The Ultimate Start-to-Finish Guide to Moving to a New Place
Moving can be a hassle that disrupts your life and sleep. But by getting organized, sticking to a checklist, and some strategic planning, you can pull off a smooth move without a hitch. Check out our ultimate start-to-finish moving guide to keep your move on track.
The best way to organize your move is to set your move-in date then use this guide to keep you on track from two months right up until you move. If you wait until the last minute, you might find yourself stuck renting a U-Haul and begging friends to tote your boxes for pizza and beer. There’s a better way.
First, determine your move date, then get busy with this checklist.
60 days before move date:
Sort, purge and donate – Make sure you only move things you want, need, and use. Start by tossing out anything damaged, donate what can be, give away items, and purge the unusable.
Find a mover – The process is more intense for a long-distance move, and it pays to start early. Check reviews for customer complaints of lost/broken items. Narrow to three options, interview, then decide.
Make a moving journal – Both digital and paper records are helpful. Create a spreadsheet to track due dates, the checklist, and to-dos. Use a paper journal to jot notes as you go, so nothing falls in the cracks.
Organize records – Locate all your critical documents, so they don’t get lost in the shuffle. School, shot, and vet records, passports, birth certificates, etc.
45 days before move date:
Gather moving supplies – You can buy, but why? Craigslist and Freecycle often have free boxes and packing stuff from others that recently moved. Otherwise, buy what you need
Start paring back – It’s time to look again at what you can cull after the initial purge. Offer unwanted items on LetGo to get them out of the way, do another round of donations, and organize.
Measure and plan – Measure your new space and furniture. Find out what will fit and decide what to shed, replace, and buy. Apps like Amikasa, Home Design 3D, and Rooms are helpful.
Pack up out-of-use items – Pack things you won’t miss. Start with out-of-season clothes, décor, books, and rarely-used items. Label and stack boxes by room.
30 days before move date:
Confirm mover arrangements – Choose your mover, sign the contract, and pay the deposit. Consider moving insurance, but first, check with your renters or homeowners policy to see if they cover moving loss.
Pack and label – Begin serious packing. Take pictures off walls, pack up clothes, and start boxing up the kitchen including appliances and less-used items. Label and sort boxes by room.
Register change of address – Change your address with: bank, credit cards, magazines, insurance company(s), employer, and set up a change of address and mail forward with the USPS. See when you can get your driver’s license changed.
Change bills – Update digital subscriptions if they require zip code info for credit card processing. Go through your bank statements to jog your memory. If you change banks, reset auto-payments as well.
15 days before move date:
Secure your records and valuables – In addition to your critical records, identify valuables you don’t want to misplace while moving. Identify and organize jewelry, portable heirlooms, and items of particular value.
Get time off work and clear your calendar – Schedule time off a day before and after your move and clear your social calendar. You’ll be busy and exhausted and don’t need distractions during your move.
Confirm movers and engage critical services – Reconfirm the mover. Set up utilities at your new place. Most services can be engaged quickly. Turn new services on several days before your move and shut off the old a day after.
Order new furniture/mattress – Order needed new items. Is your mattress fit to move? (See below). Shopping online for a mattress is convenient. If possible, schedule delivery a day or two before your move, so it’s ready and waiting at your new place.
7 days before moving date:
Clean and repair – If you’re renting, it’s time to scour everything, putty nail holes, and break out the carpet cleaner, so you get your security deposit refunded. If you’re selling your house, cleaning and touch-up paint is just the start.
Refill medications – Make sure you have enough medication on-hand and don’t pack it – take it with you. Keep a first aid kit out for any moving incidents and prep other necessities.
Donate unused food – If you have perishables, you might not want to move them. Eat your leftovers, use what’s in the freezer and donate food you can’t consume. Canned and non-perishables are great to move.
Pack up everything else – With just a week to go, do your laundry, pack up everything except toiletries and some clothes. You can switch to takeout and paper plates so that you can pack most of your kitchen, too.
Get a good night’s sleep – If you follow the checklist and are organized, there’s no reason to stay up late worrying. Get to bed at a reasonable time for a full night’s rest. Keep a notepad at your bedside for last-minute notes.
Dispose of mattress – Moving is a great time to get a new or larger mattress if needed. Schedule pick-up of your old one. Takl is a good app to find help and if you want to recycle, check out local resources here.
Hand-carry valuables and documents – For the things you can’t afford to be misplaced, keep them with you. Hand-carry your passport, birth certificate, and critical documents plus jewelry and other valuables.
Monitor the movers closely – Keep an eye on the movers to ensure your things are handled carefully and nothing goes missing (or misappropriated). Have cash on hand to distribute gratuities at the end for a job well done.
Tips for Working with Moving Companies
There are myriad choices for movers to help you get to your new home. On a strict budget, you can go the U-Haul and friends route, but that’s the least desirable. You can DIY and rent PODS, then pack and unpack yourself.
Better still is to hire movers that move everything from your home, drive it to your new place, and bring it back inside. There are also white-glove movers that will pack and unpack your boxes if your budget is limitless.
Steps to find the best mover for you:
Seek referrals from friends who moved recently to see who they used and ask about their experience.
Call at least three companies and schedule estimates (some might offer estimates based on info from you).
Check reviews, references, search the Better Business Bureau and Google looking for complaints.
Decide between company-provided packing materials and supplying your own for cost-effectiveness.
Find out how much the final cost could differ from the estimate provided. Bear in mind cost shouldn’t be the deciding factor.
Look for a cross-section of a solid reputation, quote that you can afford, and availability on the date you must move. Verify that they’re bonded, licensed, and insured.
Reduce moving costs by avoiding:
Moving during the summer since it’s peak season and they charge higher rates.
Accessorial charges for packing and unpacking services and assembling/disassembling furniture.
Advanced charges arranged and upcharged by the mover such as appliance installation or piano moving.
Appliance charges are for unhooking your fridge/washer/dryer at the old place and hooking up at the new.
Auxiliary and long carry fees can crop up if the moving truck can’t get to the house and must be transferred to a smaller truck or manually walked a long distance.
Before moving day, make sure you clearly label everything for the destination room at your new place. Be sure to tag fragile items and very heavy boxes. On moving day, be present and accessible, but don’t lurk or micromanage.
Provide cold drinks and snacks. Have cash on hand to tip at the end of the move when they’re on the way out the door. Depending on how rigorous the move, how pleasant they were, and if they went above and beyond, tip $25-50 per mover or 10-15% of the overall cost to split equally.
Should You Move Your Mattress?
The mattress is one of your most important pieces of furniture since you spend a third of your life in it. When you’re moving, it’s the perfect time to ask yourself whether it’s time to invest in a new mattress or if your old one is worth taking with you. Here are some considerations.
Is it worth the hassle to move it?
Unless your current mattress meets your needs, ask yourself these questions.
Is your mattress more than eight years old? If so, it might be close to the end of its lifespan.
How comfortable is your old bed? If you wake up achy or toss and turn, those are signs that your mattress might not be a good fit and needs replaced.
Is the mattress of good quality? If you have a bargain bed, your moving might be a good time to upgrade your sleep experience.
What condition is the mattress? If it’s sagging, indented, ripped, or torn, the move might finish wrecking your bed.
Does your bed meet your needs? Perhaps you need a bigger bed or want to upgrade to an adjustable or cool sleeping mattress.
It’s the perfect time to buy a new bed
If you’ve been thinking about a new mattress, there are lots of reasons to buy during your move.
Not moving it will reduce your moving costs.
If you’re DIY moving, not taking it reduces the hassle.
You can have a new bed delivered timed to match your move.
You can get white glove delivery for a stress-free move.
You’ll start off in your new space with a comfortable sleep experience.
What to do if you decide to buy instead of moving your mattress
One of the most convenient ways to shop for a new mattress is to buy online. You’ll get a better-quality bed for a more affordable price.
Check the time from order to delivery so you know when to buy.
If you have access, you might want delivery to the new place a day prior.
Buy new sheets and bedding if they need replaced or you’re changing sizes.
Getting rid of your old mattress
Coordinating getting rid of your old mattress requires timing since you don’t want to go without a bed at your old space. There are a few options to dispose of your old bed.
Repurpose it – If you have a spare room that needs a bed, use it there.
Donate it – Local laws may prevent donating your bed but in some areas, you can.
Sell it – If the bed is in decent shape, you might be able to sell it.
Give it away – List it on LetGo or Craigslist for free and let someone take it.
Recycle it – Look for a local recycler. More than 80% of a mattress is recyclable.
Trash it – Hire someone to haul it away or take it to a landfill.
Tips for moving a mattress
When moving a mattress, whether DIY or using a mover, start with a plastic mattress bag to protect it from dirt, stains, and snags. They only cost $5-10.
For DIY, get help since mattresses can be ungainly. If you don’t have help, fold it in half and secure with ratchet ties to make it easier and use a furniture dolly.
Preferably move it in a closed moving van or truck. Stand it vertically – don’t lie it down and pile stuff on it.
Moving a mattress in the back of a truck is the next best thing but be sure to secure it with ratchet ties or well-knotted rope.
A car top is the least preferred method and the least secure. It needs to strapped extra-securely.
4 Essential Sleep Tips for Moving
To keep your move on track, you need good sleep. If you’re overtired while prepping your move, you might forget important tasks. Plus, data shows moving disrupts your sleep cycle. A recent survey of people post-moved showed:
74% reported sleep negatively affected
Average sleep lost was a whopping 4 hours a night
The ill-effects lasted 11 days
Nearly half polled said they never want to move again
To stave off sleep loss that can make your move to your new place more stressful, take these four steps.
Stick to your checklist. If you’re on track, you shouldn’t lie awake agonizing about the move.
Keep your move journal nearby. Keep it by your bed to make notes so nagging thoughts won’t keep you awake.
Stick to your sleep schedule. Sleep and wake at the same time for best results.
Pack a “first night” box. You might not have time to unpack so this should contain everything for your bedtime ritual (PJs, meds, phone charger, toiletries, book you’re reading, etc.)
The first night in your new place may leave you restless. Science calls this the “first-night effect.” When you sleep for the first time in a new place, half your brain stays alert and vigilant resulting in poor sleep. Just remember, moving is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t force yourself to unpack everything on move day. Do what you can, get a good night’s sleep, and start fresh tomorrow.
Creating a Sleep Sanctuary at Your New Place
Settling in at your new place will take a few nights, but you can set the stage for quality sleep by creating a sleep sanctuary at your new place. Start by thinking about what kept you up or woke you in the night at your old place and check out the new place for similar circumstances.
Noise – If traffic noise is a factor, a white noise machine might be a worthy investment.
Light – Bright lights that shine in the window might require blackout curtains.
When setting up your bedroom at your new place, remember the elements that lead to good sleep are darkness, quiet, comfort, and a cool temperature. You fall asleep best in a room that’s 60-67 degrees. Invest in a programmable thermostat to drop the temperature at bedtime.
Darkness helps you fall asleep, but ideally, you want light to wake you in the morning. Don’t read or watch TV right before bed or use a device that gives off blue light. In the morning, natural light from windows is great, or you can get a wake-up light. Quiet is also key.
When it comes to comfort, don’t opt for style over substance when it comes to bedding. A beautiful blanket or duvet comforter that’s stiff, itchy, or scratchy might look pretty but can kill your sleep. Buy good-quality bedding and wash and change sheets weekly to keep your bed clean and fresh-smelling.
Last, remember that a good night’s sleep starts with your mattress. If yours is older, wearing out, or doesn’t meet your needs, when you move is a good time to upgrade for a better night’s sleep. You might even get lucky and find a discount for buying a mattress when moving.
Mattress Discounts for Moving
Depending on when you’re moving and other factors, you might find a discount. There are seasonal promos, special promo codes, special holiday sales, and discounts for veterans, military, and others. If you do a little research while shopping online for your mattress, you can often get a great deal.