The Furniture Dolly: How To Move Heavy Furniture

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How do you move large pieces of furniture? It’s a question we hear all the time. It’s a daunting prospect, having to haul heavy, bulky items like dressers, bookcases and entertainment units from your house to your moving vehicle. 

Fortunately, there are several ways to do it safely.

The Furniture Dolly

At first glance, a furniture dolly is not very impressive. It’s just a rectangle on wheels. Barely six inches tall. No handles. No straps. Most likely made of wood and sporting a curious inability to roll straight when given a push.

But don’t let its modest appearance fool you. A furniture dolly can help you move just about anything you can put on it, making it your best back-saving friend when it comes time to move.

Is It Safe to Put Furniture on a Furniture Dolly?

You bet! A good quality furniture dolly can handle upwards of a thousand pounds – more than most people need, and certainly, more than most people can lift. (No matter how many friends they’ve gotten to come help.) Even a less-expensive dolly can handle a few hundred pounds. Just be sure to check the specs before you bring it home and put it to work.

Can a Furniture Dolly Move Tall Things Like Bookcases or Long Sofas?

The simplicity of a furniture dolly makes it versatile enough for items of just about every shape and size, and is great for hauling stacks of boxes too! Long chest of drawers? Tall china hutch? Bulky, heavy armoire? That little 4-wheeler (as many movers call it) can handle it all and then some, allowing you to move your stuff over long distances with minimal effort and strain.

How Much Is a Furniture Dolly?

Want one to own? A furniture dolly usually costs somewhere between $20-40, varying slightly depending on how many hundreds of pounds they can hold. (Usually starting around 800 pounds.)

Just need to rent one? If you’re renting a moving truck, often times rental truck companies offer furniture dollies for about $7.

Department stores like Home Depot tend to have them for around the same $7-10 mark. Or if you’re hiring movers, they usually provide tools such as furniture dollies free of charge that they themselves use to move your stuff.

Is a Furniture Dolly Easy to Use?

It’s totally safe and simple to utilize … but only if you know how to use it. Make sense? Cool! Here’s how to use a furniture dolly.

The Basics of How to Load 

Putting a piece of furniture on a furniture dolly is just that: putting it on. Carefully lift a piece of furniture up and place it to where the furniture dolly is located on the center-most flat surface of the furniture. 

But it’s more complicated than just that.

Sure, some items can sit on a dolly the same way they sit on the floor. As long as there’s a flat bottom surface that can support the weight of the item there’s no need to lower it onto its side or tip it onto its back or turn it completely on its head.

But other times, you’ll need to load the furniture a different way. Here are the most important things to know.

  • Map out your exit route to where you are loading it. This is a major mistake waiting to happen. If you aren’t going to be able to angle that long dresser into a hallway, there’s no sense in sitting it horizontally. Likewise, if your armoire just barely clears the top of the doorway, you probably won’t get it through on a dolly. 
  • Safely figure out which side of that piece of furniture you’ll put downside. This is what the pros follow: sit tall items like bookcases and armoires on their sides, and long items like dressers upside down. If it has legs or a hollow underside, it won’t rest properly sitting upright. Yes, you’ll have to turn it sideways or even upside down. And before you lay it on its back, understand that the back sides of many pieces of furniture are not fashioned to support a tremendous amount of weight, so use your best judgment.
  • Empty out armoires and bookcases before attempting to load them. A chest of drawers can be moved without being emptied, assuming there’s nothing inside except clothing. Emptying and taking out drawers will make it noticeably lighter and more manageable, so always weigh your options. (Ha.)
  • Secure any doors and drawers that might fall or slide open. This can easily be done with large mover’s rubber bands or lengths of string that tied tightly. Some people choose to wrap their furniture with pads before moving them and this will absolutely keep those doors and drawers closed, but keep in mind that while essential, furniture pads can make it more difficult to maintain a firm hold if you have to carry it up or down a flight of stairs!

How To Load Your Long Piece On End

This is probably the most precarious way to both load and transport a piece of furniture on a dolly because, well, physics.

But like I said, in narrow spaces and tight corners it sometimes is the only way. Here we’ll go through it in a two-person scenario because we don’t encourage loading a piece like this on your own.

 

  • Position your dolly on the floor close to (but not up against) the side of your dresser (or long piece). Tell your friend to attentively stand by.
  • Lift the side of your dresser opposite your furniture dolly until the side of your furniture facing down touches the dolly. (Make sure you clear the item from the wall and any other potential obstruction!)
  • Raise your dresser onto the dolly while your friend holds the dolly in place until it’s in a vertical position, keeping a firm hold to prevent tipping or rolling awry. Don’t be afraid to lower the dresser back down, taking its weight off the dolly to let your friend adjust the dolly’s position. You absolutely want to ensure the dresser ends up sitting balanced and square on the dolly. (You may have to try a few times.)
  • We recommend two sets of hands for rolling it across the floor and down the hall. The person in front steers and watches for obstacles while the person in the back pushes (gently). Both of you need to constantly be on guard to make sure the item doesn’t begin to tip ever so slightly.

Protip: If the top of your dresser has a lip or overhang that extends beyond the surface of the side resting on your dolly, allow that lip to hang over the edge of the dolly so that dresser sits flat and vertical.

Loading Your Tall Piece on Its Side

The basics here are the same as in loading it on end, although the geometry and the dynamics make it possible to handle this type of situation on your own. (Still, we believe four hands are always better than two.)

  • Position your dolly on the floor near the face-down side of the piece.
  • Working from the same side of the piece as your dolly, pull the top of the piece toward you. Lower it slowly, eyeing your dolly and nudging it into a place where your piece will be balanced once it is resting fully on the dolly.
  • Maintain control by keeping that dolly in place with your foot. This part gets trickier the taller your piece is, so take care to keep both your piece and yourself steady. As in the previous example, your dolly may begin to kick out as the weight of your piece comes down on it, so if at all possible, have someone lend you their hands.
  • Lay flat and push! Assuming your piece is sitting square and balanced on the dolly, pushing it across the floor should be a relative piece of cake. Just take care taking those corners since those top and bottom ends are now sticking way out in front and back of the dolly.

Protip: Your furniture has legs? When tipping heavy pieces of furniture with legs, be very aware of the weight of your object. The longer and slimmer the legs, the better chance they will snap under the weight. Whenever possible, grab a friend or two to help keep the weight off those legs as you lower the piece down onto your dolly.

Loading Your Sofa

This may be the easiest situation to handle or it may be a disaster in the making. It depends on what lies under your sofa’s skin.

  • If the backside of your couch has a solid surface beneath the upholstery, all you need to do is center your dolly behind your couch and tip your couch on its back and you are rolling!
  • If your sofa has a frame that leaves a lot of hollow area under the upholstery, you may have to work quite a bit harder to get your dolly in a place where it will support that sofa without tearing through anything.
  • Hollow? A piece of plywood or another flat source of support placed on top of your dolly can compensate for what your sofa lacks. A few flattened moving boxes may lend enough support for the job, as will a couple of two-by-fours that, when laid crossways on your dolly, will support your sofa from the top edge to the bottom.

Protip: This same strategy of using plywood, cardboard or a couple of pieces of scrap lumber to create a wide, flat surface is also useful when stacking boxes on your dolly! Or when moving odd-shaped items like exercise machines and pieces of art.

Things to Watch Out For

Once you’ve rolled that dresser or sofa safely out the door, down the driveway and up to the truck, you may think that all is well. But pushing that piece of furniture up the ramp and onto the back of the truck comes with its own hazards.

  • Keep one eye on the ceiling so you don’t destroy any overhead light fixtures or smoke alarms. Also be on the lookout for anything potentially high up on the walls, like smoke alarms or fuse boxes.
  • Unless your front door (or any door) swings 180 degrees, the edge is going to be sticking out, leaving a clearance of however wide your furniture is minus one-half inch.
  • Take care not to crush your knuckles against those door jambs! (It hurts, trust me.)
  • You also need to keep an eye on the floor. A throw rug, the uneven spaces between floor tiles, even something as small and unassuming as a Lego can stop your dolly … while whatever is sitting on top of it keeps moving forward.
  • Coaxing your furniture up a ramp is not wise or easy. Any item sitting low and long can stretch beyond what the angle between the driveway and the ramp will allow, scraping up the ramp while the wheels of the dolly are still on the ground. You might do well to turn your dolly ninety degrees so you can push that piece of furniture (carefully!) sideways up the ramp. (Make sure the side with the drawers and doors is facing upward!)

 

Protip: It should be obvious that furniture dollies are not at all useful anywhere there are stairs involved. It may be tempting to be creative, but believe me, 4-wheelers and staircases do not mix. Grab a friend, or a few, and carry that piece of furniture slowly and carefully.

Does This All Seem Like a Lot of Work?

I’ve been moving furniture for decades, and trust me, some people just shouldn’t be moving their own furniture. At the end of the day, it’s hard work, and professionals are professional for a reason. With that said, if you’re going to do it yourself, you need to make sure you do all the stuff above so you don’t hurt yourself (not to mention your valuables).

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Even if you only need to get movers to move your heaviest stuff, it may be totally worth it to just check to see who is around you and what they charge to help. It may be a lot more affordable than you think.

And don’t worry, they’ll bring the furniture dolly.


Illustrations by Marlowe Dobbe

The Best Way to Unpack After Moving

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Unpacking should be the best part of the entire moving process. No, really!

You’ve already coordinated all of the logistics of renting a truck and hiring Helpers, you’ve packed everything up, moved, and unloaded your rental truck. Now all that’s left to do is go through all of your boxes and get everything in its place so you can enjoy your new home!

So why do some people still dread unpacking? Well, imagine sitting amiongst a mountain of boxes with no clue what’s inside any of them or where everything is going to go. Okay … yeah, that does sound pretty dreadful. But it doesn’t have to be that way! By planning your unpack, you can save time, money and headaches.

How to Make Unpacking Easier Before Moving Day Happens

We all know the quote, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” The most important step to a smooth unpacking experience is proper planning before your move. 

Of course, you’ll have some planning to do if you’re getting movers and renting a truck … but you still need to spend some time packing. And no, we’re not talking about randomly throwing items into boxes and calling it a day.

Here are some things you should do before moving day to make unpacking easier.

Take Photos Before You Start Packing

Before you touch anything, we want you to take out your phone and have a little home photo shoot. 

Here are things you especially need photos of:

  • Bookshelves
  • The back of your TV
  • Kitchen drawers
  • Desk area
  • Tool shed

We urge you to snap pics of the areas in your home that you love! We know all too well how long it can take to get a shelfie looking just the way you want it. By snapping some reference pics now, you’ll be able to replicate that new look in your home in no time.

Create a Number and Color-Coded System For Your Boxes

After the photo shoot, gather all of your packing supplies (boxes, paper, tape, scissors, markers … the works!) and start packing boxes like a pro.

Try to only pack up items from one to two rooms inside every box. This will make your life much easier when it’s time to unpack later.

Got a bunch of stuff on shelves? Create a numbered system to remember where everything goes. That way it’s easier to get them unpacked and into their new permanent spots.

And we can’t forget our favorite tip of all … our color-coded box systemWith this technique, you get to use our most beloved crafting tool—washi tape! Get the full instructions from this post, but the short version is that you need to separate your boxes by the room, marked with bright washi tape so your movers know exactly where to deliver them. Genius and oh so colorful!

Make it Much Easier to Unpack Essentials

There are 7 items you’ll want to have on hand for moving day, but we also think you should create a box of moving day essentials. Because imagine the night of moving day when you’re tearing open boxes trying to find pajamas, your toothbrush, and your medication for the night. Sounds like a disaster to us.

This is what should go in your “Moving Day Box” so you don’t have to tear through your moving truck:

  • A change of clothes
  • Utensils
  • Toiletries
  • Prescriptions
  • Phone charger

Be sure to label this box and keep it near you!

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Clean The 5 Most Important Things

We know you have approximately 10,000 things to do to get your rental deposit back. But trust us, now is the time to give your new place a thorough cleaning because it’s empty. You simply put items in place rather than cleaning and unpacking at the same time. Want to know the five most essential things to clean?

  • Kitchen cabinets
  • The Refrigerator (and refrigerator fan)
  • Bathtub and any tub jets
  • Outside (and Inside) the stove
  • Washing machine

If you want to know more, click here.

Unpacking Tips

You’ve done the prep work (even the cleaning, you rockstar, you!), and now moving day is here! Even if you hired help for your unload (great call), there are still things you can do to make unpacking time a little easier. 

Place Your Boxes in Rooms by Color

It may sound easier to just have your Helpers pile up all of the boxes in one spot of your new place, but unpacking will be a lot easier if you follow your color-coded box system to get each box in the correct room. If you followed our washi tape tips, you should have each door in your new place marked so the Helpers can easily drop the box in the right spot!

Protip: Get your “Moving Day Essentials Box” opened right away so you have everything you need to make it through the next day or two.

Use Washi Tape to Figure out Your Furniture Layout

As long as your movers are there, have them get your furniture in the spot where you want it! We love the idea of using painter’s tape to mark out the layout of furniture right on the floor.

Before you move (or even while your movers are bringing things in and out),  go around your place and put tape on the ground to outline your furniture. That way the movers will know exactly which wall to put your bed on and where that long dresser goes. You can always move things later on, but getting items in the correct space will make your life a lot easier in the coming days.

Unpack the Bathrooms and Bedrooms First

Moving day will be exhausting, so if you’re going to unpack anything immediately, make sure it’s your bed and bedding. Once your movers get the mattress into place, find the sheets, comforter and pillow and make your bed. If you have kids, do theirs too. Having a comfy spot to sleep at the end of the long day will feel amazing!

Unpack your bathroom boxes too. That way you’ll have all of the toiletries and medications on hand for the night and morning. A fresh shower after a long day of moving will be heavenly, trust us!

Save the Kitchen for Tomorrow

The kitchen is the most time intensive room to unpack, due to the amount of tiny and heavy items, so don’t unpack it on moving day. Your brain will be tired by the end of moving day, and you’ll want to be refreshed and recharged before you tackle this space. Save the kitchen until morning when you can make a fresh pot of coffee.

How to Stay Organized After Moving Day

You’re into your new home and you’re surrounded by all of your possessions. First, take a deep breath. You’ve made it this far! Now it’s time for the actual fun part … making your house a home.

Avoid Distractions, Don’t Unpack Games or TV

We might suggest making a playlist of music to entertain you, but we don’t think you should get your TV setup and turned on right away. You may find yourself sitting on the couch instead of unpacking if you have a TV show or movie on. So much temptation…

Another distraction? Little ones. You’ll additionally want to make a plan for your pets when you’re moving and unpacking, so they don’t get in the way. Same goes for kids. Have a plan to keep them occupied or if you can, drop them off at grandma’s house so you have uninterrupted time to unpack. It’s all about keeping the distractions to a minimum so you can devote enough hours to get your house in tip-top shape!

Unpack Only One Room at a Time

Instead of hopping from space to space, we suggest making a list of your rooms in order of importance. Then, don’t move onto another space until the one you’re on is done.

The kitchen, bedrooms and kids’ rooms should be up high on the priority list, while the guest room and garage may not need TLC right away. Also, make sure you have furniture and appliances setup before you get too carried away going through boxes. Did you clean your counters first? You’ll want to have spots to put all of the items as you whip them out of the boxes, so having dressers and cabinets ready to go is a must!

Break Down Boxes as You Go, in Real Time

As you unpack boxes, it may be easy to just throw empty ones in a big corner. But trust us, that pile will quickly get out of control and soon you won’t be able to walk around your house without an empty box tumbling down on you. Take one box and make it the designated paper box. As you unpack boxes, crumple up the paper and shove it into that box. Then, be sure to break down boxes as you unpack. You’ll want to have a utility knife on hand so you can do this quickly.

(And Don’t Unpack Everything)

There may be some boxes that don’t actually need to be unpacked. We’re looking at you, Christmas decorations. Make a large pile of items that may be heading to storage or the garage. Then be sure to get those items to that space in the coming days.

What to Do After You’re Unpacked

You’ve made it! You survived moving day and every box in your place is unpacked. You should be feeling pretty darn good about yourself right about now, but the fun isn’t over just yet. There are still a few things you can do to really get your unloading and packing done.

Make Use of Those Moving Boxes

If you will be moving again soon, then you may want to hang onto some of the boxes that are still in good condition. Organize your boxes and find a spot to neatly tuck them away. Are you thinking, “What the heck do I do with all of that cardboard?!” Don’t fret! Instead, try out some of the cardboard hacks.

If getting creative with cardboard isn’t your speed, you can recycle your moving boxes. Check out this searchable database that’ll let you know the closest place to recycle anything (including moving boxes!). Just be sure to set a deadline for yourself to get those moving boxes out of your new place, so they don’t stay piled in the garage forever.

Use These Organization Protips

We’re all guilty of just shoving random items into a cabinet or closet and calling it a day. But to really feel settled in your new home,  be intentional with what goes where.

Whenever we’re on an organization spree, we go room by room with a notepad and write down areas that need our attention. Then we’ll spend 30 minutes each night giving those spots some TLC. Those short increments of time seem much more doable than an entire day spent organizing an entire home.

Let the Decorating Begin! (In a Month)

We always say that you need to live in your home for a while in order to decorate it well. So many people quickly buy furniture and accessories for their place without ever giving each room a test run, and they end up with design regret. Yep, don’t paint the walls until you’ve spent a little time in your new place!

We promise that you’ll make much smarter decor decisions after 2-3 months.

Here’s how to get started when it’s time to begin: 

It may not seem like it, but unpacking can be the best part of the moving experience! We promise that these tips will make your unpacking experience easier and more efficient.

The sooner you unpack, the sooner you can enjoy your new life!

Lifehack: How to Pack Big Shelves So You Don’t Go Crazy

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Usually, if you have a shelving display in your home that you absolutely love, chances are it has taken you quite a long time to arrange and re-arrange the decor to get it “just right”. Now it’s time to move, you’re taking the shelves with you, but you don’t want to lose the successful setup you have worked so hard to perfect, right?

The great news is that we have a super simple moving hack that will not only help you preserve this treasured look but will also make unpacking it in your new place a breeze. Allow us to explain.

Create a Numbering System

The first thing you have to do is create a numbering system for your shelving unit. You can use any method you want and don’t need to make a fancy graphic like this, you just have to make sure you remember which shelf corresponds with what number. Some may be able to easily memorize the number system, but if you’re not confident in your ability to do that, you can always put a piece of painter’s tape on each shelf with the corresponding number so you remember. This trick will take about 1 minute and won’t damage the shelving unit at all.

Start Emptying Your Shelves

The next step is to start emptying your shelves and carefully wrapping the items to eventually add to a moving box.

But the trick of this moving hack is to take careful note of what you are removing from each shelf as you start packing each box. Carefully wrap and box the items like you would normally do, but try to keep as many of each shelf’s contents together in one box. For example, the grouping of books, the picture frame and planter in box #4 should all make their way into the same moving box.

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Pack and Label

Each of your moving boxes can hold far more than just one shelf’s contents. So feel free to add several of your shelves’ decor into one moving box, just be sure that each shelf’s decor stays together with its counterparts.

After you fill up your moving box, assess what shelf decor is inside of it. In my case, I added the decor from Shelf #4, #7 and #10 into this box so I simply noted that on the top of the moving box. This way I know that when it’s time to unpack this box and refill this shelving unit at my next house, I know exactly where to put this decor in order for it to look just like it did before! 

Repeat this packing/labeling process over and over again until your shelving unit is emptied. You should be left with a pile of moving boxes with clear labels and a precise plan on executing this look at the new house.

All you have to do in the new house is set up the shelves and simply place each item right back in the place it used to be. You don’t have to waste time trying to remember what goes where because those labels will take the guess-work right out of it, making unpacking these boxes in the new house a total breeze!

We Try out the App That Digitally Arranges Your Furniture With Just a Picture

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As DIY’ers and decorators, there’s nothing we love more than an empty room just begging to be styled and filled with beautiful pieces. But some rooms can be a little tricky. Do you put the couch over here? Or maybe you need a small table over there? It can be hard to visualize how pieces will work in a space, especially when you’re starting with a blank canvas. Plus, if you’re buying a few new pieces of furniture, it can be difficult to tell if they’ll really fit and work well in the space. No one wants to purchase a dresser only to find out that it’s actually way too big or small.

An Online Tool to Help You Arrange Furniture

Luckily, there’s a new tool out there that takes all of the guesswork out of the arranging furniture process. It’s called Modsy, and this growing service is changing the game for decorators… but also for new homeowners trying to decide on new furniture or anyone else who has a room that needs some TLC.

Techcrunch.com

Essentially, you can “try on” certain layouts in your specific space in order to visualize how it will work in that room before you move things around, or before you buy anything new. The service costs about $70 (which isn’t exactly free), but in the long run, it may help you avoid design regret (like when you buy a piece that simply doesn’t work for the room), leaving you with a space that is much more functional for your home.

Here’s how it works: You send over photos of your space, some measurements and details on both your vision and style. They then send over a professional 3D rendering with a 360-degree visualization tool.

Real Life Spaces Using Modsy

When we first heard of Modsy, we weren’t quite sold. How could it actually work? But then we saw that a few of our friends in the blogosphere used this service when working on room makeovers. We could hardly believe these photos…

Photo by Bower Power Blog; 3D Rendering of Bedroom via Modsy

Above is the 3D rendering of our friend Katie Bower’s bedroom. She used Modsy to visualize the furniture setup in her bedroom before buying all of the pieces.

Here’s what that space now looks like in real life…

Pretty crazy, right?! Here’s another one.

Photo by Chris Loves Julia; 3D Rendering of Room via Modsy

Above is the 3D rendering from Chris Loves Julia’s nursery. Below is how the actual room turned out.

Let’s Give It a Try

We’re currently working on a living room makeover for a friend, and their tricky living room layout had us questioning where exactly we should place all of the furniture in the space. So we figured this was the perfect time to give Modsy a try and find the most functional livingroom layout. Here is how the website lays out their service:

After setting up an account on our phones, we sent in photos and measurements and they then gave us a blank room to review. 

Because we weren’t totally sure on the style we wanted for the space, we had them give us two design options. One was a bit more glam and feminine, the other a bit more contemporary. This was their interpretations:

We ended up loving the second design, and realized how easily a sectional could fit in the space! We also didn’t realize we would have enough room to add a bookshelf next to the couch, and this helped us view the space in a whole new light. 

This was another rendering from a different angle. We were able to plug-in a few pieces that the homeowners already own to make sure they could continue to work in the room. 

In the end, we were left with a functional layout that we’re confident will work as we help to design this room. It actually worked! While we still have a-ways to go with their space, we are both so excited to get to work and bring this vision board to life.

You Too Can Master the Art of Arranging Furniture

As two gals who can’t seem to get enough of home design and decor, we were incredibly impressed with this visualization tool. Here are our takeaways:

Pros:

  • Surprisingly easy to use
  • Slick, modern app design
  • 3D renderings are professionally done and easy to grasp (and amazing to look at!)

Cons:

  • It ain’t cheap. $70 per rendering (and $199 to include an adviser!)
  • It takes a little over a week to get renders and operates within business hours, so plan ahead
  • Recommended furniture through Modsy store can be great, but also a bit sales-y

If you’re struggling to decorate your new home, we hope you’ll give this tool a try. Hopefully, it will help you determine the best layout for the rooms throughout your home while providing you with design inspiration that is specific to your taste. Plus, you may even gain some confidence when it comes time to buy new pieces of furniture in your space, because you can try before you buy! Happy decorating!

7 Embarrassing Lessons I Learned While Moving People

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Learning to be a good mover is not something you can get from a book. Like riding a bike, playing the piano and getting your black belt – like so many things, really – we all have to learn how to move stuff by going out to the job and getting to it.

And as with just about anything, it involves making mistakes.

This month I want to share with you seven lessons I learned during my earliest days on the job. Lessons learned both through the mistakes of others and through my own errors. They made me feel stupid and embarrassed, but nevertheless taught me things I needed to know if I wanted to stay on in this business.

#1. The nicer the furniture, the more likely you’ll damage it.

This isn’t some sort of karmic law. This is pure woodworking and physics.

The finest dressers and desks have drawers that slide out nice and smoothly – meaning you only need to tip that piece so far before gravity grabs hold of those drawers and start pulling them out and onto the floor. Quality furniture also (usually) means good, solid wood. And it’s heavy. Drawers will gain speed fast and hit the floor hard. Armoire doors, once they start to swing open, can come down so hard they put cracks in themselves; if they don’t bang against the floor, they can end up playing “irresistible force meets immovable object” with their hinges.

Yes, I’ve seen all this firsthand. A lot of it happened on a local move during my first week as a mover. I don’t know about the other guys on that crew, but that was the first and last time I let something like that happen.

Protip: Pad-wrapping items like dressers and armoires can obviously keep all those drawers and doors in place. So can a layer of shrink wrap. But if you prefer not to pad-wrap or shrink wrap those big pieces until you get them out the front door another option is using those big movers’ rubber bands, which are easy to put on, easy to adjust (by knotting up and tying off any slack) and totally economical since you can use them for years.

Extra advice: Gravity works on all kinds of furniture, not just the most expensive stuff!

#2. Sitting in the passenger seat does not mean you get to take a break from helping.

Unfortunately, one guy I worked with didn’t seem to understand this. “Watch that side,” I told him as I began backing half-blind into a slot between two other box trucks. “Aw-right,” he said, glancing lazily at the side view mirror before letting his eyes glaze back over.

I suppose it was my fault. I shouldn’t have taken it for granted that he was going to keep watching that side for me and warn me when I was about to sideswipe the truck parked on his side. Which, of course, he didn’t. And he didn’t get socked with a bill for the damage either.

Protip: This “help your driver” rule is always in effect on the road, because so are blind spots. When your driver is pulling up to the curb along a tree-lined residential street, pay attention not only to how close the tires are getting to the curb, but also how close the top of the truck might be coming to any big fat tree branches. Trust me, tree branches can do some serious damage.

#3. Don’t blindly trust a dog or its owner.

“He’s real friendly,” the customer with the mixed-breed said. “But I’ll put him out back so he doesn’t get in your way.” That seemed fair enough to all of us.

He was a quiet pup, actually, and after a while, I’d totally forgotten about him. I figure so did one of the other guys by the time he went out back to take care of the patio chairs. From the living room was where I heard the barking and the shouting, and I was walking through the kitchen when my fellow mover busted through the back door, cussing and bleeding in three places.

Protip: Quiet dogs are still dogs. With teeth.

#4. If you put things out of the way, remember where you put them.

After moving non-stop for six hours, our three-man crew was finally done with the unload. All we had to do was have the customer sign off on the inventory sheets.

“Looks like we’re missing something, fellas,” he said, showing us the lone unchecked box on his bingo sheet.

On the inventory, it just said “screw box” – which was exactly what I wanted to do. But the four of us – the crew plus the customer – spent the next half an hour looking for a screw box, not sure what one was even supposed to look like. Walking through the garage a fourth time, I looked over at the customer’s big old rolling tool chest and the sliding compartment doors at the bottom. Inside, to everyone’s relief, was a small PBO half-filled with nuts and bolts and washers and flanges and… yup. Screws.

Protip: Keep sticky notes and a marker in your pocket for anything that needs special denotation. That way, an out of the way item will be clearly visible and explained. A lot can be forgotten during a five-hour move, trust me.

#5. Pressboards can’t really be pressed.

During my first week as a mover, I was introduced to a pressboard entertainment unit in the customer’s living room. It held a big TV, stereo equipment, a VCR (this was 1996). When we got it cleared off and picked it up, it immediately started to wobble. I could feel the thing getting progressively looser as the lead guy and I eased it as best we could down the apartment building’s stairwell.

Out on the truck, the lead guy pulled out something called a ratchet strap. There I learned that when you introduce a ratchet strap to a piece of pressboard furniture, the ratchet strap will waste no time crushing that piece of pressboard furniture to pieces.

Protip: When confronted with a piece of pressboard furniture, give the customer two choices: a piece of paper called a Pressboard (Particle Board) Waiver that releases the moving company from liability for damage to a piece of furniture that shouldn’t be moved, or a piece of paper that says “FREE”. Read this discussion on MovingScam.com for more on particle/pressboard waivers.

#6. You know that the name is painted on the side of the truck, right?

One day, one of my fellow crew guys and I were asked to go help another van line agency handle a job in Manhattan. My buddy and I sat in the cramped space behind them, our knees pinned against our chests for the 90-minute ride into the city.

Granted, driving in Manhattan can suck. Driving a 26’ box truck around Manhattan is brutal. It takes patience. It takes nerves of steel. Our driver for the day had neither.

At one point there were three lanes being squeezed into two. New Yorkers generally have a grasp of the concept of merging though evidently, they don’t seem to like it. And, well, the driver let everybody on that ride know from out the window.

Protip: Most people on the road can both hear you AND read the name on the side of your truck.

#7. Shrink wrap comes in rolls, but you can’t reroll it.

“Hand me that shrink wrap, Kevin,” my buddy said from the back door of the box truck. Hands full (with what I don’t remember) I gave the shrink wrap at my feet a push with my boot and sent it rolling across the floor of the truck toward my buddy – and the boss, who had just materialized out of nowhere.

“Don’t EVER do that!” he barked in his usual intimidating way.” You know how much a roll of that stuff costs? You get one little rock in that plastic and the entire roll is shot! Where’s your head?!”

I wouldn’t say the whole entire roll would be shot. I wouldn’t say anything – not to that guy’s face. But he was right. Get even a small nick or cut or bit of debris in that plastic and it’ll drive you nuts the way it comes apart next time you try to use it. Money down the drain.

Protip: When someone asks you to hand them the shrink wrap, do just that.

Got any of your own lessons to share?

We know some of you have been around a while – long enough to have some good stories of your own about the hard lessons you’ve learned. We’d love for you to share them, so all of us can learn the easy way what you guys have learned the hard way.

Which brings me to one final tip.

Admit your mistakes. Spell them out to your team when they happen. This way you’ll be helping people avoid doing the same thing down the road.


Illustrations by Marlowe Dobbe

The Fundamentals of Buying and Selling on Craigslist

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Craigslist. We used to hear that word and automatically think of seedy transactions and random items. But we’ve since come around and now use it on a regular basis to sell stuff we no longer want, as well as to find items that are one-of-a-kind for our homes!

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A Jumbo Guide to Moving Really Big Stuff

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Do any of you guys have scars that remind you of something? Something crazy you did? Some incredible, life-affirming moment you experienced?

I do. Sort of. I have a scar on my chin that reminds me of a refrigerator, a hand truck and a set of stairs.

When it comes to moving heavy appliances, some things are not so obvious – until of course you get hit in the chin. This month we go over a few things to know before you start wrangling with that big shiny fridge.

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5 Pretty Pet Projects That Won’t Compromise Your Decor

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We know all too well how special four-legged friends are and what an important part of the family they quickly become. And because these charming creatures play such a vital role throughout our everyday lives, we usually are willing to do whatever it takes to make them feel comfortable in our homes.

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