The Complete Moving Checklist
(and Survival Guide)

By Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza

I’m just going to level with you, moving is going to be a horrible experience. It’s going to cost you more than you thought, you’re going to end up lifting far more boxes than you planned on (even if you hired movers), something is going to get broken, and someone is going to get upset because you forgot to pull out cash to tip the movers.

OK, now that that’s out of the way, I’m going to give you a complete moving checklist so that at least you can tie up all the other loose ends and do some preemptive crisis control.

Moving checklist: three months before your move

1. Check in with yourself once a day

Just lower your standards right now. This is not going to be a perfect experience, but it still can be a successful one. Remember that you’ll have to take packing one step at a time. Allow yourself plenty of indulgences during this time.

2. Plan to make plans

Put the act of planning on your to-do list. Block off 30 minutes to an hour every day to make packing lists and take a look and the next few items on this list and plan ahead.

3. Set a budget

Moving, whether locally or cross-country, will cost more than you think most of the time. Work in some padding to your budget for unexpected things. For example, every single time I move, I make the mistake of packing garbage bags and cleaning supplies (will I ever learn?) and having to buy them the night of move-in. You’ll likely misplace or forget something too, set aside a few hundred dollars for these incidentals.

4. Book a mover

Find a mover and get it on the books sooner than later. Especially if you’re moving in the late spring or in the summer, the best movers get booked. Read reviews, ask friends for recommendations, and ask prospective moving companies as many questions as you please. Some moving companies, for example, will not move any non-furniture item that is not in a box that’s been sealed or taped closed. Make sure you’re clear on their pricing (some charge by weight and mileage while others tack on additional fees for loading and unloading, which is a total racket). You may also have to insure your loading company, your moving van, and your unloading company. Get clear on this before you book.

Also, some states will require moving companies to have a USDOT (US Department of Transportation) number, so check with your state before hiring a company.

Moving checklist: two months before your move

1. Transfer your records

  • If you’re moving out of town, contact your healthcare providers and have them transfer your medical records to a provider at your destination. Remember to ask them to transfer your prescription refills as well.
  • Call your kids’ schools and have their transcripts and academic records sent to their new district.
  • If you have pets, call your vet and either pick up a physical copy of your pet’s records or ask for a referral and have them sent electronically to a new veterinarian.
  • Ensure that your warranty deed has been delivered to the grantee or assigned recipient upon its recording.

2. Start pre-packing now

You’re about to realize how much stuff you never knew you had. Go through your belongings and donate (or toss) anything you don’t need. Host a garage sale to get rid of your items or donate them to a local non-profit or church. If you find yourself needing to throw away large items like mattresses or furniture, check with your local municipality to see what sort of disposal (if any) is allowed.

3. Get your packing materials

Now that you’ve pared down, you have a better idea of how much you’ll be packing. You can buy boxes or you can pick up some for free at a grocery store, liquor store, or library. Liquor boxes are great because they’re designed to haul really heavy bottles. Soon you’ll wish those boxes still had those really heavy bottles. Stock up on packaging tape, masking tape, bubble wrap, and markers.

While you’re at it, pick up a clear plastic box for your day-of essentials (things that shouldn’t go in a moving truck, like valuables and important papers).

Moving checklist: 30 days before your move

1. Pack your non-essentials

If you’re not going to need an item in the next month, pack it in a box. A few packing tips:

  • Label the box with a marker by describing what’s inside the box and the room it should be put in in the new place.
  • If you’re crazy, you can color code the boxes with stickers that correspond to its room in your future house (kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, attic, etc.). This will make the unloading process easier for you and show the movers how anal-retentive you are.
  • If you’d really like to freak everyone out, number each type of box and keep a list or spreadsheet with all of the above information. This will be your inventory list that will help you keep track of all the boxes you have and make your spouse question whether they really even knew you at all.

2. Move utilities and services

Notify your utility services for both your current and soon-to-be houses and either cancel, transfer, or start new service contracts for your electricity, gas, internet, cable, trash collection, and sewer service.

3. Change your address

Change your address either online or through your local post office. You’ll also want to move magazine subscriptions and banking addresses.

4. Request time off

If you’re going to need time off to move, go ahead and request that. Be nice to yourself and add a buffer day after the move. Believe me, you’re going to hate moving day.

Moving checklist: two weeks before

1. Confirm with your moving company

Confirm that your movers know exactly when they’re supposed to arrive at your house and where they should park. If you’ve color coded and made spreadsheets, warn them that you’re going to drive them crazy. You don’t want any last-minute surprises on the day of your move.

2. Tune up your car

If you’re making a long-distance move, go ahead and and get a tune up.

3. Finish packing non-essentials

We both know you didn’t finish this two weeks ago. Do it now.

Because you’ll be packing dishes and kitchen things, consider picking up some plastic plates, cups, and silverware. We’re all about being environmentally responsible here, but the horror that is moving requires dire moves—it’s like the Revenant out here.

4. Prep an overnight bag

Set aside a couple day’s worth of clothes and start packing toiletries (don’t forget meds) to get you through moving day and a couple days after.

Moving checklist: the final week

1. Get rid of perishable items

Listen, unless you’re moving within a twenty-five miles, that mayonnaise isn’t going to make it. Clean out the fridge.

2. Clean your house

Patch holes, paint if necessary, and clean your carpets and floors. If you’re renting, have your landlord or property manager do a walkthrough, just make sure you put the TV in front of that giant hole you made. Ask them exactly what you need to do to get your security deposit back. If you’re too exhausted or pressed for time to clean your home, hire a professional cleaning company to help you out.

3. Plan for the payment

If you haven’t planned to pay your movers with a credit card, secure a money order, cashier’s check, or cash for payment and a tip. A $20–$50 tip per mover is standard, but you can go higher for exceptional service or hunky movers.

Checklist: moving day

1. Get a good night’s sleep

Get at least eight hours of sleep to feel well-rested and energized on the big day. It’s going to be horrible.

2. Stay organized

Hold onto your batty inventory list to stay organized and make sure the moving truck that shows up is from the company you hired: the USDOT number painted on the side should match the number on the estimate you were given. If it doesn’t, I don’t know what to tell you. That’s probably a bad thing. Just run.

Be present to answer any questions the movers might have.

3. Have refreshments on hand

It’s polite to offer refreshments to your movers—have bottles of water and small snacks on hand. Consume them all before they arrive.

4. Take inventory

Before the movers leave, sign the bill of lading and secure a copy for your records. If you enlisted friends to help you move, just know that they definitely took off with something once they realized what a sucker they are.

That wasn’t so bad, was it?

Now Let's Get Your New Place in Order

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