Photo-Illustration: Allie Pakrosnis
In the 15 years I’ve been living on my own, outside the cozy walls of my parents’ house, I’ve moved about 10 times. I’ve moved across neighborhoods, across the country, and even across oceans. So believe me when I tell you, I’ve done it all — I’ve rented a U-Haul and asked (ahem, forced) my college friends to help me load it, I’ve gathered and fielded quotes from long-haul moving truckers for a move from New York to Los Angeles, and a few months ago, I moved around the corner just to snag a place with a small yard. At this point, people should really be paying me to consult on their moves.
I’m now going to impart my eight top tips to you so you can learn from my experiences and keep your stress levels at a minimum during your next move. Trust me, I’m a professional.
Seriously. Hire movers. Don’t ask friends to help you schlep boxes down stairs and in and out of U-Haul trucks. I realize hiring professionals may get pricey, but as someone who has moved many, many (many) times and done it both ways, I can tell you it’s worth it to just bite the bullet and hire someone. I don’t care if you’re 19 or 89, it’s never a good idea to enlist your friends and promise to pay them in pizza and beer. It’s a recipe for stress and resentment, and more than a few pulled muscles and sore lower backs. So I’ma say it one more time for the people in the back: Don’t make your friends help you move.
With this in mind, it’s also important to hire your movers as soon as possible, especially if you’re moving on peak move-in and -out days like the last and first days of the month. You can also get multiple quotes from several different companies to see what is the most cost-effective — if you get the representatives on the phone, you can usually talk them down if you have proof that another company will do it for cheaper.
This is always a big one for me — I don’t want to pack anything that I don’t have to. Before I start planning my packing strategy, I go through everything I have and do a complete audit. When I say everything, I mean everything. I’m talking clothes, sheets, towels, random junk drawer bits and bobs, dog stuff that I never use, and knickknacks I’ve accumulated (but am not attached to). Essentially, anything that is just going to get shoved into the back of a closet in your new place. TBH, there’s something very liberating about purging — and you’ll feel good about dropping things off at your local animal shelter or thrift store. And your moving piggy bank will thank you after you sell some of your higher-end items.
There’s nothing worse than being stressed at the last minute, scrambling to get all your stuff packed in an orderly, non-unhinged fashion. Even if you don’t have boxes or packing materials yet, you can get started by organizing different sections of your house. Take all your art off the walls, roll up your rugs, and take down any hanging appliances like vacuums and AC units.
This will also allow you to identify and make any repairs or do any painting projects ahead of time so you don’t need to spend your moving day in a mad spackling dash. Instead, spend time chilling out and sipping a crisp, refreshing Canada Dry Ginger Ale, confident that moving day will be a breeze.
Cardboard boxes = my nightmare. Not only do you have to waste precious packing time on the tedious task of taping them together, but then you have to break them all down — and after all that they just go straight into the trash?! No thanks. There are lots of companies that provide reusable crates that they will drop off ahead of your move and then pick up at your new place. You can usually hang on to the boxes for as long as you need to unpack — but the charge for extra days might be the kick in the butt you need to get everything put away.
In the same vein as using reusable boxes, if you’re into keeping your moving footprint as small as possible, look into other packing materials beyond hundreds of feet of plastic bubble wrap. I personally try to kill two birds with one stone and use things like blankets, towels, and rags I already own (and need to pack anyways) to wrap up delicate items like plates, glasses, and vases. You can also opt for recyclable packing paper and compostable or dissolvable packing peanuts so you wont feel so bad about the trash aftermath.
I’m not sure why, but this 5-minute task is something I always forget to do — and then kick myself when I get to my new place and don’t have any service. Do yourself a favor and call your internet, electricity, gas, and water providers all in one sitting to be sure everything is turned on and ready to go on your move-in day.
Before your move in date, ask your new landlord to verify that everything works before you get there. Be meticulous. Test all the electrical outlets, all the lighting fixtures, the garbage disposal, AC and heating units, and any appliances like the dishwasher, washer, and dryer. I can tell you from experience — when I moved into my new place, I had to make maintenance appointments for the garbage disposal to get fixed, the door handle to be replaced on the dryer, and multiple lightbulbs to be replaced. Let’s just say, it was annoying.
One of the biggest stress-relieving things I did in this latest move was packing all my day one must-haves in the same box, and making sure that box was labeled and kept on top of all the other boxes. Meaning, I had easy access to everything I needed the moment I arrived. Think: a set of sheets, one or two clean towels, a set of cutlery, and a few plates. Make sure to have an ice tray on hand as well so you can christen your new spot by cracking open a cold Canada Dry Ginger Ale.