I’ve got so many good moving tips for you. Before I go into detail again on packing things like delicate items (which you will see Friday), I thought I’d take a step back and give you a more general idea of all the things you should be thinking about when you’re planning a move. You may find some of the ideas in here repeated in some other posts, but that’s just because they’re very important ideas to my moving philosophy.
Do the Paperwork (and the Legwork).
Address changes: There’s always paperwork involved with moving, the least of which is ensuring that your new address is registered with everyone who sends you mail. The convenience of modern technology means that you can change most of your correspondence online — or better yet, take the green option to have your correspondence (bank statements, magazines, charitable organizations) sent to you electronically. Make arrangements to cancel or transfer your phone, power, water, and any other bills associated with the house. Make sure the Tax Man knows where you’re moving, and notify your school, work, hair salon, veterinarian, and any medical professionals you visit, if you know that they keep your address on file. And make sure your friends and family know where you’re going, as well. It would really be lame if one of them dropped in only to find out you didn’t live there anymore.
Asking the professionals: Many people my age move with the help of their friends, because we are broke and it’s just easier sometimes, especially for short distances. When the Pie and I moved from Ottawa to St. John’s, we booked (well in advance) a 36-foot UHaul and put everything we owned in it and drove it across the country (you can check out my photo record of that epic road trip here). This time, my sainted mother has decreed that she doesn’t like the idea of us doing that again so she’s paying for a moving company to come and take our material goods away for us. When hiring a moving company to work for you, make sure to shop around and get the best price for the service you want.
Do some research on the companies you are looking at and read the customer reviews of the same. Make sure that when getting an estimate for a move a member of the organization visits your home in person to evaluate what you have before giving you a real cost for the move. Find out if the company offers a discount for packing your own materials, and, if so, if they require you to use their company’s packing materials to do so. There may be differences in cost for insurance as well, if you pack your own things. In addition, some companies offer a discount for moves that occur in the middle of the month, as opposed to the end or the beginning of the month, so make sure to ask. Remember that the summer months are a busy time for movers so if you’re moving between May and September, make sure to book well in advance.
Legal stuff: If you’ve signed a new lease or rental agreement or just bought a new home, make sure you have gone over the documentation carefully ahead of time just to make sure that there will be no surprises waiting for you on moving day. Many rental agencies insist that tenants obtain renters’ insurance before they can get the keys to move in, so make sure to shop around to get the best rates. In practice, you may never need your renters’ insurance, but that’s the case with most insurance. We have had two sets of friends lose their apartments to fire and without insurance have been unable to recoup their losses. Something to think about.
File forwarding: If you are moving between cities, states, provinces, or countries, you’ll need to make sure that you bring with you your file history for practices you visit. This could be your lawyer, accountant, doctor, dentist, chiropractor, pharmacist — anyone who would have a case history for you. If you know where you’re going, and if you know the name of the practitioner you are switching to, you can arrange for one practice to transfer your file from one to the other. For doctors within Canada, for example, they can do this electronically. If you don’t know where you’re going, however, you might want to keep hold of those files yourself. For a fee, the practitioner can make you a copy of anything you need.
Purge, Purge, and Purge Some More.
You really don’t need it: From every move I’ve participated in, I would have to say that the major issues and mishaps that occur are entirely related to that vague and yet oh-so-appropriate term, STUFF. I can’t stress this enough: you really don’t need all the “stuff” that you have, and you especially don’t need it when you’re about to pack it up and move it somewhere else.
Consider your space: If you know where you’re moving, you can get a general idea of what stuff you have will fit in the new space and what won’t. If you’re moving into a bigger space, resist the urge to keep everything in order to fill in the gaps. Stuff for stuff’s sake is never worth the hassle. If you’re moving into a smaller space, then less stuff is ideal. And if, like us, you are not sure of the space you are moving to (all of our things are going into storage for a while as we live with my parents for a couple months), then the less stuff you have, the better. The last time I helped Stef move, I packed his tiny kitchen up carefully only to discover that he owned about 97 mugs, none of which even remotely fit into his new, tinier kitchen.
Take your time: If you have advance notice of your move, take time to consider what you want to bring with you. Approach one room at a time, or one section of a room, or even a bookshelf, or just a cabinet, and sort through it, evaluating what you want to bring and what you don’t. If you do this enough in advance you can probably go through the same area again at a later date and get rid of more stuff.
My rule of thumb for stuff management: We have a rule in our household for keeping what we own to a minimum, and keeping our closets and cupboards as decluttered as possible. If you haven’t worn it, used it, or displayed it in over a year, get rid of it. It’s that simple.
If you haven’t worn that dress in a full season, chances are that it is out of style now and you don’t have any accessories to go with it anymore. Does it even still fit? Never keep anything with the idea that someday it will fit again. By the time it does you will probably not want it anymore anyway. And do you really need that many pairs of socks? Really?
Do you use that extra-large party fondue pot? Like, ever? Don’t keep stuff (unless it’s emergency survival equipment) in case of a what-if. And do you really need that many mugs? Really?
You know that picture that your great-aunt gave you that you hate, but you feel like you can’t throw it away because it was given to you by a family member? Don’t worry about it. You might as well donate it to a thrift store and maybe someone else can have it who would appreciate it more. Sure, we all have sentimental attachments to stuff. But in the end it’s just stuff. Your feelings about your great-aunt won’t change if you don’t have this picture. Because the picture doesn’t have feelings.
That’s not to say that you can’t keep things with sentimental value. We definitely have a lot of that kind of stuff on display in our house, right where we can see it every day and think about the person or event to which that object is attached. And yes, we do have things we keep for sentimental value that we don’t display, or use, or wear. But for each of us that’s limited to one medium-sized box, and we go through that box often enough to see what still pulls at our heart strings. For me, it’s do you really need that many rocks from the beach and bits of shell? Really?
Before you chuck your stuff in the garbage, however, ask yourself if there is a better place for it. Many electronics retailers will help you to recycle old televisions and DVD players. You can try to sell stuff on Craigslist or Kijiji or eBay or Amazon, and if you can’t do that, then have a yard sale. And if nobody buys it, see if any of your friends or family wants or needs it. And if they don’t want it, donate it to a thrift shop or charity flea market. Or recycle it. Or upcycle it into something else that you want or need. And if all that fails, then yes, feel free to just throw it out. Just remember that some items, like batteries, CRT televisions, and many electronics have special needs when it comes to disposal, and in many cities, you can make appointments with your garbage service to come and pick up large or hazardous items.
A Few Weeks Before Moving:
Get help: Let’s face it. You cannot do all of this yourself. Ask your friends. Ask your neighbours. Ask your family to come and help you move when the time comes. Real friends are those who will help you move. And you will help them move. And they will not complain, and neither will you. And those are the rules.
Transportation: And if those friends own station wagons or trucks, then they are really true friends and you should keep them forever. If not, if you’re over 25 in Canada you can rent a truck of your own. Very handy for moving the larger items. If you feel comfortable driving one, and you have a lot of stuff, look into renting a larger cube van, from a company like UHaul. That way you only need to make one trip (though you will need to be aware of the parking situation at your home and future home to make sure this is a feasible option).
Food: Take a look at your pantry. Are there packages of noodles and cans of peas in there that you aren’t going to use? Donate those to the local food bank and stop stocking up on extra items when you grocery shop. If you’re moving locally you can keep whatever food you want, but on a long-distance move you want to keep this stuff to a minimum, so clear out whatever you can. Start eating what’s in your freezer, too, and go through all the opened condiments in your refrigerator.
Fix it up: Living anywhere for any amount of time means a certain amount of wear and tear on the place. If it’s fixable, now is the time to do it, and doing it right will ensure that you’ll get your security/cleaning deposit back when you go. Start patching holes in your walls and touching them up with paint. If you scuffed the wall, you can scrub that off. If you changed certain features, like lighting fixtures or shower heads, make sure you return them to their original state before you move. There’s probably only so much you can do, especially if you’re in a rental, but do your best.
Pack It UP!
If you are having a moving company pack your boxes, then good for you — instead of dealing with the hassle of having to wrap up and pack everything you own, you will now just hover over their shoulders and hope they don’t break anything. Because stuff breaks. It just does. But it’s just stuff. Don’t sweat it.
The right stuff: If you’re packing on your own, make sure you have the supplies right for the job. I like to re-use boxes and so have been keeping a stash in my garage for just this purpose, but you have to make sure the boxes you are re-using are sturdy and up to the task. If you are packing fragile items, make sure the boxes are double-walled to avoid crushing.
Bubble wrap is very handy for packing electronics and delicate items, but use it sparingly, as it is expensive. Avoid foam peanuts. They tend to settle in transit, leaving empty spaces, they get everywhere when you are packing and unpacking, and many forms of them are next to impossible to dispose of.
Newsprint is a good buffer and filler between objects. Make sure to use plain newsprint on your nicer objects, as the ink from the printed stuff comes off on your fingers and can stain your stuff.
Packing tape and a tape gun are a must. Have you tried using packing tape without a tape gun? That’s an exercise in frustration. And as someone who has worked in shipping before, I have my own preferences for what works. I actually prefer the packing tape sold by Canada Post to every other kind — it’s tougher and it tears better.
Also make sure to have a few box cutters on hand to cut open the boxes you just packed when you realize you accidentally sealed your cellphone in that last carton.
Old dirt, new dirt: This is another major rule for me: I always clean off all my stuff before I move it. That means washing curtains and rugs, wiping down pictures, dusting figurines and furniture … all that stuff. You are probably already going to be cleaning your new house when you move in — even if it’s just sweeping up after the movers have left — so what’s the point in bringing old dirt with you? Nothing sucks more than pulling out something from a box you just moved to find out that before you can put it away you need to wash it first.
Exercise caution: When you have sealed a carton, especially if it’s full of fragile material, should be able to shake the box quite roughly and hear nothing shifting on the inside. Remember that your fragile stuff is going to be on the same truck as the rest of your stuff and it’s going to get bashed around quite a bit.
Labels are key: Make sure as well that each box is labeled (with a fat permanent marker) with the generalities of what’s inside and what room it’s supposed to go into at the destination location. This will make everyone’s work a lot easier. Because our stuff is going into storage when we get to Ottawa, I need to be a bit more specific with my boxes, and I’ve actually numbered each one and itemized the contents in a spreadsheet so I know exactly what’s in each one, and I can see which boxes I need to keep with me. It also means that if I’m looking for something while it’s in storage I don’t need to cut open every box to find it, because I’ll know right where it is. But that’s a little extreme for just a regular move. If you label your box “KITCHEN: UTENSILS” that will probably be sufficient.
Last in, first out: I usually have a box or bucket or crate that is filled with basic cleaning supplies, like glass cleaner, surface cleaner, a few cloths, paper towels, toilet paper, a broom and a mop, and these are things that will leave my old house last. They will be packed at the door of the moving van so that I can unpack them first. You will want to do some last minute tidying when you leave your old place and some cleaning when you get to the new place, so it’s a handy thing to have. Also you will probably use more toilet paper on moving day than you anticipate, so always carry a spare roll.
A Few Days Before Moving:
Finish that food: Go through your food stores one more time and donate, give away, or throw out everything you’re not going to eat in the next few days. You will have some stuff to chuck on moving day, but the last thing you want to be doing that day is sitting there with your fridge door open, throwing out or packing food while everyone has to dodge around you with boxes.
For your furry, feathered, and scaly friends: Make arrangements for any pets you have to spend moving day somewhere quiet and secure, like a friend’s house (or better yet, the day before and the day after as well). When my parents come to visit in early August they will be taking Gren home with them on the return flight. Moving is a stressful business for pets, what with people coming in and out constantly, things being moved around, and it would be a simple matter for a dog or cat to escape through a propped-open door while you’re distracted with something else, or for a smaller caged pet to catch a chill in the drafts during a cold-weather move. Best to just put them somewhere else where you don’t have to worry about them.
Clean some more: Most of your major cleaning should be done by now — wipe down every shelf after you pack its contents, dust the furniture as you dismantle it. Don’t move old dirt. And if you’re lucky enough to have access to your new place before moving day, take a tour around there and see what needs to be cleaned up before you get there. I’m not a huge fan of moving into someone else’s dirt, so I always want a few days to clean up before moving if I can get it.
Be organized: If you have lovely friends who are going to help you move, make sure you make it easy for them. Make sure as the time draws near that everything is packed as it should be. Dismantle all the furniture that you can without their help. Ensure all your boxes are properly labeled, and sort out all the logistics of the big day so there will be no hiccups for your friends when the time comes.
Delegate: You can’t be in both places at once. Make sure you can delegate someone who can direct movers and give reasonable instructions and answer questions when you’re not around to do so. Someone needs to be at the new place to greet the movers, to arrange for elevator service, or to let people in. And someone needs to be at the old place to do the same stuff. Moving is a team effort. With the advent of cellphones this is easier, because everyone can be in constant communication.
Food for the minions: Remember that the people who are helping you move, regardless of whether they are your friends or if you are paying them to do so, are handling all your prized possessions. So it behooves you to be very nice to them, and this includes FEEDING them. Make sure to have your fridge or cooler stocked with drinks (especially if it’s a hot day), though save the alcoholic ones for the fridge at the destination house. Put out some sandwich making materials and other snack foods. Moving is rough work and people get mighty grumpy when they’re hungry. Make sure as well, if it’s friends moving you, that you treat them to a meal and a drink afterwards, just as a thank you for their hard work.
When all is said and done: Finally the old place is empty … or is it? Have you done your due diligence when it comes to cleaning the place? Are all the surfaces wiped down and dust-free? Has the bathroom been cleaned? Make sure the toilet and bathtub are scrubbed, and remove old, stained shower curtains. Take out the garbage and sweep and mop the floors. Imagine how you would want a place to look the first time you walk in, and that’s the condition you should leave it in before you hand over the keys.
The things we leave behind: Some stuff always remains when you leave a place. It might be the appliances, or the furniture, or whatever. Before you leave it, make sure it’s clean and that it works, and make sure the manuals for any appliances are put somewhere that the new tenants can find them. I’m also leaving the future tenants at Elizabeth the remainders of the paint from when we re-did the rooms, with clear labels should they wish to buy more. And in the bathroom I like to leave a roll of toilet paper, and a bar of soap, for emergencies.
The Day After You Move:
You can never say thanks too much: Once you’ve got yourself settled in, make sure to contact your moving helpers with an official thank you, just to let them know you really appreciate what they did — even if they broke your teapot (or, in the case of Krystopf and Stef, put one of my statues through a wall). If you’d been on your own, you probably would have broken a lot more stuff.
We’re going with Allied Van Lines this time around. We’ve dealt with them before and they offer very professional and efficient service. They also have their own checklists and timelines that you might find useful, even if you go with another company or choose to go it alone. You can check out some of their tips here.