The 3 Things to Never, Ever Procrastinate on When You Move

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Procrastination, as a strategy, is starting to get more and more interest from the scientific community.

For example, Adam Grant points out in his book “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” that Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Frank Lloyd Wright and Leonardo Da Vinci were all notorious procrastinators. And hey, it worked out pretty well for them, so what’s the big deal? This train of thought has given me plenty of ammunition to justify all the times I’ve procrastinated for a test, a presentation, or heck, a daily shower.

But I know that one of these times this strategy is going to really backfire. Life is going to punch me in the mouth and, if it weren’t for my wife, our recent move would have been a disaster.

So Abraham Lincoln aside, here are a few areas where procrastination is absolutely not the best strategy. Take it from me, I’m an expert.

Finding All Your Moving Boxes

For our move, I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say we used 50 boxes. And I’m talking good sized boxes, like the kind a kid would hop into to pretend they’re an astronaut.

So let’s compare approaches:

Procrastination Chris: “Oh, you know, we’ll figure it out. A couple nights before, we’ll go into a Wal-Mart and ask if they can spare a few extra boxes. That should be easy.”

The reality: Retailers aren’t always on board with giving away their extra boxes. I don’t know what it is, but I think it’s like going into a restaurant at the end of the day and asking for any spare food; On paper, it makes sense since they’re gonna throw it out anyways. But in practice? Places of business don’t want to deal with this every single day.

My wife’s solution: Reaching out to friends who work retail weeks in advance, then getting the boxes in. She began the process weeks before, rather than a few nights before.

Booking the Moving Truck

I feel like anyone who buys a pickup truck automatically puts a bullseye on their back. You really need to start coming up with excuses for why you can’t help everyone in town move well before you put down your first downpayment.

Case and point: I remember being at a buddy’s bachelor party down in South Carolina and everyone that showed up had a pickup truck. Ford F-150, 250, even the 550, which is a monster truck that also fires off a cannon. I looked around and thought, “Man, if you ever have to move, you’ve got a small army here!”

But in most places, a lot of people don’t even own cars, let alone pickup trucks. And no offense to your buddy with a Mini Cooper, but that’s not gonna get the job done.

Procrastination Chris: “Eh, we’ll just get a U-Haul. Easy!”

The reality: Moving trucks aren’t totally simple. For one, they don’t have a normal rearview mirror; They’ve got these big side mirrors that stick out to give you a view when backing up. If you’ve never driven one before, it’s a lot to get used to. And maybe it’s just me, but it’s amazing how accustomed you get to a backup camera once you have one in your car. Without a backup camera and none of the “beep, beep, beep-beep-beep”, I’m surprised anyone before 2007 ever had a scratch-free bumper.

Most importantly, moving trucks get booked ahead of time. Yeah, that means you’re supposed to coordinate your move date with the date you need the truck, usually well ahead of time – especially during the busy season. Oops.

My “I got lucky” solution: One of my buddies loves helping people move. It’s like having a friend who enjoys doing taxes. He once drove a U-Haul from Chicago to New Orleans, so driving this one a couple block was small potatoes. Phew.

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Getting Help From Your Friends

In fairness, I sent out a calendar invite at least three weeks, maybe a month in advance to some co-workers and another friend.

I cannot, cannot, cannot stress this enough! Without a minimum of four regular friends helping out, I don’t think any move has ever been possible. And yeah, I know there’s an exception out there: the dude who sleeps on an air mattress and only owns like two outfits. But for the vast majority of us, we actually need help moving all of those boxes.

This is where procrastination can backfire big time. If I would have reached out only the day before – nevermind the morning of – they could have all had other plans and/or they could have quickly come up with an excuse. (“I, uh, gotta walk the dog.”)

This is one you don’t want to leave up to chance. Even if it works, it’s sort of like when a basketball player fires up a terrible shot and the coach screams, “No! No! No!”, but then it goes in anyway and they let out a sigh. Yes, procrastination may work every now and then, but not a great long-term strategy. Especially for moving.

My “hope-they-still-talk-to-me” solution: Very patient, very tired friends.

Make Moving Not Suck

Everyone’s moving situation is different, whether the city, suburbs or small town. I think back to that fleet of pickup trucks in South Carolina; Some people are lucky or they’ve got all their buddies around with the right vehicles for a move. They’re all set.

But for most of us, we’re not so lucky.

Most moves involve someone fresh out of college with their mom and dad, and the dad is getting upset because his kid procrastinated, and now his back hurts, and the mom is upset because the dad is upset, and then someone’s like, “Hey, you can’t park here,” and the mom looks over at the dad before he snaps, “Carol, I know, but I have to go feed the parking meter!” All the while the kid’s younger sibling is on their phone taking a selfie (#MovingDay). And everyone is about one step away from not getting together for Thanksgiving.

It’s not worth having one of the worst days of your life with your friends and family. Find some help. If you’ve got the friend brigade of pickup trucks, awesome. If not, hire it. It’s cheaper than you think.

And whatever you do, just don’t procrastinate on this one. No matter what DaVinci says. 


Chris O’Brien is an author writing out of Chicago. His latest release, “Moving Sucks”, captures all the pain of moving day, but with a comedic twist. Watch for its release on Amazon.com this November. For more info, email Chris@mediumraresizzle.com.

Movehacks: How to Unpack and Organize Before, During and After You Open a Box

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Some people tell us unpacking is the most enjoyable part of their move. (“It’s like Christmas!” they say.) Others dread unpacking like nothing else in the world. (“It’s worse than a triple root canal!” they cry.)

Either way, unpacking can quickly turn your new home into an ocean of cardboard and newsprint. To make the process more manageable – dare we say more enjoyable? – here are some industry tips for getting your unpack off to a raging start.

What to Do Before the Unpack

Yeah, you gotta clean before you unpack 

You might not want to hear this right off the bat, but be prepared to clean before you begin to unpack. Even if it’s just wiping the shelves and countertops and giving the floors a quick sweep, unpacking in a clean home is infinitely more pleasant than unpacking in a dusty one. These items definitely take priority when it comes to cleaning:

  • Kitchen cabinets
  • Refridgerator
  • Bathtub and bathtub jets
  • Stove
  • Inside the washing machine

For more a more in-depth look at the how and why for house prep, check out this post.

Don’t unpack from down on the ground, clear some counter space

In the kitchen or dining room, do whatever you need to do so you can get your boxes up high. Why? Because you’ll need that counter space to place boxes on before you carry your things around your new place.

Why on a shelf? Because if you unpack from the place you dropped down that heavy box, you’re going to feel it in your lower back the next day. And week. Trust me, unpack up high. Always.

Unpack to shower and sleep first

No one in the history of unpacking has ever unpacked in one day. Unless you think you can be the first, don’t wait to unpack your bedding, set up your bed, hang your shower curtain and dig out what you need to feel clean and refreshed after a long day (or week? or month?) of moving.

Protip: Yes, this involves a little foresight when packing. Mark the boxes that contain the things you want to access first. (This may also include real plates, glasses and utensils to make you feel more at home when you sit down for dinner that first evening.)

What to Do During the Unpack

Unpack the “easy” boxes first to make room 

It takes almost no time to unpack your books and stick them on the shelves of your bookcase. In a matter of minutes, you can transfer your t-shirts and jeans from boxes to dresser drawers. And for goodness sake, get those massive and bulky wardrobe boxes unpacked and out of the house!

Go about halfway with the pictures 

Unpacking large pictures, mirrors and paintings is also quick, and you can then get rid of those bulky mirror cartons. Some folks, however, suggest hanging your pictures up early on to give your new place that homey feel. I say lean them up in a corner somewhere until you get all your furniture in place. Later on, you can do the “a little to the right…a little more…no back left…no not that much…okay there, no, a shade higher…yeah, that’s perfect” thing.

Make a quota of boxes unpacked per day and stick to it

If you are the motivated type, feel free to skip this tip. If you are easily distracted and tend to put things off, you might find it helpful to …. Hey, are you listening? …  set goals for yourself. Commit to unpacking one room per day, six boxes per hour, whatever. And reward yourself for sticking to your plan by going out afterward. Just remember how satisfying it will be when you’re all finished. 

Repack what you don’t actually need for storage

As you empty your boxes, set aside those items you decide you won’t need right away – or for a long time. Keep a few of those now-empty boxes handy and consolidate those items you put aside for quick transfer to the basement, the attic or the back of your closet.

Protip: Just as you did when you first packed, write the contents of each box with a marker as you go through your consolidation.

Don’t unpack the TV

The ultimate distractor. Do unpack the tunes, though. 

Purge. Again

We suggest purging while unpacking. On move after move, it’s common to see people wait for weeks (or months) for the family’s stuff to arrive. Living without most of their stuff, they often realize that so many things were unnecessary. And while packing stuff in a box allows you to forget about it, having to unpack it and find a place for it helps you decide whether you really need it. As with the stuff you’ll be storing in the attic or the basement, set up a box or two for these things you’ve decided to part with.

What to Do After the Unpack

Hide your paper trail

Keep a couple of medium-sized boxes on hand, and use them to stash all the packing paper that would otherwise turn the floors of your new home into a churning sea of crumpled newsprint. Flattening and folding all that paper will save a lot of space – if you have the time and patience – but doing so also helps you find smaller items that can go unnoticed and disappear forever. I can’t count how many times a customer dropped their used moving boxes off at our warehouse with items still buried in the packing paper inside.

Protip: Packing a large box with flattened paper can make it surprisingly heavy. Medium boxes are more manageable in this respect.

Now, about getting rid of all those boxes…

First, get them out of your way. The garage – if you have one and there’s room – is the obvious choice. (Think twice before stashing them in the basement “temporarily”.) If the weather is good and it feels appropriate, start breaking down your empty boxes and putting them out by the curb. Unless your new home is on a cul-de-sac it may not be long before you see passer-by stop and take those boxes off your hands. If this doesn’t work, here are three ideas that don’t require a box-hungry passerby.

  • If you have the time, the storage space and the mental fortitude try passing on your boxes to someone else who is getting ready to move. Facebook groups and Craigslist are two widely-used resources for advertising moving boxes for sale or for free.
  • Some moving companies will be happy to take your boxes and your packing paper off your hands. If none of the smaller local movers will take them, check for national van line agencies in your area (like United, North American, Atlas and Allied). The agencies I worked for never bought used boxes from people, but we were always happy to take them if they were in decent shape. 
  • Recycle if you can’t find someone who will reuse them.

Unpacking can prove a more formidable task than expected. Whether you think it’ll be like Christmas or a root canal, putting these tips into practice will help you feel at home faster.

Then you can sit back and watch the TV.

Every Place You Can Get Free Moving Boxes

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People say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Well, how about a free box? We hear a lot about those, but where are they?

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