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Moving takes time, money, and energy. How much of each depends on whether you go the DIY route or hire one of the best moving companies. Other factors play a role, too, including the size and location of your move and your level of organization.
Many of these factors are outside your control, but following the steps in this comprehensive moving checklist will help you streamline your move. We offer moving tips for each phase of the process from several months before to a few weeks after.
Four to Five Months Before the Move
It’s best to begin laying the groundwork for your move several months in advance. While you’re probably not ready to make specific plans at this point, you can get organized and do some research.
Create a Moving Binder
Before you do anything else, set up a moving binder. A physical three-ring binder, planner, notebook, or expanding file folder will work.
Alternatively, you can store digital copies of everything related to your move in a Dropbox or Google Drive folder. Include your budget spreadsheet, moving contracts, and other essential information. You can create digital copies of physical documents using a home printer, portable scanner, or a scanning app.
Research Moving Options
Once you have your binder set up, do some research. You may not be ready to book your move yet, but it is helpful to know what options are available and how much each one costs.
Consider your needs and priorities. If your goal is a stress-free move, full-service movers may be worth it. The best movers can handle nearly every aspect of your relocation, including packing and unpacking, cleaning, assembling furniture, and even hanging pictures.
Alternatively, you could go the DIY route and rent a truck or portable moving container from a self-service moving company. Although these companies typically do not offer their own packing services, they can refer you to local professionals who do.
Start Saving for Your Move
While your move is still a few months away, gather quotes and decide on a budget. Getting a head start on this is especially important if you plan to hire a full-service interstate moving company, as these services likely will be costly.
You do not need to actually book your move this far out, but requesting a few free quotes will allow you to set a budget and start saving. Remember to factor in ancillary expenses such as childcare, travel costs, and groceries, plus a little extra for the unexpected.
Two to Three Months Before the Move
About eight to 12 weeks before your desired moving date, you should start making firm plans and taking concrete steps to facilitate your move. Here are a few things to do:
Book Moving Services
You should book your move at least two months in advance. Waiting too much longer can impact pricing and availability, especially for long-distance moves. Before choosing a mover, we recommend gathering quotes from at least three different providers. That way, you can compare rates and services.
As you narrow down your options, prepare a list of questions to ask each company. For instance, you might ask a company about its cancellation policy and what payment methods it accepts. Read through any terms and conditions carefully to understand what is and is not included in the estimate.
Create a Detailed To-Do List
With your moving date set, equipment reserved, and services booked, it’s time to break your moving plan down into specific action items.
Think through everything you need to do right before, during, and after you move. For instance, you might note the exact steps needed to enroll your children in their new school or update your driver’s license and vehicle registration. When something new occurs to you, add it to your master to-do list.
You should also use your moving binder to keep track of deadlines, appointments, contact information, local laws and regulations, and other important details.
Use the months leading up to your move to downsize and declutter. Regardless of how you plan to get your things from point A to point B, a smaller move will save you time and money.
Go through your home and look for things to toss, sell, or donate. You can have a garage sale or post items on eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Poshmark, or another online marketplace. Gently used items can also be donated to The Salvation Army, Goodwill, or a local charity.
Keep in mind the space and layout of your new home. Measure your furniture to ensure it will fit, and devote some time to interior design. This will help you identify what’s worth keeping and which items you would rather replace later.
Deep Clean and Make Repairs
If you plan to sell or rent out your old house, take this opportunity to spruce it up. Deep clean as you declutter and note any damage. Small repairs and a fresh coat of paint can go a long way toward improving the appeal of your home.
Deep cleaning also makes sense in other situations. If you are a renter, you should do what’s necessary to avoid losing your deposit. If your home will sit vacant for a while, investing in small upgrades now can help avoid large, expensive problems in the future.
Make a list of everyone you need to inform of your move, including your landlord and employer. If you are moving to a new state for a new job, you may not need to tell your employer this far in advance. However, if you are planning a local move, it’s a good idea to schedule your time off a couple of months in advance.
Have a conversation with friends and family, including your children. Advance notice is especially important if you need help moving.
One Month Before the Move
When your move is a month away, you need to kick your efforts into high gear. Here’s what you should do:
Gather Supplies and Start Packing
If you plan to self-pack, start gathering packing supplies, such as boxes and bubble wrap. Set up a color-coding system (or another organizational system of your choice) to help you track what goes in each room. Pack as much as possible ahead of time. As you pack, take photographs and compile an inventory. These records will be important if you need to file a moving insurance claim.
Contact Service Providers and Forward Your Mail
Contact each service provider for your current home. Provide your new address and moving date so they can shut off your services and send a final bill. Next, look up the service providers for your new home. Arrange the start date for water, electricity, trash pickup, and any other utilities. You may also need to schedule appointments with the internet, pest control, and home security companies.
Finally, register your change of address with the USPS to set up mail forwarding. You can do this online. All you need is a valid email address plus a debit or credit card to pay the nominal $1.10 fee.
A week or Two Before Moving Day
As you get down to the final days before your move, don’t forget to secure last-minute details.
Confirm the Movers
Reach out to the moving company and confirm the details of your reservation. Make sure you know if you need to have cash on hand or if you must go to the bank to get a cashier’s check ahead of time to pay for your move. Complete any necessary insurance certificates for the movers. And confirm the time of the movers’ arrival on moving day.
Make Childcare and Travel Arrangements
Book a flight or hotel stay if necessary. If you will be driving your car to your new home, have it serviced to ensure that your tires and fluid levels are good.
Those with pets and young children may have a few more calls to make. Consider hiring a babysitter or enlisting the help of a relative to watch the kids while you run any last-minute errands or oversee the packing and loading process. You might also want to board your pets in the days leading up to your move.
On Moving Day
If you used your time wisely in the months leading up to your move, you should have relatively little to do on moving day. However, it’s important to make sure you are available to answer questions and communicate with the movers.
Pull out your moving inventory and check off items as they are packed or loaded. Make note of which boxes go where and what is inside each. This will make it easier to determine if anything is missing later. It will also streamline the unloading and unpacking process.
Do a Final Sweep
Once everything is packed, walk through the house again. During this final sweep, double check for anything that has been missed, damaged, or dirtied so that the problem can be addressed as soon as possible.
Pack Your Essentials
Pack a bag of essentials that will stay with you during the move. You might include important documents, keys, snacks, medications, and an extra change of clothes. If any of your moving boxes contain items you will need immediately upon arrival, mark them clearly or keep them with you. Consider doing the same with sentimental or fragile items.
After the Move
Fully settling into your new home could take several weeks. However, there are some steps you should take right away.
Unpack, Clean, and Shop
Start by unpacking the most important boxes and setting up each family member’s sleeping space. Then clean up any dirt or debris tracked inside during the moving process. Take a quick trip to the grocery store or schedule a delivery to stock up on pantry staples, perishables, paper products, and toiletries.
Changing the locks and testing the smoke alarms should also be a priority for safety. Check the light bulbs and outlets, too, and fix any problems right away.
Make Everything Official
Update your driver’s license and voter’s registration. Notify the IRS of your new address, and change your address on any subscriptions, memberships, insurance accounts, bank accounts, and credit cards. If you are moving to a new state, you may have more things to do, such as obtaining a new driver’s license and license plates. You should also register your pets as required by your new city or county.
Explore Your New Community
In the midst of all this chaos, take time to explore your neighborhood. Throw a housewarming party, try local restaurants, and see the sights. If you have kids, look into youth sports leagues or other extracurricular activities. Plugging into your new community will help your new house feel like home much faster.
With strong organization and planning, you can streamline both the move-out and move-in process. Start a moving binder four or five months in advance where you can store all moving-related documents and notes. Then, gather quotes and create a budget, so you know how much to save. Once you book your move, begin downsizing and packing your least-used items. A detailed to-do list will help you keep track of all other moving-related tasks
By the time moving day arrives, you should have little to do besides a final inventory and walk-through. Once you’ve settled into your new home, you can begin the logistics of making your residence in a new city or state official. Use this checklist to plan out every step of the move for the least stressful moving day possible.
Moving Checklist FAQ
What should be packed first when moving?
When moving, you should first pack nonessential items, such as books and decor. The last items packed should be those you use daily, such as your clothes and toiletries. If you are moving and unpacking over the course of several days, prioritize items that you will need to be comfortable during the first night and morning in your new home.
What should I do before putting away items in storage?
Before putting items away in storage, you should do the following:Create an inventory of everything that will be stored. Make sure all the items are clean and fully dry.Disassemble larger items.Use packing paper or bubble wrap for fragile items.Pack smaller items into plastic storage bins.Cover items that cannot be boxed with plastic.Label the boxes clearly.
What should I not pack when moving?
You should not pack the following items when moving:Broken or unwanted itemsDaily essentialsHazardous materialsImportant documentsPerishablesValuables
Are professional movers worth the cost?
If your goal is a stress-free move, professional movers are worth the cost. A full-service moving company can handle most of the hassle involved in moving, including packing, unpacking, cleaning, and setting up furniture.
How We Chose the Top Moving Companies
We researched and analyzed dozens of full- and self-service moving companies and formulated a moving review methodology based on a number of factors, including package options, pricing, and reputation. We also identified customer pain points based on customer-review analysis, proprietary consumer surveys, and interviews with former and current moving professionals.
Speaking directly to a representative at each company, we determined the number of package options available, the coverage provided, the types of moves available (long-distance, local, and international), and any extra perks offered, such as mobile apps, moving checklists, and 24/7 customer service.
We also gathered pricing data from each of the companies and determined whether they provide ballpark estimates or binding quotes. To determine reputation, we evaluated companies based on their rating with the Better Business Bureau as well as their overall score on Yelp.