Recently, a reader of this blog wrote to ask if I have any tips on how to make a move less stressful and more organized. Absolutely! Between moving around in search of a better rental rate in my single days, and life as a military wife, I’ve moved over twenty times as an adult.
If you’ve got a move planned for your future, here’s my advice.
How To Make A Move Less Stressful
1. Start a Binder
Moving involves a lot of information. If you’re just starting the process, you’ll want a place to create a wish list of what you’re looking for in your new home.
Use your binder to make notes as you tour homes, so you can compare them to your wish list. Take photos both inside and out, including the yard. These pictures will help you consider whether a place will need renovation or repairs, and help you negotiate a better price.
2. Gather Information
Make a move less stressful by keeping detailed information throughout the process. Track the phone numbers and account numbers for old and new utilities, and information about deposits to be refunded or paid. List your old schools and doctors’ offices, along with the new ones. Record the date when you contact each to have records transferred.
When you’re touring potential new homes, talk to the neighbors and add these notes to your binder. You’ll get a feel for the neighborhood through these conversations. You may also discover things the homeowners haven’t brought up. For instance, if you learn the place has been robbed, you should know that makes it a likely target for future burglaries, too.
3. Purge Your Clutter
The time to get serious about getting rid of clutter is the day you first realize you’ll be moving. There are plenty of books on the topic that can guide you through the process.
Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is one. If you prefer a more structured, room-by-room plan to weed out clutter and get your current home ready to show, my own book 30 Days to a Clean and Organized House will walk you through the steps.
4. Measure Your New Home
Once you’ve decided on your new residence, be sure to measure everything. If you’re moving long-distance, your Realtor may be willing to do this for you. Knowing room dimensions will help you decide if there’s space for your furniture. Get the measurements for bedroom windows, too — you’ll want to hang curtains right away for privacy.
5. Decide What to Disassemble
If your measurements indicate certain items won’t fit through your doors, disassemble them. Likewise, if you’re moving into a high-rise that doesn’t have freight elevators, taking bulky furnishings apart makes them easier to move. Get photos before, during, and after you dismantle items, so you know how to put things back together.
6. Research Your Moving Company
Hiring skilled professionals is one of the best ways to make moving less stressful. Do some research before hiring a moving company. Check whether the Better Business Bureau has received any complaints about them, and look them up on sites like Yelp and Angie’s List.
Once you’ve narrowed your list to a few potential movers, get their estimates. Clarify what services are included.
- Will they pack and wrap your belongings, so you don’t have to?
- Do they expect you to empty drawers, or will they tape them shut and move something like your dresser with all of the clothes in it?
- Do they charge extra if they have to use stairs rather than an elevator?
Get a written, detailed list of their policies and add it to your binder.
7. Get Moving Supplies Ready
If you’ll be packing your own things, you’ll need plenty of boxes. You can buy moving boxes in bulk from most self-storage companies. For free ones, check with local grocery and liquor stores. You’ll also need plenty of packing tape, labels, and pens.
Bubble wrap can protect valuable fragile items from damage. Towels, sheets, or clothing are affordable ways to wrap other things.
8. Keep an Inventory as You Pack
List items and take photos of them as you or your moving company packs. If something is damaged in transit, you’ll need this proof for an insurance claim. Add these to your moving binder. Hang onto the information for a couple of months after you’ve unpacked, in case you discover damage belatedly.
9. Pack Your Essential Items
Having what you need to sleep, bathe, and eat on your first night at your new home helps make moving less stressful. Packing the necessary items together means you won’t have to rummage through boxes to find them.
Things you may need your first night in your new home include:
- A plate, glass, and eating utensils for each family member
- Pajamas and a change of clothes
- Sheets plus a blanket and pillow for each bed
- Coffeemaker or teapot
- Pet bowls and pet food
- A lamp or two with a lightbulb
- Toiletries, toilet paper, and medications
- Screwdrivers (flat and Phillips-head) plus a box-cutter
10. Move Small Valuables Yourself
Small heirlooms and sentimental objects are safest in your care. Although the moving company’s insurance won’t cover items you personally transport, a check can’t compensate for the loss of cherished mementos.
Let the professionals pack larger valuable items like paintings and antiques. Moving companies have special padded boxes and the know-how to transport such items. Take photos and add these to your inventory before they’re packed.
11. Schedule Utility Service Changes
Using your binder, contact all of the utility and service companies at your old and new homes to schedule the transfer of service. You’ll want the utilities on before you move, so you have lights and heat or air-conditioning. Wait a day or two to shut off service at your old home since you’ll need to see while doing the move-out cleaning.
12. Clean BEFORE You Move In
The rule when selling your home is that it must be “broom clean” for the next residents. This doesn’t mean your new home will spotless. The bathrooms and kitchen don’t have to be scrubbed, just tidy. The windows may be streaky, and the floors might have a layer of grime. It’s easier to clean an empty dwelling, schedule a cleaning day before you move.
13. Use or Give Away Perishable Food
If you’re just moving across town, there’s no reason to throw away food, but it’s not worth taking a bottle of ketchup cross-country. Don’t leave them in the fridge for the next resident — that’s not “broom clean.” If you can’t consume perishables before moving, give them to a neighbor or friend.
14. Unpack Essentials First
Unpack your box of essential items as soon as the movers leave, so you can make the beds, bathe, and eat meals in your new place. Unpack linens and kitchen gear next, followed by clothing. Wait until you’re more settled in to unpack things like books and decor.
15. Clean the Old Place
If you’re moving out of a home, you need to meet the “broom clean” standard. That means the place must be completely empty. Leaving items for the new homeowners to deal with disrupts the closing process. In apartments, it may forfeit your security deposit.
At a minimum, you need to do the following:
- Move everything out
- Wipe counters, vanities, and toilets
- Double-check the refrigerator, cupboards, and closets are empty
- Sweep or vacuum the floors
In rentals, your landlord may expect more. To get your security deposit back, do the above and also clean the bathrooms and kitchen, then steam clean the carpets. (For military moves, you’ll be provided with a checklist and must pass an inspection.)
If you’re moving long-distance, it’s easiest to hire a cleaning service. Your realtor can recommend a company and will probably be willing to oversee the process.
16. Inspect Moved Items for Damage
Consider unpacking on your own, even if the moving company offers to do it. Doing it yourself lets you work at your own place rather than rushing to decide where things go. It also lets you inspect each item for damage.
Know in advance how many days you have to file a damage claim, and finish your unpacking and inspection by that date. Keep a list of damaged items in your binder together with before and after photos. Look up the price of similar items on places eBay and Amazon, so you know the amount to claim.
17. File a Change of Address
File a change of address with the Post Office two days before your move for seamless mail delivery. Other places to notify include:
- Government offices
- Insurance companies
- Credit card companies
- Magazine subscriptions
- Friends and family
The post office will forward regular mail for a year and magazines for six months, so there’s no need to panic about forgetting a place. Just send a change of address card when you receive forwarded mail, and you’ll have notified everyone by the time the forwarding period ends.