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We’ve cracked the genetic code, landed humans on the moon, and turned cereal milk into an ice cream flavor — so why is moving still so damn difficult?
There’s nothing like struggling with a mattress down a staircase to show you your place in the universe. Although moving can be exciting, first you’ve got to get through the process of packing up all your stuff and transporting it from your old home to your new one.
Having lived in quite a few apartments in my day, I’ve picked up some lessons for making a move way less painful. Plus, I’ve gathered moving tips from others who gravitate toward a nomadic lifestyle.
Whether you’re gearing up to change apartments or planning your move to an entirely new country, these 13 moving tips will help make your move as smooth as possible.
1. “Marie Kondo” your belongings
When you live in a place, stuff gradually accumulates. It’s an irrefutable law of nature, like entropy or having coffee drip down the side of a paper to-go cup.
Even if you just cleaned, you probably have more belongings than you need. And there’s no use wasting time and energy packing up clutter.
Fortunately, organization guru Marie Kondo is here to save us from our hoarding habits. If you haven’t read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, here’s the gist:
- Lay out all your possessions on the floor, one room at a time.
- Hold each item in your hand, and tune into your intuition to see if it brings you an immediate “spark of joy.”
- If it does, keep it.
- If it doesn’t, throw it out, donate it, or sell it online (#sidehustle).
- If you’re equivocating or promising yourself you’ll use the item “someday,” it doesn’t spark joy. Let it go.
This all might sound a bit cutthroat, but there’s a reason this book sold millions of copies worldwide. Our consumerist culture makes it far too easy to buy, buy, buy, but we don’t have much of a system for letting go and moving on.
Taking time to minimize your possessions can be a huge help when you’re moving. You’ll leave unwanted clutter behind and only have to pack up and move the belongings that you really want.
Less stuff means fewer boxes to pack and less money to spend on shipping. Plus, you won’t have to be reminded of regrettable purchases in your new home, but instead can start fresh surrounded only by the items you love.
2. Don’t procrastinate too much
Organizing and packing isn’t fun for most people, and what do many of us do when faced with icky tasks? We put them off in favor of activities that are immediately gratifying.
Why deal with a mountain of clothes when there’s a new season of Orange Is the New Black to binge-watch? Why buy storage bins at Target when I could pick out decorative gourds and ciders from Trader Joe’s and invite friends over for a fall-themed brunch instead? Not personal examples or anything…
But moving has a deadline, and you don’t want moving day to suddenly be upon you before you’ve duct-taped a single box. So one of the most important moving tips for people who put off packing is: “Eat that frog.”
Eliminate distractions in your environment, and turn on some music to get you motivated. You might even use an anti-procrastination app to block distracting websites or let you know when you’ve been staring at your phone for half an hour instead of wrapping up glassware in bubble wrap.
You’ll feel better when you push past resistance and start packing. You can do it!
3. Find the right storage containers
For whatever reason, I find obtaining storage containers to be one of the more daunting parts of moving. Maybe as a millennial, getting cardboard boxes at a post office or shipping store is just too analog. But don’t fear, you can move this process online by ordering boxes from UHaul.
Or you can go to Target and pick up sturdy storage containers — with lids and everything! And don’t overlook containers you already have. Laundry hampers, baskets, and suitcases can be a great way to transport clothes or other valuables.
If you’re not moving far, you can always shove clothes into plastic bags, which, though not the most elegant solution, gets the job done.
4. Label your possessions so you know what’s what
While you’re at the (in-person or cyber) store, pick up some labels, too. Once you’re in your new place surrounded by boxes, you’ll want a sense of what items ended up where.
Otherwise, you’ll be using paper towels to dry yourself off after a shower a lot longer than any self-respecting adult should.
Along similar lines, put together a box of everyday things so you can easily access items you’ll need right away (e.g., toothbrush, deoderant, 10-step Korean skincare regimen, etc.).
You might even come up with a color coding system if you’re going for gold.
5. Protect items that could break or spill
The last thing you want is to get to your new place, open your suitcase, and discover that a bottle of lotion has exploded all over your wardrobe. Or excitedly open a box of dishware only to be confronted with a pile of broken glass.
Take care with any items that could break or spill by wrapping them up separately. You might look for recyclable bubble wrap, or use socks or sheets to pad breakable items. Any lotions or other items that could spill should also get wrapped separately.
6. Take photos of stuff that needs to be put back together
If you’ve devoted hours of your life assembling IKEA furniture, you know DIY assembly is a lot easier said than done. To save yourself future headaches, take pictures of any furniture or electronics you’ll be taking apart for the move.
That way, you can consult the photo when you’re struggling to put everything back together in your new place. Without a photo, you might feel like you’re trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, a futile and frustrating task.
7. Hire movers to do the heavy lifting
If you’re an early 20-something who can fit most of your life in a duffel bag, you probably won’t be hiring movers to relocate apartments.
But once you’ve bought your first real couch or Casper mattress, hiring professionals for help could be worth the expense. Make sure to book well in advance of moving day, especially if you’re moving on a day when everyone else is, too.
Shop around to find a good price, but don’t forget to check out reviews, too. Spending a little extra could be worth it for a company with a good reputation.
8. Or ask friends to help you carry boxes
Alternatively, you could rely on the kindness of friends to help you move. Respect their plans by asking well in advance, and make sure they know what they’re getting into. And of course, it’s up to you to provide repayment, whether in the form of cookies, craft beer, pizza and/or hugs.
9. If you’re moving far away, find the right shipping company
If you’re moving across the country — or to another country entirely — you might need to ship your belongings to your new home. There are a few ways to accomplish this. If you’re staying stateside, you could rent a portable moving container or pod and drive it across the country.
When it comes to moving internationally, shipping items by sea, rather than by air, will be your cheapest option. However, it will probably also be your slowest.
After living in Spain a few years ago, I shipped a box of clothes and other items from Seville to Boston. After several months, I’d given up on ever seeing the box again — only to have it mysteriously show up at my home.
Inexplicably, the box was dry but the clothing inside was wet — and there were a few XXS gym clothes inside that certainly did not belong to me (I’m 5’8″). I’ll never know what happened at sea, but I picture a big wave crashing over the boat, boxes springing open, and a deckhand scrambling to shove stuff at random back inside.
All that being said, shipping by sea will probably go more smoothly for you, but you’ll want to get things squared away in advance, as it can take a long time. Honestly, unless you have an employer footing the bill, it might be more cost-effective to just leave your things at home and buy new stuff when you get to your destination.
10. Avoid moving on the hottest / coldest / busiest day of the year
My home city of Boston is home to dozens of colleges, so it feels like everyone in the city is moving in or out of an apartment on September 1. This traffic-filled day is also called Allston Christmas, since students and broke college grads can wander the streets of this neighborhood and pick up second hand furniture that gets left behind on the sidewalk.
But if you’re moving on September 1, be prepared for crowds, traffic, and a race to get the last U-Haul left in the lot. You’ll have a much calmer moving day if you move any other day than the first of September.
Along similar lines, you might also avoid moving in the middle of August or dead of winter, if possible. Dealing with temperature extremes, whether hot or cold, can make an already stressful moving day even more challenging.
11. Clean up your new apartment before moving in
If possible, get into your new home before moving in your stuff for a quick but thorough clean. This will be the only time it’s empty of furniture until you move out.
Take advantage of the open space to sweep and mop the floors and wipe down the countertops. Then, you’ll have a sparkling clean blank canvas to transform into your new sanctuary.
12. Take before and after photos to appease a suspicious landlord
If you’re renting in a city, you might have dealt with a difficult landlord at some point. I had one that insisted on keeping my security deposit for no particular reason (but finally returned it when they couldn’t come up with a valid reason not to).
If you’re concerned your landlord might pin an unfair accusation on you, take photos of your old and new apartment. The photos of your old apartment can prove you didn’t cause any damage. And in your new apartment, you can take inventory of any issues that were there before you moved in.
13. Forward your mail to your new address
Last but not least on this list of moving tips: Forward your mail to your new address, so you don’t forget student loan bills or miss out on important correspondence. You can easily update your address at USPS for $1.00 (this fee is to confirm your identity).
The post office will then forward your mail piece by piece to your new address.
Follow these moving tips for a happier moving day
Moving day can be stressful, but you can makes things go smoothly by following these moving tips, overcoming procrastination, and preparing well in advance.
And as you’re struggling with an armful of heavy boxes, keep your eye on the prize. Soon enough, you’ll be moving into an awesome new home!
Of course, once you’ve moved all your boxes, you’ll have to start thinking about unpacking. But that can wait until after you’ve popped off some champagne to celebrate all your hard work.