Moving tips

Make a plan for a less stressful relocation experience

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Moving day is generally long, hard and stressful. As a reviewer on our site from Iowa put it: “Moving is a horrendously emotional thing, and everybody's on edge.”

The best way to minimize the stress of a move is to be well prepared — the more you put into planning your move, the better you can roll with the unexpected. Familiarize yourself with these handy moving tips so you can have the smoothest moving day possible.

Key insights

  • Planning early helps you save money and get organized. You can get the best moving rates and find the best deals on supplies this way.
  • Decluttering helps save time and money — not only will you have less to transport, but you can also make money by selling items in good condition.
  • Start packing about two months before you move. Use a labeling system to mark which boxes you'll need immediately in your new home (and which you can ignore awhile).
  • Don’t try to tackle unpacking all at once — go room by room, starting with the parts of your home you use the most, like the kitchen and the main bedroom.

How to save money on your move

Moving can take a big bite out of your overall housing budget. To help lessen the load, try these money-savings tactics.

If possible, don’t move during the summer

Many families move during the summer in order to get ready for the new school year. If you can, move in September or November — these months are typically the cheapest time of the year to move.

Create a moving budget

Starting your move with a detailed budget ensures you don’t get hit with any big last-minute expenses. Instead, you can work backward from your bottom line and figure out where you can save money. Try a budgeting app to keep yourself organized.

Research all your options

Do a deep dive on everything from professional movers to truck rentals to see what’s most cost-effective for you. Ask at least three movers for free in-home estimates. Also, ask how their rates are structured — moving companies offer flat rates, hourly rates or rates by the pound.

» CALCULATE: How much do movers cost?

Consider using a container company

Renting a container you can pack and unpack yourself over a couple of days can be a cost-effective option, so be sure to also get moving quotes from container companies.

Know your insurance options

Not insuring your move properly could cost you down the line. Ask your mover what kind of insurance it offers and at what price. You can also see if your renters or homeowners insurance policy covers moves.

Watch out for scams

The cheapest option may not always be the wisest choice in the long run. There are many moving scams out there that often entice people with low prices. Always check online reviews.

» PROTECT YOURSELF: How to avoid moving scams

Declutter and sell or donate what you don’t need

Get rid of things you don’t want to pay to move — getting cash for items you no longer use can help pay for your relocation. Or you can donate them to your favorite charities — don’t forget to request receipt for potential tax deductions.

Buy packing supplies early (or find them free)

Nabbing tape, bubble wrap and markers early means you can look for — and take advantage of — the best deals. Ask local stores and online marketplaces for free boxes (bike stores with large, thin boxes are great for packing art and flat-screen TVs). You can also use old newspaper rather than buying brown packing paper or use socks, scarves, hats and gloves to protect fragile items.

Get a backseat hanging rack for your car

Wardrobe boxes are pricey. To save money, simply measure the backseat of your vehicle and buy a hanging rack to fit so you can keep your hanging clothes in order.

Eat your pantry staples

Lisa Cantu, owner of An Organized Home OC, who’s helped move dozens of clients throughout the years, said: “Plan meals from your pantry and perishables so that you don’t have as much food to move. You’ll also want to be more mindful about stocking up your fridge and freezer, since you’ll have to move all of those items soon, too.”

Fix minor issues and clean the home yourself

Whether you’re counting on getting your security deposit back or ensuring you won’t have issues with a new homeowner, making minor repairs yourself will save the expense of hiring a handyperson later. Rather than hiring cleaners to make sure your home is clean when you move out, save money by taking on the task yourself.

» STEP BY STEP: Moving checklist

How to prepare for a move

A move involves several aspects: hiring movers or booking a truck; decluttering and packing your belongings; and dealing with the logistics of changing your address and utilities.

First, you’ll have to decide if you’ll move yourself or hire movers. If you go the DIY route, consider a truck with a lift gate (a mechanical way to lower objects up and down to the truck) or ramp — or else you’ll be lifting heavy items onto and off of the back of a truck. It’s also a good idea to create a moving folder with all your vendor information, receipts and to-do lists. Having this all in one place will keep things organized as you pack.

As strange as it might seem, a simple apron can be a lifesaver when moving. … In the pockets I add all the essentials I’ll need closer to the move and when packing, such as tape, scissors, … laminated contact list, marker pens and other tools.”
— Catherine Mack, House Buyer Network

A month before your move, inform your utility providers of the date you wish to disconnect service at your current home (and don’t forget to set up services at your new address). A week before your move, change your mailing address at your local post office or online.

Pro tip: A sturdy apron with pockets might be a solid investment for moving day. “As strange as it might seem, a simple apron can be a lifesaver when moving,” according to Catherine Mack, co-owner of House Buyer Network, a company that buys houses nationwide. “In the pockets I add all the essentials I’ll need closer to the move and when packing, such as tape, scissors, … laminated contact list, marker pens and other tools.”

You’ll also want to take your furniture apart before moving day. If your furniture breaks down, tackle the job a few days before your move. Disassembling furniture can take hours and involve lots of tiny parts to keep track of. Be sure to take a photo of your furniture before you take it apart, just in case, for an example of how to reassemble.

And don’t forget to measure hallways and staircases. “This is crucial if you’re hiring professional movers, as they will need to know whether your furniture will fit through the doorways and stairwells,” Thomas Curry, content management specialist at Moving Feedback, said. “But even if you’re not using movers, it’s still a good idea to measure everything in advance so that you can plan the best route for getting everything out of your old place and into your new one.”

» COMPARE: Moving yourself vs. hiring movers

Packing for a move

Packing may seem straightforward, but there’s an art to putting your belongings in a box. Get a jump on packing as soon as eight weeks before you move. Commit to a slow and steady packing plan — rather than get overwhelmed at the last minute, pack a little bit every day. Pack seasonal clothing, decorations, artwork, knickknacks and rarely used kitchen appliances first.

» FULL DETAILS: How to pack for a move

Hacks for moving day

Moving day is likely to come with a few surprises. Try some creative thinking and planning to avoid common pitfalls on the big day.

You have a long day ahead of you, even if you won’t be moving your belongings yourself. If you will be doing heavy lifting, you need clothes that give and shoes with support.
Sheets will protect your mattress from getting dirty during the move.
Put your sharp knives into your sturdiest oven mitts to protect them — and anyone from getting cut.
Put in spices and kitchen gadgets. Use your socks to protect your drinking glasses.
You don’t want to fuss with what cord goes into which plug when you’re trying to relax in your new home. You can also tape the corresponding cord to the electronic to prevent confusion later.
Use a strong rubber band around your automatic lock to keep it from repeatedly locking behind you as you move things in and out.
When taping up last-minute boxes, you're likely using tape you’ve had for a few weeks. If it gets too sticky on the ends to handle, pop the tape in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it up.
It’s a good idea to have several sturdy wooden boards handy to provide leverage and help movers get a grip on heavier items.
Keeping everything open as you go will ensure every box gets packed. You can also leave your kitchen drawers and bathroom vanity drawers open. Don’t forget about below-the-oven storage or the highest cabinets.
The last thing you want to do on moving day is run to the store.
You’re likely transporting quite a few things in your car, even if you’ve hired movers. If professionals are transporting belongings for you, make sure they have your contact info and know which items you’re moving yourself.
If you used the three-tier system to pack, load all of the long-term storage on the truck first. This way, the boxes you need the most will be the first out of the truck.
If you have access to your new home, buy the basics, like milk, coffee, paper towels and toilet paper. Checking this off your list means one less thing to worry about on moving day.
Did you color-code your boxes? Then don’t forget to color-code your house. This will help movers know where to offload heavy boxes.
Have cash on hand to tip your movers. A rate of $5 to $10 per laborer per hour is a safe bet.

Quick and easy. Get matched with a Moving partner.

    Unpacking advice

    You made it to your new house! But what about all those boxes you need to unpack to set up your new home?

    The good news: Unpacking is usually much easier than packing, even though it can be daunting. Here are some unpacking tips to make the job even simpler:

    1. Organize your furniture first.
    2. Unpack just what you need initially.
    3. Focus on one room at a time.
    4. Hang up art ASAP.
    5. Further declutter as you unpack.

    » MORE: How to unpack after moving


    What’s the fastest way to pay for a move?

    You can usually pay for your move with cash, check or credit card — the fastest may be cash. However, if you’re moving long-distance, you may have a bill that runs into the thousands. In that case, rather than carrying around a lot of cash, you may want to pay by check or with a credit card. And remember, there may be a small upfront deposit, but movers get paid at the end of the move.

    Where do you get moving boxes?

    You can buy moving boxes from moving companies, rental truck companies or office supply stores. You can also check out online marketplaces and electronics, bike or liquor stores for free boxes.

    What should you pack first when moving?

    Begin by packing out-of-season clothing, holiday decorations or rarely used items in your kitchen.

    How do you pack clothes for moving?

    Don’t pack what you don’t have to. Leave clothes on hangers to put on a wardrobe rack or wrap the drawers of your dresser. For clothes you have to pack in a container, start by putting bulky items on the bottom, then add lighter clothing on top. Try to keep similar clothes together (i.e., keep pants with pants and shirts with shirts) to make unpacking easier.

    How do you pack books for moving?

    Set aside small boxes for books so they don’t become too heavy. Mix paperbacks with hardcovers to keep the total weight down. The aim is to not end up with a box so heavy you can’t lift it.

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