Get a Move On: 6 Tips to Minimize Stress on Moving Day

“Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do for it,” the doctor said as I sat in my college’s Health Services office. It seemed that my toe, which had broken right alongside my pride, would simply need time to heal. I admittedly tuned the doctor out at this point, replaying the embarrassing fall on my dorm’s patio over and over in my head. Lesson learned, I thought to myself. Don’t wear flip-flops on moving day… especially when it’s raining.

Fast forward about 10 years, and I’ve learned much more about moving than just the importance of wearing appropriate footwear. Between my own moves and those of family and friends, about a dozen relocations have helped me get moving down to a science, though not without a few bumps in the road.

If you’re preparing for a big move, check out these six tips to learn from both my moving mistakes and successes.

Do a little spring cleaning

As you approach moving day, you’ll likely begin to wonder why you own all.the.things — clothes you haven’t worn in years, kitchen tools you still don’t know how to use, and boxes you never quite got around to unpacking after your last move. Take this opportunity to streamline your belongings and commit to only packing and moving items you use regularly.  

This is also a good time to get rid of things that are worn out or falling apart. Especially when you’re paying for movers, it could actually save you money to ditch things that are in a state of disrepair and replace them once you’ve settled in to your new place.

Recruit the right help

If you’re not paying for movers, having family and friends lined up to help is a key part of moving day success. Think strategically about who and how much help you recruit. Consider the size and weight of furniture and boxes you’re packing and who will be physically able to help you load your belongings into a truck.

If you have a lot of folks who want to help, assign everyone tasks in advance to keep the process moving smoothly. For instance, if you have fragile items, like a TV, that you don’t want loaded into the truck, put someone in charge of loading them into a car to move separately. Or if you have to clean your apartment before you leave, ask someone to vacuum or sweep up behind the moving crew.

Get more supplies than you need

While I’m usually big on being a minimalist, it’s just not worth it to skimp on packing supplies. No matter how organized you are, there will be things you can’t pack until the night before, or morning of, the move — the dishes you use day-to-day, your bed sheets and toiletries, etc. The last thing you want when you’re inevitably packing at the last minute is to add an unplanned run to the store. Grab a few extra boxes and rolls of tape when you first purchase your packing supplies to make your life easier in the long run.

If you’re looking to save a few dollars, you can likely find extra boxes for free. For instance, most liquor stores will give them to you if you ask, and people who have recently moved may put out a curb alert when they’re done with theirs. When you’re finished moving, you can likewise pay it forward to someone else.

Be packed before the big day

This seems obvious, but over the past few years, I’ve walked into at least three friends’ homes prepared to simply help load boxes onto a truck and ended up face-to-face with full kitchen cabinets, pictures still hanging on walls, and piles of “last minute” items waiting to be packed. This not only kept us from loading the truck quickly (which, if you’re paying movers, can cost you), but also frustrated those of us who showed up to help.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by getting everything done, ask for help packing before the big day. If you’re stressed about cleaning out your belongings, it can be beneficial to have someone with less emotional attachment help you sort out what to bring along and what it might be time to say goodbye to. Your goal on the actual moving day should be to have everything ready to go, off the walls, out of cabinets and closets, and in labeled and sealed containers. If there are items you’ll need until the last day, wake up early on moving day to pack them so your helpers don’t have to.

Pick the right size truck (and if you’re unsure, size up!)

Trust me when I say that one of the worst feelings on moving day is staring into a full moving truck while knowing there’s a pretty large pile of boxes still waiting to be loaded.

When I moved out of my first apartment, I was operating on a very tight budget. Unfortunately, my attempt to save money by reserving the smallest moving truck possible backfired when I had to make two trips to make everything fit. The $30 or so in intended savings quickly went out the window when I had to not only pay a per-mile fee for the unplanned distance I traveled but also gas up the truck and pay tolls twice.

Plan for more time than you think you’ll need

Any moving day, no matter how well planned, will have some delays. Someone who offered to help won’t show up, your neighbors will ask you a thousand times to move your truck, or some other unforeseen circumstance will arise. Padding in time to your moving schedule will allow you to face these hiccups with less stress and also help you fit in breaks for lunch or other pit stops on your way to your new home.

Lastly, don’t forget to factor a “Thank You!” meal into both your schedule and budget. It doesn’t have to be fancy — a simple beer and pizza run is customary — but a simple gesture can let all of your helpers know you didn’t take their time or effort for granted.

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