Wednesday, August 17, 2011

tips for moving (learned the hard way)

working too hard can give you a heart attackackackackack

I have moved every summer for the last 10 years--with one sweet exception in college. My considerable consternation with moving has been well documented. I was pretty sure I'd said all I have to say about the matter.

But now the time has come once more for me to cram all of my worldly possessions into boxes and schlep them into my next apartment, and just like clockwork, I want to write about it. I recently noticed that last fall's post Tips for Living in a Tiny Apartment is my 2nd most popular blog post of the year, so I think it's time for a followup. Let's talk moving.


It's time for some dehoarding, whether you're moving across the globe or just across the street. Go through every single object you own and get rid of anything that's damaged or that you don't use. If you're getting rid of a lot of stuff, I suggest throwing a party with a Drunk Thrift Store theme. Ask your guests to bring some booze, and in return invite them to raid designated boxes of your possessions. Everyone will get looped and start putting your clothes on and leafing through your old Seventeen magazines and you'll save yourself a trip to the Goodwill.

Get all of your parking permits and address changes squared away a few weeks before the move, because lord knows you won't have time for anything responsible like that once your life is in boxes.

do all that stuff you've been meaning to do
Over the course of your dehoarding, you no doubt found some things that needed dry cleaning or mending or supergluing. Do it now. While you're at it. clearly mark all of your mostly empty consumables like foods, bath/beauty products, cleaning products, etc. USE ME and do your best to use them up before the move. Whatever you haven't taken care of by your move out date gets chucked--it wasn't important anyway.


-lots of packing tape
-new box of garbage bags
-one thousand newspapers (I unscrupulously take stacks of the free ones advertising cars or apartments.)
-a few sharpies
-cleaning supplies set aside for cleaning up at the end
-bags packed with essential clothes, medicine, personal care items that you'll need throughout the move
-all of the boxes. This is the most important part. My favorite boxes for moving are white bankers boxes, because they have tops that fit on without being taped (although I do recommend taping them!) and because it is physically impossible to pack them too heavy. Aside from these priceless gems, never pay for boxes. Get them free off Freecyle or Craigstlist, or at virtually any local store. Liquor stores usually have a zillion boxes.



start with the least essential stuff
Picture frames, decorations, books, DVDs, off-season clothes, etc. Then handle your kitchen stuff, pantry, and linens--things you'd generally use daily but can live without for a few days. Save your clothes and bathroom for last, since those things are the most disruptive to be without.

label the bejesus out of your boxes
Write the name of the room the box should go in on all four sides of the box so you can see it no matter how it is stacked. Write what's in the box too. When you get there, you can set each box down in the room it belongs in the first time you set it down.

pack smart
-Pack your glasses and other breakables in wine boxes from the liquor store. They come with perfect cardboard dividers.
-Pack your books and other heavies in white bankers boxes or other small boxes. Otherwise they will be too heavy to carry.
-Cushion your breakables with towels and clothes instead of bubble wrap when possible.
-Pack linens and clothes in double-bagged garbage bags. Gather clothes in your closet in groups of 5-10 garments at a time, then pull the garbage bags up over them. Tie the bag at the top around the hangers. Clothes can hang here until they're ready to move. At the new place, you can just hang the clothes up and cut the bags off of them. VOILA your closet is intact!

put everything in a box
You are going to hate yourself if you have to carry a bunch of odds and ends out of your almost empty apartment one at a time. There are going to be things that don't want to fit into boxes--fans and shower caddies and sleeping bags and other randoms. Save a couple of bigass boxes for the very end to throw all of the last-minute stuff into.


invite a bunch if people
You cannot have too much help doing this. With two people, it will take two miserable hours to move out. With five or six, it will take half an hour. Bribe them with snacks and beer and the promise of helping them move when their time comes.

load smart
Put the boxes in the truck first and the furniture last. When you get there, get the largest furniture in place before you start moving any smaller items in. Otherwise you could be setting yourself up for a very unpleasant game of 3D Tetris when you try to set your rooms up.

order a pizza
Nothing is better than ordering a pizza the first night in a new apartment. It's good practice for remembering your new address.

Discussion Question:
What are some of your hot tips for moving?


  1. How did you just make me want to move?

  2. only an industrious Midwesterner would have been turned on to do work by this post ;)

  3. i just remembered you're moving closer to me and got RULL excited. let the regular board games and booze nights commence.

  4. oh girl, it's gonna be all of the brunch, all of the brunch

  5. Small exception to the rule of packing boxes first then furniture: this is only if you are moving across town and have the ability to go back. When packing to go cross country - you only have one shot at packing the van. You put the big stuff in first (furniture) and then the small things. This way you can be sure to pack it tighter and more efficiently. Worst thing in the world is getting to the end and realizing there is enough volume for the object but no way to arrange things to fit your couch into the van...

  6. SO TRUE. Thank god you're the engineer for our household.

  7. If you're using a moving company, make sure you call them several weeks in advance. If you don't, here is the conversation that will ensue:
    Me: Hi! I'm moving on August 1st and so I'd like the packers to come on July 30th, the movers on July 31st and we'd like our stuff delivered right when we get our keys at 8 A.M. on August 1st.
    Moving Co.: Well, unfortunatly, we're booked those days, and have been for a while. We can have packers come on July 23rd, movers on July 25th and then delivery to your new address on August 6th. Also, since your things will be in storage for almost 2 weeks, you must throw away all of your aerosols, corrosives and flamables.

    ...which means we were living out of the one suitcase we could bring in a car to move ourselves.

    We had a going away party and offered party favors of cooking spray, nail polish remover, and multi-purpose mop n' glo.

  8. oh lawd Meghan!! sucks about your moving truck but I LOVE your party favors!!

  9. comments from around the socialmediasphere that are too good not to post here:

    Matt Flagg (via Google Buzz): Here's a tip: write profane box labels. It's a strange form of motivation!

    Joe Ro (via Facebook): I've still got a bunch of old curtains and sheets for packing breakables. VERY good advice there.

    Amy Beld (via Facebook): I always pack my glassware in (clean!!) socks. They keep them from getting banged up, and otherwise socks are so bulky to pack.

  10. Katie this is a great blog! I read it days ago but had no time yet to comment. I just added up my moves in the last 10 2001 was 10 YEARS ago?...and it comes to 14. Not counting the every single summer of either living out of my suitcase in Italy and Greece (grad school) while my stuff was in storage, or (college) kickin' it in this tiny 1950's trailer in my dad's off-the-grid property with my stuff under a giant tarp in the lower garden. Yeah. Fun. My last big move was with my husband to Australia, just a little over a year ago. I have tons of advice for an international move (perhaps that could be my guest blog?). But I'd like to say for now, that saving up desiccants is a really good idea of your stuff will be in storage or on a cargo ship for any amount of time. Desiccants are the things you find in your vitamin bottles, packages of dried seaweed, and beef jerky. Sometimes even in your new shoe boxes. They are crucial to sucking up water and keeping your things from getting wet! Also when storing clothing or other linens for awhile, it's a good idea to put in a little bar of soap (all those pilfered hotel soaps work great for that) because the bar of soap will keep your clothes smelling fresh and you don't have to launder them straight out of the box. Yeah,'s a beautiful thing. But it gets old. :)