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Pre-Move Checklist: How to Move Stress-Free

House with stacks of moving boxes, cute kid sitting in cardboard box
@kiwitanya / Twenty20

Want to know the key to a stress-free move? Don’t do it. But don’t lose hope, there are several tips and tricks we can help you with so your move isn’t so overwhelming and is actually organized. The key is knowing what to do and when to do it. The good news is that everything doesn’t have to happen at the same time. Learning how to move smoothly requires you to break up your big moving tasks into bite-sized to-dos.

So don’t worry — you can easily conquer your move through planning, research, and organization. If you’re wondering how to move in the easiest way possible, a moving checklist is a smart place to start. In addition to signing up for MYMOVE’s interactive checklist, we also recommend breaking down your tasks into manageable chunks before your moving date.

Two Months Before Your Move

1. Decide if you need to hire moving help.

The older you get, the harder it is to lure friends and family to serve as moving help in exchange for pizza. Evaluate your options early on to determine whether or not you want to enlist the help of a professional mover.

2. Get quotes for your move.

Most experts recommend getting at least three estimates from moving companies. It’s important to get written — and binding — quotes.

3. Discuss moving specialty items.

Some items require special care and expenses to move. Plan how to move things like a piano, artwork, and other fragile or valuable items. Make sure to get an estimate from your moving company upfront.

4. Dedicate money for the move.

Many people who move make the mistake of jumping the gun and budgeting for new house items — like furniture or decor — rather than setting aside money for the move itself. Take into account expenses like a moving truck, furniture movers, and moving supplies.

5. Create your moving budget.

In addition to paying for moving services, expect to spend money on other expenses as well. Moving supplies like cardboard boxes, tape, and bubble wrap add up quickly. As a homeowner, you may also encounter unexpected closing costs and renters may have to pay for repairs before leaving.

6. Set up a move file.

Whether it’s electronic, paper, or both, create a place to keep track of information you’ll need for your move, including moving quotes, receipts, leases, and other rental documents or purchase papers.

7. Gather your records.

These include complete medical records for you and family members, including shot and prescription records. Don’t forget to include dental records, plus you’ll need to contact your vet for pet medical records. All of this takes more time than you think. Ask for referrals for your new location.

8. Talk to your insurance agent.

Both auto and home/renters insurance premiums could change after your move. Build in time to complete the application process early on.

9. Learn about your new community.

Explore resources about schools, shopping, and entertainment in your new area.

10. Organize items to sell or donate.

Avoid overstuffing your moving boxes with things you don’t need or want. Make some money by selling your higher-end things online, drop off your unwanted clothes, or simply donate your unwanted goods by arranging a free donation pickup.

11. Plan your days off.

Moving is a major task that’s rarely completed in a day. Look at the calendar to see if your moving days overlap with your work schedule so you can request time off now.

Six Weeks Before Your Move

1. More records.

If you have children, secure copies of their school records. Again, this takes time.

2. Evaluate your possessions.

Don’t move anything you don’t use. For inspiration, follow Marie Kondo’s lead and decide what brings you joy and what simply bogs you down.

3. Plan a garage sale.

Once you determine what items you no longer need or want, get rid of them through a moving garage sale or consign them.

4. Check your food.

Start cleaning out your freezer and pantry. Plan meals around what you already have instead of buying more food.

5. Use up or throw away your cleaning supplies.

Again, you don’t want to and often can’t move certain cleaning products, including bleach and aerosol products. Use them up before you leave. It’s much easier to buy new products in your new location.

6. Look for free packing and moving boxes.

Nail down a supply of packing boxes and other moving supplies. Sure, you can buy them from movers or container stores. But you may be able to secure free boxes from your local liquor store, grocery store, or other retailers. Start saving your Amazon delivery boxes and ask your friends to do the same.

7. Schedule your moving day.

You got your quotes earlier. Now evaluate which is right for you and schedule your move. Don’t wait — truck availability can get dicey the closer you are to your date, particularly if it’s during prime moving season. Weekends can also be busy so pick the exact day you want to move early on. Remember to discuss liability coverage, packing, loading, delivery, and claims procedures.

8. Create a home inventory.

This simple process, whether on paper, or through an app, makes it easy to insure your possessions. A home inventory list also helps you track if anything goes missing during the move.

9. Transfer your home or renter’s insurance.

Update your policy and forwarding address for your homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance, which can likely change if you need different coverage at your new address. In some cases, you may receive a refund if you prepaid for the year and are ending your plan early.

10. Get a car check-up.

Get your car serviced and checked before hitting the road for a long-distance move. Even if you’re not going far, it’s smart to get your oil changed and car tuned up, so you don’t forget about it once the move gets more hectic.

11. Host a goodbye party.

Whether you’re leaving town or just leaving a place that was home to a lot of great memories, throw one more bash before you move to connect with family and friends.

One Month Before Your Move

1. Time to pack.

If you’re moving in summer, pack your winter clothing and shoes. Or vice versa. At any rate, start to box up stuff you don’t regularly use.

2. Make a plan to move your pets.

Decide how you’ll move your pets from the old to the new location.

3. Return books, movies, and other borrowed items.

As you begin the packing process, return any library books or other borrowed items you discover. Also, avoid renting new things, so you don’t have to worry about returning them or accidentally packing them in your moving boxes.

4. Arrange your move out inspection.

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling a home you own or leaving a rental. Both situations require a final walk-through to make sure the property is in good condition.

5. Take care of last-minute repairs.

Before that final inspection takes place, attend to anything that might come up as an issue. For instance, if a picture frame covered a sizable hole in the wall, get it fixed now on your own schedule to avoid any delays when it comes time to move.

6. Confirm travel arrangements.

If you’re planning a long-distance move, now is the time to arrange flights or book hotels for a long road trip.

7. Figure out how to ship your car.

Another task for a long-distance move, you may not be able to drive your car (or want to drive your car) across the country or overseas. Plan how to transport your car, so your vehicle isn’t stuck later on.

8. Schedule your movers or reserve your moving truck

If you’re not on a mover’s schedule yet, you need to find a moving company and make your reservation. Alternatively, reserve a moving truck if you’re going the DIY route. Visit the rental center if you’re not sure which size truck is right for your needs.

9. Apply for required parking permits.

If you’re not on your mover’s schedule yet, you need to make your reservation. Alternatively, reserve a moving truck if you’re going the DIY route. Visit the rental center if you’re not sure which size truck is right for your needs.

10. Make your utilities checklist.

Changing your utilities requires you to stop service to your current place and start service at your new place. Once your move dates are finalized, you can schedule your utilities change in advance.

11. File your Change of Address with the USPS and other agencies.

Don’t miss a beat when it comes to receiving your mail by filing your change of address. It’s a fast process that only costs $1.05.

Two Weeks Before Your Move

1. Initiate more address changes.

Let your bank, credit card companies, and others know that you’ll soon have a new address. Other places that need to know include the IRS, your state motor vehicles organization, and local tax assessors.

2. Prepare labels for your moving boxes.

Make it easy for your movers to deliver boxes to the right room in your new home. Before you start throwing your stuff into boxes, make color-coded labels for each room.

3. Pack your boxes.

Pack by room and label boxes carefully. You’ll probably want to set your kitchen and bedrooms up soon after the move, and this will help immensely. Have everything ready when the movers get there, regardless of whether they’re professional or amateur.

4. Pack an essential box for the first week in your new home.

Prepare a box that has everything you need to get through the first week in your new home, before you’ve had a chance to unpack the bulk of your moving boxes. Essentials include things like toiletries, your coffee maker, a shower liner, and towels.

5. Recruit volunteers!

Even if you hire professional moving help, it’s still nice to get help from family and friends. Think of the right skills for the right people, whether it’s wrapping up your fine china or watching the kids while you oversee the movers.

6. Get rid of hazardous materials.

Some things you just can’t move and need to be handled carefully. Figure out how to dispose of things like leftover gas in your gas cans or half-empty bottles of lighter fluid.

7. Practice your new commute.

Take the time to see how long it takes to get to and from work with traffic from your new place. Start your day early on one day to see what time you need to leave in the morning. Do the same on the way home and travel to your new home to check your arrival time.

8. Set aside important documents folder and other valuables.

Place valuable items such as birth certificates, social security cards, and jewelry in a separate packing box or small safe that stays with you during the move. Set these items aside early on and keep them with you rather than placing them on the moving truck.

The Week of Your Move

1. Talk it over with a moving consultant.

Most moving companies now assign you a moving consultant. Go over details of the move one last time with yours.

2. Prepare your records.

Print at least two copies of the official record of your deal with the mover.

3. Communicate with friends and family.

Let them know of your new address, whether using a quick email or a more formal change of address announcement.

4. Be prepared for the unexpected.

Fill any prescriptions you’ll need to tide you over during the move. Pack a box of stuff you’ll need during the move, such as snacks and first-aid supplies. Drain gas and oil from your lawnmower and heaters. Also, consider getting cash and/or traveler’s checks for expenses during the actual move.

5. Empty and defrost your refrigerator.

Do this at least 24 hours before moving day. This will require some meal planning for the final days you’re in the old place. Just know that whatever perishables you don’t use, you’ll have to throw away. The same goes for your pantry: Who wants to transport three cans of black olives, two pouches of tuna, and a jar of sundried tomatoes across the state?

6. Set your move day schedule.

Start with the time you expect your movers to arrive and depart and schedule other necessities, such as final inspections.

7. Create a back-up plan.

Build some flexibility in your schedule because you’ll inevitably have some kind of delay that is out of your control.

8. Do a final meter reading of utilities.

As part of your move day scheduling, request a utility representative to come and do a final meter reading so you don’t pay for more than you owe.

9. Start to clean.

Prepare for the final walk-through by cleaning your home. The most important areas are the kitchen and bathrooms. All floors should be broom swept before you go.

10. Gather all copies of keys.

Return your keys to your landlord or real estate agent to transfer to the new occupants.

11. Withdraw some cash.

It’s common practice to tip your movers so take out cash ahead of time to show them your gratitude.

Moving day

1. Protect the old place.

Yes, you’re moving out, but you don’t want the place to be damaged. Put down carpet, floor, and door frame protectors throughout the home before the movers get started.

2. Stay out of the way of movers.

If you’re using professional movers, they know what they’re doing. They will pack your stuff in a way that makes sense.

3. Check it again.

Examine every room and closet to make sure you didn’t forget anything.

4. Save your receipts.

Remember, your moving expenses could be tax-deductible. But you’ll, of course, need receipts for everything.

5. Take your valuables with you.

Remember the separate box of important documents and small valuables you packed? Take it with you, whether it’s in the car or your carry-on luggage for the airport.

6. Arrive at your new place early.

Get to your new home early so you can direct the movers on where everything goes. Your labeled boxes will come in handy but you’ll want to establish a baseline of each room.

7. Unpack your essentials.

You also should have an essential box packed with everything you need for a comfortable night’s sleep. Start unpacking and getting things ready, like your coffee machine or curtains for the bedrooms.

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