Seven Tips For Your Next Big Move

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Over the last week, my wife and I took on the challenge of moving from a small apartment to a nice family home. It turned out that we made some good moves and some bad ones during the move, and came up with some great ideas along the way that we weren’t necessarily able to implement. If you are about to move, here are seven points of advice to make that move much smoother.

Visit book stores for free packing boxes. Go to the customer service counter on Tuesdays (in the United States, at least) and ask for any spare boxes. The boxes that book stores use for book shipping are fantastic. I’ve found locally that if you’ve made a purchase in a store, you’re likely to get several times more boxes than if you just charge in and head straight for the counter; my tactic was that I would stop at the customer service desk first and ask if they had any and if they did, I’d say that I had some shopping to do and would get some before I left. I’d get an item, buy it, then return to the desk to get boxes, holding my shopping bag so that the people could see it.

Visit convenience stores for free packing material. Newspapers are wonderful packing material for cheap things. We hit up convenience stores on Monday mornings and got many copies of the local Sunday paper. Some clerks will just let you have them; others will make you wait for the paper delivery truck to come around (they take the old newspapers). Almost always, if you’re there when the paper delivery truck is there, you can get a ton of old papers, as it is less for the company to deal with.

Label your boxes – the more detail, the better. We wrote a target room on the top, along with a few words summarizing what was inside. The few seconds it took to do this for each box we packed was well worth the time when we moved in – we just put stuff in the target room and was ready to go.

Unless you have tons of help or are highly organized, get a moving service. Even if you do all the packing yourself, their efficiency can be utterly incredible. We packed all of our own materials, so our moving service just carried the boxes to the new house. It still took seven hours, but I estimated it would have taken me twenty or so by myself (my wife is pregnant and can’t help) and somewhat less with friends, but still not anywhere near that efficient.

Keep a “vital stuff” box. Put items in it that you’ll need to find quickly at the house, like prescription medication and highly important personal materials, and keep track of it yourself. My wife accidentally packed some prescription medication into the bottom of an unexpected box that morning and we wound up burning two hours just searching for the medication.

Invite family and friends over a couple of days after you move. We actually found that an invasion of family and friends after the move helped us a ton. They moved furniture into appropriate places, cleared out tons of empty boxes, put stuff in appropriate rooms, assembled a desk, and so on. We went from feeling like there was a ton left to do to feeling moved in in just a few hours.

Follow that day with a party in the evening. We had a nice little party out on our deck where we drank some champagne and beer, sat around, and shot the breeze for hours. It was a great end to the move and helped two tired people break in their house a little with love and friendship.

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22 thoughts on “Seven Tips For Your Next Big Move

  1. These are great tips, in all the moves I’ve done, we never were very detailed in labeling, although we are just as efficient as a moving service :)

  2. Pick one room or section of a room to not have moving boxes in it, both in the old place and in the new place, a room where you can take a break and not feel surrounded by insanity. I see this as analogous to the “vital stuff” box and found it useful at other times when my apartment was more than I could handle (while sick, during the worst end-of-semester crunches, etc.).

    Boxes of uniform size are great. I have liked copy paper boxes and the boxes that catalogue envelopes come in.

  3. Another cleaner option for packing materials is to contact your local newspaper about newsprint roll ends. Ever see those huge rolls of paper they feed into the printing presses? Turns out that they do not empty the entire roll and many newspapers give away the excess or sell it for a nominal charge. $1 at the printing facility bought me enough paper to pack my entire house for my last three moves. The added bonus is that since the paper had never been printed on my hands and possessions were smudge free.

    Off the subject of moving – these roll ends are also great for kids drawing and painting.

  4. In addition to marking the target room and box contents on each box top, mark it on all four sides, so that when the boxes are stacked you can still see where they belong and what is in them.

  5. I’d add: Take pictures of EVERYTHING.
    On a move across the country with the family, we had our moving van stolen right from the front of the old house. Of course, was taken after pretty much everything had been loaded. One of the movers left the keys in the ignition. Was a serious pain doing the insurance paperwork and pictures would of helped a lot. Don’t just take pics of expensive stuff, take pictures of EVERYTHING.

  6. Liquor stores are also a good source of free boxes. Sometimes they even come with bottle-divider inserts that work well for moving glasses and cups.

  7. Oh one other thing:

    Tip your movers. They have an extremely hard job and usually get paid squat. Most of your service charge is spent on van maintenance and insurance, while the actual movers will be making less than $8/hr. Tips are very appreciated.

    If you tip a little up front and mention that there’s more where that came from I guarantee they’ll do the job better, faster, and with more respect for your property.

    How much should you tip? I’d say $10-20 for each guy on the crew, depending on the size of the job. Providing water and/or cold drinks is a good idea too, as long as they’re working and not wasting a lot of time.

    It may make sense to take doors off of hinges for a move, if you think some items might be a tight squeeze. Most movers will come with the tools to do this, as well as some padding to put around the door frame to avoid scrapes.

  8. When my brother and his wife and kid moved out of their apartment into their current house, for organization, he used balloons and colored tape. Each room was assigned a color, and each box was labeled according to which room it went into: blue balloons were in his office, so every box with office supplies got blue tape, pink in the den, etc. It was easy for all of us to find the appropriate place for all their stuff.

  9. I also just moved. I got my free boxes from other people that have moved. They usually post free boxes on craigslist.com or other local free advertising.

  10. Hi Trent, I’d love to know how your son has handled the move? Is he settling in well? Cheers Cheryl

  11. Why Tuesdays? Just wondering where you got this idea from.

    I worked in a bookstore, and believe me, we took delivery of books every day that any company would bring them to us. I doubt you’d have to even be a paying customer. Just being civil would probably get you all the cardboard boxes you could ever imagine using, just for the asking. Bookstores have to pay someone to take that stuff away. There’s no reason at all they wouldn’t be happy to part with some or all of it.

  12. Another source of boxes: a candle store. Candles are heavy, so the boxes are sturdy, like book boxes, and they also smell wonderful!

  13. Moving is also a great time to evaluate what you have, it’s better to reduce the clutter BEFORE filling those boxes. That will reduce the time and the money you spend on this project.

  14. @ryan (and everyone, i guess)

    i worked at a newspaper and we’d use the roll ends from our press in the bathrooms instead of paper towels. the paper is actually really absorbent. and it would be tossed regardless, so it was a good solution.

    if you’re not wanting a giant roll of paper hanging in your master bath, they are also useful in a garage, shop or art studio.

  15. This is a great list…great ideas! I especially like the idea of asking friends/family to come AFTER the move. That would definitely help to reduce the feeling of the “crazy house”, having people help you to organize everything. Keep up the great work!

  16. I would like to second the suggestion for Liquor Store boxes. They are usually much thicker, sturdier, and able to take the wear and tear of moving. Be careful though, some neighbors might look askance at somebody new to the block who moves in with furniture and the contents of a liquor store!

  17. in Canada, budget grocery stores have boxes for you to pack groceries in but people come in and take them for moving as well.

    I move quite a bit so I try not to own much but I’m a single guy. Everything fis into a minivan. Usually if friends help me move I’ll give them some of my stuff that they may want. If its clothes it saves them money from shopping and frees up some space for me. I lend books to friends and relatives so they can read them and I can pick them up later.

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