Advice for Moving
December 21, 2004 6:41 AM   Subscribe

Moving mistakes? I'm looking for generalized moving advice, apartment to apartment. There are great threads (this one on moving to NY is really a classic) but what about the nuts and bolts of getting things into boxes and out again? What did you screw up last time? What do you know now that I don't yet?
posted by CunningLinguist to Home & Garden (62 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
My movers yelled at me last time for packing too many books into boxes that were too big. They told me that books need to go into fairly small boxes, that the bigger boxes are used for things like a single lamp.
posted by spaghetti at 6:46 AM on December 21, 2004

-Plan to make the last box you pack one with your daily essentials (kitchen, a set of towels, etc.) This will be the first box you unpack at the new place so you won't have to dig through boxes just to eat dinner.

-Spaghetti's right about the books. Go to a box store and find boxes that are about a foot square. Even one of those, full of books will be plenty heavy.

-Refuse to pack a box of crap. It's so tempting as you finish up packing to just throw stuff in a box. Just go through it now, or you most likely never will.
posted by wallaby at 6:52 AM on December 21, 2004

Label. Label. Label.

Just write directly on the boxes, but label at least two sides of each, and give more indication of what's inside than just "Books".
posted by LairBob at 6:57 AM on December 21, 2004

The three things that helped us most in our moves were:

(1) Packing paper is a necessity. If you go to a U-Haul rental place, they sell it for something like $6 or $7 a package. It's just white newsprint sheets. Hundreds of sheets per box. They are great to wrap around plates or bowls, or to stuff in the sides of boxes to create a little buffer zone. Use it liberally - between every dish that's important to you and around breakable objects. Three boxes or so should serve you well.

(2) Collect old boxes from work, if you have an office job. Computer paper boxes rule. They are the perfect size for stuffing books into (sturdy and small enough that, packed with books, you can carry it with confidence and ease) and they are great for stacking up when loading and unloading. Ask your office services people or your IT people for old boxes; at my office, I was able to collect two or three a day.

(3) Wardrobe boxes. If you have a mover, ask them if they will lend you wardrobe boxes, and just let them fill them up for you. When we moved earlier this year, our movers packed up our entire closets (three of them) into wardrobe boxes in about 5 minutes. Then, when we got to our new place, they just took them out and hung them right up. It was beautiful. Packing up hanging clothes from closets stinks.

Good luck. Moving is not by any means a fun experience, but there is something strangely appealing to the method if you are sufficiently organized and motivated.

On Preview: I second LairBob. Label the boxes with where they'll go in the new space too; that way, you'll get a good head start on unpacking.
posted by AgentRocket at 7:01 AM on December 21, 2004 [1 favorite]

Unload dishes, etc. right into the dishwasher and run it. There's all sorts of cruddy skudge in cardboard boxes.

If you're moving yourself, have your "essentials" with you as you take posession, and immediately unload them into the new place. We stashed a change of clothes, toiletries, and pillows and blankets in case we were too tired by the end of the day to unpack the things we would need for the next day.

You may have to buy toilet seats. It makes sense, from a sanitary point of view, but I didn't think of it and it was an annoyance to have to run to Home Depot before I could even use the toilet.

Get the phone numbers of a few restaurants that deliver to your new address. Last time we moved, we didn't have a local phone book, didn't have internet access, and were starving by the time we got the number to a pizza place.
posted by Coffeemate at 7:14 AM on December 21, 2004

Response by poster: This is great stuff. Exactly what I was looking for. Keep it coming.

(And yeah, the labeling thing is one I learned the hard way - especially not just "books" or "kitchen." You forget you will be faced with piles of boxes labeled books or kitchen and have no idea which to open first.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:15 AM on December 21, 2004 [1 favorite]

When I was moving things myself (something I've vowed never to do again), I found it helpful to make sure all the boxes were of similar size ... I used bankers boxes, with lids and handles. They weren't cheap, but it made it easier to cart them. And their smaller size made so that I couldn't fill them with too many books to make the boxes impossible to move without herniating myself.

Of course, the downside to them is that it's too easy to keep stuff in them for too long after you've moved them. Since they're cardboard, they're bug magnets.

The best advice I can give to someone who is about to move, especially if they're a packrat like I tend to be, is to make a pass through all your belongings and pull out half of everything you own and either throw/donate/give it away. Then make another pass, being more ruthless about it than you were the last time. The less you have, the less you have to move.
posted by crunchland at 7:23 AM on December 21, 2004

Use smaller boxes. Big boxes (anything over 2 cu ft.) are of very limited use. The movers can always carry two at once. Movers like bankers' boxs.

Use way more bubble wrap or paper than you think is necessary, especially if you're moving longer distances.

I agree about labeling---label for location in your new place, not just contents (though necessary also). This means that someone doesn't have to direct traffic as much at the other end---the movers know where to put the boxes just by reading them.

Also number your boxes somehow. If you've got 1 through 10 and 12 to 17, you at least know that 11 is off playing hide-and-seek.

Lots of commercial movers will recycle boxes now. Ask them about used boxes. They're much cheaper and you give them back when you're done, so no disposal problems. The warm fuzzies are just an added bonus.
posted by bonehead at 7:31 AM on December 21, 2004 [1 favorite]

don't throw away the filter/funnel part of the stove top cofee maker when you throw away all the used packing materials.
posted by andrew cooke at 7:35 AM on December 21, 2004 [4 favorites]

Anything with a damagable surface will be attacked somehow - even if you just plan to 'put it on top' or 'carry it specially', it will get smooshed/scratched/dropped, count on it. So, the moral (learned the hard way by me) is - always wrap anything that might be vulnerable, in a blanket, in paper, inside a box, whatever. Too many damn scratched end tables in my house right now.
posted by kokogiak at 7:36 AM on December 21, 2004

If you use a mover, there are two ways to go: One is they pack it, the other is you pack it. If you pack it, they are not responsible for breakage. If they pack it, they are. When I moved several years ago, I got a check for something like $2000 for stuff they broke. Much of it was my sons' toys- they were packed late in the day. We asked whether batteries were to be removed and they said they would take care of it. Well, they left the batteries in and battery acid ended up everywhere. Their fault. They paid.

The downside of paying them is that packing costs more than moving, and often, even if you pay one company, the packing and moving may be done by separate companies which may result in timing and logistics problems (like running late with the packing and just throwing all the toys in, batteries and all).
posted by Doohickie at 7:45 AM on December 21, 2004

Instead of using cardboard boxes, I pack my things into Rubbermaid storage tubs. They have lids and handles, and are stackable when full or empty. They work great if you have a storage locker in the basement (keep out bugs, water leaks, etc), or, if you live in a tiny apartment, in a private self-storage facility.

I use the 18 gallon size, they make them larger or smaller, too. Furthermore, I label all of mine in permanent marker with consecutive numbers, then record the contents in a text file.

Also, since I move often and have storage, I purchased a dolly for about $40. Beats renting one, and I use it all the time to shuttle storage tubs between my apartment and my storage locker.
posted by MrZero at 7:46 AM on December 21, 2004

I like to buy these storage boxes for moving. They are small enough that anyone could carry them. They have lids (no tape!) and handles. They are useful for storage after the move. Also, every third week or so, OfficeMax will have them buy two, get one free.
posted by LeiaS at 7:47 AM on December 21, 2004

I agree with MrZero 100% about the dolly - made my self-moving experience (something that I actually enjoying doing with a few friends) a lot easier than carrying all my boxes.
posted by GirlFriday at 7:54 AM on December 21, 2004

If you are moving stuff yourself, it is a lot easier to pack the truck if all (or most of) the boxes are the same size (which implies buying them).

Public libraries frequently have small boxes they will give away.

If you are American, don't take a shortcut through Canada unless you've checked with Customs first. Had the inspector not been understanding, I could have been in a world of hurt for not having an inventory.

Ditto on using more packing materials than you think necessary, and labeling.

I like to pack books in milk crates. They have handles, and anything larger will be too heavy.

I wish I'd spent another US$20 or so and gotten a better dolly. I bought the cheapest one, and I lust after one of those with two sets of wheels that can be used standing or lying down.
posted by QIbHom at 8:08 AM on December 21, 2004

And I'm fond of packing clothes, winter coats, etc. in garbage bags. But, you have to be very careful if you do this. I have friends who threw away all their sweaters, but moved garbage.

Don't pack them tight, or so heavy that the plastic breaks, and use them as padding in the truck.
posted by QIbHom at 8:18 AM on December 21, 2004 [2 favorites]

Label your boxes for each room (and number each box). Example: Kitchen 3 of 6, Bedroom 2 of 2, etc. In addition to packing an "essentials" box, pack cleaning supplies and a broom in your car. Like Coffeemate said, unloading dishes into the dishwasher makes life easier . . . so does dusting out drawers, etc. as you reassemble and fill them.

I also suggest starting to toss/ donate stuff some time in advance. If it's been sitting in your attic for a year, it's probably safe to donate (how many Windows 3.1 references do you really need? =).

And, rope your friends into helping. It improves the company, and makes moving the big stuff easier.
posted by asnowballschance at 8:25 AM on December 21, 2004

You can get good boxes at libraries, liquor stores, and sometimes at copy shops. I also went to Home Depot and bought a ton of those plastic boxes with the blue flip tops which were great for non-square things [all books go in to small liquor boxes] and also were transparent which aided in identification. I got a few of those giant Rubbermaid tubs for clothes and bedding. Label boxes on multiple sides. I used an A-Z system for the book boxes and a 1-20 system for the plastic tubs. Then I kept a clipboard with me and had two lists of what was in each box. This is a hell of a lot easier than writing on boxes with a sharpie, since you tend to overgeneralize ["kitchen"] and sometimes I just wanted to know where the blender was.... Then when you have to track something down, you just need to know to go to box #12, not turn around all the boxes until you find the side you've written on.

Pay or bribe friends or movers to help you move all these boxes, even if it's just into and out of the truck. This way you can stand around with the clipboard and make sure it all goes well and you won't be sore as hell for the first day in your new house. If you use your friends, do NOT make them put all the boxes into their labelled rooms when they get to the new place. You are paying/feeding them to lift and haul, the fine turning can be done once they leave. Also, do not invite friends to help you move if you are still packing, it's incredibly annoying to give up an afternoon to help someone only to sit around and watch them pack, or hand you one lamp at a time as the apartment gradually gets darker and darker.

There will probably be some things you have that are irreplacable or incredibly breakable. Try to bring these things with you, don't just label them FRAGILE and hope for the best. When I moved, I'd usally toss my computer and/or stereo in the car with me, even if my boxes were being moved some other way.
posted by jessamyn at 8:33 AM on December 21, 2004 [1 favorite]

If you're getting movers, put EVERYTHING in boxes. Don't forget things like sofa cushions- they won't "just stick it in the truck" for you. We (and by "we", I mean "the movers") wasted a lot of time (and by "time", I mean "my money") boxing up big things when we moved recently.

If you can swing your rents overlapping for a week or two, the extra rent you pay IS SO WORTH IT. You can paint, plan out your furniture arrangements, and figure out the little things you'll need to buy that you didn't need in your old place. You can also move a few trips' worth of fragile things yourself. Believe me, it takes a lot of stress off your moving day.
posted by mkultra at 8:41 AM on December 21, 2004

I used to work in a Mail Boxes Etc (now UPS Store). I've done a lot of packing.

It should be obvious, but pack like things with like.

Do not rely on sweaters to serve as cushioning for breakable items: wrap those items in foam sheeting or bubble wrap, and cushion them in the box with packing peanuts and/or crumpled newsprint. Boxes containing breakable items should be packed tightly so they cannot be compressed, and securely taped. Do not interleave the flaps of your boxes. Fold the short flaps first, then the long flaps (I am amazed at the number of people who don't understand this). Stock up on 2" packing tape; a tape-gun will come in handy. Don't mess around with duct tape, masking tape, or strapping tape.

A hand-truck (for boxes) and a dolly (for furniture) will make your life much, much easier if you are moving yourself.

To obtain boxes: Your local chain bookstore probably has a recycling dumpster in back with nothing but clean, flattened boxes in it. As long as there's been no rain lately, those boxes are all good.
posted by adamrice at 8:41 AM on December 21, 2004

Used movers last week and realized that next time, we need to write room names on the boxes in both English and Spanish. Signs identifying the rooms would have helped also.
posted by Dean King at 8:43 AM on December 21, 2004

A friend of mine had what I thought was a good idea, a variant of jessamyn's suggestion. Instead of labelling all the boxes, she just numbered each one on the outside (each side, with a big marker). Then she made a spreadsheet on her laptop, and for each number entered detailed information on contents, where it should go, priority for unpacking, etc. She printed out multiple copies of the spreadsheet, and taped a copy up at the entrance to the apartment *and* in every room. She had a gang of friends helping her haul stuff, nobody had to ask questions about where to put things, and she had a much easier time unpacking once it was all in.
posted by Kat Allison at 8:49 AM on December 21, 2004 [1 favorite]

Anything that is still in a box since the last move should be thrown out NOW. You may think that box of stuff from three girlfriends ago has sentimental value but it really doesn't. Get rid of it.

Get rid of anything you don't use. If you don't use it and it gets moved, it will not be used at the new place and you'll eventually have to move it again.

Buy one of those packing tape gun thingies. It'll save tons of time and frustration. Big strong mover-types can tear packing tape with their hands. Most other people can't.

Pack one box of essentials. Another box with cleaning supplies, including several rolls of paper towels.

Move your computer yourself. At least the CPU part of it. Same with anything *really* valuable like your Stratahoovius violin and the Gibson Les Paul signed by Jesus.

If you notice anything damaged by the movers point it out RIGHT AWAY. We had a very valuable antique tabel moved to a storage unit and it wasn't until a few months later we noticed the huge gouge scraped in the surface. Nothing we could do about it that that point.

Tip the movers if they did a good job.

What other people said about books. Small boxes.

Don't sweat it if you have a few odds and ends that you haven't packed. The movers will probably have a few boxes and they will pack a couple leftover things. Our's did, anyway.

If you have a piano that you love, don't watch them move it. Just don't. You'll be happier and so will the movers. Go out for coffee. Bring some back for the guys.
posted by bondcliff at 8:49 AM on December 21, 2004 [3 favorites]

Pay or bribe friends or movers to help you move all these boxes, even if it's just into and out of the truck. This way you can stand around with the clipboard and make sure it all goes well and you won't be sore as hell for the first day in your new house.

If I were helping a friend move and he/she just stood around with a clipboard all day I would probably dump their stuff in the nearest river.
posted by bondcliff at 8:57 AM on December 21, 2004 [9 favorites]

While adamrice cautions against sweaters as cushioning, I had great great luck with t-shirts, dish towels, socks, underwear, and other thinner fabrics as "packing paper" for our dishes, glasses, and other breakables. We moved ourselves in a minivan from Washington DC to California, so it was a fairly big move, and not a thing broke. Plus, we saved tons of room in boxes -- we ended up with about half the packed boxes I would have expected.

I did, however, throw packing tape around the plates first (in groups of three) so that they didn't slide around too much.

(And the clothing mixed in with kitchen stuff does make unpacking a bit of a mess, but when you're trying to move two people, a cat, and ALL their stuff across the country in a minivan, space is the trumping concern.)

If you're moving yourself and short on space, any soft clothing items should go in duffel bags (or garbage bags) so that they can be smooshed into the spaces between/around boxes, which both saves space and cushions the boxes.
posted by occhiblu at 9:04 AM on December 21, 2004

Oh yeah, one more point--for the random crap that's always such a pain to deal with. My wife has gotten into the habit of picking up some of the clear or semi-translucent plastic bins. (Around here, there's a chain called "The Container Store" that sells them in every size imaginable.)

As long as you don't have to have them out in the open, they're great, since you can easily see into them for an idea of what's in there. Much easier to help keep track of the stuff that's not easily labeled, especially if they're going into a storage closet, etc.

And that brings me to one more important point--look into self-store, especially if you're moving into Manhattan. They're all over the place now, and the good ones are clean, dry and safe. It's a great way to keep a handle on all the stuff that you really don't want to toss, but don't necessarily need to store in the apartment.
posted by LairBob at 9:06 AM on December 21, 2004

Cling wrap. Uhaul sells this, but I've found generic $1.50 cling wrap works just as well for quickly collecting odd shaped items into easy-to-carry bundles.

Plus, when you get to where you're going, the extra wrap can be woven into the finest clothes imaginable (and it's a great dessert topping!)

Oh, and instead buying packing paper, if you live in an urban area, there's usually a bounty of stuffin' available in the form of free weekly newspapers.
posted by Loser at 10:02 AM on December 21, 2004

I recommend keeping out a few old towels, a couple tools - (pliers, flat and philips head screwdrivers, and a hammer/crowbar are most necessary), scissors, and extra tape, and gloves (the kind with a rubbery grip are best).

We needed all of these things while the movers were there, but I had packed every single thing I had, so I had to scrounge around in random boxes.
posted by blackkar at 10:06 AM on December 21, 2004

Seconding Loser, but do go to U-Haul and get at least one of those rolls of stretchy greenish plastic wrap with a handle (the handle is key). It's unbelievably useful when packing. It doesn't stick to anything but itself, so you can just wrap irregular objects with it, and you can just throw a couple of wraps around the corners of anything that might get dinged or ding anything else, and around stacks of dishes to hold them tight together so they can't chip, and around moving pads to secure them to furniture and picture frames, and just generally everywhere.
posted by nicwolff at 10:47 AM on December 21, 2004 [2 favorites]

Oh and: make sure you've checked with the super of your new building that you're allowed to move in on the day and time you have planned. It is very common that they don't allow move-ins on Sunday, or use of the elevators for moving during certain hours, or whatever. Also, your super may have elevator pads that are supposed to be hung when it's used for moving.

And you should probably take this opportunity to combine a tip for the super's help with his Christmas tip, since he expects both anyway and you want to start this vital relationship off right... $50 is probably enough.
posted by nicwolff at 10:53 AM on December 21, 2004

If you're moving yourself, buy a case of bottled water. Never reward your friends with beer until the move is over.
posted by cardboard at 10:59 AM on December 21, 2004 [2 favorites]

" I'm looking for generalized moving advice, apartment to apartment. "

Consider moving across the hall. It's the easiest option.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:06 AM on December 21, 2004 [2 favorites]

You'll underestimate how much miscellaneous last-minute stuff you haven't packed before doing the whole moving truck thing. This can get particularly bad if you have projects you are working on and don't want to pack up. I just moved and ended up with two or three carfuls, which would have been a lot easier to deal with if it was in boxes in the truck, and I didn't really need them unpacked. So take this into consideration when planning for a truck.
posted by advil at 11:16 AM on December 21, 2004

Find good movers. Don't just pick names out of the phone book or off the sides of trucks.
posted by callmejay at 11:20 AM on December 21, 2004

Also, you'd think it didn't need to be said, but it does. Big, strong friends are a lot more helpful than small, weak ones. Also hardworking friends beat lazy ones.
posted by callmejay at 11:21 AM on December 21, 2004

I moved two weeks ago.

Purge, purge, purge before you pack. Be ruthless, coldhearted, and brutal.

If you can afford it, pay movers to pack and move you. If you hire them to pack you, you'll have to supervise. They don't know anything about your stuff and its idiosyncrasies- what's more fragile than it looks, what folds up/comes apart, where you want it to go in the new place.

As mentioned, a time overlap between the two places is a wonderful thing, and takes the pressure off.

Consider hiring someone to do the final cleaning of the old place (assuming you are renting and need to get a security deposit back, you're more likely to get all your $$$ back if the place is sparkling clean, and it's hard to have the time and energy to clean the old place when there is so much work to do in the new one.)

I took two days off of work to move, so that we had the weekend to get things unpacked and settled, and that turned out to be a great thing.
posted by ambrosia at 11:32 AM on December 21, 2004

Having moved many, many times over the course of my life, I have all sorts of moving advice for those who solicit it. I've never used a moving service, so some of this advice may be contraindicated if you're outsourcing.

Packing Advice
I make a habit of trying to divest myself of junk each time I move. Last time I felt as though I was vicious about it, and yet after unpacking there sure was an awful lot of stuff I didn't care about. Give yourself a maximum volume -- a budget of N boxes worth -- of stuff that you can pack without justifying why you want to keep it. Everything else should have a reason to continue existing.

Don't overpack books. Yes, I know you could fit some more in that box, but you're going to kill yourself moving it.

We used a lot of tape of varying kinds, for all sorts of reasons. The best for every use was brown paper packing tape. All other packing tape sucked by comparison.

The most useful reusable container was the Webvan-style plastic tub with the interlocking flap lids. The old school Rubbermaid type are most durable and rigid, and the Container Store/Target type are the worst in terms of flimsiness.

Wardrobe boxes are cool in concept, but harder to lug and less flexible in terms of wedging into a truck than a garbage bag stuffed with your closet contents. Note that I don't care how wrinkly things get.

Generally use a consistent box size. I know it's cheaper to scrounge up whatever boxes are free, but if you're moving an entire household, the ability to handle identicallly sized containers makes life a lot easier. Remember: containerization completely changed the world of international shipping, and you can do the same thing on a small scale.

Loading and Unloading
GET THE DOLLY. In fact, get one for every pair of people who are loading or unloading.

When loading and unloading, don't use an "ant trail" system with people circulating back and forth to the truck. Have designated loaders, unloaders, and dolly-pushers. People stay out of each other's way and the whole process goes faster. If a flight or more of stairs is involved, dedicate people to running up and down them. Buy those people extra beer and pizza later.
posted by majick at 11:51 AM on December 21, 2004

For boxes, I liked the ones I scrounged from liquor stores. They tend to be mostly uniform in size, and they're smaller than those ginormous moving boxes and thus easier to carry (and to monitor for too much weight). Plus, they're free.
posted by occhiblu at 11:57 AM on December 21, 2004

That plastic/cling wrap stuff rocks, but people are right in recommending the kind with the handle--it makes a big difference.

The best way we've found to use it is for drawers. All we do now with the drawers from a dresser or desk is pull out each drawer, wrap it up securely with the plastic, and voila! The dresser or desk is drawerless, which makes it easier to carry, the drawers are all basically self-contained boxes now (the wrap even provides some cushioning for the face), and when you're there, all you do is peel off the wrap and pop the drawers back in. Saves tons of time.
posted by LairBob at 12:15 PM on December 21, 2004 [1 favorite]

Buy a bunch of light bulbs. I've moved into a lot of houses and apartments, and a surprising number of people take all of the light bulbs with them the day that they move out, and batteries too - like in smoke detectors and whatnot. So bring bulbs and batteries - you'll need them.
posted by iconomy at 12:31 PM on December 21, 2004 [1 favorite]

My experience comes from years of self-moving. Your mileage may vary.

First: toilet paper. Always remember to have some available when you and your buddies arrive at the new place.

Sodas make for a useful energy boost. Also, think about ordering pizza. Don't plan to cook; you won't have time.

Many hands make light work. Too few hands makes annoyed friends. Get a big crowd over and make it a social event. Try to keep everyone busy. A good practice: Men take smallish stuff from truck to door, women and children take smallish stuff from door to wherever. Sometimes it's also good to have one person stay at the truck managing the loading or unloading strategy.

If you have chosen to move into a third-story apartment with no elevators, then you should choose to hire movers. Your friends love you, but not that much.

In-town moves should not take longer than six hours, if possible. After six hours, people get fatigued.

If your friends help you move, they deserve your thanks. This should usually take the form of immediate food and drink. And helping them move when the time comes.

I have come to expect that one item will be broken every time I move. When my friend accidentally knocks over a lamp, I now just laugh and thank him for getting it over with. For my next move, I'm considering ceremonially breaking a glass at the beginning to see if it helps.

Start packing a week in advance, at least. I hate packing other people's thingamabobs. Hell, I hate packing my own odds and ends. I also hate waiting around for somebody to get their sh** together at one in the morning when I have to be at work in seven hours. Therefore: don't disrespect your friends. Be ready when they arrive or they will hate you.

Have enough boxes. You have 1.7 times as much stuff as you think you have. It all must go somewhere. Throwing all your clothes in a pile in the back of someone's car or pickup will not help them to like you.

Dollys are nice; you could use one. But they're not perfect. They are heavy as hell, a pain on stairs, they can scratch your appliances and they can damage pretty flooring. I will now share with you the single most amazing secret I know about moving appliances:

Get a long strap, such as an automotive tow strap, about twenty-five feet long. A rope will cause pain; you need a wide strap. For moving heavy objects such as refrigerators, washers and driers and the like, tie the strap in a big loop, pass the loop under the appliance and over the shoulders of two healthy men on either side. When the men stand straight, pushing off the appliance to stabilize, the appliance should rise with them to float six inches off the ground. It's remarkably easier than it sounds. The trick is to get the loop just the right length. For tackling stairs, shorten the strap so that the appliance floats two feet or so above the ground. Wide stances, push against the appliance for stability, slow and steady to the goal. You'll even possibly win some bets. "Hey Bubba, I'll bet you a six pack that Pee-Wee and I can move your Mega-Fridge2000 with nothing but this strap."

Good luck.
posted by Jonasio at 12:36 PM on December 21, 2004 [1 favorite]

People take batteries out of smoke detectors?!!

Take this opportunity to shed some of your excess possessions. Move only the things you truly need or love, the rest goes to Goodwill. Buy a whole package of sharpie markers and wear a shirt with a front pocket to hold one. Have cash on hand for sending people out for pizza, more packaging tape, etc.

And lots of beer, on ice, despite what cardboard said. If friends are helping you move, not to provide beer would be a HUGE social faux-paus.
posted by LarryC at 12:54 PM on December 21, 2004 [1 favorite]

Find out where the nearest Salvation Army is, both where you live now (for the pre-move purge) and at your new location (for the post-move "I Have No Place For All Of This Junk" cull).
posted by yellowcandy at 12:56 PM on December 21, 2004

Better late than never...

1) Take all the help that is offered to you.
2) The first things at your new place should be a roll of TP and a roll of paper towels.
3) The third thing should be a lamp (figured this one out the hard way).
4) Use smallish boxes. Big ones get heavier than you can handle, plus they're hard to carry.
5) Instead of labeling a box simply "books," use something like "living room - books." This way, people helping you will know which rooms to put boxes in and save you a lot of work.
6) If you are really ambitious, make a database, number the boxes and the rooms...and all the items you're putting into each box. This makes it easier to find things in a year in those boxes that remain unpacked.
7) If you're renting a truck, err on the large side to prevent multiple trips.
8) Plan twice as much time as you think it's going to take.
9) Start as early as possible -- 8 a.m. if you can swing it.
10) Have food and drinks for those kind enough to help you. Offer to buy them lunch or dinner (even if just a pizza and a beer) afterward if you can afford to.
posted by suchatreat at 12:57 PM on December 21, 2004

Try to get an extra day in between when you move out and the next person moves in (not always possible, I know). Take that day to go back to the old place, check for things you missed -- or to pick up fragile items that might get broken in the move -- and clean.
posted by me3dia at 12:57 PM on December 21, 2004

bring all your fine or especially treasured or breakable things up (computer/lamps/vases/etc, separately from the move. I made a trip a night before i actually moved, with a taxi load of that stuff at a time--i didn't even have to worry at all during the move.

And big black trash bags make excellent clothes movers. Tie rubberbands around a bunch of hangers, pop a hole in a black bag, slip it over, and move it out.

And if it's not a doorman place, you need a door holder-opener/truck watcher while you're actually moving.
posted by amberglow at 12:58 PM on December 21, 2004

I color-code boxes with markers -- green for kitchen, etc.

Apple and orange boxes as fandango_matt suggested are great. Banana boxes are good too -- very sturdy and not too bulky. However, there is a square hole in the top of the box. I usually cover it with a sheet of newspaper or a paper bag to protect the box contents.
posted by initapplette at 1:20 PM on December 21, 2004

If the movers give you an option of arrival times, pick the earliest available. Movers charge by the hour, but they can show up fresh or show up dog tired from already finishing someone else's move.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:26 PM on December 21, 2004

One very good piece of advice about moving books and/or CDs:

In addition to using smaller boxes, when you pack, don't try to fit in as many as you can- if you have them organized in a certain way, load them into boxes sequentially exactly as they are shelved , number the boxes, and then when you are unloading, you can just open the boxes in numerical order and put them back on the shelves exactly as they were organized before. Yes, you use more boxes this way, but it saves lots of time re-ordering at the other end.
posted by ambrosia at 2:00 PM on December 21, 2004

Late to the moving party. Sorry about that. :-) One thing to add to all the great advice above. I just moved as well and I found this label tape when buying boxes at UHaul. This stuff is awesome. It allows you to to tape the boxes shut and label them at the same time. A real time saver.
posted by rglasmann at 2:19 PM on December 21, 2004

If you go the rubbermaid tote route, drill a few holes around the perimeter and use zip ties or cable ties to fasten them. They won't pop open and are also a significant impediment to casual theft. Use odd-coloured ones and pilfering is also much harder. We use these for our field equipment and the system works great. But the totes can be quite soft sided so beware. Don't get the hump-lidded ones if you can help it - they look like they hold more but they actually are just a pain to stack.
posted by Rumple at 2:19 PM on December 21, 2004

When I moved apartments as a college kid, I threw all the stuff from each room into garbage bags. So I had some bedroom bags, kitchen bags, and a bathroom bag. And it would have worked brilliantly if not for the bleach in the bathroom bag leaking and me not discovering this until after I used some toilet paper from said bag.

And it burns, burns, burns
the ring of fire
the ring of fire

After that, I've been very good about not packing things such as household cleaners that could cause much more trouble than they're worth.
posted by theFlyingSquirrel at 2:38 PM on December 21, 2004 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This is really great everyone. I'm moving cities and hope my company will pay for pros, so some of this doesn't apply to me but it was great to read anyway.

How much does one tip a professional mover anyway?
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:43 PM on December 21, 2004

I second most of what has been said up above, especially about getting rid of stuff (something I'm not very good at), and about overlapping your old place and new place for a week or two to give you some time.

A couple of other observations (I moved less than a month ago, about a mile away from my old place):

1) Once you get to the point where you and most of your friends are pushing or over 40, it gets much harder to get a large enough group of friends to show up and help you move efficiently. Either they are busy with their kids/lives/business/whatever, or they are off nursing their inherent body aches and pains and not up for a bout of heavy lifting. Since you are hopefully making a decent salary by this point, or at least are mature enough to plan ahead and save up for it, don't just copy what you did all through your 20's - think about hiring a mover instead.

2) On a related note, don't just hire some guy-with-truck off of Craigslist to try to save money. He will turn up as a 43-year-old smoker with impending emphysema and will bag out after only 2 truckloads, leaving a whole 2 other truckloads back at your old place for you to deal with, not to mention a big scratch on your coffee table.
posted by matildaben at 3:41 PM on December 21, 2004

Regarding the tip, there's already been a good thread on that topic.
posted by LairBob at 3:51 PM on December 21, 2004

Whoops...didn't necessarily mean to link to that specific comment. More the overall thread.
posted by LairBob at 3:53 PM on December 21, 2004

Oh, one more: don't use garbage bags, go to the hardware store and get contractors' bags - they're big and practically unrippable.
posted by nicwolff at 4:54 PM on December 21, 2004

Definitely don't grab a name from Craigslist or the yellow pages. That's why I asked here and wound up using the guys NorthCoastCafe recommended (thanks, NCC!).

Great discussion! (I've shed books at each of the last three moves and still have three tons. Can't get the monkey off my back.)
posted by languagehat at 5:44 PM on December 21, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks LairBob - I'd missed that tipping question. Good to be reminded to have water and food on hand.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:08 PM on December 21, 2004

--Get more packing tape than you'll think you'll need. You'll need it.

--U-Haul is great for selling packing/moving supplies. Do not use them for renting anything. "Reservations" at U-Haul are merely suggestions, and not to be trusted. U-Haul's business practices border on evil, and may actually qualify as such.

--Have lots of bottled water available for your movers, amateur or pro. (If they're friends, beer afterwards.) Have coffee and maybe donuts ready in the AM.
posted by Vidiot at 11:21 PM on December 21, 2004

If you need to disassemble something, tape (using your nice, wide packing tape) the screws, etc. somewhere on the item (like inside a drawer, for example) Pack your remotes with the items they turn on and as much as possible, pack things like coffeefilters with the coffeemaker, dishwasher soap inside the dishwasher, etc.

Designate one box for each room as "first open" and put the things you will be needing right away in that box. For the bedroom box, for example, you'll want bed stuff, a small lamp, your P.J.s, new socks and underwear, and whatever you will be wearing the second day; in the kitchen box put your coffeemaker, coffee, coffee cup, water glass, a few eating utentsils and maybe a plate or two...., etc. In your bathroom "first open" box, put your T-P, daily toiletries, and don't forget a new bar of soap and a towel - you will definitely be wanting to bathe at the end of the day, so make it easy to jump in the shower. Put your toolbox in one of the "first open" boxes, and it would probably be wise to throw in a few extension cords as well.

Definitely number the boxes, and if possible have one person who does nothing but mark the boxes off the list as they come through the door. Work out parking for the moving van in advance. Bring lightbulbs, and buy picture hangers in advance, then try to get your lamps up and a couple of pieces of art hung as soon as possible, because this will make you feel better, and your new place will seem cozier, sooner. Give a friend a second set of keys to your new place before you start moving (preferably someone who will be with you on the day). Make sure you have enough cash for any small emergency that might occur.
posted by taz at 3:31 AM on December 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

BTW, a general tip for people looking for same-city movers who don't want to pay top prices for professionals: call your local fire department and ask if any of the firefighters do this as a second job. The best, fastest, easiest moving experience I ever had was when I hired off-duty firemen who had a sideline moving business. Wow... was that ever quick and painless.
posted by taz at 3:37 AM on December 22, 2004

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