpers know which is bedroom 1, 2, 3, etc.
If you have enough helpers, a “bucket brigade” system is very helpful, especially if you have stairs. Station someone at the top with a pile of boxes and then hand them down the chain of helpers to the bottom. Saves a lot of wear and tear on everyone’s feet.
In the new location, ask them to stack boxes and items neatly around the edges of the rooms to make room for the beds and the other large furniture. Even if you can’t put your couch or all unit exactly where you want it, you will at least be able to get it in the room and then shift things around on your own time. It helps also if you have a clear floor plan of approximately where you are going to place the larger pieces of furniture. I would even draw the outlines on the floor with some masking tape so people know – the piano goes HERE – don’t put boxes in this area.
Next up – it’s time to actually START PACKING. Hopefully my tips will save you a bit of time in the long run and maybe some money as we
4. Packing time
When it is time to pack your stuff up, you want to be extremely organized about it. Every box should have color-coded labels and descriptions on all four sides and the top. Let’s say you go with blue labels for the bedrooms – decide whose bedroom is 1, 2, or 3 and put a blue 1 on each box for the master bedroom. Bathrooms – same thing, but with a yellow label. Kitchen is red, and every other room in the house gets a specific color and possibly a number.
Then people can just stack similar colored or numbered boxes in the correct rooms. Describing your boxes properly is very important. The last thing you want is 14 identical moving boxes all labeled Misc. You don’t want to write a book, but be fairly detailed in your descriptions.
Pictures – I wrap them in multiple layers of newspaper with masking tape. Be sure to label them with a sticker for the correct room and a basic description of the picture.
Glassware, I usually wrap in either newspaper or plain white tissue, and I use liquor store boxes that have dividers in them for wine bottles.
Games and puzzles – tape them up with masking tape to keep the pieces from coming out mid-move.
Clothes are a pain to move and they are surprisingly heavy (and I have way too MANY of them!). If possible, try to rent or borrow a rolling wardrobe rack to just move them in large groups.
One trick I found on Pinterest is to take Cinch-sak trash bags and starting at the bottom, draw them up over a clump of 10-12 items, then cinch them at the top. That will keep any belts or loose items from getting lost and if something slips off an hanger, at least it won’t get dirty.
Use your suitcases since you are going to be moving them anyway – no point in moving them empty. I use them for those last-minute, oddly shaped items like phones, toys, radios, etc. Or if it is a long-haul move, use them to pack your clothes and toiletries for the trip. Just be sure the movers don’t put it smack in the middle of the truck like they did to us on one long-haul move. All I ended up with was the clothes on my back and after 3 days, I was so sick of them, I ended up just throwing them in the trash when I finally got to my suitcase!
5. Moving day.
At this point, you have hopefully decluttered at least twenty percent of your stuff and carted it off to your local charity store. Twenty percent of your stuff is a LOT and it will help with the move significantly. The remaining items should be almost all packed – except for your beds and a few last-minute dishes or food items.
Obviously, you want to have your fridge down to the bare minimums. Pack your frozen goods in your ice chests. Even if you don’t have ice for them, they will stay frozen enough for an hour or two.
Tip: Have about 20% more boxes than you think you need. It’s very hard to estimate and there is nothing worse than getting down to that last little bit of stuff and having to send someone out to scrounge up more boxes.
Be smart about packing your trucks or trailers – heavy items in front, smaller boxes and blankets to fill in around other items. Delicate items like plants and lamps go in vehicles.
Cleaning the house you are vacating is a whole separate operation and can’t really be done in conjunction with the move. If you can afford to hire a service, it is a good investment and they will be able to clean a completely empty home in much less time.
If you are doing it yourself, then try to get a crew of friends or relatives together and make it a group project – like a barn raising. Snacks, drinks, and good music make for happy cleaners. Make sure you keep your cleaning supplies segregated so they don’t end up getting moved to the new house with the other stuff – put them in an empty closet with large notes on the door.
Hope these tips will have to give you an awesome move and save you some time and money in the process! Good luck in your new home!