Professional Mover: ‘This Is What I’ve Discovered Makes You Happy While Moving’


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My husband Dan and I have moved ten times in eleven years.

Crazy, right? We crisscrossed the country from Massachusetts to Maryland to Ohio to California to Illinois to Tennessee and back to Illinois. We both took turns following each other’s dreams, moving for our education and for our work.

To keep my sanity during those moves, especially when we added three kids into the mix, I developed what I call The Art of Happy Moving.

I made it a blog, then I made it a book. I know moving happily sounds like an oxymoron, but after all my moves, I finally figured out that it doesn’t have to be.

Make a list of three (and only three) reasons you feel excited about your move

The Art of Happy Moving, by Ali Wenzke

There are two choices related to emotions that turn your move into a happy move.

First, you can choose to focus on the positives instead of ruminating on the stressful parts. Easier said than done, I know, but the way to begin the process is to make a list of three (and only three) reasons why you feel excited about your move.

Happiness research shows that we feel happier when we list three reasons to feel grateful (instead of, say, thirteen.) So, write down your three reasons and keep that piece of paper handy as you pack your millionth box.

Recognize that you have a choice

Your second emotional hurdle might be to realize you do have a choice whether to make this move or not, even if it may not seem like it at first.

Why are you moving? Life event? Rent? Opportunity?

Maybe you’ve been out of work for a while and you received a job offer in a city where you’d rather not live. One couple I interviewed found themselves in this sticky situation.

“Decluttering for a move is different than decluttering to spark joy.”

His story: John relocated his family to small town Georgia for a new job, even though he did not want to move. Since John had been unemployed for a while, he felt like he had no other options.

In contrast, his wife Alison made that move to Georgia with a positive attitude because she believed they did have a choice. If they hadn’t moved, she figured they could stay in Florida and move in with John’s parents until he found a local job opportunity. Because Alison saw and pursued a variety of alternative options, this helped her feel in control of the situation.

Your happiness will increase if you explore your options and reframe your move so that you realize that you likely do have a choice in the matter.

Use a pro’s checklist to organize and simplify your move

The Moving Checklist at

When I meet with people to discuss their moves, they sometimes feel discouraged by how many little details they need to remember. Moving logistics can overwhelm you if you let them.

Happy moving means figuring out the best ways to categorize and organize a move so that you feel less stressed. And yes, there are easy ways to do that.

The first thing you can do is to lay out what you might forget by using a moving checklist. There are a lot of good ones out there. Check out this robust moving checklist. I also have free downloads on my blog.

All you need to do to have an organized move is to start checking items off items from a professional’s list who has already thought of everything for you.

Declutter to make moving, packing and unpacking easier (and less expensive)

If you only did one single thing on this list, I think my most effective tip for happy moving is to get rid of everything you own. Seriously. It’ll make your move so much easier.

Okay, if you absolutely must move with your twenty-five favorite pairs of jeans (or your kids), here are three easy tips to help you declutter.

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First, start with the heavy items in your house. Decluttering for a move is different than decluttering to spark joy. It costs money to move heavy or large items like books and furniture, so you necessarily need to start there. (There are very cost effective ways of moving stuff when you hire movers by the hour, by the way.)

Second, gather similar items into one area and create a “store”. Choose which t-shirts or books you want to “buy” and donate or sell everything else. I call this the “Toy Store Method”. It’s shockingly effective to use my Toy Store Method to declutter with kids, too, so try it out.

“The odds you’ll succeed at your resolutions are far greater after a new move than after a new year.”

Third, just ask for help! If you feel emotionally attached to your things and this is hard for you, ask for help from a friend or a family member who can guide you through the simplification process.

Strong relationships help mitigate moving unhappiness

Every happiness study highlights strong personal relationships as a main indicator of happiness.

This is why I started writing The Art of Happy Moving. I moved from Chicago to Knoxville, Tennessee, and it was tough to make friends in a city where I didn’t know anyone. After so many moves, it surprised me how difficult it was to meet people. The loneliness hit me harder than I expected.

happy moving

That’s when I learned that many other movers found themselves in the same situation of feeling alone in an unknown place.

For a happy move, make it a priority to spend time with family and friends before you move. Schedule a girls’ night out or a weekend potluck and leave the moving boxes behind for a while.  

After you move, make an early effort to get involved in the community. Try things like, Facebook event browsing, or even local papers. But there is a catch!

Over the past several years of moving, I’ve taken group guitar classes, knitting lessons, and I’ve volunteered for local non-profits. The secret to making friends is to do something that you love for you, not just to make a friend. People can smell desperation (believe me, I know), so find time to do things for yourself and like-minded friends will find you.

Take advantage of the proven fresh start that moving offers to create new habits

Your move is an opportunity to start life over.

Ali Wenzke

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when they move is that they focus so much on the moving logistics that they don’t think about what happens after the move. You can be anyone you want to be. One research study found that 36% of successful habit changes could be attributed to a move to a new place.

That’s why it’s a shame if you don’t take advantage of the break in routine to create new habits.

If you want to eat healthier, mediate more often, or spend quality time with loved ones on a regular basis, plan ahead and prioritize these goals so you can achieve them in your new home. The odds you’ll succeed at your resolutions are far greater after a new move than after a new year.

Ali Wenzke is the creator of the blog The Art of Happy Moving. After a decade of numerous moves, she is now happily settled in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, three children, and a secret stash of chocolate chip cookies. She doesn’t plan on moving any time soon.

United Van Lines’s 2017 Report: Where People Are Moving (and Leaving)


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For the past couple of years, we’ve looked at and talked about various annual moving trends as reported by the major van lines. The basics have been consistent: the Pacific Northwest, a couple of southern states and big bad Texas have garnered most of the top honors, while the northeast remains a perennial loser in terms of in-or-out migration.

Recently, United Van Lines came out with another report announcing the country’s top cities for inbound and outbound moves over the course of the peak summer moving season (May 1st through Aug. 31st), as around 40 percent of the year’s moves taking place in this time frame.

United’s map of the cities with the highest rates of inbound moves shows a fair distribution across the country – except for the northeast and Midwest. You have to go down to Charlotte, North Carolina or out to Denver, Colorado before arriving in any of the top ten cities.

The moving out map is more striking: we see a huge cluster in the northeast – including four cities in the New York metro area alone! – then a bit of a spread to Chicago and Norfolk, Virginia. Then nothing until we make it to the southern California coast.

United Van Lines spokeswoman Melissa Sullivan tells CBS Chicago that since United is the go-to moving company for approximately 400 of the Fortune 500 companies, a lot of their customers are moving for jobs. Ms. Sullivan adds that they also have a significant number of customers moving for retirement.

NBC5 Chicago isn’t shy about reporting on their own city’s distinction as the nation’s biggest loser, but some numbers they offer temper the shock a bit: Chicago lost 8,638 residents from 2015 to 2016, dropping from 2,713,596 to a total of 2,704,958. In other words, Chi-town doesn’t exactly seem to be turning into a ghost town, even as they carry the country’s outbound torch.

Yet Illinois Policy makes note of a poll by the Paul Simon Institute that shows 47% – almost HALF – of registered voters report they’d like to leave the state, many within the next year. In the last decade, the Land of Lincoln has lost a net 700,000 people, with high taxes the easy winner among reasons so many are bolting. Meanwhile, the one group whose majority is planning on staying put is comprised of retirees. If things continue like this, we may begin to see the population of Illinois start to creep higher, meaning a heavier tax burden on the slowly-shrinking workforce being necessary to compensate for the increasing percentage of seniors, meaning more people leaving the state due to rising taxes. Stay tuned.

United’s moving-to cities list lacks many surprises. The top four cities – Seattle, Dallas, Denver and Portland – have all seen consistent growth over the past several years. San Francisco might be surprising at fifth place, if only for the high cost of living. Maybe that tech bubble isn’t ready to burst over Silicon Valley just yet.

But we take all these numbers with a grain of salt. United, although the biggest van line in the country, handles only a fraction of the millions of moves taking place every summer and every year all across the country. This means that no matter where United is moving people to or from, there are a whole more people out there moving to new homes all across the country.

Yes, some of them are even moving to Chicago.

The Rise of Plastic Storage Companies, and What It Means for Movers


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You don’t have to be an industry insider to know that the self-storage industry is booming. Drive around Anytown, USA and it’s almost impossible not to notice those orange-and-gray, or orange-and-purple, or green-and-white facilities popping up all over the place. Even if you round down SpareFoot’s numbers from 2016, the country is currently at over 50,000 self-storage facilities generating over $30 billion in annual revenue.

Crazy numbers, for sure. And guess what? Things are only just beginning to get interesting. We’re seeing the emergence of a lot of small (for now) companies offering services beyond typical self-storage – services that were virtually unheard just a few years ago.

MakeSpace and Clutter Surge

Consider MakeSpace, a New York City outfit that has raised $47.5 million in venture capital in just the last two years. Not your average self-storage provider, MakeSpace packs, picks up their customers’ excess belongings and brings it all to their storage facility. Customers don’t need to think about how much storage space they need because they don’t actually have to rent storage units. They don’t have to worry about getting their stuff moved to a certain place and time because MakeSpace does all the back-and-forth for you. And since their storage facilities are located in what TechCrunch describes as “less desirable areas” outside prime real estate locations that are fairly removed from the residential areas they serve, MakeSpace can rent space at a lower cost, thereby reducing operating expenses.

Besides New York, MakeSpace operates in Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C., serving tens of thousands of customers, that according to CEO Sam Rosen.

Meanwhile, Clutter of Culver City, CA, operating on a similar business model, has expanded beyond Los Angeles to serve San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, Chicago, and states New York and New Jersey. As of June 2017, they have raised $96.5 million in venture capital – double that of MakeSpace. According to Forbes, they plan to infiltrate every major city in America and several more abroad.

Millions in capital, global plans … there must be a lot more people out there with a lot of stuff willing to pay extra for this ultra-convenient, self-storage service.

The Rise of Plastic Bins

Of course, not everyone is looking for self-storage. Some people just need to get their stuff from Point A to Point B. Unsurprisingly, the range of services for these people has exploded too, starting with the U-Haul revolution and the rise of ABF Freight, followed by the portable storage container craze and – ahem – the wild growth of the moving labor sector.

It turns out this is the one place eco-conscious people choose plastic over paper.

Yes, we’re seeing now that people want to be green as much as they want to save green – and we see that customers are looking for even more alternatives when they move. And one of those alternatives involves cutting back on all that cardboard and tape.

Enter the gorillas and the kangaroos.

Since 2011, Gorilla Bins of New York City has been renting out black plastic bins two weeks at a time. (They know it takes a lot more than a day to pack and unpack!) And they aren’t the only ones touting the three-point “We drop them off – You use them – We pick them up” service line, inspiring plenty of imitators. Redi-Box is ready with their red bins in Chicago and Portland. Rent a Green Box covers Los Angeles and Orange Counties with their (of course) green plastic bins. Hopping around the Springfield, MO area we have Roo Rent a Box and their stacks of gray bins.

There are many players in this plastic bin rental game. Their prices and policies may vary, but they all operate on the same fundamental idea. (Really, the biggest question right now might be who will end up buying out who down the road.)

Also of note, a company named Bin-It is running a similar operation out of their northern New Jersey headquarters, serving not only the New York area but Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Nashville. Yet unlike the gorillas and kangaroos, Bin-It also offers storage, bridging the service gap between valet storage and simple moving bin rental.

It probably goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) that this plastic bin rental business is a local thing. It’s conceivable that in the future we’ll see this change as some of these bin-renters extend their reach further across the country and can handle the logistics of tracking and managing their bins in the same way U-Haul manages their trucks.

For now, despite the impressive growth of this eco-friendly niche, it looks like the trend of renting plastic bins instead of using cardboard boxes will remain an aspect of the local move market.

How Does This Impact Movers?

So what does this have to do with all of us in the moving labor industry?  

It surprisingly doesn’t, directly. But say someone calls you up asking if you offer storage services. “No,” you say. But your conversation shouldn’t end there. This person needs a service and seems not sure where to turn. By pointing them in the right direction, you are not only helping them, you’re also tossing a biscuit of friendship to the people you are referring them to. “Tell them Kevin at HireAHelper sent you,” you might say. Or Mark at Mark’s Movers, or whatever the case may be.

You recommend them, they recommend you, and everybody gets a business boost. This dynamic works especially as long as storage bin companies exist as a local enterprise.

The same dynamic can work with the valet storage niche, as well as the emerging plastic moving bin rental market. These companies are directly tied to the storage and moving industry, just like us. Yet they occupy a different niche. So rather than competing, our services are almost always perfectly complementary.

Likewise, those customers looking for that environmentally-friendly alternative to cardboard boxes are potential customers too. The bin-renters generally don’t offer actual moving services, so the door is wide open.

At the same time, be aware that a few other valet storage providers and bin renters have had the same brilliant idea, and have begun creating those collaborative partnerships with a few local movers. So don’t wait! Get online, get on the horn, pick up the phone and get out there! Meet these new players in the storage and moving industry. There may never be a better ally, or imposing competition, depending who gets there first.

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6 Things You Need to Do If You’re Moving to Chicago


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So you’re moving to Chicago? First off, welcome! We are so excited that you’re settling down in The Windy City. As lifelong Chicagoans, we may be a bit biased, but we happen to think this Midwest city is the best there is. There’s just no place like sweet home Chicago!


Don’t Have a Spring Break Vacation Planned? Do These Relaxing Things Instead


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Whether parents are ready or not, spring break is right around the corner for many families. Of course, that means the kids are out of school and itching to get their minds off all things school related.

But consider that pretty much every TV show and movie will remind you that spring break is the most amazing time to sneak away to sandy beaches, sunny skies and intense carelessness. But realistically speaking, that isn’t always the reality for many families. I mean, with work, extracurricular commitments, house chores or that extra tight budget, formal spring break plans don’t usually make the cut. Not to mention kids usually aren’t much for the nightlife.


5 Things to Ask Before You Move Into a City Apartment


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So you’re all set to move into your new downtown apartment! Congratulations! You’ve got your life loaded up and your old life is in the rear view mirror of a U-Haul. Nothing to do now but set up the new pad and get your new life in the city rolling!


There’s more to moving into a new apartment building than just picking up your key and having your buddy hold the elevator. City buildings likely come with a whole list of rules and regulations for moving in, so whether you are moving by yourself or hiring movers to do it for you, it’s wise to contact your building manager ahead of time for the complete run-down. With that in mind, here’s a list of five questions that should top your moving day FAQ.


DIY Tips to Win the Super Bowl (Party)


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Okay, it’s confession time. We’re not the hugest football fans, and to be honest, we don’t typically watch a game until February. We’re more focused on the food, friends, commercials and half-time performance than the actual score.

But that just means we know how to throw a killer party. And there’s almost no bigger party than a Superbowl party! We’ve concocted some awesome DIY pro-tips to turn the inevitable get-together that you’re hosting (or going to!) into something memorable – no matter the score.


Which States Gained and Lost the Most People From Moving Last Year? We Break It Down


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[Synopsis: As United, Atlas reveal their annual migration stats, states try to explain themselves.]

United Van Lines has done it again!

They’ve released their nationwide migration statistics for the year, that is. And right off the bat, we see some small surprises.



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