20 Moving Tips and Tricks

Follow these recommendations to better plan, prepare and pack up for moving day.

U.S. News & World Report

20 Moving Tips and Tricks

Homosexual couple unpacking cardboard boxes and moving in a new home
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Make moving easy.

For most people, moving happens because it must, whether it’s to a larger home for a growing family, a cross-country relocation for work or to downsize in retirement. Even when you’re excited about your new destination, be it in the same city or across the country, moving day will always be a little stressful. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make moving a little easier. Here are 20 quick tips and tricks for making your move to a new home a success.

Young Asian family with daughter holds carton and walking in to a new home in moving relocation day which Excited smiling and felling happy. Mother Father and daughter move on a new home concept.
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(Getty Images)

Learn your new address.

You’ll need to provide your new address to movers, utility companies, the U.S. Postal Service, your employer and any family or friends who will want to send you cards and packages. Memorize your new address, including the apartment number and ZIP code, to make every step as smooth as possible. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself having to call back with the information or delaying online registrations.

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Make moving easy.

For most people, moving happens because it must, whether it’s to a larger home for a growing family, a cross-country relocation for work or to downsize in retirement. Even when you’re excited about your new destination, be it in the same city or across the country, moving day will always be a little stressful. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make moving a little easier. Here are 20 quick tips and tricks for making your move to a new home a success.

Learn your new address.

You’ll need to provide your new address to movers, utility companies, the U.S. Postal Service, your employer and any family or friends who will want to send you cards and packages. Memorize your new address, including the apartment number and ZIP code, to make every step as smooth as possible. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself having to call back with the information or delaying online registrations.

Give movers plenty of notice.

A last-minute call to professional movers can mean a high price tag or unavailability because the mover is already booked. “It is a good rule of thumb to contact your mover at least four to eight weeks in advance of your ideal move date. However, if you're moving to another country or across the country, you should always give yourself and the movers more time,” Mary Beth Johnson, vice president of marketing at Atlas Van Lines and Avail Move Management, wrote in an email. “For international moves specifically, we ask that you contact us at least 90 days in advance of your target move date.”

Inquire with more than one moving company.

As you would when hiring a contractor to renovate your home, reach out to at least three moving companies for a price quote and to inquire about availability, insurance coverage and other key details affecting your move. While a lower price is ideal, make sure you’re hiring a company you trust and are confident will move your belongings carefully. The American Moving and Storage Association has a list of certified movers on its website to help consumers find reliable companies. “It is important for consumers to know who they’re dealing with before they plan their move. After all, you’re trusting your mover to safely handle and transport everything you own,” John Becker, interim president and CEO of AMSA, said in a press release.

Work out your moving budget.

Look at the money you currently have available for your move, factoring in any relocation stipend your employer may offer if you’re moving for work. Your budget could be extensive or next to nothing, but it will help you determine your next step. With a few thousand dollars and up, you may find professional movers who load, transport and unload your belongings to be easiest option. At a lower cost, a hybrid option may be better, with hired helpers and a U-Haul truck or storage containers. Calculate the total cost of the move with quotes from moving companies or pricing for trucks and containers available online, which tend to be based on location.

Consider moving in the off-season.

With better weather and the kids out of school, summer is the most popular time for people to move from one house to another. While this may be your ideal time to move as well, the higher demand also means movers will be busier and you can expect higher fees. “Because of that, winter is the best time to move if you are looking for cost savings or more availability on specific date options,” Johnson says. Especially if you don’t have kids, an off-season move can also mean less competition among homebuyers and renters, depending on where you live.

Set up utilities before your moving date.

Contact all utility companies a couple weeks prior to your move date to set up utility accounts, schedule a turn-on date and plan for any necessary in-person visits. Check with your real estate agent or landlord to see which services require account setups, such as gas, electric, water, trash and recycling pickup, sewer access and more. For internet, cable or home phone service, try to schedule an appointment for after moving day.

Let the Postal Service know about your move.

In addition to utilities, file a change-of-address form with the U.S. Postal Service to forward any mail you receive that’s addressed to your old home. The change of address also makes it easy to spot when you’ve forgotten to update your address with your bank or another important account because the forwarded mail has a yellow USPS sticker showing the address discrepancy. The Postal Service reports that 36 million permanent and temporary address changes were made in 2019. And from February through July 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 15.9 million people moved. Changing your address with the Postal Service can be done in person at the post office or online, and you should fill the form out even if you’re planning to quarantine with your parents for a couple months, so important mail doesn’t sit unopened.

Consider a larger company for long-distance moves.

If you’re using professionals for your move to another state or to another country, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to use a mom-and-pop moving company that operates exclusively in your current city. However, national moving companies have large-scale operations that make it easier to coordinate an interstate move, Johnson says. Some local companies may even be agents or affiliates of the larger van lines such as Atlas Van Lines, North American Van Lines and Mayflower.

Purge belongings before you pack.

Before you start packing, take the time to go through items in your closet, on your shelves or stored away in the basement or garage to decide what doesn’t need to come with you to your new home. By purging old clothes, decor and toys, you’ll cut down on the number of things you have to pack, the total cost of the move and the amount of clutter that makes it to your new home. Hold a garage sale, post items for sale or free online or donate them to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, as long as the items still have some wear left in them. Well-worn shoes and broken toys, on the other hand, should go in the trash.

Walk through moving day in advance.

As soon as you’ve booked any professional help or rented any vehicles, walk through moving day to ensure there aren’t any last-minute hiccups. If you won’t have your storage container until 11 a.m., for example, don’t ask friends or movers show up to load it before then. You’ll also want to double-check if any additional steps are needed, like reserving the loading dock in your apartment building or filing for a no-parking zone with the city for the truck to fit. “Some cities require a permit to have a container placed directly on the ground,” Sam Shoen, U-Box program manager at U-Haul, wrote in an email. “However, a U-Box container delivered via one of our specially built U-Box trailers can be legally parked in any parking space.”

Pack by room.

When you start packing your belongings for a move, keep the unpacking process in mind. Avoid disorganized piles of items throughout your new home by consciously packing one room at a time. This way, clothes in your closet can all be unpacked at once, as can your kitchen utensils and tools meant for the garage or shed. You may be tempted to take advantage of packing hacks, like using T-shirts instead of packing paper to pad dishes, but packing paper is often more compact and will make for a smoother unpacking process.

Label boxes.

Keep a marker on hand as you pack and seal boxes to note what’s inside and where the box should go once it arrives at your destination. Labeled boxes make it easier for movers to put them in the right place, and it will help you start the unpacking process. If you have more than one floor in your new home, consider adding a “first floor” or “second floor” label as well to get everything in the right spot.

Keep original boxes for fragile items.

Increase the chances that your state-of-the-art TV makes it to your destination unharmed by keeping the box it came in. The manufacturer’s packing materials are specifically designed to safely transport the exact dimensions of a TV, computer screen or similar items. A large box and molded foam may not be a convenient item to easily tuck away in a closet or the basement easily, but if you move with some frequency, keeping it in your possession will pay off. If you already threw out your original TV box, you can get boxes designed for TVs, other electronics and artwork at home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s. Use foam corners and foam sheets to pad any fragile items in the box.

Use packing paper to cut down on crushed boxes.

If you’re only filling boxes halfway to keep them from being too heavy, the extra space makes it possible for items to jostle around or for the box to be crushed under the weight of other boxes. By using crumpled packing paper or newspaper to fill the dead space in a box, the box is less likely to endure a lot of damage both inside and out. The reasoning is similar to why packing peanuts or similar space-fillers are used to ship items – they provide a loose packing material to reduce the chances of damage in transit.

Protect furniture with padded blankets.

Your dining table may seem like a stable piece of furniture that is safe from major damage, but just about anything can happen in a moving truck – especially if it’s a long-distance move. Without proper precautions, the stain or paint on a table or cabinet can be rubbed off, and deep scratches are known to damage the surface of any type of furniture. In many cases, professional movers will bring thick moving blankets to be draped over couches or wrapped around shelves to protect them, but it’s good to ask before moving day. Otherwise, these blankets can be purchased at Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware or any store that sells packing equipment.

Avoid overfilling boxes.

Whether you’re loading your trunk or professional movers are loading a truck, save everyone from pain and potential injury by keeping your boxes from getting too heavy. As you pack each box, lift it occasionally to ensure it’s still relatively easy to lift – even if that means there’s a bit of room left in the box. You can fill the rest of the box with packing paper or lightweight items. You may end up with more boxes to move, but they’ll be less of a hassle to carry.

For short-distance moves, transport small items in your car.

If you’re moving to a new home in the same city or just one city over, you can cut down on the time and cost required for professional movers by transporting many of your smaller items in your own car. Especially if you have a few days to make your move, consider making a few trips of carloads with items like books, kitchen goods, clothes, table lamps and decor so that when the moving truck arrives, the pros will only need to take care of the big furniture.

Save a day for cleaning after move-out.

Whether you’re turning the property over to your landlord or leaving a house for new owners to move in, your space is expected to be relatively clean once you’re gone. Even with regular cleaning, you’re likely to find plenty of dust bunnies and missed spots when you move furniture out of a room. By reserving a buffer day for cleaning, you can come back to the now-empty space to vacuum, sweep floors, wipe down countertops and clean the shower one last time. This extra day is crucial if you’re looking to recoup your security deposit from your landlord. If you sold the property, hiring a cleaning crew may be the best route to ensure the property is ready to change hands.

Keep irreplaceable items with you.

Family heirlooms, key identifying documents and medication are just a few of the items you shouldn’t put into a truck or storage container when you move. With anything you load onto a truck or container that a professional will move for you, there is potential for damage, and moving insurance unfortunately can’t cover items that are irreplaceable. And from a safety standpoint, Shoen explains that you should not put firearms, fireworks, propane tanks or torches in a container or truck, either.

Know the box you'll unpack first.

The last thing to go in your moving truck or storage container is what you plan to unpack first. This box may include cleaning supplies, a change of clothes, laundry detergent or even some portable speakers to make unpacking more enjoyable. For kids, the first-day box may include a few toys they may miss but can’t take in the car or on a plane. This box should be clearly labeled for the purpose of unpacking it first, and position it so it’s the first thing you grab off the truck.

Here are 20 tips and tricks for moving to your new home:

  • Learn your new address.
  • Give movers plenty of notice.
  • Inquire with more than one moving company.
  • Work out your moving budget.
  • Consider moving in the off-season.
  • Set up utilities before your moving date.
  • Let the postal service know about your move.
  • Consider a larger company for long-distance moves.
  • Purge belongings before you pack.
  • Walk through moving day in advance.
  • Pack by room.
  • Label boxes.
  • Keep original boxes for fragile items.
  • Use packing paper to cut down on crushed boxes.
  • Protect furniture with padded blankets.
  • Avoid overfilling boxes.
  • For short-distance moves, transport small items in your car.
  • Save a day for cleaning after move-out.
  • Keep irreplaceable items with you.
  • Know the box you'll unpack first.
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