Step by step moving tips

Use our handy moving tips to plan and execute your next move

by Rosemary Avance, Ph.D. ConsumerAffairs Research Team
Moving boxes with plants


Moving can be one of life’s most stressful experiences. If you plan ahead, you can cut out some of the stress and streamline the process to save yourself some headaches. We’ve compiled a to-do list with advice on how to prepare for the big move.

This list starts with items you can do well in advance, but don’t worry if you’ve waited until the last minute. You’ve probably done more than you think, and, if not, you can tackle many items (like learning about your new community) once you’re settled in your new home.

Moving boxes with bubble wrap

Two months before your move

If you know you’re moving well in advance, starting early can make the whole process easier. At the two-month mark you can do a lot of research and planning to prepare for your upcoming move.

  • Clean out your house. Moving is always easier, and cheaper, with less stuff. Throw away, donate or sell whatever you don’t need or want. Don’t forget your attic, basement, shed and garage. Make sure to read our top tips for getting rid of clutter to make this step as pain-free as possible.

  • Learn about your new community. Learn about public transportation, look for doctors and veterinarians in your new area, choose schools and daycare and look into local churches or clubs that are important to you.

  • Finalize lease or new home contract. Don’t wait until the last minute to finalize your lease, contract, move-in date or any other details with your new home.

  • Begin researching moving or self-packing container companies. You’ll need to spend some time comparing your options and getting in-person estimates, so start looking for movers as soon as you know your moving date.

  • Buy moving supplies. If you’re packing your own things, don’t forget boxes, tape, labels, newspaper and bubble wrap. If you’re hiring movers, ask if they provide these supplies and how much they cost. You might be able to get them cheaper on your own than through your moving company.

Person looking through filing folder

One month before your move

A month before you move, you’ll spend a lot of time communicating with service providers. You need to contact everyone from your doctor to the gas company to get records and make service changes. This is also the period when you should be getting more organized and finalizing plans. Completing these tasks early will help you feel more prepared for your move.

  • Have records forwarded. This includes school records if you have kids and medical and dental records for everyone in your household. Don’t forget veterinary records if you have a pet!

  • Get a folder for important documents. Keep all your important documents in one safe location so they don’t get lost. You’ll keep these with you instead of putting them in a box on moving day. Put birth certificates, social security cards, financial documents, your moving company contract and receipts and any other important documents in this folder.

  • Complete an inventory of your items. Be sure to include all of your valuables, electronics and anything that would be hard to replace.

  • Start packing. Begin packing in rooms you use infrequently, and pack items you rarely use first, like your out-of-season clothing.

  • Set utility turn on and shut off dates. While you can wait until you move to set up your new utilities, it’s better to do it in advance so that you have all the services you need in your new home from day one. Call your current and future electric, gas, water, trash and cable companies to let them know when you’ll be moving.

  • Check for bank branches near your new home. Find out if your bank has locations near your new home. If not, you might need to open an account at a national bank so you’ll have access to ATMs without fees and somewhere to deposit checks.

  • Hire your moving or self-packing container company. You’ve already researched the top companies, so figure out which one you want to use and contact them to schedule your move.

  • Make a plan for pets and plants. Pets and indoor plants can be difficult to move, and your moving company probably won’t move them for you. Make a plan to transport your pets and plants yourself, and start getting rid of any plants you don’t want to move.

Veggies in a fridge

Two weeks before your move

The two-week mark is crunchtime. While it takes most people anywhere from 1-7 days to pack, you don’t want to wait until the last week to get everything in boxes. Completing this task list about two weeks before your moving date will help things go much more smoothly on moving day.

  • Set aside the things you need. Imagine you’re packing for a two-week trip: How many sets of clothing will you need between now and moving day? What about toiletries, personal items, food and snacks? Put everything you’ll need into one room, if you can, to make sure you don’t accidentally pack things you’ll want later.

  • Pack everything you don’t need. Anything you haven’t set aside for the last two weeks before your move should now be packed up and labeled. Read our resource about how to pack before you start boxing things up.

  • Start getting rid of food. Use up your frozen and perishable foods by the move date, or begin to give them away. Try to plan meals for these last few weeks that won’t use pots and pans (so you can pack them up), and consider using disposable plates and cutlery.

  • Finalize contract with the moving company. Be sure to read the contract thoroughly and make sure the moving date is correct.

  • Take your car in for a tune-up. If you’ll be driving to your new home, make sure you have the oil changed and the fluid levels checked before moving day. Check the tire pressure and tread depth to avoid a flat or blown-out tire.

  • Fill out a change of address form. Register a change of address so the Post Office will forward mail sent to your old house to your new address. You can pick up a change of address form at the local post office or fill it out online. Be sure to specify on the form the day that you’ll be moving. It takes about 7-10 days for your change of address to take effect.

  • Notify governmental agencies of your move. While you do have a grace period after you move, it’s a good idea to do this step now to avoid the risk of forgetting later. Notify the Department of Motor Vehicles, Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration, Office of Veteran Affairs and any other applicable groups. You should also update your voter registration. In many states, you can change your voter registration information online. Visit this site to see if your state has online voter registration.

  • Notify accounts of your move. Cancel or update your accounts with your bank, insurance providers, credit card company, subscription services, gym membership, lawn care service or cleaning crew.
Person mopping a wood floor

One week before your move

With just seven days left before the move, you can take care of a lot of last minute tasks. This is the time when you can finally do things that you had to put off for practical reasons.

  • Finalize moving day plans. Contact the moving company to double check arrival times. Get keys to your new place and, if you have one, make sure your new landlord knows when you’ll be arriving.

  • Prepare anything that requires fuel. Things like lawn mowers or heaters need to have the oil or gasoline drained before they can be loaded on a moving truck. You’ll also need to disconnect the propane tank from your grill. You’ll have to transport propane tanks yourself, because they aren’t usually allowed on moving trucks.

  • Have rugs and curtains cleaned. Send these to a cleaning company now and wrap them up as soon as they are ready, so they’ll be fresh and ready to go.

  • Do a final deep clean. As the move gets closer, you may need to clean your home again. But for now, take care of any extensive cleaning projects like the stove or windows. You may want to hire a cleaning service to make this process easier.

  • Empty your safe deposit box. If you’ll be changing banks, empty your safe deposit box and close that account. You’ll need a safe box, preferably with a lock and key, to keep these items until you can take them to your new bank.

  • Refill prescriptions. You don’t want to run out of a prescription in the midst of moving, so refill your prescriptions before the moving craziness starts. You may need to call your doctor or your insurance company if your prescription isn’t due for a refill yet.
Woman packing up boxes of clothes

The day before your move

The last hours before the mover company or moving truck arrives is a great time for some final prep work. Take care of these last few items before moving day!

  • Defrost the freezer and unplug the fridge. The freezer will need at least 24 hours to fully defrost. Discard or give away any perishables. If you’ll need something perishable, like milk, for the day of the move, pack it on ice in an ice chest.

  • Prep your home for movers. Clear a path through your home, and consider laying plastic or carpet scraps if you have carpeting. You can put frame protectors around your doorways to avoid dings from oversized furniture.

  • Plan your mover’s payment. Unless you are paying by credit or debit card, you’ll need cash, cashier’s check or money order to pay. You’ll also need around $30 cash per mover per day for a standard tip, but you can give more or less depending on the difficulty of the move and how well they do.

  • Pack your clothes and essentials. Pack up the last of your clothes and personal items that you won’t need to carry with you. Pack a separate bag for what you’ll need while you’re on the road.
Bill of lading

The day of your move

The morning of your move can be a little chaotic. Make sure you take care of all these final tasks before professional movers load your belongings and you leave for your new home. Double-checking IDs, doing last-minute cleaning and taking some pictures can all help prevent problems after your move.

  • Check the mover’s ID. When the movers show up, make sure that they are with the company you hired. Ask your moving company for the name of the movers and then confirm their identity by asking to see their driver's licenses when they arrive.

  • Sign the bill of lading. Before the movers leave your home with your cargo, sign the bill of lading, which serves as a receipt for your items and makes them the company’s responsibility.

  • Do a walk-through. Once everything is loaded on the moving truck, go through your home and check that nothing has been damaged by the moving company. Also check every drawer and closet to make sure you haven’t left any property or trash behind.

  • Clean as needed. If you’re moving out of a rental, you may need to clean to get your deposit back. This might include dusting, cleaning windows, wiping out sinks and tubs, mopping and vacuuming.

  • Lock up. Before you leave, lock all the doors and windows. Turn off all the lights as well as the thermostat.

  • Take pics of your new place. Before everything is unloaded in your new home, take photos of the empty rooms. Be sure to get pictures of any damage that wasn’t there before, especially if the damage would affect the home inspection results.
Couple moving into home

After the move

A little organization can go a long way in keeping your stress level low during a move. Don’t forget to check out our resource, 11 things to do when moving into a new house for your next steps!

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by Rosemary Avance, Ph.D. ConsumerAffairs Research Team

Rosemary Avance, Ph.D., uses her social science research background as a member of the ConsumerAffairs research team to help people make smart choices. She researches products, businesses and industries thoroughly, then passes on the most relevant and essential information for consumers looking to make important purchasing decisions.