For 30 years I’ve worked with professional movers on residential and corporate moves. Along the way I’ve picked up valuable tricks that simplify your move and reduce the price you pay. They require some good organizational skills, but anyone can use these to save money and make a move less stressful.
I handle all the details I outline here (and more!) in my full move management services package. If managing these kinds of details feels overwhelming, consider tailoring my services in move management, interior design or organizing to get exactly what you need for an anxiety-free move.
Why ‘professional’ movers? I know a guy...
If you value your belongings, go with experts. I can tell you horror stories about hiring movers who are part-time, inexperienced, super-cheap or who don’t have insurance. There is a skill to moving boxes and furniture efficiently and safely. You (and your things) benefit from that experience. Here’s how to get the most out of them:
- Efficiency saves you money
Professional movers charge per hour. If you make the move easier for them, you can cut costs.
- Free boxes are not efficient. This is a mistake people make all the time. It sounds smart: you don’t pay for boxes because you use extras from your local market for free. But here’s the problem: movers use dollies to move boxes into and out of their truck. If you have 20 differently-sized boxes, it takes more time for them to securely stack and move them. And their time is your money.
- Get boxes for nearly everything. Oddly-shaped items that are not in a uniformly-sized box create the same problem (think hampers, baskets, trash cans, lamps, TVs, small plastic containers). As does anything soft or bulky (like large plastic bags). If it doesn’t stack, you can’t use a dolly to move it, and you can’t label it easily. To be efficient, make your items as uniform, stackable and sturdy as possible. Remember to nest items - fragile things can go inside that hamper, trash bin, and container, before they go into a box, giving your delicate items extra protection.
- Use boxes that are uniform in size. Buy small, medium, large sizes and special boxes for artwork /mirrors and lamps. If you don’t have the original boxes for the TV, computer and printer, purchase double-walled boxes to protect them.
- Review your contract. Always get a contract from the moving company and read the small print. Know what’s included: fuel charge, packing materials and packing service (if requested), estimated hours, hourly rate, number of movers on your project, parking permits, addresses moving from and moving to.
- Confirm packing materials they’ll supply. Most professional movers supply plastic mattress covers for about $15 each and wardrobe boxes at no charge as long they’re returned the day of the move. Most professional movers blanket-wrap furniture and then shrink-wrap it as part of their quote.
- Know your building’s rules. If you’re moving out of or into a condo or apartment building, contact the building manager to reserve the elevator and/or moving dock. Ask them for a Rules & Regulations document, read it carefully and give a copy to your mover. Nothing’s worse than getting your items boxed up and not being able to move them in or out of the buildings.
- Plan for a truck parking permit. Check to see if you need a parking permit for the truck. The moving company may be able to do this for you. It’s very important to get the parking permit process going at least 2 weeks before your move.
- Confirm, confirm, confirm. I confirm the day and start time with movers and the building management at both ends of the move at least 3-4 times. Here’s when to call:
- The day after booking your move: is it on their schedule?
- Two weeks before the move.
- One week before the move.
- The day before the move.
- Zip Lock bags in a variety of sizes save small items from getting lost in the shuffle.
- Plastic wrap. For makeup, shampoo, lotions etc. Cover bottle openings with plastic wrap and replace the cap to reduce leakage. You can also place bottles in plastic bags.
- Camera. Take photos of how your electronics are connected so you remember how and where all the wires are go. Take photos of artwork gallery walls so you don’t have to re-create them from scratch.
- Scissors and box knives. Have more than one on hand. Brightly-colored ones are easier to find in a sea of boxes.
- King size Sharpie. My favorite are the red Sharpies for marking boxes.
- Cheap work apron. A simple apron with pockets will help you keep your sanity. It’s really frustrating continually looking for tape, pens and box knives.
- Boxes. Small, medium, large plus specialty boxes for lamps, artwork/mirrors, electronic equipment, TV.
- Packing tape. Not duct tape. Personally, I prefer the paper packing tape that’s sticky. It’s less expensive, very strong, you can write on it, it’s easy to tear and much easier to remove from the boxes when unpacking.
- Packing paper. Newsprint paper works well for most items.
- Bubble wrap. I like to have small style bubble wrap on hand for fragile items.
- Heavy duty paper pads. These thick 3-ply pads are great for wrapping pictures, photos and artwork.
- Color-coded packing tape. Be generous when using this pre-labeled tape for each room, the movers need to see it. Don’t forget the “Fragile” tape.
- Stick to a simple taping formula: Use 3 strips of tape on the bottom of a box and one strip on the top to close it up.
- Don’t leave empty space in boxes. If items jostle around they’re more likely to break.
- Don’t load large boxes with heavy items like books and LP’s. Someone has to pick them up and move them. It’s faster (which is more cost effective) for a mover to lift smaller boxes of heavy items than large boxes of heavy items.
- Save large boxes for lighter stuff. Linens, pillows and bedding. Yes, pack up the bedding currently on your beds.
- Add some cushion. Put wadded-up packing paper in the bottom of each box before adding items.
- Let soft things cushion breakables. Use towels, robes, sheets, pillows as packing material for fragile items.
- Pack lamp shades in boxes. Nest them one inside of the other and place a pillow in the hollow portion to give them more support.
- Mark boxes with “Fragile” tape … strategically. Yes, everything is fragile, but don’t overdo it or it won’t mean anything to the movers.
- Keep items that live in the same room together. Avoid mixing items from different rooms in the same box or unpacking will be much more difficult.
- Leave boxes open until you’re done packing. This way you can add a small item to a box if necessary.
- Put heavier items on the bottom. Don’t crush the fragiles!
- Pack plates vertically. There’s less likelihood of breaking.
- Label boxes by room. Use the color-coded packing tape and note on top of the box what’s inside, i.e. decor items, tools, lamp shades, office supplies, flatware, dishes.
- Create an inventory system. Especially if the boxes are going to be placed in a storage unit for weeks or months. Give each box a number and on a master list, record what’s in that box. When storing the boxes, place them in the storage unit by number so you can find the box easily.
- Color-code boxes going to different places. If boxes and furniture are going to more than one place, tag them with Super Sticky Post It Notes. Each location should have its own color and initial on the Post It for that location. For example “H”=new home, “V”=vacation home, “S”=storage unit, “J”=John’s house. No one ever remembers what the colors correspond to, so putting an initial on it reminds people what the location is. This system is extremely important for the movers.
- Create an “Open First” Box. This should have unpacking tools, plastic flatware, paper plates, some cookware, paper towels, toilet paper, trash bags, soap, first aid kit, basic toiletries, flashlight, basic tools, your child’s favorite toys/blanket, baby items, power strips, phone/computer chargers, dog & cat food/leashes/litter.
- Use your suitcases. Fill with the clothing and everyday toiletries you’ll need for the next couple of days.
- Don’t pack valuables in boxes. Never pack medications, expensive jewelry, important papers, lap tops, address planners, checkbook, camera, or keys to items you have packed i.e. luggage, grandfather keys, car keys, filing cabinets.
- Leave clothing in your dresser. Verify with your mover first, but many movers will remove the drawers and shrink wrap them so they can carry them separately from the dresser. This only goes for clothing, not office supplies or non-clothing items.
- Leave files in 2-drawer file cabinets. Again, verify with your mover first. Some movers will move 2-drawer file cabinets with the contents. No mover will do this with 3-5 drawer file cabinets.
- Don’t water plants a week or so before a move. They’re very heavy and they could create water damage to boxes.
- Dispose safely of ‘unmovables’. In order to protect your goods, most movers will not transport items that are flammable, corrosive, or explosive. These include:
- Loaded weapons, fireworks, and explosives
- Chemistry sets
- Motor oil
- Rubbing Alcohol
- Weed Killer
- Scuba Tanks
- Lighter Fluid
- Paint (non-water based)
- Poisons (Rat poison etc.)
- Cleaning solvents
- Pool Chemicals
- Perishables (such as food)
- Oxygen tanks
- Plan for things that will stay behind.
- Extra paint, flooring, carpet etc. that was matched to the old house.
- Keys, garage door openers, and security system documents and information for your old house.
- Warranties, parts, and instructions for appliances that will be staying with the old house (for example the microwave dish for a built in microwave or combinations to built in safes)
Whew! You made it. Just a few more things to do.
- Make sure the moving company that shows up at your house is the one you hired. Beware of this scam: a moving truck shows up the day before your move stating you had the wrong move date and they can only move your belongings that day. They take your items, move them to their warehouse and sell them. This will not happen if you confirm, confirm, confirm the day and start time with the moving company you hired.
- Eat a hearty breakfast and have snacks and water on hand.
- Have cookies and drinks for the movers. It’s a nice thing to do for someone who’s handling your precious belongings.
- Be on site for the move or hire a trusted professional move manager to be there to answer questions.
- Arrange for someone to take your children and/or pets. This will free you up to concentrate on the move. It’s also the kind thing to do for your child and pets.
- Clear the way. Move mats, low hanging plants / wind chimes, clear walkways.
- Conduct a walk-through with your mover on arrival. Before they move anything, walk through your home together and point out special instructions or items they need to know about.
- Conduct a walk-through with your mover before departure. This time, make sure they have everything. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Moving can be nerve wracking in the best of times but dealing with all the details can drive people crazy. I specialize in managing every aspect of a move so you have time to do the things you love instead. See more about my move management services and make use of these resources I have on my site:
- Subscribe to my newsletter for my 3 Step Process to Liberating The Things You Don’t Need or Want
- Get extra help before and after your move with my professional organizing and interior design services.
- If your move involves downsizing, see my article on How to Downsize When Your Children Don’t Want Your Stuff