I grew up as a Marine Corps brat and then married a man in the Navy. It is safe to say I know a thing or two about packing up my household goods and moving them around the country. From birth until now, I have had NINE major moves (traveling 400 miles or more) and I am embarking on my 10th this week. On top of those, I have also had NINE small, in town moves. I will never be able to share stories of the one area I grew up in, or how we always went to grandma’s house for Sunday dinner. You know what? That is okay with me! I have LOVED my life “on the road” and I enjoy having THAT story to share with people.
Part of that story is always the moves. Oh, the moves! Like that time my mom almost took out an entire gas pump towing our car behind a Uhaul semi. Or the Budget truck I rented that MAXED out at 50 miles an hour on the freeway. Let’s not forget went we stopped at the dairy farm and got to see how milk was bottled!
I am lucky enough that the military contracts moving companies to pack us up and send us on our way. However, I have had my fair share of DIY moves everywhere from packing stuff in the wagon and walking it down the street to the time I, Me, Marissa towed a FULL flatbed trailer behind a 29 FOOT rental truck. Now THAT was a proud moment (so maybe I did it more than once)!
I feel confident saying: when it comes to moves, I have some decent advice to impart. As I’m taking a break from my own preparations today, I wanted to jot down some tips I have for those of you that may not have gone through all the experiences I have. It’s not a fully comprehensive list, but it’s a great place to start and just might be one of those things that you didn’t think of yourself.
1. PURGE! PURGE! PURGE!
That’s right! In my opinion, the most important way to prepare for a move is to get rid of your crap! There is nothing worse then boxing items up and moving them only to ask yourself later, “Why did I bother?!” No matter how much cleaning out you do, I guarantee you will still move things you decide you don’t want once you reach your destination, but the more prep work you do ahead of time, the lighter your move will be…and that saves a lot of back work! I recommend starting this process AT LEAST three months before your move.
2. Create a “Bucket List”
It happens every time. As I’m ready to move, all I can think of is all the things I did NOT get to see or do in the town I am leaving. You get into a comfort zone in your town of residency and before you know it, it’s time to leave! Get a friend on board with you too! In Virginia, my best friend joined me on many of my adventures and we were both able to experience so much of our town that we had never done before! I recommend you start this process AT LEAST six months before you move. It took five years living on the coast of Virginia before I finally tried paddle boarding:
3. LABEL! LABEL! LABEL!
Whether you are moving yourself or paying someone, labeling your boxes correctly saves a TON of time. I LOVE the customizable labels I created. You can print them out for whichever specific rooms you want. It makes the move go much more smoothly and you spend less time rearranging boxes after you have reached your new location. Not to mention, if you are paying someone to move you and a box is lost in the process, you actually have a chance that it will get returned to you because it has your new address on it. Click the link to see the details in my post.
4. Get Liquor Boxes From Your Local Package Store
Even with a moving company, there are always some items you will want to move yourself. Or there are items that the moving company WON’T move for you (bottles with liquids, alcohol, prescriptions, hazards, jewelry, lightbulbs, etc). I have found the best boxes to use for these items come from the liquor store. They are super strong because they are meant to hold pounds and pounds of liquid and they are just the right size to easily carry. Plus, every liquor store I have ever asked gives them to you for FREE! They are always throwing boxes out (you can also often find free or cheap boxes on Freecycle or Craigslist). Of course, it helps to have actual wine in some of those boxes too!
Set these boxes and any other “I’m moving these” items aside and “rope it off” so the movers know not to take it. Suitcases, electronics, toiletries, anything you are bringing yourself. This saves a lot of “am I supposed to pack this?” questions later.
In the final days before the pack-out, I spend a lot of my time just moving stuff around. I make sure all the clean linens are in the same place, appropriate kids toys are together, picture frames in a stack, etc. This way, when you or the company are packing, everything is ending up in the right boxes together, or close to it. It’s a little work to do in advance, to save a lot of work later when you are searching through piles of boxes with that specific flat sheet in it. These items below are just stacked in the right area as nicely folded as possible because they don’t fit with the rest of their “friends.”
6. Clean Your Things!
As the last topic mentioned, get those sheets, towels, linens, dishes, coffee pots, appliances, you name it – CLEAN! More than likely this will be done the day or two before the packers arrive. If a company is moving you – THEY WILL PACK EVERYTHING, most often without asking any questions. You left a trash can full of trash in the bathroom? Guess what, you will be unpacking a box that has a trashcan filled with trash on the other end. You left dirty dishes in the dishwasher? Yep, those will get packed too. The packers’ job is simply to empty your house into boxes and get it out of there. They do not care if you took care of all the things you should have before they arrived.
7. Bag Up Small Items
Same idea…anything you keep in a drawer or small storage will more than likely just be tossed into a box. Packers do not worry about organization. That is your job, not theirs. If you want it to stay organized, separate it out, bag it up, and get it ready to be tossed in a box! Besides, things will be SO much easier to put away when they are taken care of in advance. We learned the hard way with these items pictured below. The packers actually packed the drawer sets just fine into boxes. Unfortunately, these drawers are not air tight and ALL of our nuts, bolts, nails, etc were in the bottom of the boxes these drawer sets had been packed into.
I know SO MANY people who micromanage their movers. They are SURE this is what keeps their workers “honest.” I even knew someone who made their entire moving crew work in the same room at the same time as they sat and watched over the movers – so they could be sure nothing was being broken or stolen. These, of course, in my opinion, are always the people who have problems later. I have NEVER had anything stolen, and we have had to deal with only minor breaks and repairs to claim after our goods were delivered. I feel this is due a lot to the fact that we show our crews we trust them and that we are there to help THEM do their job. I hang around where necessary to answer questions, I move things I notice are going in the wrong place, I’m just generally present. Not overbearing. Naturally, things can, and will, often go wrong and you should take the appropriate steps to make sure your move is being handled correctly.
When the military is paying for your move, you are not supposed to tip your movers with money. They want to ensure the playing field is even and all ranks and rates of all the services are getting a move well done. Our answer to this is to supply plenty of drinks and buy lunch at least one day. You never know though, you may have a totally different crew every day and that can add up fast, so make sure you set aside some cash or food to treat your moving crew. I stay away from pizza because, well, everyone gets their movers pizza. I know I would be sick of it!
Not moving military style? All packers and movers appreciate a tip (I usually do $20 each in this case).
9. Take Apart Large Furniture and Bag Up the Small Parts in Advance
MOVE THOSE PARTS WITH YOU!!! Even though you need to let the movers do their job, most movers will never do this particular job AS WELL AS YOU will do it. After taking furniture apart, we put the parts into ziploc bags and move them ourselves along with some vital tools like screwdrivers, hammers, flashlight, batteries, BOX CUTTERS, scissors, etc. The law of lost things will definitely apply. Once you move, your bed will be in parts in one place and the screws will be hiding in another box somewhere else. Clearly, this will most surely be the LAST BOX you end up opening because even though you labeled everything, it still managed to get lumped in with the “old papers that don’t need to be opened” box. Another option is to tape these baggies to one of the actual furniture pieces, but we have found these still get lost.
10. Relax and Remember: This Too Shall Pass
Moving can be stressful. Roll with the punches and grab a glass of wine from those liquor boxes you’re moving! No matter what happens, your things WILL get packed, you WILL get to your next house, you WILL get unpacked (well, hopefully) and you will start a whole new adventure in your new location. Sometimes the only things worrying will accomplish is giving you more wrinkles.
We also approach our unpack this way – are goal is to be COMPLETELY unpacked in 24 hours. Sounds crazy, huh? It kind of is, especially since we are a family a FIVE. We totally work our butts off to do it, but we are always so happy when it’s done. This usually even includes hanging pictures and breaking down all the boxes. You automatically feel like your new house is your new home.
Many moving companies will return to pick up the unpacked boxes for you later because that means they will save money on the next move they do. No movers? List your boxes on Craigslist. You can usually get a good penny for them. Too much of a hassle? List them on Freecycle and they will usually be gone by the end of the same day.
What other tips do you have to share?! Please leave them in our comment section below!