Practical Advice for Moving House
If you are planning on moving soon, allow me to give you some unsolicited advice. First–are you sure you’re not happy where you are? You’ve mastered the parking schedule and the garbage collection. You have years of good faith (and Christmas bonuses) built up with sanitation workers and mail carriers. Are you sure?
Ok then, if I cannot talk you out of moving, here are a few tips to make it a little easier. These tips are the product of 8 moves in a dozen years, five of which occurred in four consecutive years. In Arizona. In the summer. But I digress.
Color code your boxes
Take a minute to think about your new home. How many floors are there? How many rooms will you need boxes placed in? For example, you may want all of the kitchen, living room and dining room stuff put in the living room temporarily. Or you may want all of the bedroom stuff put in the spare bedroom down the hall so you can have room to sleep. Write down a list of the places you want boxes dropped off. We decided to have one color for each floor, so my list was:
- First floor (kitchen, living room, dining room)
- Master Bedroom & wife’s office
- My office and den
For each drop off location, I assigned a color that made some kind on mnemonic:
- First floor (kitchen, living room, dining room): Green (ground floor)
- Master Bedroom & wife’s office: Blue (blue for two)
- My office and den: Red (for danger, it’s a 3rd floor walk-up)
- Basement (Black for basement)
Calculate roughly how many boxes you will need and then go to FindTape.com and order at least a dozen rolls of colored packing tape (3 of each color, or 2 of some, 4 of others, depending on how many boxes you estimate. Whatever you have for the kitchen, double it). It’s about as cheap as regular packing tape, and it comes in a few days. It’s better to over-order than under–at least you’re saving on shipping, and colored tape will find uses after your move. You should also buy about a dozen rolls of clear packing tape and at least two packing guns ($9 each at Home Depot).
When you start packing, load one tape gun with clear tape and the other with the color of the drop off location you are packing for. Create a box using clear tape (see below). Fill the box and tape it shut using the colored tape. Roll a line of colored tape around all four sides of the top of the box. Write with a permanent marker on the colored tape the room it’s going to and briefly, what’s in it. (If you don’t write on the box, you can resell the boxes or give them to a friend).
On moving day, you will have a color-coded stack of boxes that you or your movers will know instantly what is in them and where they should go.
If you can afford to hire professional movers, you should. If you cannot afford to, wait until you can. Movers, if they are professional, know what they are doing and can move heavy and bulky items in a fraction of the time you can. Moreover, most movers are motivated to get out quickly even if they’re paid by the hour. A few tips on hiring and using movers:
- Don’t go with bargain basement movers. Get a mover whose cost is in line with the value of your possessions. If you’re still living with mostly IKEA, like I am, you can probably hire mid-range movers for $1200 to $1800 for a 2-3 bedroom move. If you have anything whose name includes reference to a French King, go for the top-end movers.
- Insurance: if you have homeowners or renters insurance at either location, ask your insurance company if your move is covered. It probably is, as most policies cover your possessions wherever they are on the planet. Provided your move date is within one of your policies’ coverage period, there is no reason to pay for additional insurance from the movers.
- Treat the movers right. Make sure you have a case of bottled water at the old and new location. If the move starts early, pick up a box of joe and some donuts ahead of time. And talk to the foreman about what they want for lunch and/or dinner. You may spend a $100 or $200 on these niceties, but the respect you show will be returned. No one wants to break the stuff of a guy they like. Cheapy McNoTip, however, somehow always finds a puzzle where his plates were.
- Don’t forget to tip. Movers generally do not get a lot for the move, and a tip at the end of the job ($50-$100 per guy depending on the work and how well it was done) is more than appropriate.
- Don’t rely on the estimator. Moving companies like to hire professional liars to conduct estimates. If they say 9:00, and you ask for an “early start,” they will agree, but the guys will show up at 9:00. Same too if you say five guys when they only offered four. Four guys will show up. At 9:00. When making your decision, think about any special treatment you’ve asked for, and see if you would still pick those movers without it.
- Check the house after the truck is loaded, and check the truck after it is unloaded. Movers are just as honest (and dishonest) as the next guy, but mistakes can be made by anyone. I’m still pining for baking supplies I lost two moves ago.
Get organized about address changes
If you have a few weeks before your move, collect a list of your non-junk mail as it comes in. Add to that all the companies or government agencies that you know will need an address change notification. You will work off of this master list later, when the move is done and you make the address change. My basic list includes:
- DMV of new and old location
- You and your wife’s employers
- Gas, electric and oil companies
- Telephone companies
- Credit cards and banks (remember that your zip has changed, so when you enter it at a gas station or online, you need to use the new zip)
- Professional boards (bar association, medical association)
- Amazon or any other site you order from frequently
Bolster that with a forwarding request online, and you should not miss a package or letter (or bill). Keep in mind, even if you’ve signed up for e-billing, your credit card and bank addresses have changed. The credit card will likely be rejected if the billing address is out of date.
Don’t spend a lot of money on boxes
There is nothing so costly for the time you use it as moving boxes. Okay, maybe aluminum foil, but moving boxes are up there. The best way to get moving boxes is to have a friend who moved recently give you theirs. You can also get decent boxes from a local store (we had a GNC in our neighborhood that threw out more boxes than we could handle).
If you take odd or used boxes, first make sure they are still serviceable. You should not see any of the corrugation, and they should be able to hold their form against gravity (no flopping). It’s mostly the tape that keeps the stuff together, so a little wear and tear won’t hurt (provided you tape properly). Second, try to find boxes that are all the same size; or at least 4-5 of each size. Stacking uneven boxes is dangerous for you and your stuff.
You should also discuss with your mover how many and what type of boxes they will provide. Most movers will include several wardrobe boxes (the most valuable type of moving box) and an assortment of china, linen and book boxes. If you have a lot of heavy things, including books, shift the balance to book boxes. If you have lots of pillows and small appliances, shift towards the larger boxes. Finally, for last minute boxes, try Home Depot or Lowes. U-haul and UPS charge over $2.00 for simple boxes. Home Depot has book boxes for $.67 each. Find the moving section of your local store and stock up.
Learn how to tape a box
Here is my method. It may use some tape, but it won’t let you (or your stuff) down:
- Turn the box over, push the inner flaps in and align the outer flap seams.
- Using a tape gun, pull a length of tape from one side of the box, perpendicular to the seam, to the other side. There should be about a hand’s width of tape on both sides of the box. This perpendicular strip will keep the flaps aligned as you tape the seam.
- Again, starting about a hand’s width from the bottom of the box, pull a length of tape tightly across the seam and cut it so there is another hand’s length on the other side.
- If the boxes are not going to be stored long and there’s no risk of water getting to them, run two lengths of tape perpendicular to the seam at two spots, both midway between the first perpendicular strip and either end of the box. You should now have three roughly evenly spaced strips of tape going across the seam and one longer strip covering the seam. If you have particularly heavy things, or particularly weak boxes, you can run a long piece of tape along the perimeter of the sides, covering the hand’s width pieces of tape. This will create a tape basket that, even if the box breaks, should keep your stuff from falling out.
- If the boxes will be stored a while or water (or bugs) might get to them, instead of running the two strips of tape above, run one long strip around the perimeter of the box so that half the tape is on the side and the other half is below the bottom of the box. Once you complete a perimeter around the box, cut the tape and fold it so that the dangling half sticks to the bottom of the box (the turns will become triangles that overlap at the corner). This will seal the box, so that bugs, water and everything else will need to get through cardboard before surprising you in your new house.
- Flip the box over and fold the top flaps down (outside of the box, not inside). Take two short lengths of tape and join the flaps on diagonal sides. (For example, the right flap and the front flap are taped to each other on the near right corner, and the left flap and rear flap are taped at the far left corner). A small (1-2″) piece of tape will suffice to keep the flaps down while you load the box.
- After you’ve filled the box, remove the small tape strips and switch to your colored tape gun.
- Run a length of colored tape tightly across the top seam, sealing the box. If you stand next to the box so that the seam runs towards your stomach, you can pull the box in to insure it is well aligned as you tape it. (The boxes will be a bit wonky if you do not square them as they are taped. You should not see any cardboard overlapping the top flaps.)
- Run a second length around the perimeter of the sides, so that the color is visible no matter how you stack the boxes.
- Use a thick permanent marker to briefly note the contents (or at least something that will tell you what’s in it) and the target room in the new location.
Good luck, and congratulations on your new home!