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The Ultimate Guide to Moving: A Before, During, and After Moving Checklist

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Moving can be stressful. In a survey, commissioned by Life Storage, it was found that 13% of survey respondents believed that moving is more stressful than a week in jail. 27% of participants said that moving is more stressful than a job interview, while 23% regarded moving as more stressful than planning a wedding.

OneRelo is here to make your move as stress free as possible. One of the best ways to reduce moving stress and ensure that your move is easily and properly completed, is to plan and prep every stage of the moving process.

While the actual moving usually takes place over the course of a day or two, comprehensive moving prep should begin many weeks in advance. Let’s break it all down week by week, step by step:

The Preparation Phase

8-9 Weeks Before Moving

Preparation is the first step of any successful moving plan. While most moving checklists will only cover the basics like sorting, boxing, and labeling, we can guide you through every facet of the moving process, plus bonus tips. It might sound like a lot of work, but we promise that it will pay off in the long run.

  • Digitize your moving strategy, receipts, and home inventory list with a free service like Google Drive or Dropbox. You can use your phone to create visual records for easy reference. You can also share your files and folders with family members or movers.
  • Decide what fits into your budget. Are you going to box everything up, do you only need furniture moved, or do you want the movers to handle everything. Most moving companies offer flexible moving options.
  • Contact moving companies and get an estimate. It’s best practice to get quotes from at least three moving companies, to compare their costs and services. Review websites like Google Maps are a good place to check their reputation.
  • Plan your work schedule in advance. It often makes sense to take a day off of work so that you don’t feel rushed during moving day.
  • Plan a garage or yard sale and do some marketing to get the word out. Local social media groups and apps like Nextdoor can help. This is a great way to limit the amount of items that need to be moved and can help to offset moving expenses.
  • Find a place where you can donate unwanted items. You can help someone in need (by donating items to non-profit organizations) and cut down on moving expenses.
  • Consider how to move fragile and dangerous items. Some movers don’t move pianos and some might not feel comfortable moving things like firearms or ammunition. Take this into account when vetting a mover; you don’t want to learn last minute that they can’t move your piano or pool table.
  • Verify that the moving company is licensed and insured. This can be done by checking their Department of Transportation (DOT) number.
  • Peruse the moving contract to ensure that you have all of your moving needs covered and that the company is committed to following through on them.


6-7 Weeks Before Moving

This next phase involves more planning, but with a focus on physical tasks and organizing your belongings. This phase also features a variety of affordable moving tips that can help you save money.

  • If you don’t plan to purchase moving boxes, you can collect free boxes from local businesses like restaurants, liquor stores, and grocery stores. You can also save Amazon and shipping boxes, in anticipation of a move. 
    • If you do plan to purchase moving boxes, stores like Target, Home Depot, and Uhaul sell new moving boxes in various sizes. Some moving companies sell/provide boxes as part of their moving services.
  • Classify your moving boxes with color-coded labels. Choose a color for each room so that when you are moving and unpacking, you can easily determine which box goes with which room. You can find packing labels online or at some office supply stores. Some moving companies offer packing labels as part of their services.
  • Inventory your valuables and back up the list in your digital folder. You can keep the list private for extra security
  • Label boxes with fragile items. Write “Fragile” in a large, legible font on multiple sides of the box. 
    • Ensure that nothing large or heavy is packed on top of fragile items.
    • Use packing paper to cover and secure fragile items inside of the box. Items should be packed just tightly enough to not move, but not so tight as to cause stress and breakage.
  • Inventory your electronics, including cables, remotes, and other accessories.
    • Ensure that cables and accessories are bagged and boxed with their electronic devices. Some cables can look the same, but have different specifications.
    • Take photos of the plugged in devices for easy setup later.
  • Put furniture hardware like screws, washers, and brackets into separate bags and label them accordingly.
  • Old shirts, socks, and other clothing can be used as padding to protect fragile items.
  • Find out if the HOA or apartment complex has any restriction on moving times.
  • Check your vehicles and have them serviced to ensure that they won’t break down during the moving process, especially if it’s a long-distance move.
  • Measure any doorways, elevators, and stairwells to ensure that your furniture will fit. Coordinate with your moving company if you think that there might be an issue. Write down all of the measurements and upload them to your online moving folder for easy sharing and reference.
  • Pack a little bit each day. Six weeks can seem like a long time, but moving day can sneak up on you quickly. Scrambling to get everything packed can lead to mistakes, issues, and missing items.


Optional Ideas

  • Enjoy your current home and create lasting memories by throwing a goodbye party or small dinner. 
  • Take pictures of your current home for posterity.


4-5 Weeks Before Moving

With only one month left until moving day, it’s important to get serious about moving preparation. Four weeks might seem like a lot, but those weeks can mean the difference between a smooth, stress-free moving experience and a moving day gauntlet.

  • Look into getting moving insurance, especially if it’s a long distance move, with a lot of valuables in transit. Moving insurance can save the day during an emergency and give your peace of mind.
  • Figure out a parking strategy for loading and unloading. You may need to get a parking permit or reserve a space that is close to the entrance. If you are moving into a home with a parking garage, ensure that the moving vehicles have enough clearance to get in and out. Coordinate with your moving company so that they know the best places to park their vehicles for loading and unloading. Many movers charge by the hour, so helping them be more efficient will help you to save on moving costs.
  • Donate any hazardous items that you have been unable to sell. Chemicals like bleach and aerosol cans complicate moving, so it can be best to give them away, especially during a long-distance move.
  • Collect all of your important documents, such as financial statements, legal documents, and medical records and organize them into one place. Keep careful track of these boxes during the moving process as they can be difficult to replace and contain sensitive information. Ideally, carry them with you during the move.
  • Update your renters/homeowners insurance and notify the agency.
  • Schedule an internet provider to set up services on moving day or soon afterwards. Waiting until the last minute could leave you without internet for days or weeks.
  • If you are moving long distance:
    • Pick up clothes from the dry cleaners.
    • Find a new doctor, dentist, and veterinarian. Google Maps and Google My Business reviews are a good place to start.
    • Refill prescriptions (human and pet) and obtain any necessary medical documentation.
    • Update your voter registration.
    • If the trip takes longer than one day, plan your route and book hotel/motel accommodations.
  • Create an upbeat moving playlist to jam out to while packing and driving


1-2 Weeks Before Moving

Moving day is nearly here, which means we need to finish tying up any loose ends, before the big day. Moving week is going to be a busy time, so it’s important to have as much prep work completed as possible.

  • Update your digital moving folder with information on moving related expenses and receipts. You may need this information for tax return deductions.
  • Recycle, give away, or properly dispose of dangerous items that are flammable, corrosive, or poisonous. These items can be difficult or dangerous to transport, especially long-distance.
  • Plan your meals so that you don’t have extra groceries to move. You can meal prep for the entire week or plan affordable take-out.
  • Make sure to return borrowed items from neighbors, friends, and family, especially if you are moving long distance. Giving those items back means that you won’t need to move them and they won’t get lost in transit, plus no one will be salty that you haven’t returned their book or snow shovel.
  • Backup your computer and other electronic devices. Losing everything on your computer can be a huge setback, just ask people that had Bitcoin data on old hard drives.
  • Remove lightbulbs from lights that will be moved. 
  • Wipe down any dirty outdoor furniture to make moving it easier.
  • For long distance moves:
    • Cancel memberships at local gyms or workout centers. Clear out your locker.
    • Close your account at local banks and clear out any safety deposit boxes.
    • Fill and refill your medical prescriptions. Find a new pharmacy and doctor near your destination home.
    • Create a list of local service technicians, in case of emergency. Google Maps is a good place to start.
  • Schedule a babysitter or playdate, and pet sitter or pet daycare, so that your little ones will be safe and out of the way on moving day.
  • Update your address with your bank, loan providers, credit cards, and your workplace’s accounting department.
  • Forward your mail with the USPS. Change the address on any pre-ordered items.
  • If you receive social security benefits, update your information with government agencies, including the Social Security Administration, and the IRS.
  • Transfer or update your utilities (water, electric, and natural gas) information.
  • Update your driver’s license with your new address. If you are moving out of state, there is a grace period to obtain a new license, but you should begin the process as soon as possible.
  • Update your address with online shopping services and your monthly subscription boxes, newspapers, or magazines. Be sure to add in information like gate codes, drop off points, etc for delivery drivers.
  • Update your address for your auto insurance and car registration.


Moving Week

The penultimate week has come. It’s time to make sure you organize your belongings, finish packing, and clean your old home. Get all of this done as early as possible to allow for a stress-free moving day.

  • Take any unopened food and donate it to a local shelter or charity
  • Clean your home. Some real estate contracts require sellers to leave a home in “broom-clean condition.” Leaving egregious filth for the new owner could delay the closing or even sink the sale altogether. You can also hire a cleaning company to come in and ensure that everything meets the proper standards.
  • Unplug your refrigerator and freezer the night before the move, to allow them time to defrost. Lay a towel in front of them to absorb any leaking water
    • Drain the water hoses that are connected to your washing machine and ice maker.
  • Empty the oil and gas from your lawn mower, heater, grill, snow blower, or other gas powered equipment.
  • Double and triple check all of your shelves and closets for leftover items
  • If you live in an apartment, you may need to fill any nail holes before vacating. This can also be imperative if it’s part of your real estate contract. Spackle is the proper way to fill holes, but you can also use a bar of soap or toothpaste for last minute repairs. For houses, you probably won’t need to bother painting, as the new owners are likely to paint anyway. Check your lease agreement or real estate contract to be sure.
  • Check the weather to know if there will be rain, extreme wind, or snow. Be prepared with waterproofing materials like tarps, in case of serious rainfall. If you are using a professional mover, they will have experience dealing with rain and snow during a move.
  • Create a box of essential items, with everything you’ll need for your first 24 hours, post-move. This could include items like prescriptions, toiletries and other crucial supplies.
  • Take pictures of your empty home or apartment. Upload them to your digital moving folder. These can cover you from liability if the new owner or tenant finds something wrong that happened after you moved out.
  • Preemptively clean your destination home. In most cases, previous homeowners are only required to sweep their house or apartment. While this won’t be possible in every situation, you will never have a better chance to clean your new home from top to bottom, before everything is moved in. Wouldn’t it be nice to move into a pristine house or apartment? 
    • You can hire a local cleaning company to go in and get everything ready. This is especially helpful if you live far away from your new home and can’t clean it yourself.
  • Buy a case of water for moving day. Staying hydrated during moving day is crucial and it’s also nice to be able to offer some to your movers.
  • Have some cash on hand if you plan on tipping your movers (more on tipping protocol later)


Moving Day

You have been preparing for this day for weeks and it’s time to finally execute the big move! Don’t worry, we’re here to guide you through the most crucial part of the moving process. And, even better, if you have hired a professional moving company and been following through with your moving checklist, moving day will go quickly, smoothly, and stress-free.

  • The night before the big move, set your alarms early to get a head start on the new day. This will give you plenty of time to tie up any loose ends, double check your agenda, and prepare for the moving team.
  • Put down protection for your floors and carpets. Moving large furniture can damage floors and carpet. By putting down protectors like red rosin paper or Floor Shield you can help to ensure that you won’t be paying for any last minute repairs on your old house or apartment.
  • Once the moving process is complete, be sure to thank your movers. Writing a positive review on Google My Business (or their preferred platform) is a great way to thank your moving company.
  • We are often asked if you should tip movers. Tipping is of course optional, however, if you are so inclined, suggests tipping movers $4-5 per person for each hour of work. They also have this helpful breakdown: 
    • A half-day move: 4 hours or less – $20 per person
    • A full 8-hour day – $40 per person
    • 12 hours or more – $50-$60 per person


Moving Day – Optional

  • After the movers leave, unpack your bed sheets and toiletries. This will allow you to more easily rest and relax after a long day of driving and moving.
  • Introduce yourself to your neighbors. Saying hello on the first day can help to get those relationships off to a strong start.
  • Put up curtains or shades for privacy.
  • Send a thank you message to your real estate agent and let them know that the move went well.


The Follow-Up Phase

After Moving

Congratulations, you have completed the bulk of the checklist and are now enjoying your new home. To celebrate this achievement, we have created a followup list that will help to tie up any loose ends and allow you to enjoy your new space even more.

  • If you haven’t already, be sure to leave a review for your moving company. Google My Business is the best standard platform, but it can be on other places like Yelp or social media too.
  • If you haven’t already, change the locks on your doors. You never know who has sets of keys to the old locks. Changing them will give you peace of mind. You can even install electronic smart locks. Better safe than sorry.
  • Install a (new) security system.
  • See if a friend, or someone that you know on social media, needs your leftover boxes. If you can’t find someone to take them, be sure to properly recycle them.
  • If you haven’t yet, thoroughly clean your new home before unpacking too much. You’ll never have a better chance to get into those hard to reach spaces, deep clean the carpets, or buff the floors.
  • If you have a chimney, have it checked before using it. Buildup can lead to fire or carbon monoxide hazards.
  • Ensure that your address is easily visible from the street. Delivery people and guests will appreciate it.
  • Begin unpacking. Try to get everything unpacked within the first couple of weeks. You don’t want to forget anything important in one of the boxes.
  • Walk around your neighborhood to get a feel for the area and meet new people.


Make Your Next Move Easy

If you would like to learn other tips, tricks, and information on moving, we invite you to visit our other posts and pages.

If you are looking for a professional mover in the Boise, Reno, or Spokane areas, please contact our expert moving team. We would be happy to help make your move as easy and stress-free as possible.