Moving is hell. It just is. Besides the psychological chaos that comes with being uprooted from the familiar, there’s also the actual chaos involved in having to pack everything you own, from furniture to clothing to every last little paperclip, move it somewhere else — whether across the street or around the world — and then unpack it all into a new space. It’s time-consuming, disruptive, and even when done on the cheap, expensive. Depending on how much you take on yourself, it can also be physically taxing as you lift and carry boxes to and from a living space and to and from a truck (and possibly up or down stairs). But with career opportunities, family obligations, upsizing, or downsizing, sometimes it just has to be done.
To help make the whole hellish process easier to handle, we took some time to speak with the founder and CEO of Roadway Moving, Ross Sapir, to get some advice about the dos and don’ts of moving so that your next move might be a little easier.
Of course, Sapir himself isn’t a big fan of the whole process, either. “Nobody wants to do it! I don’t want to move, and I own the company,” states Sapir. “I moved three months ago, and I hired a professional organizer because I don’t want to touch all that stuff.”
Sapir points out that the distance of your move will affect your preparation and the problems you’ll face, but that if you work with a professional mover, much of the stress will be managed. “We make moving an amazing, joyful, even fun experience,” says Sapir. “People love us. But there are other people in the process that are going to do their best to make this difficult.”
If you are going to try to do this all on your own, Sapir does offer a few words of advice.
Have a Solid Plan
There’s the actual packing, transferring your mail and cable services, and all those other details. For all those reasons it is imperative to have a solid plan for the move.
Take Sapir’s advice and plan ahead. We’ve talked about some of our favorite note-taking apps here. A quick search online will yield checklists and approaches such as this one, that you can easily share with your family or other moving “teammates.” Create a timeline that you can share with your family and any pros you hire along the way.
Depending on where you’re headed, you may have to deal with building management that has strict policies about when you can move in and out, what times you can use the elevators, sharing the elevators with other people moving in on that day, and requiring insurance for the move itself. Make sure you’ve clearly communicated with your new building or community so all of that is managed ahead of time.
Reserve a Moving Truck in Advance
“First, remember to reserve your truck in advance. You cannot move without a truck, and everybody moves at the end of the month when the leases are over. So if you call U-Haul on the 29th for a move on the 30th, you’re not gonna have a truck.”
Summer is particularly busy as families move before school starts and recently graduated college students move to new homes. “People don’t want to move when it’s snowing and freezing,” says Sapir, “And in the military, they mandate that families only move in summer.”
Prepare to Purge
Sapir also says, “Don’t move anything you don’t need. Purge your house. There are so many people in need — donate everything you absolutely don’t need to charity. After you declutter, start creating an inventory.” Sapir points out that most people underestimate just how much stuff they have, and that most Americans take an average of 182 days to unpack their boxes once they move into their new homes.
Make an Inventory and Pay Attention to Specifics
Modern movers will create an electronic inventory, taking photographs as they pack boxes, and creating lists. “Most movers today are digital,” says Sapir. “We scan everything in and out, and you’ll get a PDF of the inventory. We scan each box every time it’s touched, so you’ll know where your things are when they’re packed, when they’re put on a truck, put in a warehouse, and finally delivered to their destination.”
If you’re doing this on your own, use those note-taking programs to create an exhaustive inventory, too. Pay attention to specifics. Make sure that you know where the remotes and cables for your television are. If you take apart a piece of furniture, such as a bed, be sure to keep track of all the parts, as well as the tools you’ll need to reassemble it on the other side. Most importantly, be sure to keep track of important papers like passports and I.D.s.
“Every few weeks I have a crisis,” says Sapir. “Somebody is moving and realizes the night before their flights that they’ve packed their passports, so need to dig through their boxes to find them.”
Before leaving the old location, be sure to have a floor plan of the new place and an idea where everything ends up.
Use Sturdy Boxes
Of course, one of the most basic tools of moving is moving boxes. Sapir says “Use moving boxes. Buy them cheap, if you have to. You can find them at Home Depot, the UPS Store, or from a local moving company. If you check online, you can even find used ones that are still serviceable. Be sure to grab sturdy boxes, so that you end up with 20 or 30, instead of 150.” Be sure to pack heavy items like books into smaller boxes that you (or those erstwhile friends you’ve lured into the process) can handle without injury.
Consider Professional Moving Companies
If this all sounding a bit overwhelming, you can always hire movers and organizers to help with the entire process. If you live in an apartment, Sapir recommends first checking with your landlord, management company, super, or doorman. “Those guys always know everything. Use them as a resource.”
Sapir understands that his industry gets a bad rap. “Movers have such a bad name,” he says. “It’s such a difficult industry; it’s almost as bad as car dealerships.” He recommends checking out the government website Protect Your Move, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation.” There you’ll find information about spotting the red flags of moving fraud, tips for a successful move, your rights and responsibilities, and moving checklists for before and during your move.
“You can also contact the Better Business Bureau to get tips on hiring a mover and see which ones have a good (or bad) reputation,” says Sapir. “Check several sites. A business may be able to manipulate results on one or two, but they can’t get to all of them. You should be able to find information on safety ratings, how many crashes they’ve had, how many drivers and trucks they have available, as well as consumer complaints.”
He estimates a good mover should be done in about five hours (depending on the distance between the two homes).