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Moving checklist

Organize your move for less stress

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Written by Margaret Heidenry
Edited by Cassidy McCants

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    Moving can be stressful without proper preparation — packing up all your possessions and lugging them somewhere else (where you’ll then have to unpack everything) isn’t the most fun of tasks. The key to making your move as calm and stress-free as possible might be a moving checklist.

    A checklist breaking down what you need to do in the two months leading up to your move will keep you organized (and your cortisone levels down). Eight weeks may seem like a long time to plan, but it’s really not when you consider all the research, hiring and packing there is to do.


    Key insights

    • Advance planning will help ensure your move goes smoothly. You can also benefit from more options in terms of movers and packing materials.
    • Breaking down your move into small tasks will keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
    • Purging worn, broken or outdated items is one of the best things you can do to cut down on what you have to pack and move.
    • Moving isn’t just transporting physical objects. You also have to think about forwarding your mail, changing your utilities, etc.

    8 weeks before moving

    About two months out, it’s time to start making moves to prep for your relocation.

    1. Decide how you want to move: DIY or hire movers

    You may live in a studio apartment with scant belongings — or maybe you have a four-bedroom house packed with furniture. The type of move you’re making, as well as your budget, will help you determine whether to hire professionals or do it yourself.

    2. Research your movers

    Get recommendations from friends and family for moving companies in your area, or research moving companies online. Always read reviews and make sure the company is registered with the state for a local move or the Federal Motor Carrier Association for a long-distance move. All carriers must be insured.

    3. Meet with your movers to get an estimate

    Don’t simply have a phone or email conversation. A moving company representative should come to your home to give an estimate of the move’s total cost. Once you have estimates to compare, book your movers ASAP for the best rates and choice of moving dates.

    4. Reserve your truck

    If you’re planning on a DIY move and renting a truck, make sure to reserve it as soon as possible. Research hiring helpers (or ask your friends if they can help). Don’t forget to also rent moving dollies and straps to hold down items for your move.

    5. Make a comprehensive list of what you need

    Every move is different. Write down anything unique to your move to stay organized and on track. For instance, do you need to move several pets, an extra car or a piano?

    6. Create a moving folder

    Whether it’s virtual or an actual paper folder, having all your notes, receipts and contacts in one place is vital to keeping your move orderly. A spreadsheet listing your to-do tasks is also helpful.

    7. Do a sweep of pollutants in your garage or basement

    You might have half-empty paint cans, used oil and potentially hazardous products you don’t want to move. Take these to the dump ASAP. Many dumps only have certain days when they accept pollutants, so it’s best to get this out of the way quickly. And remember not to put flammable items in boxes in a moving truck.

    8. Identify everything you no longer use or need

    Now is a good time to get rid of anything you don’t want to take with you. Think clothes you no longer wear, worn furniture or broken items you’ve never gotten around to fixing. Put them into three categories: toss, sell, donate or repair.

    6 weeks before moving

    Six weeks before the move, it’s time to sell or donate items you’re done with and make a plan for packing your things and transporting your car.

    1. Start packing small and go closet by closet

    Think of closets as mini rooms. Don’t pack them just yet — just quickly look through your closets to pull out things you no longer need or use. If you have trouble identifying what should stay or go, simply ask yourself if you want to unpack the item in your new space.

    2. Pull out old photographs

    Start spending just 10 minutes a day going through your boxes of pictures. Toss envelopes of negatives, duplicates and bad photos.

    3. Curate your book collection

    Books are heavy to move. So why not drop books you no longer want at local libraries, schools, nursing homes and thrift stores?

    4. Have a yard sale or list/donate items

    Now is the perfect time to get rid of the items you placed in your “sell” pile. You can either have a yard sale, list items on your local online marketplaces or donate items in good condition.

    5. Take everything else to the dump

    Toss items beyond repair in advance. Many cities have restrictions on how much you can throw away in trash cans. And you don’t want to face making at a trip to the dump on moving day.

    6. Sort through your piles and boxes of paper

    Go through your old tax returns and receipts, instruction manuals (if you can find them online) and expired warranties. Recycle what you can and shred anything with personal information.

    7. Organize important documents in a strong box

    You’ll want to keep hard-to-replace documents (birth certificates, marriage certificates, wills, etc.) with you when you move.

    8. Purge your kitchen cabinets and refrigerator

    Start by throwing out any expired foods and spices. Take anything you know you won’t use or eat in the next month to a food pantry. Old, damaged pots and pans should also go.

    9. Start thinking about containers

    Begin to collect boxes and other packing materials from local packing stores or your moving company. Online marketplace sites also list places you can score free boxes. You can also rent containers to be delivered to your home and picked up after you unpack.

    10. Decide how to move your car

    If you don’t plan to drive your car to your next residence (maybe you’re driving the truck yourself or flying) consider how you’re getting your vehicle where it needs to go. Start researching companies that will either move or ship your car for you.

    4 weeks before moving

    One month before the move, start packing things you won’t need before the big day.

    1. Consider packing room by room

    Packing one room at a time can help streamline the moving process. Start with rarely used rooms — like guest rooms. Packing by room means you won’t live among random boxes for weeks.

    2. Pack up anything you won’t need in the next month

    Now is the perfect time to tackle packing seasonal clothes, little-used kitchen gadgets you can’t part with and sports equipment. You can also identify and label boxes of holiday decorations.

    3. Label everything clearly and number your boxes

    Mark each box on all sides so your movers know where to put them in your new home.You can also number your boxes and write down what’s inside on a list. This will keep you from opening every box to find a certain item.

    4. Take note of your possessions

    As you pack, take inventory of everything you have. This list will come in handy when it’s time to update your homeowners insurance policy.

    5. Call your insurance carrier

    Get in touch with your insurance company. Let them know when to cancel your insurance policy for your current home and when to begin insurance for your new home.

    6. If you’re renting, give notice

    Standard leases require a 30-day notice, even if your lease is up at the end of the month. Also provide your management with your proposed moving day. Some buildings have restrictions on moving days (like limiting them to weekdays).

    7. Contact your current and new local utilities

    Notify all your providers — phone, internet, power, water, heating, gas — and tell them when you need to cut off service. If you can transfer service to your new address, do that. If not, call the providers in your new area to set up service prior to your moving day.

    8. Consider buying items for your new home

    If your sheets and towels have seen better days, consider donating them to an animal shelter, then buy new ones that can be sent directly to your new home. Same goes for any larger items you get rid of.

    9. Gather old tech and cords

    As you pack, put any out-of-date technology (smartphones, tablets, etc.) and cords that don’t match a device in one central box.

    10. Make a list of your valuables

    Once you have a breakdown of expensive or sentimental items, make a plan for how you’ll transport your valuables to your new home.

    11. Create a staging area for boxes

    As you pack, move boxes to the sides of rooms so the space can remain functional. You may also want to slowly bring lighter boxes to your entryway if they won’t be in the way of daily activities. Collecting boxes in one central area will also make it easier to spot where you may need to make repairs or do a deep clean.

    12. Note what you use most often

    Take a week to jot down what you use and wear most often. These will be the items you pack last. And a list of essentials will ensure you don’t leave anything out when the time comes to pack them up.

    13. Request time off work

    Once your moving day is set, see if you can take a few days off before and after. You’ll appreciate the first leg for getting last-minute things done, and a bit of time on the tail end means rest (or nesting) after the move.

    14. Service your car

    Now is a great time to visit your favorite local mechanic or dealership to have your car serviced. Having a safe vehicle is especially important if you’re moving far away and have a long drive ahead of you.

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      2 weeks before moving

      When you’re two weeks away from the move, it’s time to finalize your plans and make sure you know what to expect from your movers — and what they expect from you in terms of pay.

      1. Secure additional supplies

      Your packing should be well underway by now. Survey your packing supplies to see if you need more containers, tape or packing materials.

      2. Arrange for additional help

      Do you have small children that will need to be looked after on moving day? Or a pet you want to keep safe while your door’s left open? Now’s the time to secure help.

      3. Finalize all your plans

      Confirm your plans with the moving company if you hired one. Or double-check dates and times if you’re renting a truck and hiring helpers.

      4. Ask your movers how they prefer to be paid

      Small, local moving companies sometimes prefer cash or check, while bigger companies will take a credit card. Knowing whether to set aside a check or have cash on hand is one less thing to worry about on moving day.

      5. Make a plan for your plants

      Plants can be difficult to move because they’re often oddly shaped and delicate. Ask you mover if they can safely move them — some movers won’t move your plants — or if you need to ensure you have room in your car for them on moving day.

      6. Toss the old technology and random cords

      If you haven’t found what device goes with a cord, now’s the time to get rid of it. And if you have a pile of old tech you’ll likely never use again, you can take it to a big-box store where they’ll recycle it.

      7. Check in with your municipality about parking restrictions

      If you live in a crowded area, you may be able to obtain temporary “no parking” signs to post the night before you move. This ensures your truck can park near your home on moving day. Ask how much notice you need to give to get the signs.

      8. Reach out to your pharmacy or doctor

      Reach out to your doctor or pharmacy to move over your prescriptions to a pharmacy by your new home.

      1 week before moving

      It’s here: moving week. Time to finish packing, clean and ensure you’re all set for moving day.

      1. Change your address

      Visit your local post office (or the USPS website) to have all your mail forwarded to your new place. Read more about how to officially change your address.

      2. Gather a moving day (and day after) survival kit

      Check out the list of essentials you made weeks ago, then set aside what you’ll need for the day of your move and the first few days in your new home. Essentials typically include clothes, personal care items and medicine for you, your family and your pets.

      3. Finish packing

      Now’s the time to pack everything but your basics. Ensure all your boxes are labeled and taped properly.

      4. Reconfirm all your moving day details

      Check in with your moving company one last time to reconfirm the time and day of your move. If you’re doing a DIY move, confirm the day and pickup time for your rental truck — and confirm with any helpers you’ve enlisted to make sure they’re still available.

      5. Make a cleaning plan

      Many properties require you to leave them “broom clean.” You can hire a cleaning service, but if you decide to do it yourself, just make sure to wipe down surfaces, clean your baseboards, sweep and mop.

      6. Confirm access to your new home

      Whether you’re moving to a new house or apartment, confirm you’ll have access on moving day.

      7. Take a picture of your TV setup

      It can be hard to remember what cord goes where. The easiest way to get reset up after your move is to snap a photo of all your wires now.

      8. Say your goodbyes

      Moving a long distance? You may want to arrange a final get-together with friends, family and co-workers.

      Moving day

      Moving day can be hectic, but being organized will help keep your stress down.

      1. Be prepared for your movers

      You don’t want to be packing up extra boxes on moving day or worrying about food and drinks. Make sure you’re all packed — and have drinks and snacks on hand.

      2. Print or email moving instructions

      Getting to your new home may involve more than an address. Make note of any gate codes, special parking instructions or obstacles your movers need to know about.

      3. Clear a path

      You may have boxes stacked everywhere leading up to the big day, but it’s a good idea to create a pathway for your movers to safely carry items out of your home and to the truck.

      4. Pack the truck properly

      If you’re doing a DIY move, load heavy items and furniture first. That way you can fill in gaps with boxes.

      5. Do a final walkthrough

      Once everything is packed in the truck, do a final sweep of every area of your home, from the attic to the garage, to make sure you haven’t left anything behind. (Don’t forget the fridge.)

      6. Know that something may go wrong — and that’s okay

      Part of planning is to prepare for the unexpected. Your movers might be late, something may not fit in the truck, or your friend you confirmed with three times may not show up. If you’ve been organized up to this point, though, you’ll be able to figure out a solution.

      After moving day

      Once your belongings are at your new house, you're almost done — just a few final steps before you can relax.

      1. Unpack your most-used rooms first

      Think bedroom and kitchen. Unpacking your high-traffic rooms will keep you from getting overwhelmed — you don’t have to do everything all at once.

      2. Make a new toss, donate and repair pile

      You may be unpacking boxes you packed weeks ago only to discover items you didn’t miss once they were out of sight. Now’s a good time to do a second purge of outdated items.

      3. Have a plan for getting rid of moving materials

      If you don’t plan to keep boxes for your next move, come up with a plan to get rid of them all. A good option is to donate them on an online marketplace.

      4. Visit your local DMV

      Once you have some free time, visit your local DMV to change the address on your driver’s license and registration. You may also be able to do this online.

      FAQ

      What’s the most important part of the moving process?

      It’s crucial to secure well-reviewed, reliable and well-priced movers. If you’re doing a DIY move, secure a truck and helpers early in the process.

      How early should I start planning a move?

      Eight weeks out is the perfect time to start planning a move. Giving yourself plenty of time to pack and organize will help ensure your move goes smoothly — it can also help you save money and avoid issues at the last minute.

      When do you stop utilities when selling a house?

      A good rule of thumb is to keep your utilities on until the day after closing. This helps ensure you have the lights on until you move out. It also makes your home safer for any last-minute inspectors or real estate professionals doing a walkthrough.

      How soon should you change your address when moving?

      Change your address no later than one week before your move. You don’t want to miss any bills or other important correspondence.

      Bottom line

      A happy move is a well-organized one. While beginning to plan two months before your moving date may seem premature, you will thank yourself later. Moving involves tons of logistics and little details, and chipping away at them slowly will help keep your sanity intact as you move households.

      Once you’ve successfully moved, take time to unpack. You’ve been through a stressful situation. Concentrate on tackling what you need for your daily routine first. As soon as you can, change the locks on your new home — you never know who has a copy of the keys to the old lock. And make sure to check all the fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in your new home.

      ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. To learn more about the content on our site, visit our FAQ page. Specific sources for this article include:
      1. Homelight, “When Should You Stop Utilities When Selling a House? Patience Is Key.” Accessed. October 23, 2022.
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