5 Things I Learned the Hard Way From Moving So Many Times
My husband and I have moved four times in the past decade. On two occasions it was by choice – we wanted more space, a better neighborhood, a washer-dryer in the apartment. The other two moves were the result of terrible luck. There was the terrifying mold in the ceiling, a broken hot-water heater that nearly blew up the house or a crazy landlord who was a fan of 2 a.m. construction projects.
You could say we’ve become unintentional moving pros in the process. Need to squeeze a couch the size of a whale through a small door? We’ve got it. How about driving a box spring tied to the roof of a car over the Brooklyn Bridge on a windy day? No problem. We can even track down a missing landlord who ghosts the week before a move.
With yet another relocation on the horizon – this time for work – we are ready for whatever the move throws at us. Here are the tricks we’ve picked up along the way toward our dream apartment.
1. There’s no such thing as a small move.
One of our moves took us less than a mile down the street. How hard could it be? We’d save so much money! As the big day got closer, the “we’ll pack that later” pile continued to grow. When moving day arrived, we sprinted back and forth between houses with odds and ends packed to the brim of our car. It was a mess.
Do not let a local move deceive you. Pack your items as if they’re about to make a cross-country trek by airplane. Pad your wine glasses, inventory your boxes and do not start a “we’ll pack that later” pile.
It’s important to start fresh in a new home. As exhausting as packing can be, you’ll thank yourself when everything is clean and organized when you arrive.
2. You can’t do it alone.
Whether you have incredible friends or can budget for movers, don’t be a hero. No matter your level of fitness, it’s easy to accidentally push yourself too far on moving day. No amount of money is worth straining your back or twisting an ankle.
Movers have seen it all. When we finally hired professionals, they pushed our oversized couch through the front door in minutes. The same couch that cost us over an hour when we moved in by ourselves. Get out of their way and let them do their thing.
Be sure to check prices of local movers before assuming it’s outside your budget. Many companies will offer levels of service and work with your restraints. You can also often hire moving assistance by the hour through your truck rental company.
3. Plan for a hiccup.
There are so many moving parts when you change homes. Prepare for at least one of them to go off the rails.
Our last landlord agreed to hand over the keys a week before moving day, so we planned around having this wiggle room. But alas, guess who disappeared before anything was signed? Luckily, he resurfaced the night before our moving day. Suddenly, a one-week move turned into a six-hour panic with only three hours of hired moving help.
There are so many moving parts when you change homes. Prepare for at least one of them to go off the rails. If you keep your cool and safeguard for issues, you will still end up in your new home at the end of the day.
But to help ensure that happens, I will over-organize in the future, buffer extra time with the movers and be willing to throw the timeline out the window when it falls apart. I will also consider what is within my control:
- Waking up early after a solid night of sleep
- Not leaving difficult packing for the last morning
- Prepping snacks and easy-to-carry food
- Starting the day with a full tank of gas
- Keeping all our important documents with me
4. Budget more than you think you’ll need.
I’m always shocked at how much the cost of moving can creep up on you. This is without having purchased a home – clearly a far more expensive endeavor than renting. Still, the move itself is a happier experience if you can create a little cushion before you make the jump.
It’s not just about finding first month’s rent, a security deposit and a broker’s fee (a necessary evil in some cities). Moving upends your way of living for several weeks, from your eating schedule to work hours. Remember to budget for sneaky costs, such as:
- Moving supplies like boxes, tape and padding
- Materials for cleaning and fixing up your old and new place (paint, spackle, tools)
- Additional gas for car and moving truck
- Tips for the movers
- Increased food budget for moving-week take out
- Nesting fund – new furniture, décor and accents to settle into your space
5. Take care of yourself.
This is where we really struggle. We want to cross the finish line! We want to win the move! Instead, we pull a muscle, forget to eat or obliterate our immune system for the rest of the week. We’ve learned our lesson. Next time we will:
Set physical boundaries
Avoid carrying the box of books up three flights of steps if you’re feeling shaky. You do have a finite amount of energy and it’s important to spread it out over the day. Mark lighter boxes so you know what you can easily grab without a problem.
Plan ahead for pets
Chat with your vet before you relocate your animals, especially territorial creatures like cats. We like to set up a separate room for our cats before removing anything from our old place. The cats come over before the movers arrive and hang out in the room filled with their toys, blankets and food.
It is often the most active day of the year and we always forget to eat. Throw a few protein-packed snacks into some Tupperware and keep it in your day-of bag that goes with you everywhere. If possible, take a full one-hour break for lunch.
Pack a day-of box
Moving is disorienting. Keep a few small things accessible in a box so you don’t have to scramble during and just after the move. I recommend:
- Important documents (lease, mover agreement, etc.)
- Water bottles
- Toothbrushes, toothpaste
- Toilet paper
- Two plastic wine glasses and a bottle of celebratory wine (#priorities)
Keep a secondary box handy with helpful household goods like your first set of sheets, towels and even pajamas. Crashing at the end of the day is a wonderful feeling if you have sheets on the bed.
The Bottom Line
Every move is different, and each will come with its own challenges. No matter how hectic it all becomes, remember the reason you did this in the first place. You have a clean slate ahead of you – a new space to design, a fun neighborhood to explore and a new routine to build.
This next time around, when our plans inevitably start to crumble, the moving truck shows up late or the day seems like it will never end, I will keep all my own advice in mind and make notes for the future.
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