Before the Movers Arrive

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.


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.


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:
    • Jewelry
    • Valuables
    • Heirlooms
    • Electronics
    • 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.


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?

32 thoughts on “Before the Movers Arrive”

  1. I will definitely keep your moving tips in mind if and when we do move someday. So, thanks so much for sharing as your advice definitely makes sense and is truly a godsend for those moving or contemplating a move, as well.

    1. As you say, this is worth a pin or saving for future use. When it comes time to move, this information suddenly seems very important:)

  2. Wow! If I ever move, I want YOU helping me! We moved twice in nine months when we renovated our house. We started decluttering six months in advance and followed the ‘two-can’ rule. We have two garbage cans–the rule was to fill them both before Garbage Day during our decluttering period–one room at a time. My husband said he never wants to move again!

    1. Love the “two can” rule! When we moved back into our home, after a year out of it for renovation, my husband said the same thing. “We are dying in this house” he said. Of course, now that more than 15 years have passed, the pain of the process has faded. No plans to move anytime soon, but I think we are both more open to the process than we were at the time!

  3. Fabulous advice, Seana. I love the way you provided a timeline in anticipation of a move. I have moved many, many times and think I will be moving again soon (not out of Atlanta). Decluttering (not packing anything you don’t want to unpack) is so important! Also, making a box for the new homeowner. I have always left the user manuals for the appliances and the names & phone numbers of the service men but I have not left the neighbors’ names and phone numbers – that’s so thoughtful! I will definitely add that to my list!

    1. Wow – good luck on your upcoming move! I think having the names of neighbors written down for you makes it easier to learn everyone’s names:)

  4. These are very valuable tips, especially the one about moving irreplaceable items yourself. Once my dad discovered that a mover had placed his leather coat in the front of the truck – when he called him on it, he said it was “for safekeeping,” but my parents later discovered that a whole box of family heirlooms had gone missing. They weren’t particularly valuable in terms of resale, but were very important to my mother. If you can’t move the items yourself, consider labeling the boxes in a less interesting way – perhaps even numbering them, and keeping a record of the contents only for your eyes.
    Janet Barclay recently posted…How to Make Your Products Pages More IrresistibleMy Profile

    1. Interesting idea to label boxes in a “less interesting way,” rather than calling attention to valuable items. So sorry for the loss of memorabilia. That is such a shame, as it only had true value to your parents. It is a very feeling to have your items taken or lost. 🙁

  5. I love the idea of manuals and other household items, like paint, left in the house for the new owners. I have seen people placing the manuals in a binder and leaving it in the kitchen.

    Great tips for moving! I’ve moved my parent’s homes after they passed. One move was from cross-country, and the other was nearby. I found that both were quite different. Going cross-country, the moving company is different than the one across town. Take time to research a few different options and meet with them. We made sure to take all the valuables with us instead of having the movers to do it. The cross-country movers took about 5 days to get to us on the East Coast and they came in a large truck. I’m glad I had a street that could accommodate the truck. Be sure to ask about the truck that is delivering your stuff before signing on the dotted line. Sometimes the truck that picks up the things is not the truck that will be traveling cross-country.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…DIY Freshman Year Reference BinderMy Profile

    1. That is so interesting about the different trucks. I never knew that one truck could pick it up but not be the one that makes the trip. Super question to ask in advance!

  6. Oh man, I’m saving this post! So many great suggestions for things I never would’ve thought of like draining fuel from power tools. That could he quite important! Thank you.

  7. Moving is SO stressful. It’s up there with one of the top ten stressors in life. I love all of the great tips you shared! A few stood out like draining the fuel from power tools, the tipping suggestion (people want to know what’s appropriate,) the “Open Me First” box, treating the movers well (via food and beverages,) and securing help for kids and pets. If moving is stressful for parents, it’s even MORE stressful for the kids, especially if the parents are stressed. And animals can also be highly sensitive to these types of changes.

    1. Exactly, Linda. It helps if kids can spend the packing days, and even the night before the move, somewhere else. An empty house can be an unsettling place for children and animals alike.

  8. This is so timely as many families will be moving before back to school. I do think moving is a enormously stressful and tiring even when everything has been well planned. it’s such an upheaval until all the belongings find their new home and everyone feels comfortable.
    I liked what you said, Create a “for the next owner” box. It’s very helpful especially if the new owners are coming from a distance away. I’ve put together driving directions for them to give to their friends, A list of resources such as painters plumber etc. Go-to places in the neighborhood, (favorite restaurants, bakery, nail salon) important phone numbers, nearest hospital, a list of doctors, dentists and pediatricians. It helps them to settle in.

    1. Such a kind collection of resources to share, Ronni! I love the idea of giving them a place to start with doctors. That is always a hard thing to figure out when you relocate. A terrific tip to add!

  9. Great tips. My favorite is the “for the next owner” box. I think a lot of people overlook this and end up packing things that should have stayed with the house. This is a nice courtesy to the new owners/renters.

    1. In addition, if you move far away, the last thing you want to do when you are unpacking is make a trip to the post office to send things back to the old home, right?

  10. This.. is brilliant. We are not moving and probably never will again because we love it here and we’re renovating it.
    That said, I have moved many times and Id on’t think I did it “right.” My mom hired a Professional Moving Organizer to help her pack things up and cope with the last big move, and the woman she hired told me “Tamara, I have seen grown men cry during this so many times..”

    1. That comment from your Mom is making me laugh – it can be so rough! Hiring a professional is a great idea if you can afford it. Definitely makes the process go more smoothly and removes much of the stress!

  11. Oh, Seana, with a teeny bit of expansion, this is a must-have, best-selling ebook! Your advice is on-point throughout, and you’ve thought of the items that so many people forget about. I love the “for the next owner” box, because everyone has moved into a home with at least one mystery. The light switch that doesn’t do anything. The weird combination of steps required to restart the sump pump. Oy! And parking! Nobody every thinks about parking. Great job!
    Julie Bestry recently posted…Organize Away Frustration: Practice The Only Good Kind of “Intolerance”My Profile

    1. Thanks, Julie. I’ll have to think on that e-book idea. Truth is, if you don’t leave information for the new owners, they will likely be calling you with questions on how to get things to work. Plus, it is just kind to help them settle in, right? One other person commented that they leave information on their doctors, dentists, etc., which I think is such a thoughtful gesture!

  12. This is packed full of such great information! I just moved in April and know all too well everything that comes along with it. It is invaluable for people to gain this wealth of knowledge.

  13. I love your idea to have some water and snacks ready for movers to show kindness to them. My husband and I plan on hiring movers to save time and stress since when we relocate to an apartment close his work next month. Thanks for teaching me how to develop a good relationship with whatever movers we end up hiring!

  14. Preparation is what can save you from last-minute chaos, especially if you are moving for the first time. Relocating a house is one of the tedious processes because you have to prepare all your belongings in a safe and timely manner.

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