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 amongst 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!

Get Help Unloading Your Rental Truck

See prices for movers by the hour—instantly.

Read real customer reviews.

Easily book your help online.

 

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!

What I Learned Moving at the End of My Second Trimester

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Moving while pregnant is an adventure! When my husband and I found out the exciting news that we were expecting a baby, our first thoughts were obviously to be beyond thrilled and extremely grateful. Can you tell?

However, soon after the initial news that we were having a precious baby boy, we discovered a house for sale in our dream neighborhood, which then immediately prompted us to put our current house on the market. The sellers of our dream house accepted our offer and within 48 hours, we also accepted an offer on our current home, which we had lived in and loved for the past five years.

All while we had planned to do nothing other than being pregnant!

This series of somewhat unexpected developments was a complete whirlwind and still has us looking at one another thinking, “Oh boy! What just happened?!” That was quickly followed by, “How are we going to do this?”

Luckily, we managed to do it all. Yep, I accomplished moving while I was pregnant.

Overwhelmed by the thought of moving while pregnant? I was too.

Baby on the way—check!

New house in our dream neighborhood—check!

Moving while pregnant … eek! 

I didn’t exactly see that coming. And I was a bit overwhelmed at the thought of tackling a move with a baby on the way. For the record, I was in my second trimester when I began planning for my move, heading rapidly towards my third trimester.

Spending the final months leading up to our first child packing, moving, unpacking, and renovating was overwhelming to me. But life happens and I had no choice but to make the best of it. And I’m here to report that I survived! I learned a lot along the way.

I turned out not to be completely useless while helping.

My biggest fear when I found out we were moving while I was pregnant was that I wouldn’t be able to help with anything! For context, I’m a “Type A” personality who enjoys being busy. A surprising source of stress? The thought of leaving my husband with our entire to-do list while I sat back and watched was extremely stressful!

But I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was far from useless during this time.

My husband and I worked out a system where he would build the boxes, I would organize, pack and label the boxes, then he would stack them all up. Packing was a total team effort, which made me feel productive and my husband was genuinely grateful for my help.

Yes, I made sure to take care of my body, take it slow and avoid lifting heavy boxes during the process, but honestly, I was fully capable of just about everything else. If you find you might be moving while pregnant, one solid teammate might be the only thing you need.

Me on moving day.

Moving day was also a stressor for me because again, I felt like I was going to be totally in the way. I’m happy to report ladies that once again, I was wrong! We opted for a Hybrid Move, which is hiring movers and renting a truck separately to save a lot of money. I was fully capable of picking up the U-Haul and driving it all day. So although I couldn’t lift heavy boxes, I absolutely was contributing in a big way by driving the truck.

I was also able to help oversee the move by organizing which boxes and furniture ended up where. It turned out that it was really helpful having one point-person that wasn’t carrying boxes, but rather solely focused on making sure everything ended up in the spot we had planned.

Plus, getting each box into the correct room was super helpful towards keeping me involved in the unpacking process. I highly recommend this point-person/direction technique, pregnant or not! I didn’t have to bring a certain box to a specific room for unpacking, which meant the boxes were already there, which made getting set up in our new house a lot more efficient!

Hiring movers ended up being necessary.

Although I felt like I contributed a lot before, during and after moving day, I don’t want to give anyone an unrealistic expectation that you’ll be able to do everything on your own, given how intense moving a home truly is. I can honestly say that hiring Helpers as a part of our Hybrid Move was the best investment we could have ever made, pregnant or not. We needed them that day and appreciated their help more than we could have ever anticipated.

Having them to do all of the heavy lifting took the responsibility off of my husband, but it also kept me from feeling bad about not being able to help him with the big stuff. Our Helpers were able to pick up all of our stuff from the old house and bring it to our new house in less than three hours!

My husband and I weren’t stressed at all, which made the process a lot more enjoyable and probably kept the baby healthier. I would definitely recommend hiring help, regardless of whether you’re pregnant or not. But if you are expecting a little one, I have firsthand experience that this is money well spent.

Leaving my old home was harder than I thought it was going to be.

Okay, I blame this part on my pregnancy a little. But in all actuality, the emotional roller coaster that came with leaving our old house will probably be the case for many of you even if you aren’t pregnant. Leaving our old house for the last time was a lot harder than I ever expected.

My husband and I bought this house when we got married and I guess I always pictured we’d someday bring our baby home here. But we were already outgrowing this 1,000 square foot house well before we got the exciting baby news.

Cue all the tears here!

I guess the baby was the excuse we needed to finally make the move. But that still didn’t make leaving this house any easier, and whatever your own circumstances are, it might not be easy for you either. The good news is that the sadness didn’t last too long because there were exciting things ahead.

Starting fresh was amazing.

Those exciting things? Starting a new journey by preparing the new house for your new family! The nesting phase is no joke and may come at the perfect time if you’re pregnant and moving, like me.

I’ve been able to get so much done in the new house because of the baby deadline that is coming closer. Sure, setting up a new house is a ton – especially while pregnant –  but I’m feeling a constant fire under me to get as much done as possible so we’re settled in before the baby arrives.

Of course, I still need to be conscious of my body’s limits, and you should be too. I’m working hard to stay busy throughout my second and now third trimester. Thanks to all that hard work, I survived moving while being pregnant and now I am so thankful we were able to get the move out of the way before the baby comes. Now I can’t wait to invite our new baby into our new home!

How Much Will Your Move Cost? Here’s How to Figure it Out

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So how much does a move cost? It all depends. Years of moving experience shows that customers typically fall into one of three categories:

  • Gazillionaire
  • Employee relocating on the company’s dime
  • Confused soul wondering aloud, “Good gosh, how much is this going to cost me?”

As you probably guessed, most of us are the third one. AMSA, the American Moving and Storage Association, tells us the average in-state move costs $1,170, while interstate moves average $5,630. But take that with a grain of salt, because the real answer lies is in the details of your specific move—from off-base estimates to logistical issues, from slower-than-syrup movers to incidental expenses, all big and small.

So how is it possible to even come close to predicting the final number so we don’t go into shock when we’re handed the bill?

Some things are out of our control, but there are definitely things you can do and look out for to make the moment we get that final bill pleasantly unsurprising.

The Baseline Cost of Moves

These are the basic questions you need to ask ahead of a move:

  • Are you getting a Full-Service moving company to handle everything?
  • Are you renting your own truck, then hiring moving labor separately?
  • Are you doing everything yourself?

These are known as the three basic ways to move: A Hybrid Move, a Full-Service Move, and a DIY Move.

How much do movers cost?

Getting a Full-Service Move? That means the movers load, unload, and drive the vehicle all on their own. The estimate? Though it will largely depend on the distance traveled and volume of the move, Full-Service Moves run north of $1,500-$2,000, on average, and sometimes can be more expensive if it’s a really big move.

Hybrid Moves, on the other hand, separate moving labor from moving vehicle. That means you hire a mover to load and/or unload your stuff, then rent the moving truck on your own, saving you a lot of money. Roughly, the cost can run anywhere between $300-$1,000 for a truck and movers, occasionally more.

What’s the cost difference between a long distance and local move?

Local or state move? You’re looking at roughly anywhere between $100 to $300 for the moving truck, depending on the size needed and after accounting for mileage and insurance fees.

Moving long distance? Like, across the country? This will likely cost around $1,000 after gas and fees, plus potentially lodging and food.

As for local movers, prices vary dramatically based on scheduling and location. Moving during a busy summer is just going to cost more than during the dead of winter. Movers’ hourly rates also vary, depending on the size and distance of your move.

Here are some generalized queries on price ranges for “2 Helpers for 2 hours”, taken straight from HireAHelper.com:

  • Boston, Massachusetts: $250-$350
  • Austin, Texas: $200-$300
  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana.: $300-$400
  • Los Angeles, California: $250-$400

Of course, some movers do charge more, or sometimes less. Check out our movers’ reviews, give a few of them a call, get some estimates, and then go with who you feel best about.

You might love our:

Moving Cost Calculator

If the quote from your movers felt expensive …
Make sure it lines up with the costs reported by other Americans.

Finally, there’s the DIY Move, which hides plenty of hidden costs, such as:

  • Gasoline
  • Power tools
  • Moving supplies
  • Pizza and beer
  • Heavy stress

Not to mention what it does to close friendships and schedules. You can get away with casually moving a bedroom with some friends, but let’s just say that in the past, I wish I had spent a couple hundred bucks to have had total peace of mind for those really stressful moves. As a mover, I recognize I am biased, but I am also just a person who has moved many, many times—just like you.

Why do random internet searches for movers cost more?

Moving estimations are rarely conservative. That’s because it’s dreadful to be ill-equipped and strapped for time, versus the other way around.

No matter which one you choose, having someone come out and do a thorough visual of your place and all your belongings can be an extra useful way to get the most reliable estimate of how much your move will cost, as it’s an estimate based on time needed.

Getting an estimate over the phone? That’s cool, but keep these two things in mind:

First, if someone can’t see all the things you want moved, no matter how pure their intentions, it is ultimately a guesstimate.

Why should I avoid “move brokers”?

Secondly, unfortunately, it’s a very real possibility that the “moving company” you quickly searched for on the internet is actually just a move broker.

That’s another term for a middleman who will assure you that they can give you an accurate quote – which will sound too good to be true – then sell your move to the highest bidder. That person will then come out (most likely in a rental truck) and load up your stuff … before telling you that your final bill will be a lot higher than you were originally told.

It happens every single day. Don’t let it happen to you.

That’s why after 20 plus years of experience moving people, I write for HireAHelper, a moving labor marketplace. All the movers are real movers with real reviews, which means absolutely zero of them are move brokers. Everyone here is the real deal.

Get a Quote

See prices for local moving labor. Read real customer reviews. Easily book your help online.

Still, marketplace or not, keep in mind that the more stuff you have, the more important it is to get an in-person estimate so your movers can give you a good idea of how many people you’ll need for how many hours.

Extra, Hidden Mover Costs

How much stuff you have isn’t the only thing that determines the cost of your move. Here are some other important factors that some moving companies take into consideration when giving quotes:

  • If the path from your door to the truck involves stairs or an elevator
  • If the distance from your door to where the truck will be parked is particularly long (meaning 75 feet or more)
  • If your movers can’t get their tractor-trailer anywhere near your place and they have to use a smaller truck to shuttle your stuff from your driveway to the big rig
  • If you have any (or a lot of) heavy, bulky or unusual items, like pool tables or gun safes

All or some combination of these will likely bring your quote up. This is another reason an in-person estimate is important. But if you do find yourself having to give movers a run-down of your stuff over the phone, be sure to let them know the lay of the land so no one ends up surprised. Also, don’t forget to potentially tip your movers.

Total: 

Local Hybrid Move: ~$350+

Local Full-Service Move: ~$700+

Long Distance Hybrid Move: ~$1,300+

Long Distance Full Service Move: ~$2,000+

Optional, Accidental and Potentially Hefty Costs

There are some potentially optional costs that can add up quickly.

Packing Costs

Doing your own packing? Be aware that boxes can get expensivea couple of bucks a pop on average.

Meanwhile, packing paper goes for around $30 per 25-pound bundle, and box tape runs at minimum a dollar per roll.

Thinking of using bubble wrap? Plan on dropping anywhere from $20-$50 a shot.

You’ll save some cash by doing your own packing, but your packing supplies can run you a couple hundred bucks, at least.

Total:

Moving boxes: ~$0-25

Packing supplies: ~$35-75

Packing help: ~$75-100

Rental Trucks

Renting a truck? You may find one for $20 or $30 or $50 a day, but gas, tolls, equipment rental, liability insurance, mileage charges and any fees included in the fine print of your rental agreement add up fast. Plus, obviously, the bigger the truck you need, the more it’ll cost. Not to mention, some days are busier than others (e.g., holidays, weekends, etc.), and you’ll get charged more for a last second rental. (Read this rental truck guide for more info.)

If you are moving long-distance, you also need to factor in food and lodging. And by the way, if you’re driving that truck, how are you going to get your car to your new home? All of this basically means one thing: get a quote on a moving truck early

Total: 

Local (or daily) moving truck: ~$75-300+

Long distance moving truck: ~$1,000-5,000+

How much does insurance cost?

Planning on getting your stuff insured? Full-service moving companies offer free basic coverage against loss or damage, equaling 60 cents per pound for any lost or damaged item. If you are okay with getting fifteen bucks in return for your newly-smashed flat screen TV, then this is the plan for you. That’s called valuation, not insurance.

If you want to be actually insured, you’ll want to consider paying for coverage that actually means something—which will cost you a percentage of what your stuff is worth in total.

 

What Moving Insurance Actually Does

(And why it might not help you!)

Total:

Insurance cost is completely relative to the item you insure (as well as how far you take it). Taken from MovingInsurance.com FAQ:

The cost of the insurance, or premium, is based on a proportional rate, relevant to the declared value of your shipment and the level of deductible you have chosen, and includes an administrative fee. Rates vary depending on your insurance type as well as based on your household goods’ final destination, whether be locally, out of state or internationally.

Storage and Lodging

And if your new home isn’t ready when you are? This unfortunate possibility comes with having to shell out more cash for the extra time your stuff has to sit on the moving truck, the extra time you have to hold onto your rental truck, or the storage space you have to rent until your home is finally ready for you. You might not include such expenses in your moving budget, but be aware of the potential for things to go wrong. There’s even the hotel cost if you’re moving for more than a day.

And what if you don’t get your life all packed up on time? You’ll have to hire packers last-minute. Obviously, this situation is entirely avoidable. All you have to do is make a careful and calculated estimate as to how long it will take you to pack everything. Then whatever time frame you come up with, multiply by two and a half. (Seriously.)

Total: 

Storage container costs depend on their size and distance driven. Taken from Moving101:

You can move locally or long distance, but moving containers are more affordably suited to local moves of small houses or apartments…mostly because you need to rent out more than one container for larger homes, which raises the fee. And the costs associated with the company driving the container long distance (read: paying the driver, fuel, insurance, etc.) all pile onto your bill, but then again, you’re not driving that massive truck 2,000 miles in 110-degree heat. Tradeoffs. Prices range from just under $500 for a local move (with the largest container) to more than $5,000 for a long-distance move (with two of the largest containers).

Incidental Costs

After moving people day in and day out for decades, I’ve heard everything under the sun when it comes to random moving costs the customers weren’t expecting. But the thing is, they almost are never random, just unexpected. The list of sometimes surprising incidental costs include:

  • Restocking your pantry/kitchen, and replacing items you got rid of
  • Paying deposits on utilities, cable, and public services at your new home
  • Sucking up any cancellation fees or broken contract penalties for things like cable, phone and health club membership
  • Repairing damage in your old home – or losing your security deposit if you don’t
  • Changing your driver’s license and car registration
  • Running a credit check to pass along to your new landlord and new utility companies
  • Picking up all the little things you need for your new home: light bulbs, shower curtain, shades/curtains for the windows, cleaning supplies because you used up and wore out everything cleaning your old place so you could get at least some of your security deposit back
  • Getting socked with penalties for being late paying bills because your mail didn’t get forwarded promptly, or you missed a bill altogether

Apartment Costs

Also, are you renting a new apartment? Obviously, don’t forget you have a security deposit as well as first and last months’ rent to shell out. Those can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to the value of the entire month’s rent. Buying a new home? That’s another topic altogether, but with that comes closing costs, realtor fees, appraisal costs, inspection fees, attorney fees and more. Yay!

Long-term Costs

There’s another part to this incidental list, which includes moving costs that are repeating or more long-term in nature.

  • Does parking cost where you live, and how much?
  • What are the average car and health insurance rates in your new state?
  • With your new home will you be subjected to building maintenance fees? Property fees? Homeowners’ association fees? Do you have to buy special trash and recycling bins?

That’s a lot of stuff to take into account, huh?

Figuring out what your own move will cost is all about specifics, not averages. So get that in-person estimate (more than one, if you are able). Use a moving cost calculator. Find a deal on a reliable rental truck (and remember to read the fine print). Check out rates for coverage against damage. Keep an eye on all those incidental charges and keep a list of things you’ll need at your new place.

And please, leave yourself plenty of time to pack!


Illustrations by Vicki Tsai

The Moving Checklist: Everything You Need to Know to Move

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The moment you know for sure that you’re about to move, life seems to turn on its head.

You instantly have a million questions on what to do next, but often feel like you have no place to turn for those important answers. That’s where we come in! This moving checklist will ensure that you get all of the essentials done so you stay on track for a stress-free move.

Create a Timeline to Tackle Your Move Using Our Moving Checklist

Moving is a process. It shouldn’t (and can’t) happen overnight. Our checklist provides a detailed and resourceful step-by-step guide as you start your journey to a new place, big or small. What should you be doing now? What should you be doing the month, week, or even day of the move? Heck, is there anything extra to do after the move, besides unpacking? We’re here to answer all of those questions for you!

Table of Contents

6 Weeks Before the Big Move

4 Weeks Before the Big Move

3 Weeks Before the Big Move

1 Week Before the Big Move

A Successful Moving Day

Following Up After the Big Move

6 Weeks Before the Big Move

Moving Checklist: 6 Weeks Out

What are my moving options?

Before you begin this moving checklist, we highly suggest you read this Moving 101 guide to get all of the details on your moving options. Essentially, moves fall into one of these three categories:

  • Do-It-Yourself Move: You rent the truck (or find a friend’s truck), load it up, then drive it all to the next location by yourself or with friends.
  • The Hybrid Move: You hire help to load and/or unload the truck, you drive and rent the truck.
  • Full-Service Move: You can relax while the movers take care of loading and driving. The movers you choose will depend on a number of factors, including budget and timeline.

Moving101 has charts and up-to-the-day costs to help you find the right move for your situation. Plus, you can use the Moving Cost Calculator to get your budget in order from the very start.

Start thinking about reserving movers and a truck now.

If you are renting a truck for your move, make sure to compare your options. U-Haul isn’t the only option anymore. Budget and Penske are just two of the rental truck competitors that have their own fleets available all over the country.

You don’t have to worry about booking movers just yet … actually, you have until about three weeks before the move to do it. And if you’re just booking move helpers from HireAHelper, you also have plenty of time to secure them and don’t have to do that until about two weeks before the move.

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However, if you are booking a Full-Service Move, complete with movers, a truck and even a container, then booking now will keep you right on track and is most likely to ensure the things you need on moving day are available and reserved just for you!

Consider renting a container for your things.

Container moves are a perfect way to move in some situations, especially ones where your new property is not ready yet. This container guide lays out the pros and cons to help answer whether or not a container move is a good fit for you. Did you know most moving companies will store your container for one month for free? Yes, this guide has the scoop to help you decide what’s the best plan for your situation.

Get rid of the stuff you don’t need now before you think about packing.

Purging before a move is a great idea for a number of reasons. Not only will you have less to pack up and move, but you’ll also have less to unpack and organize in your new place. The easiest way to slowly purge is to keep a small box or bag in every room of your house (especially in the closets). Items you find that are broken, missing or just never used should be added to these boxes and eventually donated or thrown away. You can also have a garage sale or sell your old items online, which will help you make some last-minute cash right before your move. For items you end up donating, be sure to save the documentation from the donation center so you can use it as a tax write-off at the end of the year.

What exactly can I do with my old stuff?

When it’s time to finally sort through the items in those donation boxes, here is a list of items you can donate to particular spots in your city. And if you have any random items to get rid of (a mattress, outdated appliances), we’ve got you covered too. Read up at those links!

4 Weeks Before the Big Move

Moving Checklist: 4 Weeks Out

Start notifying businesses about your upcoming move.

Four weeks before your move is a good time to start notifying the necessary people or companies about your relocation. These parties include:

  • Utility companies
  • Local schools
  • Homeowner’s insurance company
  • Current landlord
  • Bank/credit card companies
  • Government agencies
  • Anywhere you hold subscriptions
  • Anyone else who may be sending you important documents over the next few months

Not only do you want to notify them of your move, but of course you will need to give them your new address to them if you will still be using their services. When it comes time to change your mailing address, this step-by-step guide was extremely helpful for us.

Start collecting moving boxes now.

No moving checklist is complete without helping you figure out what kind of moving boxes you want. And there are plenty of ways to get them on the cheap … or even FREE if you do a little research. This checklist outlines all of the places you can score free boxes, and here’s a list of places you can try to at least get a deal on the ones you do purchase. But always remember that wherever and however you get your boxes, be sure they are clean and in good shape. No matter how cheap they are, there’s no value in getting your stuff dirty or crushed.

Since you still have plenty of time before the move, you don’t need to be frantically throwing items into boxes. Four weeks is plenty of time to start packing your stuff with an organized game plan. Will you pack items from one room together? Will you pack items of the same size together? Whatever method works for you is great, just be sure you are labeling your boxes as clearly and as detailed as possible so the unpacking process is even easier! If you’re not sure what labeling system is best for you, we really love this trick because it makes moving day efficient.

Purchase furniture to be built or delivered. 

Buying furniture now is a great idea so it can be ordered and delivered to your new home just as you’re about ready to set things up. Instead of lugging over that king-sized bed or oversized buffet, sell those items on Craigslist and look for new items that will fit. If they’re back-ordered or will take time to ship, that’s perfect because you still have a month to go!

Remember: if you have them shipped to your new address, you won’t have to worry about moving them. For items you end up buying on Craigslist, be sure to set up the pickup date on your moving day so that you can utilize the truck you have already rented! You can use this same trick at stores like IKEA. You can do all of your shopping and arrange to pick up these large pieces on your moving day so you can get the most bang for your buck for your moving truck rental.

3 Weeks Before the Big Move

If you decided to rent a truck, figure out which one and how big it needs to be about now.

Now that we’re three weeks out, it’s time to book your truck. The kind of truck you rent will be different for each move, but it will mostly depend on how much stuff you’re moving from point A to point B. You may want to shop around to find the best deal and see which day will be the least expensive. This post guides you through all of these important truck rental factors.

Okay, who exactly should I hire to move my stuff?

That’s the easiest question on this list! Just check out HireAHelper for all of your heavy lifting needs. You can find local movers to help you on moving day so you won’t have to lift a finger. It’s suggested that you book your Helpers about 2-3 weeks in advance, so now is the time to get this checked off your to-do list.

It’s (officially) time to start packing.

It’s finally time to start packing up. And since you already figured out where to get boxes on the cheap, you can go ahead and pick up all of your moving supplies. Don’t forget to consult this post for a list of all of the supplies you will need for packing (plus tips to pack them up efficiently).

Make sure you know what you’re not allowed to transport on moving trucks.

Yep, you can’t bring it all! Here’s an entire list of things you should keep off the truck come moving day. Be sure to have a game plan to get these items to your new place.

How do I pack strange objects?

Moving Checklist: 3 Weeks Out

Let’s face it, not everything you own is going to fit nicely into a cardboard box. But we’ve got you covered with step-by-step instructions to pack up even the most unusual objects, such as these: 

1 Week Before the Big Move

What else should I pick up at the store?

Call us crazy, but we think a fanny pack may be the best thing to wear come moving day … and here’s why! Now’s the time to find a sweet one so you’re all prepped and ready.

Also, consult this list so you have the seven items you absolutely need for moving day.

Do the mandatory cleanups of your old place.

It’s always nice to leave your old property in good shape for the new homeowners, but for renters, it’s imperative to do a few things before you leave in order to increase the chances of getting your security deposit back. After your place is emptied, make sure to patch and paint any holes in the walls so you don’t get charged for this simple repair. If there is anything else your landlord requires (like getting the carpets professionally cleaned), be sure to coordinate this before you head out.

Prioritize the right cleanups for your new place.

Cleaning is the next big one on our moving checklist. If you can get into your new house, we highly suggest you head over there before you actually move everything in to give the space a good, deep clean. Here are five areas that need some TLC right away. You can also setup time for a locksmith to come over to your new place to re-key the locks shortly after your move.

A Successful Moving Day

Moving Checklist: Moving Day

Be fully prepped with all the right stuff.

  • Put on your handy dandy moving day fanny pack and make sure you have these moving day essentials all ready to go.
  • If you booked a container, it should be fully loaded before moving day … especially if you have a morning pickup for your container.
  • If you rented a truck, make sure you get to the rental place early to avoid a line. Start your day on the right foot and totally on time! Also, if you hired Helpers, make sure you allow yourself at least an hour for picking up the truck so you can get back in time. You don’t want to waste any valuable time with your hired help!
  • The best thing you can do is to have a talk with you and your moving team at the beginning of the day. Go over all of the key pieces of information so everyone is on the same page from the start. You need to be a confident leader!

If I hired movers what should I do?

Sit back, be a manager and watch them do the heavy lifting. Yes, this may feel a little awkward, but it’s what they’re there for! (Plus, for insurance reasons, you’re usually not allowed to help anyway.) Don’t be afraid to speak up if you want them to do something differently, like wrap the piece of furniture with one more pad for safety!

If I didn’t hire movers what should I do?

Get ready to hope your friends show up! Maybe do some stretches so you can avoid injury and mentally prepare yourself for being on the downside of a couch in a stairwell praying your friend holding the top doesn’t let go! At the very least, it’s going to be a long day, so stay hydrated and nimble. You’ll be extra excited to check this off the moving checklist.

Unload and label your stuff in the most efficient way.

If you used our labeling tips to make a gameplan for which room each box should be delivered, then you’ll want to label the doors in the new place based on the key. This will keep things organized and will ensure that your Helpers get the right boxes in the right rooms of your new pad.

Should I tip my movers? If so … how much?

There’s a lot of debate on whether you should tip your movers or not, and if you do tip…how much should you cough up? For more clarification, check out this post and then make your call.

Following Up After the Big Move

Moving Checklist: Hiring Movers

Get rid of or utilize all your moving boxes correctly.

Chances are you’ll have a lot of leftover boxes. Here are some ideas to make the most of all of that cardboard:

If you can keep those boxes around for your next move, your future self will thank you. But if you don’t want to repurpose or don’t have the room to save them, please, don’t forget to recycle them! Here’s a searchable database that’ll let you know the closest place to recycle anything of yours that can be reused, including those moving boxes!

Meet your neighbors online!

Nothing like starting off on the right foot with the people you’ll be living next to for quite some time. Check out this post on neighbor etiquette, download the Nextdoor app (must have!), and then muster up the courage to head next door and say, “hello.”

Unpack (efficiently). 

Of course! We’ve got industry tips to make your unpacking party more manageable and more enjoyable. (Yes, it can be fun, but make sure you don’t hurt your back!).

Can I finally relax?

Yes, it’s time to celebrate! You definitely deserve to focus on this celebration step before moving onto the few remaining steps! After your move we think it’s important to take a deep breath and celebrate in your new home. You’ve earned it!

What’s next?

Now the fun finally begins … getting settled into your new home! Consider painting the walls one of our favorite neutral colors, adding some smart home accessories, and even try tackling some of these DIY projects to transform your new home into home, sweet home. 

Two Ways to Take This Moving Checklist With You

    1. Tried and True Printer Friendly PDF – A ready-for-paper checklist. Pencil sold separately.
    2. Digital Friendly *Expanded* Version – Download/screenshot/save to your camera roll.

Illustrations by Dola Sun

HireAHelper Celebrates 10 Years With Top 10 Helpers Contest

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It seems like only yesterday that the first Hybrid Move was put into action. Now, ten years later, saving people money through our vast network of professional movers happens hundreds of times a day.

And it’s all thanks to you.

To celebrate the company’s 10-year anniversary, HireAHelper is putting on a special contest that aims to highlight the best movers in the country. After the summer season ends, all Helpers in the HireAHelper network (that’s you!) will receive a special, account-linked survey to vote on their favorite call service representatives (CSR’s) that have helped you over the phone! Keep a list of the names of your top call people handy, because they’ll be doing the same – all CSR’s will be voting on their top 10 favorite Helpers in the network based on professionalism, availability and overall effectiveness.

Both top 10 lists will be revealed at the end of the summer. But it’s not just a regular ol’ list; Prizes will be awarded to all 10 of the Helpers and CSR’s, including one grand prize!

Details will be coming soon. But consideration begins right now. With the summer season in full swing, we cannot wait to see our Helpers making this one our best year yet!

-The HireAHelper Team

Inventory Sheets Legally Keep You From Losing Your Stuff on a Move. Here’s How to Use Them

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Among the many pieces of paperwork that a full-service mover will ask you to sign is a piece of paper called a “Household Goods Descriptive Inventory”. It’s more commonly known as an Inventory Sheet, and it’s basically an itemized list of everything the movers are transporting for you, from your furniture to your boxes to every last golf club, garden tool and garbage can in the shed.

We know, you hardly have time to search for a coffee filter, let alone make a list of every single thing you own. But why is writing all that stuff down so important before the movers haul it away?

You Probably Want Your Stuff Back

On move day, before the rest of the crew starts carrying your stuff out the door, the lead person or someone else who knows the drill will be going around putting numbered stickers on everything and writing a description of each item on the corresponding numbered line on the “IS”. So if you make one, you’ll get a copy of that inventory sheet – or more likely several inventory sheets – and when your stuff is delivered you’ll check off each numbered item as it comes off the truck. Armed with your inventory sheets, you can make sure everything is there.

Here’s what happens on a move with completed paperwork.

Example #1: Your movers have emptied the truck, everything is moved in and accounted for according to the inventories. You and the mover both sign each IS as documentation that all items have been received.

Example #2: Once the movers have emptied the truck, you find that one item on your inventory sheets has not been checked off. You and your movers search high and low for the item (because you both want to find it!), but it is nowhere to be found. Near the bottom of the IS you will write very clearly which item is missing, then you and the mover both sign off on the paperwork. (Make sure to keep a copy!) This is your documentation for filing a claim for your missing item.

Inventory Sheets Also Keep Track of the Condition of Your Stuff

Nobody wants to end up with a scratched and dinged up dining room table. Likewise, your movers don’t want to be held responsible for any scratches and dings that were already in that table. A special column on the inventory sheet, where your movers can record any existing damage, serves as a safeguard for both of you.

Example #1: If your dining room table is all scratched up upon delivery, but those scratches are documented on the inventory sheet as already existing when the movers came to move you, you cannot hold your mover falsely accountable.

Example #2: If there is any discrepancy between the condition of your dining room table as recorded on the IS with the condition of that table when it gets delivered, you’ll have the legal evidence and documentation you need to get reimbursed for the damage. Describe clearly the new damage in the “Remarks/Exceptions” box, then take pictures of the damage as further proof. (These pictures can also help your moving company determine whether to repair or replace the item.)

It’s Important to Prepare Ahead of Your Move

It’s hardly practical to follow your mover around to witness every notation they make on every inventory sheet and to check every box, every piece of furniture and every loose item in your garage. Go ahead and try if you like, but I bet you’ll drive both yourself and your mover crazy.

Instead, be proactive before the move. On the day of your relocation, check your furniture, your appliances, your bookcases and your bicycle. The actual paper itself is pretty straight forward: Just plainly denote any significant scratches, gouges and dings. Then point them out to your inventory taker. Seeing how you are paying attention, they’ll be inclined to do more of the same.

On packing: If you’re doing your own packing, keep track of how many boxes you have. Number them as you label them with what is inside. Make a rough list of your boxes if you like, noting what size or kind each box is. Such a list may not amount to a legal document but you can use it to make sure your mover has the same number of boxes listed on their official inventory sheets.

Finally, familiarize yourself with a typical IS, including the most common abbreviations movers use when taking inventory:

  • PBO – a box that was packed by the owner, i.e., you
  • CP – a box that was packed by the mover, i.e., the carrier
  • MCU – Mechanical Condition Unknown, to prevent false claims by the customer that something “was working before I moved.”

For a good example, take a good look at this standard Household Goods Descriptive Inventory form:

The inventory sheet is your best (and perhaps only) friend if something gets lost or damaged. Make sure you are well-acquainted – both before and after your mover fills it out – before it’s finally time to sign off at the bottom.

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