Most everyone has experienced at least one move in their lives.
According to Colin Holmes of move.org, “Roughly 35.5 million Americans move each year using everything from professional movers to old station wagons."
Whatever motivates you to move, it can be an intricate process with many steps. To help you organize your move, we have the ultimate moving checklist.
Reduce your stress by planning ahead
It's no surprise that the entire process of moving contains a lot of stress. There are so many details to manage from the day you decide to look for a new place until that final box gets unpacked.
Staying organized and positive can help ease you through each step, but you'll most likely feel pressure from the amount of time and money you'll invest in the move. This is why it's important to go into your move prepared for what's ahead. Keep track of everything that has to get done to help you avoid any costly moving mistakes.
What are your moving options?
Those who are moving usually do it themselves, have full-service movers or a hybrid of the two. Each variation will require a different amount of energy, money, time and attention to detail.
This version is usually the cheapest option but can be more time-consuming. You rent your own truck or borrow a friend’s. You pack it up and drive yourself to your new home. Once you get to the new place, you unload and unpack your belongings.
If you decide to hire movers, they will be responsible for packing the truck, driving to the new location and unpacking your belongings. This makes your move easier and quicker but can end up costing more.
If you’d like an option that’s in between, you can hire help to just load and unload your truck. This hybrid option will be a medium price while still being efficient.
When should you start gearing up to move?
It's best to start planning for a move about two months in advance. This allows you to give proper notice to your property manager and schedule movers. Typically, you need to give 30 days' notice before moving out. If you schedule your moving date two months ahead of time, you'll be well within the legal range to move out, unless your lease says otherwise. Submit your intent to move in writing and begin preparations.
An effective way to keep yourself in check as you prepare to move is to know what to expect at each stage of the process. Creating a moving timeline, complete with a moving checklist for each stage, can help walk you through from start to finish.
6 to 8 weeks before the big day
About six to eight weeks before moving day, you should think about scheduling movers. When scheduling movers, which you should do as early as possible, it's important to get everything in writing. This includes the estimated costs, as well as a schedule for their arrival. This is especially important if your move coincides with a busy day or time of year for moves.
According to the Augusta Free Press, Fridays are the most popular day to move and the summer is the most popular season. More than a third of all moves take place in the hottest months of the year. You may have fewer options for moving dates within these timeframes, so planning ahead can give you more flexibility.
Additionally, you should start thinking about the move itself by:
- Create a central spot for documents and information. Keeping everything in one place — online or in a file folder — makes it easier to find as your home gets more disrupted with packing.
- Craft a plan for moving day. Decide what you'll move and what you'll need professional movers to handle. You may end up not needing movers at all, but you'll probably need a moving truck. Go ahead and schedule that now to ensure availability on the day you'd like to move out.
- Research I.D. and tags. If you're moving out of state, find out how long you'll have to get a new driver's license and vehicle tags, once you move to your new apartment.
- Establish a moving budget. Include the cost of movers, packing materials and anything you already know you'll need to buy.
- Request time off work for the move itself. Pad the actual day of the move with 1-2 days on either side if you can. This gives you time for last-minute packing, as well as time to settle in a little bit before having to go back to work.
- Research your new community. Begin figuring out the closest grocery store, best restaurants and other local points of interest. If you're moving far enough away from your current place, start researching new doctors, schools and other professional services that you'll need to change.
- Begin decluttering. Every single item you pack represents a dollar sign, so you'll need to schedule some time to declutter your apartment before you start packing. You don't need to waste time and money packing up items that you'll never use again, so trash or donate anything that's old, broken or unnecessary to move along with you.
- Have a garage sale. Get rid of any unwanted items and make some money to help fund your move at the same time. If you don’t want to have a traditional garage sale, you can try using selling apps to get rid of your items.
- Book a hotel. If your move will take a few days or if you can't get into your new unit right away, you'll need a place to stay.
4 to 5 weeks prior to moving
This is the stage where things can start to get more stressful since you're adding packing to your daily workload. Keeping things in perspective helps, according to Caitlin Renton and the American Moving & Storage Association. “Throughout the moving process, remind yourself why you're moving so you can reflect on this exciting time."
About a month before your move, it's important to tackle tasks that will help transition you from your current apartment to your new home. Some items to consider during this stage include:
- Make arrangements with all your utility companies. Cancel them in your current place and set them up in your new home. Transfer anything that is the same between the two locations.
- Start changing your address, especially with the post office to ensure your mail forwards. Make a list of all the sites that store your contact information like Amazon, Netflix, Uber Eats or DoorDash and set a reminder to update your address after you move into your new place. As you update your address, don't forget to cancel any services or memberships you won't need after your move (gym memberships, lawn services, newspaper delivery, etc). Some additional people to notify include:
- Bank and credit card companies
- Insurance companies
- Your child's school
- Utilities: Phone, cable, internet, gas, electric, water, trash
- Medical providers, to transfer prescriptions and records
- Magazine subscriptions
- Apartment property management (Check out our sample move-out letter if you need help giving notice)
- Begin collecting moving supplies. Track down as many free boxes as you can, purchasing any extras you might need. Don't forget to buy packing paper, strong packing tape and a few black Sharpie markers to label everything.
- Set up an organizational system for your boxes. Whether color-coding per room, packing similar items together or something completely original, having a system in place will make unpacking a lot easier.
- Purge things you don't need. Do another sweep of your items to see what else you can get rid of. Avoid packing items that won't get used at all in your new home. Sell anything you can and donate other items.
- Make arrangements for any extra help. You'll probably need some assistance on moving day, whether it's pet care or childcare.
- Schedule general service on your car. You're most likely going to be driving a lot during the move, carrying more weight in your car than usual. An oil change and tire rotation will help it perform at its peak.
- Prepare your pets for the move. Moving with pets means you need to make special arrangements — especially if you have to fly with Fido or Kitty. Do your research to determine what paperwork, medications and vaccinations your pets will need in order to make a safe trip to their new home. Make sure pets have secure nametags, and store their immunization records in a handy, accessible spot.
- Use any stored food. Frozen food and cans in the pantry can be hard to transport, so it’s easier to consume it. Start eating this food for your meals for the month.
2 to 3 weeks ahead of time
It's packing time!
This is it, your move is approaching and it's time to hunker down and get the bulk of your packing done. You most likely have already started this process, beginning with nonessential items, but you need to turn your attention to the rest of your stuff.
- Transfer your renter's insurance to your new apartment. Call and let the company know the date of your move and any other relevant details that will change.
- Separate out valuables, important files and items you need on a daily basis. These are best kept with you during the move and should go into a box labeled for your car if possible.
- Set aside a few days worth of clothing to go into a suitcase to travel with you to your new apartment. To make packing less stressful, use whatever hacks you can find.
- Begin packing your items. Now is the time to start packing as many items as possible. Don’t pack anything you plan on using in the next couple of weeks, but the rest can be put in boxes and labeled.
It's also important to take extra care when packing, even if you're in a hurry. You don't want to unpack a bunch of broken items and have to replace them. According to Laura McHolm and The Huffington Post, items most likely to break as a result of rushing to pack include:
- Drinking glasses
- Stereo and audio equipment
It's not only glass that gets damaged if packed improperly. Make sure you take the time to wrap, pad and protect everything by planning out enough time to get the job done right.
In addition, you should also wrap up whatever you can that's unrelated to the move itself at this stage. Finish making arrangements with utility companies, complete any change of address tasks and set up a plan for cleaning your apartment based on what's required by your lease. Start eating up the perishable food in your pantry and fridge so you don't have to waste it or worry about trying to move it.
Lastly, this close to moving, take some time to relax. Have a going-away party if you're moving far or a night out with friends at your favorite neighborhood restaurant or bar. You need a break.
A week to go
This is it.
You've got seven more days until the move. To say there are a million little things to do is often an understatement. Besides completing the all-important task of packing, you might want to take care of a few other items on your moving checklist, including:
- Create a box inventory. Write all the items in each box on the side of the box or on an organized list.
- Pack your essentials box and luggage. Be sure to keep this separate from your general items.
- Confirm all interconnected plans such as child or pet care, utility installations and the moving day schedule.
- Withdraw any cash you'll need on moving day, including tips for the movers.
- Schedule a walk-through of your current apartment with the property manager to ensure you get back your security deposit. Also, ask if you can reserve a parking spot on moving day to get your truck up close.
- Clean as you go. After you pack up each room, clean it. If you are getting it professionally cleaned, confirm this appointment with your cleaning company.
Moving day is here.
This is the hardest day in the process since you now have to worry about two locations instead of one.
- Be sure all your boxes are packed and close to the exit. If you are hiring movers, this will make their job quicker, costing you less. If you are moving yourself, it will be easier to transport the items if they are close to the door.
- Take out the trash. You don’t want the place to smell when your property manager arrives to inspect it.
- Do a walk-through. Make sure all your items are out of the home.
- Give your apartment a final cleaning. You’ve already done most of the cleaning but with an empty home, you can see any additional spots that you missed.
- Check your lease. Be sure there aren’t any additional move-out rules stipulated in your lease. You’ll want to be sure to follow any guidelines so you can get your full deposit back.
- Confirm with movers. Be sure that they know where they're going and have your cell number in case any issues arise. Pack your own car carefully and return your apartment key before heading off to your new place.
You'll most likely arrive at your new place before your movers, which is a good thing. This gives you time to prepare. Unlock your new apartment and open any gates the movers will have to get through.
Do a quick walk-through with your new property manager to note any issues that are preexisting. This protects you from having to pay for them when moving out. If you can, unload your car and put your stuff in an empty closet to keep it out of the way and safe during the day.
As the movers begin bringing items in, be on hand to help direct them to the proper rooms. Offer them bottled waters and make sure they don't have any questions. When they're done, pay and tip them before walking them out to secure gates or doors you've left open for the move. Unpack your essentials next and then enjoy your new apartment.
Stay on top of things afterward
With so many things to remember when moving, you may have forgotten how much there is to do afterward. If you define the whole process of moving as leaving one place to settle into somewhere else, then the real work begins after the move.
Not only will you need to unpack your boxes in your new apartment, but you'll most likely have to do a lot of shopping to restock your pantry and fill in any gaps in furniture you may have. Take it slow and don't feel like you have to get everything done that first week. Similar to using a moving checklist, make a little progress every day and check off each task. By the end of your first month, your new apartment will start feeling much more like your new home.