Starting a new life in a new home is exciting but let’s face it, moving is a pain. Even if you hire a comprehensive service, you still face weeks of turmoil and disruption. While there's not much you can do to make it a joy, here's what you can do to make it easier.
Getting organized.There’s three crucial things you can do to minimize the stress of moving. They are organize, organize and organize some more. The more you get done before the actual day of the move, the smoother things will go. Ideally your preparations should start at two months prior to the move, even if you have not finalized your new home.
Get the facts.Every move is unique and no general guide like this can prepare you for all possibilities. You need to consider special circumstances like:
- The distance and weather conditions.
- Regulations for crossing state or international boundaries, especially if you are carrying restricted items.
- Delicate items like antiques, plants and pets.
- Dangerous goods like firearms or caustic materials.
- Research and book the services you will need; movers, rentals, cleaning help and set a budget for the services and materials you will need.
- Cancel or transfer subscriptions, utilities and services.
- Gather and transfer medical, dental, school, legal and financial records.
- Empty your lockers, safety deposit boxes, drop off your library books and pick up the dry-cleaning.
- Talk to a florist about moving your plants.
Make a list.Write everything down! You'll thank yourself later. Before you pack even one box, create a simple record keeping system. Create a computer-printed list of numbers with a space to write the contents. Or have a spiral-bound notebook for the job. You'll place a number on EVERY box you pack and list the contents on your list. Don't put the list down unless it's in a place you'll call Packing Central. This is where you'll find your labels, marking pens, box tape, and other supplies. When describing the box contents, be specific -- "A-D files" is better than "files", and "Tulip dishes" rather than "misc. kitchen".
Have plenty of supplies.Don't make me say this twice-- you'll need LOTS of boxes--probably more boxes than you think, and having enough boxes will make your life easier! (If you buy your boxes from a moving company, you can always return unused boxes for a refund. If you got them free from the grocery, just toss any leftovers.) Have about 10 boxes set aside to use for last minute items on moving day, such as bedding, clothing, and cleaning supplies. You'll need strong plastic packing tape to close up the boxes securely. Use unprinted newsprint (newspaper can stain your items) or packing paper or bubble wrap to wrap and cushion household good. Again, you'll need lots more supplies than you think, so get extra so the packing can go smoothly. Return any unused supplies after the truck is packed.
Utilize wardrobe boxes.These tall boxes are perfect for bulky, lightweight items such as comforters, pillows, and blankets, as well as clothes that need to remain hanging. Call your mover to ask the width of the wardrobe boxes they'll be bringing. Then measure the clothes in your closets (including coat closets) to see how many wardrobe boxes you'll need. You can also use them for closet storage boxes, shoeboxes, and other bulky items such as fabric bolts, large baskets, or gift-wrap tubes.
Don't make the boxes too heavy to lift, however. One mover told the story of someone who put a bowling ball in a wardrobe box! When the box was lifted off the truck the bottom gave way, sending the bowling ball on a wild ride down the ramp, across the street to the gutter, then down a hill where it finally came to rest in a roadside ditch. (Is that a strike or a spare?)
Strategize wardrobe box use.Moving companies will be happy to deliver boxes ahead of your moving day. Or if you're doing the move yourself, get things organized as early as possible. A few days before your move, fill some sturdy handled shopping bags with bulky closet items such as shoes, sweaters, belts, and jeans. On moving day, fill the bottom of the wardrobe boxes with some of the shopping bags, then add your hanging clothing. Pack hanging items tightly so things won't move around and fall off of hangers. Finally, cover the shoulders of your clothes (a dry cleaning bag works well), and then add a few purses or sweaters on top. You'll have fewer boxes, and closet items remain together. Also, the shopping bags will make it easier to retrieve your belongings from the bottoms of a tall wardrobe box.
Color coordinate.Designate a color for each room in the new home, such as yellow for kitchen, orange for dining room, etc. Apply colored stickers on the box near the box number. In you’re new home. Put a matching sticker on the door to each room. The movers will know where to put everything when they arrive at the destination. It's also helpful to post a big sign on the wall in the room where you want boxes stacked, ("Boxes here please") to keep them out of furniture and traffic areas.
Keep things together.Insist on keeping things together when you or the movers are packing boxes. Keep bookends with books, light bulbs with lamps, and extension cords with appliances. Small, loose parts can be attached to the item they belong to with tape or placed in small envelopes -- to keep picture hooks with pictures, shelf brackets with a bookcase, a special wrench and bolts with the wall unit. Keep larger corresponding items (such as a cable TV cord) in Ziploc bags, and tape these to the underside or back of the item. As a backup, have a "Parts Box" open on the kitchen counter and fill it with cables, cords, parts, pieces, brackets, or nails that are removed from any items of furniture. Keep this box with you, or mark it well with a rainbow of colored stickers so it can be easily located on move-in day.
Pack ahead.Anything you can pack ahead will save you time on moving day. If it's summer, get your winter clothes out of the way. You don't really need 5 radios or TV's around your house for the last few days there. Box up your shampoo and extra toothpaste and live out of a travel cosmetic case for the last week or two. Pare down cooking utensils and food supplies to bare essentials. Wastebaskets can also be packed (put things in them!) while you switch to using plastic grocery bags (hang them on a cabinet door or door handle to collect trash.)
Consolidate cleaning supplies.If you must clean your old place after moving out, put together a kit of basic cleaning supplies and rags. Clean anything possible ahead of time (the inside of kitchen cupboards, the oven, windows, etc.), and if possible, vacuum each room as movers empty it.
Use your luggage.Fill luggage and duffle bags with clothing, sheets, towels, and paper goods. Even for local moves you'll be able to quickly spot your navy suitcase holding your favorite sweaters, whereas "Box #189" might remain elusive for days.
Safeguard valued items.It's a good idea to keep valuable possessions, such as silverware, collections, or antiques, with you. If you have a long move and no room in your car, bury the items in a box titled "Misc. from kitchen pantry". Either way, check your homeowner's insurance to see how you are covered during the move, and if you need additional insurance from the mover. Also, find out what paperwork (receipts, appraisals, and photos) you might need to file a claim in case of loss.
Keep important papers with you.Your list of "important" papers might include: birth certificates, school records, mover estimates, new job contacts, utility company numbers, recent bank records, current bills, phone lists, closing papers, realtor info, maps, and more. Don't leave these with the mover. Keep them with you!
Make use of personal boxes.Use brightly colored storage tote boxes, one for each person. Let each family member fill theirs with items they'll want 'right away' in the new home -- a set of sheets, a towel, a couple of extension cords, a phone, nightlights, address book, pens and paper, keys, Kleenex, and travel cosmetic case, and so on. Moving may not be the most fun you've ever had, but planning ahead will go a long way toward making the process bearable.
Lighten your load.Do you really need that twenty-gallon stockpot or the antique anvil collection? Is there really room for two pianos in your new home or just for one? The more you get rid of the less you have to move. Have you used it in the last year or two? If not, Leave it behind. Cash takes up less room than clutter.
- Have a garage sale but keep it simple. Sell the good stuff for a fair price and you’ll be done by noon. Clothes, books, junk, damaged goods; donate them or trash them. Get a tax receipt for your donations if possible.
- Sell big-ticket items early so you aren’t stuck running a desperate “must sell” ads at the last minute.
- Have a “Take Something With You” farewell party (just make sure that the portable items are clearly marked).
- Consume the consumables. Now’s the time to eat the roast that’s been lurking in the bottom of the freezer and to get reacquainted with your canned goods.
- Clean out and clean up. Carefully dispose of hazardous goods, flammables, pesticides, paints, aerosols, old batteries and such. Clean and wrap any messy items so they don’t cause problems on moving day.
- Empty the fuel, oil and other fluids from lawn mowers and such. Disconnect the gas tanks from your barbecue.
- Packing – Packing is like playing a 3D version of Tetris, except when you win you get to stop playing.
- Buy a tape gun and a few rolls of tape.
- Plastic sheeting and sturdy garbage bags will help protect items from dirt and damage. But get bags in two or three different colors! That way you won’t chuck away your towels and haul your last trash bag half way across the country instead.
- Get colored labels for marking where boxes will be going at the new home and to highlight special instructions like “fragile” and “this side up”.
- Start hunting for those special boxes to pack those special items in.
- For smaller items try to find boxes that are the same size, these stack easily and don’t waste space.
- Find special boxes that will fit in the spaces under and inside furniture.
- Keep boxes a reasonable weight. Put heavy objects in small boxes and lighter things in large boxes.
- Use sturdy drawers as boxes for clothes and lightweight items.
- Figure out what you need to function comfortably and then pack everything else!
- Wrap tape around dressers and cabinets with doors and drawers. Use cardboard strips to protect the finish from the tape and to guard the item from damage.
- Use clothes, towels, blankets and such to wrap and pad delicate items. Socks are just made for glassware.
- Take awkward items apart to save space and prevent damage. Lampshades, lamps and light bulbs each have very different packing requirements.
- Bag screws, clamps and other hardware then tape the bags inside or underneath the furniture and appliances they go with.
- Consider getting specialty-packing materials for dishes and other fragile items. It’s a little more expensive but then so are broken dishes. Be generous with the padding.
- Have a packing party. Get a little low stress help from your friends and a chance to visit too.
Take stock.Make an inventory of your goods for insurance purposes and for establishing claims should anything go wrong during the move. Photograph or video your valuable items, noting their condition. Get sufficient replacement value insurance based on your inventory. Put visible or hidden identifying markings on or in valuable items.
Important documents, computer data backups, small valuables and irreplaceable items should travel with you, not on the truck. Make copies of as much as possible and leave the copies with a friend or relative when you go.
Keep your important contact numbers and shipping information handy.
Loading tips.The better you pack and load the safer your things will be. Supervise the loading, whether you are using professionals or volunteers to help you.
Pack things snugly so they don’t rattle about. Use cardboard, paper, plastic and even cushions to pad and fill spaces. Use cords or strapping to secure large items.
Pack useful items last (like the vacuum cleaner, the coffeemaker and the stereo).
One last look.
- Check all closets, drawers and cupboards for missed items.
- Make sure that appliances are unplugged and that the fridge door is propped open.
- Shut off outside water supply taps and make sure no inside taps are left on.