Day 1: My Move and My Tips to Help Yours Go Just as Smoothly

Day 1 began early, as in 1 am when I finally went to bed the night before. Despite the month I’d given myself for culling, sorting, and packing up my belongings, it wasn’t until very late that I’d managed to get everything packed up and ready to go. But the packing was the worst of it, thanks to hiring a team of movers, who did a great job and were able to get all my stuff up far too many flights of stairs for their liking with only one chipped (poorly packed) mug thus far. The sheer terror of watching them cart around all my “fragile” belongings on their backs, probably took years off my life.

So now that the move is done, I have some moving tips.

1. However long you think it will take to pack, double it.

No, really. This may seem like overkill but unless you live the most minimal lifestyle ever, you will need more time than you think. Especially if you plan on sorting for donations or reselling items on Craigslist. A longer packing process can be less stressful, but also has the additional advantage of forcing you to evaluate what things you use regularly, what things are only infrequently used, and what things haven’t been touched in recent memory. Which leads to…

2. Determine exactly what your new place can hold and plan accordingly.

If you have a floorplan of your new home or if you can take detailed measurements of it to make a floorplan, do it. Make note of where windows, doors, and outlets are located, as well as any other features you may need to plan around, like radiators, exposed pipes, or baseboard heaters. Then take measurements of your furniture and plan layouts. I used a CAD-lite website www.floorplanner.com to plan my layout. It’s a great resource that’s free for one project (seriously, commercial CAD software is really expensive, so I think it’s one of the best free/membership sites I’ve ever used). It allows you to add furniture with customized sizes and colors but also has a really good range of Ikea furniture.

Once you’ve made a floor plan you’ll be able to arrange your existing furniture to your liking and really start to visualize where things will go in your new digs. It will also help you determine if there really isn’t any space for your current belongings and you can plan accordingly. Having planned your furniture layout in advance also makes moving infinitely quicker and easier, because you’ll already know where things need to be placed and there won’t be the need to rearrange things after the fact, which can be incredibly complicated with boxes filling up all the available space.

3. Consider hiring movers. 

If you can afford it, or if you have a lot of stuff that would result in all of your friends inconveniently having plans the day you need to move, consider hiring a moving company. I had never hired movers before, but I used a website called www.citymove.com to list my job and have moving companies bid on it. The site is great because you list all your stuff including dimensions of furniture and numbers of boxes and moving companies give you quotes for either hourly or flat rate moves listing the number of men and the size of the truck provided. Then you can read reviews of those companies by past customers to check their qualifications, compare prices, and decide on which mover you want to use.

For my move, I made sure I had an insured mover with an extra large truck and 4 men. I knew it was going to be a big job based on the amount of furniture I own and the fact that I was moving to a walk-up apartment. I could out-of-hand dismiss any mover who thought the job could be done by 2 guys with a small van. I went with an hourly rate rather than a flat rate, but it turned out that either option would have cost me about the same (I suppose it shows that the flat rate movers really know how to estimate time). Also keep in mind that gratuity is extra. Movers recommend a $10-20/hr per man and they typically prefer that tip in cash. The movers were an hour late, which was actually fine because it gave me a moment to finish up and rest before the craziness began (or continued). We were out of my old apartment in 3 hours and completely into the new one in an additional 4.5 hours. Not bad considering all those stairs I keep mentioning.

4. When packing think about what you’ll need access to immediately and make it as accessible and clearly labeled as possible. 

One of the first things you’re going to need is your bedding. So have clean sheets, pillows, comforters and pajamas packed in the same box if possible and labeled “Open First” so you know exactly where they are. There’s nothing more stressful at the end of an exhausting day than not being able to find a set of sheets to put on your bed.

Keep important items like moving paperwork, contact information for the movers and landlords, and small tools like scissors, wrenches, and screwdrivers in a separate bag that you will transport to your new place. Also make sure it has important things like your phone (and charger), your wallet, and the keys to your new home.

Label everything and be as specific as you can. Don’t just name the room, list the types of items inside so you can know at a glance whether the box is a priority. Searching for plates and glasses is not fun when you’re hungry and thirsty. Make sure to write on the top of the box and on several sides in case boxes are stacked on top of each other. And always label the boxes containing glass or other fragile items to aid your movers.

If there’s something you will want right away in your apartment (for me this was my tea and coffee making equipment, garbage bags, and my water filter) make sure it’s clearly labeled so that even if you can’t fully unpack it, you can have access to it. The water filter was particularly necessary so that I could keep everyone hydrated during the moving process.

5. Try to relax.

Moving is stressful, but it doesn’t have to be that bad. Make sure you drink plenty of water, wear comfortable shoes and clothing, and take frequent breaks so you don’t overtask yourself. Your home doesn’t have to be instantly put together, so as long as you have a plan you can deal with it in manageable chunks.