It’s done. The move is over and I’m ensconced in my new house. Every move has its challenges, but ours was relatively smooth. If you’re planning a move, here are my top tips for making sure it goes as smoothly as possible.

Start Packing Early
We started packing the weekend after our offer was accepted. My first step was to make a list of everything that could be packed well ahead, 1 week ahead, 1 day ahead, and the morning of the move. We worked through the early packing list quickly, and were done with the week ahead packing a couple days before the move.

Finish Packing the Night Before
The night before the move, finish packing everything except the sheets on your bed, the food in the freezer or fridge, and the items you’ll need to shower and dress in the morning. Have a box or suitcase ready to go for those. Have a cooler for the food and a freezer stocked with blue ice. You don’t want to be running around packing last-minute things while the movers are there.

Have a Plan for Your Pets
This is key. Even if you have a yard, you may not want to put them out there because the commotion may make them too skittish to catch when it’s time to pack them up to go to the new place. We put our cats in a room (with food and litter) with the door closed and then transferred them to an empty room when all the other rooms were empty. We had their carriers waiting. Once we go to the new house, we put them in a room that could stay empty while we unloaded. The other option is to take your pets to a friend’s the night before the move so they’re out of the way.

Hire Movers
This is optional, but frankly, hiring movers saved us a lot of hassle. We didn’t have to corral friends to help us move boxes and it saved us hours of backbreaking labor. What movers can do in two hours will take you and your friends four hours, trust me. I looked on Yelp and MovingScam.com to find good movers. You should plan to book them early, because the really popular ones book up well in advance. If friends want to help with your move, get them to help paint, pack, or unpack.

Make a Checklist
Before we opened escrow, I made a checklist of everything that had to happen between then and about a week after we moved. That included all of the things that needed to happen to close the loan, transferring utilities, painting, packing, hiring workers, changing addresses, etc. I tried to put the list in the approximate order in which we’d do them, then checked them off as we went. I included important phone numbers on the checklist so they were in front of me when I was working through it.

Label the Boxes and the Rooms
Mark your boxes with the contents – put “large pots and pans” rather than “kitchen stuff” – and the room they go in. Print signs for each room that you can tape to the doors for the movers.

Take Time Off Work
I took off the Friday before the move and the Monday after so I could finish packing without being up until midnight and then so I could unpack and settle in for an extra day. I’d been hoarding my vacation time for a while and it was worth it to be able to have two days to put things away and make my home usable quickly.

Make an “Unpack First” Box for Each Person
This should contain your towels, bedding, sheets, PJs, toiletries, a favorite book or toy, and medications. Move these in your car, not in the truck, and put them in a spot where they won’t get buried so you can have some of your creature comforts right away.

Use this Time to Throw Stuff Out
We’d already done a lot of our purging in the last couple of years, but I found more stuff to throw out as I packed. If I hadn’t looked at something in years or couldn’t remember why I had it, I tossed it.

Label Your Styrofoam
If you plan on keeping your electronics’ Styrofoam after the move, label it with a black marker. We’d shoved all of our Styrofoam into a closet, but couldn’t quite match it all up with our stuff when we started packing We suspect that some of it belonged to things we no longer own. It would have been a lot easier to tell if we’d labeled it in the first place.

Buy Lots of Boxes, Bubble Wrap, and Unprinted Newspaper
We got some free boxes on Freecycle, but they were flimsy and not uniform. We had better luck buying boxes. I also picked up bubble wrap and unprinted newspaper. I went to a box store to buy a few larger boxes, mirror boxes, and dish boxes, but Home Depot’s prices were better and their selection was decent. For our 2-bedroom apartment, we needed approximately 100 boxes, although a good 15 of them are filled with books. If you don’t own books, you may not need quite so many.

Moving is difficult. It’s one of the things people hate most. Hopefully these tips will help your move go more smoothly.

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