Moving checklist

Organize your move for less stress

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Moving comes with a lot of decisions to make and tasks to complete. Ideally, you’ll want to start planning at least two months ahead of moving day. This gives you time to research moving companies, pack your belongings and change your address.

Our moving checklist can help you stay on track to complete these important tasks — and help avoid any last-minute decisions that bring on more stress.

Key insights

  • Stick to a moving budget to ensure you have cash in savings.
  • Create a timeline for packing so you can stay motivated to pack when you’re short on time.
  • Plan to carry important documents, like birth certificates and passports, with you on moving day.
  • Decide how you plan to move as soon as possible (hire movers or DIY). You’ll need to secure a truck or movers with advanced notice, especially in the busy seasons.

8 weeks before moving

1. Decide on your moving budget

An important first step is determining how much you can spend on the move. You don’t want to drain your savings because you need cash for unexpected expenses after the move. Your budget, as well as the type of move you’re making, can help you determine whether to hire professional movers or do it yourself.

» LEARN: How to make a moving budget

2. Create a moving folder

Whether it’s virtual or an actual paper folder, having one place for all your notes, receipts and contacts is vital to keeping your move orderly. Keep a running list of action items to complete. A spreadsheet listing your to-do tasks is also helpful.

3. Research moving companies

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 licensed and insured.

» GOING FAR? 8 cheap ways to move across the country

4. Gather moving quotes and schedule in-home estimates

A moving company representative should come to your home to give an estimate of the move’s total cost. In-home estimates are more accurate and could save you from paying additional fees on moving day. Once you have quotes to compare, book your movers ASAP for the best rates and choice of moving dates. Keep in mind that the demand for movers is highest during the summer months.

5. Reserve your truck

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

6. Make a moving plan

Once you’ve established a moving date, create a plan to get all your belongings packed in time (if you aren’t hiring packers). The plan may include room-specific deadlines, like boxing up the kitchen at least one week before the move. It may also help to carve out small chunks of time each day to pack, even if it’s only thirty minutes after work.

7. If you’re renting, give notice

Standard leases generally require a 30-day notice, but in some states, you may be required to give up to a 60-day notice, depending on the type of lease (monthly or yearly). Check your lease paperwork for termination details. Also, provide your property managers with your proposed moving date; some buildings have restrictions on moving days (like limiting them to weekdays).

8. If you’re selling, contact your real estate agent

Homeowners may need a month or more to sell their homes. Get in touch with your real estate agent to begin the process of putting your home on the market.

9. 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. Moving companies can provide a list of these prohibited items.

» TIPS: How to pack a moving truck

10. Identify items 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 or donate.

11. Take photographs of room layouts

If you like how the picture frames are arranged on the wall or how your living room furniture is set up in just the right way, you may want to take a photo of these rooms to help you decorate later.

Quick and easy. Get matched with a Moving partner.

    6 weeks before moving

    Six weeks before the move, it’s time to make a plan for packing your things and transporting your car (if needed).

    1. Narrow down 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?

    » MORE: Companies that offer free donation pickup

    2. 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.

    » TIPS: Tips for a successful garage sale

    3. 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 a trip to the dump on moving day.

    4. Sort through your piles and boxes of paper

    Go through your old tax returns and receipts, instruction manuals (you might be able to find them online) and expired warranties. Recycle what you can and shred anything with personal information. You can also look for organizations sponsoring shred events in your area.

    5. Organize important documents in a secure box

    You’ll want to keep hard-to-replace documents (birth certificates, marriage certificates, wills, etc.) with you when you move. A portable file box or expanding file folder should be big enough.

    6. 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.

    » LEARN: How to pack dishes for moving

    7. Start gathering boxes and packing supplies

    Once you’ve sorted through your belongings, you can 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.

    » TIPS: Where to find moving boxes

    8. 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.

    9. Change your address

    Visit your local post office (or the Postal Service website) to have all your mail forwarded to your new place. Don’t forget to notify the IRS as well.

    » LEARN: How to change your address

    10. 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.

    11. Start packing

    Now is the perfect time to tackle packing seasonal clothes, rarely-used kitchen gadgets you can’t part with and sports equipment. You can also identify and label boxes of holiday decorations. Try to stick to the plan you established so you won’t be stressed at the last minute.

    12. Reserve a portable moving container

    If you plan to use a moving container for the big move, you’ll need to reserve it at least a month in advance. Keep in mind that most of these companies charge monthly, so you may want to strategize loading up and moving out within that time frame.

    » COMPARE: Best Moving Containers and Portable Storage Units

    4 weeks before moving

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

    1. 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.

    2. 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. You could even take a photo of a box’s contents before you tape it up.

    3. Create a meal plan to use up freezer food

    Take a few minutes to take stock of your freezer and refrigerator, then assemble a meal plan that will help you use up those items before moving day.

    4. Call your insurance agent

    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.

    5. 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. Also, because you may want to keep these services active through moving day, it’s a good idea to schedule a disconnect for the following day.

    6. 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. You can drop these items off for recycling at various donation centers, big-box retailers or at your local public works facility.

    7. 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.

    8. 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.

    9. Make necessary repairs

    Try to fix anything that may eat into your security deposit if you lease an apartment or condo. You may want to schedule carpet cleaners now, especially if you have pets or kids.

    10. Create a last-minute packing list

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

    11. Arrange for additional help

    Do you have small children that’ll 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.

    » MORE: Tips for moving with kids

    12. 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.

    » COMPARE: Best long-distance moving companies

    13. Make travel arrangements

    Have an interstate move? Secure your hotel stay now so you won’t be stuck with no place to sleep after a busy day of moving.

    » RESEARCH: Best interstate moving companies

    14. Visit your storage unit 

    If you’ve been renting a storage unit, make a plan to assess its contents. You may find that you won’t need those items at your new place, so you can get rid of them now. Also, check with management for details on how to close your unit. You may need to give up to 30 days’ written notice.

    » MORE: Moving tips

    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.

    » MORE: How to pack for a move

    2. Pack up most of the kitchen

    The kitchen typically takes the longest to pack because there are a lot of fragile items to wrap individually. Plan to get this area packed up as much as possible, even if you set aside a few pots and pans to use. You can always use disposable plates and utensils until moving day.

    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.

    » TIPS: How to rent a moving truck

    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. Don’t forget cash for tips, too — your movers will appreciate the gesture.

    Though it’s not required or expected, some reviewers on our site have reported feeding their movers to show their appreciation — like Allan from Texas: “I provided water bottles at both locations and a late morning/lunch time snack at my new place and they seemed to appreciate it.”

    » CALCULATE: How much to tip movers

    5. Make a plan for your plants

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

    6. 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.

    7. Reach out to your pharmacy or doctor

    Contact your doctor or pharmacy to move your prescriptions to a location by your new home.

    8. Update your address on all subscription services

    Make sure to change your address with any services you may receive, like subscriptions or membership services.

    1 week before moving

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

    1. 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.

    2. Finish packing

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

    3. 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 that they’re still available.

    4. Disassemble unused furniture

    If you plan to move yourself, it may be helpful to disassemble large furniture pieces. It will save you time on moving day.

    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. Also, if you have access to your new place before moving day, you may want to have it cleaned before you move in.

    6. Confirm access to your new home

    Whether you’re moving to a new house or apartment, confirm you’ll have access (by key, keypad, etc.) 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 set up again 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

    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 walk-through

    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 and the shower.)

    If you’re renting, take some last-minute photos of each room and the carpet. You may need those later if you dispute repairs or your security deposit return.

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

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

    After moving day

    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. Wash your dishes

    As you unpack your kitchen boxes, place those items right in the dishwasher. Dishes, utensils, cups, pots and pans should be washed before using.

    3. Make new “toss,” “donate” and “repair” piles

    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.

    4. 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.

    5. 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.


    What’s the average cost to move?

    Moving costs can vary by the type of move (DIY or professional moves) and the distance (local or interstate, for instance), as well as the size of your home. On average, you can expect to pay between $200 and $2,000 for a local move and $2,000 to $10,000 for a long-distance move.

    How early should I start planning a move?

    You can start making a plan once you’ve set the moving day. While a move could still happen on short notice, giving yourself at least two months to prepare can help reduce the overall stress that comes with any relocation.

    When do you stop utilities when selling a house?

    You may want to keep the power on in your old place through your moving day. You could schedule the disconnect or transfer of services for the day after you move out or the day after the closing.

    How soon should you change your address when moving?

    You can change your address with the USPS up to three months in advance. For other services, like subscriptions, it may be best to wait until two weeks before you move to make the change.

    ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
    1. United States Postal Service, “Official USPS Change-of-Address.” Accessed May 17, 2023.
    2. IRS, “Address Changes.” Accessed May 18, 2023.
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