So, you're moving to a new place soon. The scheduled moving day is approaching, but your preparations aren't quite done yet. You feel the need to do something, anything–your brain is consumed by a mix of nervous energy and a sense that there are more things to do than you can keep in your head at one time.
Don’t fret. This guide was meant for you, soon-to-be mover. Follow the checklist of activities below and you’ll have all your moving bases covered.
Part 1: Get the old place ready
This is obviously an important step, but one you can easily neglect. It's doubly important if you have to be out of another apartment by a particular date. Besides just packing up the things that you own, there's more you need to do to restore your old apartment to how it was before you came in, particularly if you want to recoup your security deposit.
- Organize everything before packing up: If you're following a moving/packing checklist, this should be on there. What you should specifically do is organize by room for your new place, not for the place you live in right now. Having a good plan for where things will go later will save you from having to run the contents of a single box across multiple rooms.
- Thoroughly clean the old place: Even though the landlord is going to clean the apartment after you've left, that doesn't mean you should just leave everything as it was when you leave. It's the right thing to do and gives you an opportunity to fix anything that might cause an issue with getting your security deposit back.
- Purge items you don't need: The best way to spend less time and effort moving stuff is by having less stuff to move. Start giving away, selling off, or throwing out things that are just going to drag you down. You get rid of the detritus in your life, save time, effort, and possibly money in the moving process, and can even make a bit of money along the way. It's a win on all fronts.
- Reach out to your current landlord to finalize moving out: This isn't giving notice – you've (hopefully) done that long ago. This is where you make sure you can load up the truck and hand the keys over to your landlord or someone else in management on moving day. Make sure that someone will be there at the time you're moving out and that you have permission to do so at that time.
Part 2: Prep the new place for move-in
There's a lot of work to do for your new place after you’ve finished packing up your old apartment. Before you even have the keys, here are some things you can do to make transitioning to your new home easier:
- Change your address: Unless someone you know and trust is still at your old address, you want to make sure your mail isn't still going to your old address. Filling out a form to let the Postal Service know that you've changed your address is really easy (do it online here), and you'll be able to make a smooth transition there. In addition, let your employer know, as well as anyone else who sends you mail or packages – yes, that means Amazon.
- Set up utilities: You really don't want to head to your new place just to find that something doesn't work. To keep this from being an issue, set up any utilities that aren't included in the rent ahead of time. Most often, this would include internet and electricity, but water and heat can be an issue as well. Check with your new landlord/management to see which providers are available in your building if you're not sure where to start.
- Get/update renters insurance: You may be required to have renters insurance, but not every landlord does that. Even if it's not required, you should have it. Get it if you don't have it already, and if you do, make sure to change it over to your new apartment.
If your lease starts before you have the chance to move in, you should have time to do a few more things to prepare:
- Measure/get used to the new layout: Does your existing furniture fit in your new apartment? Are the rooms in a different layout you're not used to yet? Start thinking about how to make this place your home now by getting all the information you can, rather than waiting until later.
- Plan how to use power outlets: This is really easy to overlook, but a lot of things need electricity to function, and there are only so many outlets in any room. When you're trying to figure out the layout, note where the power outlets are and buy power strips and extension cords to make sure you have enough places to plug things in that are easy to access.
- Investigate/document the condition of the apartment: Your landlord is probably going to give you paperwork to fill out about the condition of the apartment when you move in. How well the apartment is kept up compared to that list determines how much of your security deposit you're going to get back. While you're looking through things, take pictures of anything that's damaged or worn and send it to management.
- Find utility shutoff valves/breaker box: You don't want to have to figure out where these are in the middle of an emergency. Ask management or the landlord to show you where they are and walk you through what means what if you have to. If you ever need it (and we hope you don't), you'll be glad you were well-prepared.
- Clean anything that needs it: Yes, the apartment was cleaned before you move in, but it doesn't hurt to give things a once over. Especially relevant is disinfecting any surfaces you can find – the apartment isn't going to be this empty again until you move out, so taking the time to clean now is much better than trying to clean around all of your stuff later.
Part 3: Keep the move on track
There are a lot of moving parts (no pun intended) in making sure everything gets moved from your old place to the new one as smoothly as possible.
- Follow a good packing/moving checklist: The best way to keep track of things is to have everything you can think of written down and planned for ahead of time. If you’re not already using a checklist, you should start doing so right away. This way, you don’t have to keep everything in your head, but can rely on the list to keep everything you’ll need to do for the move on track.
- Keep in contact with moving company/friends/whoever is helping you move: You're going to have some real problems if not everyone is on the same page about things. The day of moving, the time you expect people to be ready to go, who's bringing what vehicle, and a million other little things. Professional movers have processes to make things go as smoothly as possible, but it doesn't hurt to check in and make sure everyone is on the same page.
- Confirm details about what you can/can't do with your landlord/lease: What time of day can you move in? What elevator are you allowed to use? Should you leave those decorations behind because you can't put nails in the wall? While these restrictions might not be fun, there's nothing you can really do about them, so the sooner you know, the sooner you can plan around them.
- Set and review moving budget: It costs a lot of money to move, even if you're doing as much by yourself as you can. Even if you set a budget before you started, keep track of if you're actually sticking to it periodically, so you don't find yourself accidentally going way over budget when a little preparation could have prevented that problem.
- Research self-storage units: Do you have more stuff than you can fit in your new apartment? Is there just too much stuff to move in all at once? If so, you might be well-served by getting a self-storage unit to keep your excess things. Even if it's not a perfect long-term solution, it's good for keeping your stuff until you find a more permanent solution to the problem.
- Find the best time/date to move in: Is there a lot of foot traffic coming in and out of the building at different times? What about vehicle traffic? When will movers charge the least? If you have any flexibility in when to move in, you can save some hassle or even money by choosing a better time.
- Make arrangements for your pet: Moving is loud, chaotic, confusing, and stress-inducing for everyone involved. Pets aren't immune to these effects. Make arrangements beforehand to have someone watch them while you're moving, as well as a plan to help them get acclimated to the new place with as little disruption as possible.
- Let people know you're moving/send an announcement: In addition to changing your address with the post office/your boss/the like, other people are going to need to know you're moving. Even if it's just a text message to some of your friends or family with your new address, let them know now, rather than having them frantically calling you later when they need your address for something.
- Pack a bag and box for the essentials: Sure, this is on most moving checklists, but it's really that important. Pack like you're going on a short trip, keeping everything you're going to need the first day in one suitcase/box so you can get them unpacked first. It'll save you from having to hunt through all your boxes to find your clothes, toothbrush, or anything else you'll need right away.
- Plan first room(s) to complete: You should probably get your bathroom and bedroom unpacked first. They're the first places you're going to see in the morning, so getting them unpacked and set up first thing is going to be a huge boost to your quality of life right away. It gives you something that feels at home day one, rather than the stress of a partially completed home for days.
You're probably so focused on getting moved in that it's hard to see what's on the other side. Once you've moved into the new place, you're going to have to live there. Suddenly, all the little day to day things you're ignoring right now are going to become relevant. If you have a chance, here’s what you can do to get a head start on the most important step: living in your new apartment.
- Research/explore the neighborhood: Sure, you probably already researched the area, but now it’s different. You see things differently when you’re actually going to live there. If possible, drive out and actually go around the area, but a Google maps excursion can still help a lot if that’s not feasible.
- Get to know the most important locations and routes: What’s your route to work or school? Where’s the nearest grocery store or gas station? Where’s a good place to talk a morning walk? You’ll need to know all of this eventually, so start early.
- Meet your neighbors: You can do this however you want. Throw a housewarming party, walk door to door introducing yourself, or spend time hanging out in common areas getting to know people. Even if you’re not a people person, getting to know and trust your neighbors can really pay off later, from getting someone to feed your pets when you’re gone to helping you if you get locked out or keeping an eye on the place while you’re on vacation.
- Paint/decorate the apartment for yourself: This is going to be your new home, so start making it feel like that. Put up your decorations, paint the walls (if the lease allows), and otherwise get started on personalizing the apartment. You’ll probably want to start in the bedroom, but wherever you spend a lot of time works. Soon enough, it’ll start to really feel like your home, rather than just an apartment you’re moving in to.
- Figure out how trash pickup/mail/other little things work: Where are the mailboxes in your new building? How often is trash pickup, and where do you put it? How do they handle package deliveries? What other thing aren't you thinking of yet but will be doing every day? These things vary a lot from place to place, so be proactive about getting this figured out, rather than trying to figure out how the mail works when someone sends you something important like a check – not speaking from personal experience, of course.
- Handle the challenges of moving to a new state: There’s a lot involved in moving across state lines, and it might not be immediately evident what you need to do. From establishing residency to registering your pet in a new state, there’s a lot you may have to do.
- Register your vehicle in the new state: It's not the most urgent thing, since there's probably some time before your registration expires, but you're often required to register your car within a certain time period of moving to a new state. Plus, if there's something special you need to do for your specific vehicle, it's better to get started on your registration immediately rather than waiting too long, finding yourself in a bureaucratic nightmare, and driving around with an expired license plate for eight months before getting things resolved – not that this is pulled from personal experience or anything. The sooner you get started on this, the fewer problems you’re likely to have down the line.
- Research schools/doctors/childcare: Unless you're moving a very short distance, the old places you relied on aren't going to be available to you in your new place. If you have kids, you're going to have to find them new schools or daycare. You're going to have to find a new doctor and any other professional service that you received on a consistent basis. The best place to start is to ask for recommendations from your current doctor/daycare/etc., but finding someone new is something you should get a start on.
- Set priorities on what items to buy when: There are some things you need in your apartment and a lot of things you're going to want. Figuring out the difference between the two early on will keep you from making mistakes of mismatched priorities. This is especially true if you're moving to a place on your own for the first time, so you don't end up moving into an apartment with a fully stocked kitchen, including steak knife set, while still sleeping on an air mattress because you haven't bought a bed or couch yet. (If you do want that, we're not judging. You're also clearly not the average apartment dweller.)