I have moved quite a few times in my adult life. Some were easier moves, such as across town, and some more challenging, such as moving across the country (and into a small apartment from a much larger house!) Like most people, I still hate moving and packing, but I have learned quite a few tricks to make it go smoother. I would like to share some of my tips for organizing a move.
My tips fall into three categories:
- Declutter (you can do this anytime!)
- Plan ahead: Figure out what you need to do, including researching and managing your movers (if you need to hire help)
- Pack your boxes in order of priority (items you use often should go into the same boxes)
Contemplating a move?
Time to Become Lean and Mean!
As soon as you even think you might be moving, it's a good idea to start evaluating what belongs in your life. Personally, I think it's therapeutic to do this even if you aren't contemplating a move. I feel lighter when I get unnecessary things out of my life. However, it becomes extra important if you may or will be moving. If you have the time, start sorting through your items before you start packing! If you don't use it, throw it out! Or donate it, or sell it. Small items are easy to sell on Ebay. Large items, like unwanted furniture, can be sold on Craigslist (just use safety precautions!). Also, donate, donate, donate! Goodwill and Salvation Army are good places to donate clothing and household items. Local libraries often take used books and media. They will either add them to their collection or sell them to raise funds. You may also be able to find local charities, or friends, who need your items as well. When donating to charities, don't forget to ask for receipts in case you decide to itemize on your taxes. (Get rid of stuff and get break on your taxes! Win win!)
After moving so many times, and throwing out so much "stuff" that has accumulated, I have learned to really value what's important to me and what I can live without. Now, I actually enjoy purging unwanted items. I feel lighter. I used to waste so much time organizing, and working around items that I never actually used. Following the "lean and mean" motto can also help you save money and become a smarter consumer. So, once you've purged, and have completed your move, keep up with your commitment to be lean and mean! If you see something cool at the store, but you don't have a definite purpose for it, don't buy it.
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Have a set moving date? Do you need to hire movers to help?
Do your research on moving companies
I recommend that you ask around for referrals. If you're moving into or out of an apartment, the apartment leasing office staff might be a good place to start. Chances are, they've heard stories of the good, the bad, and the ugly of all the movers in the area. If all else fails, you can go online and read reviews. However, keep in mind that anyone can write a review on the Internet. Try to find a company that has a lot of positive reviews over a period of time. They more likely are well established and reliable. Also, check the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints against the company. Even if they aren't registered with the BBB, they will often have a profile and rating on the BBB website. This site can also tell you how long the company has been in business. I also recommend using a moving company who background checks and insures their workers. Finally, find out what materials they will include. Even if they aren't doing the packing for you, many movers will supply things like wardrobe boxes for you to borrow (which is fantastic, because they are not cheap if you buy your own), and plastic wrap for your dressers to keep the shelves closed (so you don't have to go through the hassle of emptying and packing the contents of your drawers).
Scheduling and obtaining an estimate
Are you hiring help? It's best to schedule a moving company 3-6 weeks ahead of time. They tend to book up quickly. This is especially true if you are moving on the weekend or at the end or beginning of the month, or during busy moving season (which is usually the late spring and summer, unless you live in a super hot climate). If you are doing a long distance move, you may want to get a binding estimate before you schedule your move (most companies' estimates are good for 30 days).
Moving day is here! Time to meet your movers.
It never hurts to "grease" the wheels on moving day. In other words, don't forget to take care of your moving people! Let them know you will tip them well if they do a good job. Also, I like to have bottled water and Gatorade on hand for them, especially when moving on a hot day. I know some people may think tipping and providing refreshments is unnecessary, since you are all ready spending a bundle on the move. In my area, moving costs exceed $35/hour/person for loading and unloading. But, keep in mind, the moving company is taking most of the profit, not your individual movers. So, I think it's only fair they be rewarded individually for their hard work of moving all of your most precious belongings.
Prioritize what items you use the most before you start packing.
I have recurring stress dreams, nightmares if you will, about packing. I hate it! However, if you are smart about it, you will save a lot of hassle on the back end when it comes time to unpack.
Label and pack not just by room, but also by priority
I think it's pretty standard to label your box with the room, and make notes of what is in the box. (Although, I recently saw someone moving out of my apartment with like, 10 huge boxes, and not a one was labeled with even the room. So, maybe this isn't common sense for some?)
After picking a room and designating a box for that room, what work for me is to go in that room and pack the items I rarely use. Then, I label the room on the box, make some notes to myself about what is in the box (pretty standard), and then, I write "Low Priority" on the box. That way, after the move, I know I can take my time getting around to opening the box. After packing low priority items in each room into corresponding boxes, I move onto "Medium Priority" and final "High Priority" boxes.
This strategy will also save your sanity! You can pack those low priority items weeks ahead of time and barely notice they're packed away. Meanwhile, you can leave your silverware till the day before.
The low down on color coding
I'm not gonna lie, I love color coding things. However, I would skip color coding boxes by room unless you are the only one doing the unloading during the move. Your movers (whether professionals or helpful friends) are not going to want to have to remember that pink means living room and blue means kitchen. It will be so much easier for them if you just write "kitchen" on the box of full of pots and pans and "living room" on the box full of DVDs.
However, if you are just color coding for yourself, go for it! I'm thinking of using green, yellow, and red stickers for my next move:
green= high priority (GO ahead and unpack right away)
yellow= medium priority (PROCEED WITH CAUTION- unpack after all the green boxes are empty)
red= low priority (STOP- unpack these boxes last)
Number each box and make an electronic document listing what is in each box.
I used to write notes to myself each box, about what was in each box. Unfortunately, I wouldn't know how the boxes would be stacked in the new place, so I would end up writing a huge list on the top and several sides of the boxes, just to make sure I would be able to read the list no matter what way the boxes ended up being arranged. What a pain. Now, I just type out a list on the computer and then e-mail it to myself. (box #1=coffee maker, toaster, plates ; box #2= jewelry, scarves, shoes) An added bonus is that this labeling method is more secure when you have an unknown movers taking care of your items. A box labeled "#2 bedroom" is a lot less likely to go mysteriously missing than a box labeled "expensive jewelry and latest Apple product." (Not that movers would steal your stuff, but it's just better not to put the temptation out there, right?)
Best wishes on your move!
What moving tips do you have? Please share in the comments. I would love to hear your suggestions!