Moving is a major life event. It represents the upheaval not only of our routine, but also of the place where we typically find rest and stability. Still, moving doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Proper planning can help avoid many of the common pitfalls associated with a relocation.
PHASE ONE – ANTICIPATION
As an organizer, I always begin by suggesting you do all you can to declutter before the move. After all, why spend money and invest the energy to pack, move, and unpack unwanted belongings? The decluttering process cannot begin too early, as the more time you have to review your possessions, the less stressful it will be. Of course, there are times when the need to move emerges suddenly. In these situations, don’t start unpacking the boxes of photos! Instead, move on to the second phase of the move.
PHASE TWO – PREPARATION
In the month before your move, there are many things you can do to make “move day” go more smoothly:
- Familiarize yourself with what the moving company will not pack/move. Examples include chemicals, perishables, plants, and pets. You can request a list from your moving company in advance. Once you know what can’t go on the truck, decide whether you will take it yourself or pass it on.
- Consider extra insurance. If you are moving pieces of high value, such as valuable art, consider buying extra insurance. Make sure you know the details of the coverage offered by your moving company, and if it is insufficient, buy more.
- Create a “for the next owner” box. If someone is moving into your home, it is nice to pass on any information or documentation that will be helpful to them. For example, manuals for the appliances, keys, access codes, blueprints, and the names/contact information for the service providers you have been using. They may choose to make different choices, but at least you will have made it possible for them to continue on with the way things have been if they choose to do so. It is also kind to give them the names and numbers of neighbors.
- Plan for cleaning. Once your home’s contents have been packed, you may need to clean the home. This is particularly true if new owners will be moving in. Decide in advance if you will do this yourself or hire someone to do it. If you choose to hire a service, make those arrangements in advance, and plan for how they will gain access to the property if you are already moved out.
- Drain the fuel from any power tools you are moving, such as a lawn mower.
- Walk around your home and video or photograph everything. This can serve as a record of condition should anything arrive damaged, and will also provide you with a record of what you have, in case you think something is missing.
- Set aside items you are taking and/or items you do not want the packers to pack. Be sure to clearly identify these items, either with labels or by setting them aside in a specific location. Packers start putting belongings into boxes quickly, so anything that isn’t labeled can disappear. Items you might wish to move yourself include:
- Prescription Medication
- Passports & Important Documents
- Have each family member pack a suitcase. By definition, relocating means that you will be temporarily displaced. Pack a suitcase which will have everything you need to function for at least a week.
- Plan your accommodations. Once the packers arrive, your life will be temporarily in upheaval. Even if you are moving within town, you may want to consider planning to sleep in a hotel on the first night. Odds are you will be unloading until late in the day, and you may not have the energy to make up beds. Long-distance moves will require a longer stay in an offsite location.
- Have a box of small plastic bags on hand. You will likely have some pieces that must be taken apart or removed from the wall, and it works well to have small bags into which parts can go. Label each bag with the name of the device, and tape it securely to the back of the piece to which it belongs. It is also helpful to take photographs of wires and electronics from the back to remind yourself how it all goes together when you reach your destination.
- Think through parking. Many locations do not easily accommodate a moving truck. Think about where the truck can rest while being loaded. (Consider this for both ends of your move!) You may want to move your own vehicles out of the way to provide easy access for the workers. Be aware that movers may charge extra if it is a long walk from your door to the truck. Also, it is kind to communicate your move, and the potential disruption, to your neighbors ahead of time.
- Label each room with a sign that tells what the name of the room is. For example, “Jim’s Bedroom” or “Media Room.” This will help movers to accurately label boxes. If the items in a room will be going to a room with a different name in your new house, label the room with the new name.
- Arrange for pet and childcare. Both pets and children can be upset by the packing and moving process. If possible, see if someone offsite can care for children and pets while the process is underway. At a minimum, set aside a room or location where pets can feel safe and not be underfoot.
- Withdraw cash for tips. Tipping is standard for movers. The amount of the tip depends on the size of your move, the location, and the conditions under which movers are working. You can search online for what is considered appropriate in your area. Whether you tip a percentage of your move (e.g. 15%) or allocate an amount per worker (e.g. $100/mover), it is standard to give the total amount to the foreman, who then distributes it to the team. If the same team will be working on the front and back ends, you can do a partial tip after the truck is loaded, and a second installment once things are unloaded on the back end. Generous tips are well worth the investment.
- Set aside an “Open Me First” box. This is the place where you will put the items you kept out until the last minute and will want to be able to easily find when you arrive in your new home.
- Prepare you artwork. Some moving companies request that you remove artwork from the walls before they arrive to pack. Check with your movers in advance to ascertain whether or not this is your responsibility.
- Prepare to protect floors and carpets. Many movers will put down cloths to minimize the impact of foot traffic during the move. However, this isn’t required, and you may wish to ensure you are protecting specific locations that you know are vulnerable to wet or dirty feet. Also, you don’t want anyone slipping on a wet floor. You can ask your movers in advance what their policy is.
- Set aside a “safe zone” for paperwork, keys, and other important items. This is critical when the packers arrive, and also when you are moving into your new place. It is very easy for small but necessary items to get accidentally thrown away.
- Decide who will provide boxes and packing materials. Most movers have these and will charge you for what they use. If you prefer, you can have a stash of materials ready, just be sure to have everything you need, including the boxes, tape, blank newsprint, etc.
PHASE THREE – ACTION
Depending on the size of your home, the movers may come and pack for a day or two and then come back and load the truck.
- When you get up on moving day, strip the beds. Pack all the bedding up in boxes labeled by room and bed. Movers will be looking to haul mattresses and disassemble bedframes, so make this task easier by having the beds ready to go. Most movers will load the beds on last so they can come off the truck first and be set up.
- Send pets/kids off to be out of the way (see above).
- Treat your movers kindly. Packing and loading are physically draining jobs. Have some bottles of water and snacks on hand. It is also kind to offer to order lunch, such as sandwiches or pizza. Have this conversation before the work begins so you don’t need to interrupt them.
- Draw the packers’ attention to anything you have that is of particular value or is vintage, fragile, or otherwise delicate. Letting them know in advance helps them be sure to take extra care with these items.
- If you can do it, have people inventory items as they are loaded into boxes. Professional organizers and move managers provide this service. Once the packers arrive, items start very rapidly disappearing into boxes. It is easy to lose track and not know what ended up in which box. Packers label boxes but won’t take the time to specifically identify box contents. They might say “desk drawer contents” while you might want to have a clearer understanding of exactly what these contents are. The task doesn’t have to be difficult. Give each “inventory manager” a pad of paper where he/she can note the number of the box and what has gone inside. Depending on the size of your home, you might need multiple people to do this. Don’t try to do this yourself, as you need to be available to answer questions, order food, walk around and oversee, etc.
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A little bit of planning can make packing & moving a lot easier. What tip(s) would you add?