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Since I moved out of my parents house in 1995 and went away to college I have moved a total of 16 times. That's a lot of moving!! Dorms weren't open during summer months, so for the first two years of college I had to find apartments to sublease for summer. Then there were the "college rentals" that my friends and I hopped through...one year, one house. They had been so partied in that the floors in a few places literally just smelled like bad beer. (Ewwwww...)

Moving so many many times has made me a fairly efficient mover. Hopefully tonight I can provide you all with some helpful tips, and you can share yours with me, and maybe we can share some amusing stories about moving as well. "This one time, at band camp while moving"...and so on.

-- First things first, take inventory. How much and what kind of stuff do you have? Do you really need to keep that metallic itty bitty dress that you once wore for Halloween? How about those books you never sold back because you were positive that you would want to re-read half of the Norton Anthology of Early British Literature? I lugged that anthology around for way too many moves, finally got rid of it this last time.

The best way to take inventory is to make a list. In my youth I didn't like lists, so I never made them and as a result I was forever searching various boxes and bins for things I'd packed away, having no idea where I'd put them. The first few times I moved I didn't even label the boxes! I'm horrified thinking back to that now.

Now I'm sure you're asking yourselves, "Elise, what are we making a list of?"

The answer is: Everything

Start room by room. Write everything down on your list. One huge list- everything you own - you can abbreviate some things if you want, like when you get to your books, you can just write, "Books, Alphabetical by author's last name A-C" (if you keep your books in alphabetical order- I go by genre myself).

Once you've made your list, and you've decided what you're throwing away- plan your garage sale (don't forget to call the city and see if you need a permit, etc.). Make some signs for yourself, get little price labels and price things out, etc. Give what doesn't get sold to Goodwill or some other local charity.

No, you're done making your hugely long lists (since I know you're all collectors of "stuff" like I am, right?! Please I hope I'm not alone in that...lol), and you've had your garage sale- the next step is to get together your supplies.

Here's a good list to start with:

  1. Boxes
  1. Tape
  1. Newspaper (best used to place between layers of already wrapped items because it may rub off on some things)
  1. Bubble wrap (don't pop all the bubbles before you move even though you know it's still fun)
  1. Ziploc bags (for small things that go in drawers- pens, paper clips, screws, etc.)
  1. Wrapping paper (for breakables)
  1. Magic Markers and Label stickers (for labeling boxes, bags, etc.)

Optional: Colored or Clear Plastic Bins - when I moved, I primarily used colored bins. I color coded based on room/items - books in blue, clothes in silver - and then I knew when I arrived I could use the bins for storage or stack them away until I need to move again. The emptied bins can also be used around the house. I use one as a laundry hamper. My TV sits on top of another one. I have one sitting in front of the window for my kitties, who like to lay there and make cute noises at the birds.

Your third step: Begin Packing.

Start by packing the items that you don't need for your daily living routine. So, your books, photo albums, off season clothes, CD's/DVD's, etc. As you pack, mark things off on your list. You've numbered your list, so when you get to "Books, Alphabetical by author's last name A-C", you can write down what that box includes on a sticker label and then properly label that box. Now you know what's in the box, where it is, what room it will go to when you unload it, and how quickly you'll want to unpack it.

Important items that you don't want to lose or be damaged, like photos, wills/deeds, jewelry, etc. should be packed separately so you can carry them with you on the day of the move. These are things you don't want to take a risk with.

Other risks to avoid- make sure you package fragile items carefully. Wrap things carefully, place newspaper between layers, and don't shove too much into one box. Better to pack fragile items in smaller boxes so they aren't too heavy, and so that if something does go wrong- maybe only that one small box gets damaged as opposed to a larger box and more of your stuff.

If you can, save the boxes of some of your electronic equipment when you buy those items. When I moved this time it was convenient to have my printer back in the box it came in and the same went for other smaller electronic items. When they're all packaged back up safely with the styrofoam they came in, you'll have less to worry about. Besides, last I checked, styrofoam isn't biodegradable for ages anyway, so better to keep it out of the landfill and use it to move every time you need to.

Clothes- When I'm packing clothes, I assume I'll likely be doing some laundry when I arrive. This time all of my winter clothes were already packed away, I'll wash them when I unpack them as soon as I need them. My spring and summer clothes I packed into suitcases and wardrobe bins. The wardrobe bins prevented my dresses from getting too wrinkled. At this point I haven't had to do too much laundry as a result of the move, so that's good. I did unpack a bin of summer clothes that had already been packed and those needed washed since they'd been packed away all winter, but that wasn't a big problem.

Your next step: Moving Companies.

You can pay someone to move your things for you, or you can rent a truck and move them yourself. I've always gone the second route because I've never really had enough "stuff" to warrant the first one, but if you have yourself and a family and a huge house full of furniture, you may consider going with the "pay someone to move it for you" option.

This website allows you to compare movers - both full service and self service. You can compare quotes. I've found the best luck as far as prices go with Penske or U-Haul, but I've heard stories from folks who say otherwise, so I won't pretend to be an expert on that. What I will say is that you should leave extra money aside for expenses related to moving that you didn't consider at first- renting a moving dolly, furniture pads, account for a fluctuation in gas prices, etc.

Don't forget that you'll need to set aside cleaning supplies. First, you'll need to clean the house/apartment you're leaving behind, and then it's always a good idea to clean up a bit as you're moving in (as I've found that no apt. I've ever moved into has been as clean as I'd want it to be when I get there- which is saying something, because I'll put up with a certain amount of dust).

Once the big move has occurred- you have to get in and unpacked.

Here are some really concise tips:

Move-In Day

If you arrive before the movers, take some time to tidy up your home (dusting shelves, etc.) so the movers can unpack items directly onto clean shelves. If you plan to line cupboards with shelving paper, this is a good time to do it.

Unpack your car.

Review your floor plan to refresh your memory about where you want furniture and appliances placed.

Check to make sure the utilities have been connected, and follow up on any delays.

Confine your pets to an out-of-the-way room to help keep them from running away or getting unduly agitated by all the activity. You might even consider boarding them overnight at a local kennel until you're settled.

Plan to be present when the moving van arrives. Be prepared to pay the mover before unloading. One person should check the inventory sheets as items are unloaded. A second person should direct the movers on where to place items. Once all items are unloaded, unpack only what you need for the first day or two. Focus on creating a sense of home for your family. Give yourself at least two weeks to unpack and organize your belongings.

Moving doesn't have to be the most stressful event in the world, and it doesn't have to mean that you're unorganized either. I've done it both ways and I have to say that I much prefer the organized, less stressful route. Moving.com has some useful links for those of you in need, and 123movers.com has lots of good info as well.

As for moving horror stories- this past November was one for me. It involved a break-up and a crying ex. I recommend to everyone who is in that situation- set boundaries. I basically had to throw everything into the nearest box as quickly as I could and just go- and I had to deal with the consequences of that for several months until I prepared for my most recent move. It took weeks to re-organize things and pack properly...and I found myself saying things like, "Why do I still have a VCR rewinder machine?" Because, if I'd had time the first time, I'd have gotten that to Goodwill months ago and I wouldn't have been lugging it around! I will say I've been incredibly lucky in that almost nothing has broken in all the times I've moved (fingers crossed)!

Tell me about your moves...your tips, etc. Please.

Originally posted to Elise on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 06:23 PM PDT.

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