Moving: An Incomplete List of Stressful Things

I’m just going to come out and say it: moving sucks.

Image of a person wearing blue jeans struggling to carry a large stack of moving boxes.

It’s expensive, time-consuming, and emotional. There are so many big and little things that need to be done, so I’ve created a list. This is everything I can think of that I have had to do while moving, though I’m sure it’s not exhaustive. Also, I am moving from rental to rental, so if you’re buying and selling real estate there are probably lots of things to be done that I can’t even fathom.

Before the Big Day

  • Decide to move, learn that you have to for work or family, etc.
  • (optional) Think about everything you have to do and panic.
  • Declutter and clean out as much as you can. You’ve definitely accumulated stuff that doesn’t need to go with you.
  • Donate what you can to your local charity shop of choice. In New York I liked to give to Housing Works as opposed to supporting the Salvation Army or Goodwill and all their problematic practices.
  • Gather packing materials. Some moving companies offer green options like renting reusable bins, or you can get cardboard boxes new and used. Get more tape than you think you’ll need. And several black permanent markers, because they will all manage to disappear into the void.
  • If hiring professional movers, start pricing them. I found that costs varied greatly between companies so do your research. Local companies may be cheaper than national ones like Allied or Bekins.
  • Tip: if you have any flexibility, scheduling your move several days before or after a new month could save you a little money, since movers are busiest on the first and last days each month.
  • If moving yourself, research all the truck options. I personally had a terrible experience with U-Haul last time I moved, but your mileage may vary. Storage pods are a great alternative to a traditional self-moving truck, but you need to live somewhere with a place to park it.
  • Organize your stuff before packing and label everything. This will make things a lot easier when you get to your destination. (Sometimes this is dependent on how fast you have to pack, but do your best.)
A picture of pallets of moving boxes labeled with different kinds of books.
I even labeled which kinds of books were in each box.
  • Notify your landlord. Your lease will likely specify how much time to give them, likely 30, 60, or 90 days. If you are in the middle of a lease, talk to them about how to proceed.
  • Once you have a move-out date, notify your utility companies. Some can simply be transferred to your new address, others will have to be canceled outright.
  • Once you have a new place to live and move-in date, find out what utility companies serve you and which ones you have to set up. Then start doing that.
  • Don’t forget about renter’s or homeowner’s insurance. If you have to cancel the old account and reopen a new one (which I had to do because I was going to a different state), leave your old policy in place until your move is complete. This is to protect you if anything happens to your stuff in transit or storage.

Finding a Place to Live

  • Determine what your monthly budget is for rent and utilities.
  • Figure out what part of town you would like to live in. If you’re moving to a new city, you may have to visit to get a feel for different areas.
  • Make your list of must-haves for your new place. Also, make a list of want-but-can-live-withouts. For example, I HAD to find a place that was dog friendly, and I wanted but could have lived without a washer and dryer in the unit.
  • Use an app like Trulia or Zillow to look at apartments in your preferred neck of the woods and note what you can get for your money.
  • If needed, adjust your expectations or neighborhood to fit what you can afford.
  • Also, if you have local contacts who might know of properties that don’t appear on those apps, use them.
  • Start contacting properties to set up viewings.
  • If you are moving out of town, cram as many viewings as possible into a couple of days and travel there.
  • When looking at a place, test the water (how long does it take to heat up?) and all the appliances. Find out what utilities you are responsible for and how much you have to pay up front.
  • Tip: If you have any gut feelings about a place, listen to them. My better living situations have been when I’ve listened to my gut, and the worse ones have been when I ignored it or rushed into something.
  • (optional) Type your potential new address into your food delivery app of choice and see what kinds of take-out you can get. This may not be the deciding factor, but it’s good to know.

It’s Moving Time

  • As the date gets closer, you will pack more frantically. If you started off organized, you’ll do less damage here.
  • Keep aside a couple of mugs, dishes, and pieces of silverware per person to use as you pack up your kitchen. Ditto for a few changes of clothes, a couple of favorite toys if you have kids, and your own forms of entertainment. (I kept out one or two knitting projects instead of all 7 million I have going at any given time).
  • Confirm all dates, times, and prices with your movers or van rental company. Pay any necessary deposits.
  • Confirm your move-out date with your current building and your arrival date with your new one. If you need to reserve the elevators, do so.
  • Set up mail forwarding. In the US you can do it at, and I’m sure if you go to the mail service website in another country there’s a similar process.
  • Change your address on crucial stuff: bank accounts, credit cards, schools, anything that autoships, GrubHub, etc.
  • After your stuff is out of your place, putty over any holes in the wall, empty/clean the fridge and freezer, sweep and maybe mop the floors, and make the place look overall presentable. Landlords will try to find any excuse not to refund your security deposit, so don’t give them one.
  • Arrive at your new place before the movers and make sure there’s an elevator for them, parking (or a loading dock), and that your apartment is ready for stuff to come in.
  • Don’t forget to tip your movers!
  • When unpacking, try to do it as methodically as you packed. You want to start off in a new place that feels nice and homey, not junky or cluttered.

I haven’t even gotten to the unpacking and decorating portion myself; I have this weird limbo week between when I moved out of New York before I can get into my place in Philly. So I’m sure I’ll have more to say when I dive deep in that process.

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