Moving can be fun, but packing sucks. The luster and optimism of a new home quickly diminishes when you’re busy shoving your stuff in boxes so it doesn’t break on the way. Here are some tips to make it all easier.
Full disclosure, I’m moving right now, so consider this a dose of “physician, heal thyself,” but these are some of the tricks that have helped me so far—and some things to remember for your next move as well.
10. Get an Early Start
It’s easy to say “don’t wait until the last minute” to start packing and planning for your move, but that’s not really enough. Instead, get an early start. When I started packing for this move, it was probably well over a month in advance, and I don’t regret it one bit. Starting early gives you the freedom to move boxes around your house so they’re not in your way, take your time and pace yourself, and above all, avoid that panicked crunch the week before (or even the night before) you move where you stay up until 4am packing, knowing the movers will show up at 9am, and you have a full, long day ahead of you. Surprisingly, the video above from Buzzfeed actually has some good tips in it too. Don’t do it to yourself.
9. Get Good Boxes, for Free or Otherwise
Don’t try to move all of your prized possessions in a beat up Amazon boxes that have already been through the system once on their way to you. You don’t have to pay for boxes—there are plenty of people looking to get rid of their boxes on Craigslist and local Freecycle forums. You can score good, quality boxes from your office or from local businesses like liquor stores and bookstores without paying a dime. U-Haul even has a customer connect forum where people can exchange boxes for free.
However, the downside to getting all of your boxes for free is that you don’t know what comes with them. All manner of pests love to hitch a ride on cardboard boxes and would be happy to make your belongings their new home, so if you are willing to pay, it may be worth it for your peace of mind. It’s more important that you get quality boxes than that you get free boxes.
8. Purge Before You Start Packing, and Purge As You Go
It’s never too early to start throwing away the crap you don’t want to move. Seriously—do it as soon as you know you’re going to move, and then don’t stop chucking the nonsense until the day the movers show up. As our own Thorin Klosowski noted when he moved across country, he had a lot of stuff, and the best thing you can do is throw it all away or sell it, and then recoup what you actually need on the other end.
You could even do what he did—have a going away garage sale/party and invite all your friends to come take or buy everything you want to get rid of. If you really wanted, you could even host your own estate sale and really clean house.
Don’t get caught up in the scarcity mindset. If you sell the used things you have and don’t want to take, you’ll have money to replace them—or at least the things you actually want—when you get to your destination. Best of all, if you start early, you don’t have to scrounge up boxes only to find out you’re short later. Before it goes into the box, ask yourself: Do I really need this? Should I come with me, or should I replace it later? Can I afford to replace it? Let the answers there guide you.
7. Clean While You Pack
The last thing you’ll want to do when you get to your beautiful new home is clean while you or your movers are bringing everything in. They’ll want to know where you want your bookshelves, and you’ll be busily trying to wipe off years’ old dust that you could have handled before you left your old place. Clean as you go, your future self will thank you past self when moving day shows up.
Besides, odds are you’ll be tired when you get to your destination, and you’ll be happier moving clean furniture into a new, clean space. Give yourself that treat, at least.
6. Label Everything and Keep Your Own Inventory
If you’re moving across town, or even across state, your movers may not keep an inventory of your belongings—they’ll just toss it on an empty truck, and then empty that truck of all your things on the other end of your move. That’s fine, but you should still label all of your boxes and keep your own inventory (I’ve been using a spreadsheet, like many of you, but I do like Home Inventory for this purpose too.) of what’s in them, for your own sake, and for the sake of any insurance or homeowner’s/renter’s insurance you have. If you’re hardcore, you can even use QR codes to manage your inventory and keep things digital and private so even the movers don’t know what’s in what box.
5. Ship Stuff To Your New Home (If It’s Cheaper than Moving It)
You know what’s easier than hauling your own stuff down to the back of a van, then driving the van, and then hauling it back up to your apartment? Paying someone to do all that lifting for you Especially if it turns out it’s cheaper to have someone haul your junk than for you to do it yourself, or even pay movers to do it for you. Like we mentioned in our budget moving guide:
Boxes containing books are among the heaviest ones to move. Once you’ve gone through your personal library and identified books to donate or sell, box up the keepers and send them via Media Mail through the U.S. Postal Service.
While they might take a little longer to arrive at their destination, you can’t beat the price: a 20-pound box of books only costs $11.55 to ship. Your savings on moving your books may take some of the sting off other expenses.
Now, you’re not going to save a ton of money here if you have lots of books, and don’t expect to just offload everything to FedEx or USPS and expect to turn the mail or courier service into your own low-rent movers, but for some things—even particularly important things—they may be better than letting movers handle it, or even trying to transport it yourself.
4. Save All Of Your Receipts
If you’re moving for work, because you got a new job, or your job moved locations, and you move farther than 50 miles, you can deduct many of your moving expenses. Save those receipts!
Seriously—save them all. Maybe you bought boxes instead of getting them for free, or you paid to have movers haul your stuff. Maybe you shipped books USPS, or you bought rolls of tape and bubble wrap to make sure everything survived the move. You might be surprised what’s acceptable to deduct, but don’t go wild. Check this guide from the IRS and our primer to which expenses are deductible to make sure you deduct the right things come tax time the year after you move, and you’ll get a break from Uncle Sam without worrying about an audit down the line.
Once you start packing, there’s a point where you’ll go from “everything fits perfectly in these boxes” to “just toss it all in the box it’s gotta go.” That’s fine, but keep some basic packing tips in mind as you progress. You’ll save space and time by packing everything like you’re going on vacation, and that means doing things like rolling your shirts and towels, using the bundle method to wrap things like shoes inside jackets and so on.
After all, you can probably get a week or two’s belongings into bags small enough you can carry them on an airplane. No one loves living out of a suitcase, but if there’s a time to do it, it’s when you’re moving. You want the freedom to live comfortably while unpacking your things at your own pace. Plus, you won’t go scrambling around your apartment for that one box with that one thing you absolutely need in it that you swore you’d unpack as soon as you arrived—only to find it on the bottom of a stack of other boxes.
2. Save Your Important, Necessary Items for a “First Night” Box
In the same vein as packing like you’re going on vacation, save the items that you think are most delicate or that you’ll need sooner rather than later when you arrive in your new home, and put them in a “first night” box. This is a tip we’ve mentioned before, but it’s still really important and can’t be understated.
Whether it’s toiletries you don’t want to pack in a suitcase or carry-all, a toolkit for reassembling furniture or hanging art, or cooking essentials like your coffee maker, if you’ll want as soon as possible put it in that “first night” box. Oh, and make sure to keep some toilet paper in your carry-all, or put that in the same box.
1. Sell or Donate Your Boxes—and Anything Else—Afterward
Once you’ve arrived at your wonderful new home and you’re unpacking, unwrapping all of your safely-transported everything, and doing the endless loads of laundry that come with using clothes and blankets as packing material, you’ll have a lot of slightly used (and other more heavily beaten up) boxes you want to get rid of. You may even have some personal items you’re wondering why you bothered to move. Now’s a good time to get rid of all of it.
Seriously, right after a move is a great time to do yet another purge, this time selling your crap for cash that’ll help you recoup your moving expenses and live happier in your new home. The Penny Hoarder has some tips on how to make some dough selling or recycling your leftover moving boxes at sites like Container Exchanger or BoxCycle—that is if you don’t just put them up for sale on Craigslist.
Either way, someone’s probably moving, and someone will pay you for your gently used boxes, even if you got them for free. Donating is great, but movers are expensive, you know. Once you’re all cleaned up and have a little money in your pocket, you can get down to the business of making yourself at home in your new home.