On the Move
So you're moving. Maybe it's for a job or for school or for a relationship, but you've found yourself in the equal parts exciting, terrifying, and overwhelming position of facing a move. Prior to going to grad school, I had moved a few times. The first was when I left Arkansas after college to take a job in Kansas City. The next two moves were to different apartments across town. Then came the move to grad school where my now husband also moved in with me. And finally, our most recent one from Indiana back to Kansas City. Feeling lost yet?
When we moved to Indiana it was utter chaos. We were moving on different timelines and coming from separate living situations. We each had our own furniture, clothes, kitchen supplies and packing styles. At the end of that moved when it was all said and done, I told M that I couldn't promise our next move would have less stuff, but I could promise him that it would be more organized. And it was. So, I'd like to share with you the things I've learned from all the various moves - including one during a global pandemic.
Hire Movers. Full Stop.
But Stacia, I can't afford them. Look, I get it. IF you're in a situation where you truly cannot afford movers, fine. If you're in a place where you can only afford for them to load and unload for you, but you have to do all the prep yourself, that's a great compromise. But if you're doing a corporate relocation and a company is paying for you and all your earthly possessions to go from point A to point B do NOT try and skimp to pocket some of the moving allowance. Just trust me.
But how do I find good movers?
Make sure you look for a few things: national affiliation. Our most recent move was done via Allied Van Lines, but I've also used ABF and UHaul. If someone else is driving a truck with your stuff in it across state lines, things can get messy - fast. Making sure that your company is a national company gives you a bit more ease in knowing that they will be able to navigate the state to state rules and regs that can apply. The last thing you want is your stuff to be stuck somewhere else because your company isn't licensed to transport things in the state you are moving to.
Next, you're going to want to find a local affiliate to work with. They'll be able to help you navigate the ins and outs of your specific move and make sure you have number that isn't a 1800 number to call. They are the face of the larger company; do your homework on Nextdoor, Google, Yelp, etc. to figure out if these are the people you'll trust with your possessions. They will also be able to help you determine how much space and how many movers you'll need. I always tend to overshoot the number of movers I need and the amount of stuff I have, so having someone who was experienced at moves handle all of it for me was great. My consultant came and did a home walk through. Once he was done, he knew exactly what I needed.
...Wait, what's "full service?"
Full service movers will take care of things such as breaking down furniture (tables, bed frames, etc.) and boxing mattresses. They'll also shrink wrap your soft furniture and wrap other furniture in packing blankets. When you get to the destination, they'll set it all back up for you wherever you tell them to.
When comparing moving companies, make sure you're taking into account: labor (who's in charge of getting the people doing the moving there - you or them), storage (do you need your stuff stored? do you need it right away?), full service or load/unload only, price structure (is it by the mile, by the pound, by the hour?), and overages. Every company is a little different, so you need to be careful to make sure you're comparing apples to apples. Also - ask if they charge extra for weekend/holiday moves. Sometimes you can save a TON by taking PTO and moving on a Friday not a Saturday.
Now that you've found movers, let's talk packing.
When you find out you'll be moving, the first thing I suggest doing is putting a "get rid of box" in your bedroom and your kitchen/living room. As you're going throughout your day, if you see something (a shirt, a serving platter, a picture frame) that you want to get rid of, put it in the box. This is a simple way to start the purging process before you even start packing. Next, you'll need a packing timeline. Start with your moving day and move backwards. It's going to be different depending on your situation. Since I had just finished school, I knew I'd have two weeks to dedicate fully to packing. If you're working full time while doing this, your timeline might be different. Let's say your moving day (day the truck shows up) is March 31. You'll want everything packed and ready by March 29th (cause you're probably going to need the 30th for last minute things).
You want to pack the things you use the most (dishes, laundry supplies, bedding, bedroom curtains) last - maybe even some day of depending on your living situation. So for the example above, you'd probably pack your dishes and essential cooking tools on March 25th, but start packing the rest of your kitchen (you know, the fancy french press you use on weekends and the decorative cake plate) on March 20th. I highly suggest trimming your clothing down to one suitcase that you can live out of for 7-10 days. You'll want to pack this (and you can wash them as needed) about three weeks out from your moving date so that you can pack the rest of your clothing into boxes while still giving yourself time to cycle things through the laundry. Same goes for bathroom essentials.
Starting from the moving date and working backwards, make sure you plan out when you'll do what rooms. For some rooms, you'll have to break it down to more than just the room. For example I had "Office Closet," "Office Files/Bookcase," and "Office" at three different parts during the move because I knew the things in the office files could be packed sooner, but the general office stuff needed to stick around a bit longer. If you space it out and give yourself enough time, you lower the risk of getting packing fatigue where you say 'screw it' and throw a lot of things in boxes willy-nilly thus resulting in utter chaos on moving day. It also helps you to have a stopping point each day. "Okay, I've finished these three kitchen cabinets, I can go take a break and watch this week's episode of Grey's" is much easier to do say to yourself when you know you have a packing plan and won't feel like you "wasted" that time earlier in the process.
During all of your packing, make sure you have a give away box and a trash bag handy. You'll be amazed at how much you can clean out just from doing that. Also, consider having a day shortly before your move set aside as your "donation day" and take everything to various donation drop offs:
Food can go to local food pantries, snack pack backpack programs at schools, churches, or "take what you need" boxes around your town
Work clothes and suits can be donated to Career Closets. Check with local colleges and universities to see if they have something like that for their students or with day shelters and job placement centers
Animal Shelters will often take towels and/or sheets
Women's Shelters will take new, unopened toiletries (including hotel sized ones) for women who come in
Luggage and suitcases can be donated to local foster groups to provide a way for kids in foster care to carry their belongings when they go from home to home
Goodwill takes "anything with a cord" - working or not
Salvation Army and other Thrift Stores will take general items, but keep in mind that if it's a smaller operation, they may not actually be able to use "off season" donations (think ski jackets in the summer) and they could end up in the trash, so be sure to check out if they can use off season items. For things such as coats, check with local schools. Many will have a social worker (or at least one in the district) who keeps a "coat closet" for kids in the district.
Office and School Supplies - everything from gently used backpacks and binders to extra paper and pens to books and magazines - can probably be used by a teacher. Ask around in your local network to see if there's a need/where it can go. Oftentimes teachers will take office and school supplies and be able to share what they can't use personally in their classrooms.
I know it can seem daunting, but honestly, an hour of my time to divide things out and then run different boxes/bags by places while I was out seemed worth it to me for things to be put to the best possible use.
When it comes to packing supplies - I totally went with Amazon on this one. I was a full time student in the middle of the shelter in place order, so going out to a moving supply store wasn't really an option. We ended up purchasing a moving kit that included specialty packing boxes for dishes and cups (I had a lot of cups and glassware so I went with a second one), boxes, tape, markers, and packing paper. We also used Amazon for TV boxes and "wall art" boxes. I'm not sure what to call them, but they were for photos and mirrors. Using packing blankets, were were usually able to get 3-6 wall art items into the boxes - depending on the size and shape of the item.
A few things to remember when you're going through a move:
You are not perfect; that's okay.
Your house will not be perfectly organized and cleaned while you are packing boxes; that's okay.
Moving can be a highly emotional thing because it usually happens in the midst of other life milestones; that's okay.
As for the day of - I highly suggest finding a place for your pet to go during the day (and your kids if you have them). Moving is stressful enough; don't let them add to your stress and don't stress them out by having them there during all the crazyness of motion. Make sure you drink plenty of water and have healthy, easy snacks on hand. Wear close toed, comfortable shoes.
Good luck with your move!