I'm moving, difficulty medium, what are some general purpose tips?
July 5, 2016 12:23 PM   Subscribe

I'll be moving our (small-ish, fits in a 26 foot rental truck) belongings to our new home and setting up shop before my wife and child follow after me in a week or so. What are some tips you learned from your last move that you wish you had learned prior to your last move?

Some facts that might play into things but, again, any general/handy tips are appreciated:

- I have a reservation with U-haul that I've confirmed several times, both on the pickup and dropoff end.
- I will have an extra set of hands or two to help unload larger furniture.
- We're mostly already packed up into boxes and bags with only the stuff we use (and electronics *sigh*) still left to pack.
- I have a dolly and, mostly, know how to use it.
- I've driven a large truck before for 2 previous moves as well as a family truck on our farm. Nothing new there.
- I'm planning on missing rush hour traffic in said large truck already.
- There is a bit of method to the madness with my loading strategy (load things we don't need on a daily basis into truck first so that the things we do need get unloaded first, etc).
- We are moving to a rental that is, we hope, just a stepping stone to a place of our own in the next year or so. That said, we like the area a lot and it'll be our first detached dwelling (and a garage to boot!!!) since, well ever!

Beyond that it's just load up and go and pray for the best. Give me your tips, all of them, I'll listen and thank you kindly.
posted by RolandOfEld to Grab Bag (42 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Load all the boxes first. With similar sized bases. Make a wall back there, side to side top to bottom. Then load everything else that is not a box. Boxes don't fit well around other things
Have a box labeled, open first. This one has extra box cutters, packing tape, sharpies, garbage bags, toilet paper, basic cleaners, dish soap and anything else that your family needs right away.
posted by saradarlin at 12:30 PM on July 5, 2016 [10 favorites]

1. boxes need to be labeled not only with contents, but - even more importantly - with what room their contents go to. Labels should be not only on the top of the box, but on the side.

2. when you unpack, put furniture in first, in the proper room. Then if possible, put the boxes in the rooms they go to.

3. When you stack boxes up in the new place, don't just put them in a pile! Stack in neat rows, with room to walk between the rows, and the labels facing out so you can see them from the side you're walking on.

4. make sure you leave the light switches and the electric outlets accessible as you pile up boxes.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:31 PM on July 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Make sure you have a bag of things specifically for the first day/night. This needs to include basic cleaning supplies, clothes and toiletries, whatever you'll need to sleep in/on, toilet paper, towels and a shower curtain (unless you have an enclosed shower stall) as a bare minimum. The shower curtain is the easiest to forget.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:32 PM on July 5, 2016 [9 favorites]

oh, and if you anticipate arriving at night, have sleeping bags, pillows, travel toiletries, and a change of clothes set aside in the car, so you don't have to worry about setting up a bed that night. And your phone charger! Keep your charger in the car.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:34 PM on July 5, 2016

Resist the urge to unpack everything. I used to move every two years or so when I was in the Army full-time, and the best advice I ever got was to unpack something only when I specifically needed it. Then, by the next move, anything that was still in a box was clearly not necessary and should be tossed out (or archived).

Also, check the lock on the truck every time you get in or out.
posted by Etrigan at 12:36 PM on July 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

(load things we don't need on a daily basis into truck first so that the things we do need get unloaded first, etc)

Actually, this means the things you least need will be placed in front of things you most need when you unload. If you have closets designated for that, great. Otherwise, unloading least-needed things first would make more sense, so your more-needed stuff won't be stacked behind the less-needed stuff.
posted by whoiam at 12:40 PM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

A specific box or duffel with all the power strips, cords, a sub bag of remotes, the WiFi equipment with any needed manual or passwords on a card and a supply of ties or other means of quickly getting things up and running. Avoids dead ends where the needed gizmo is nowhere to be seen.

If child is mobile, a card with this new address and a parent's cell # just in case?
posted by Freedomboy at 12:50 PM on July 5, 2016

Snap a cell phone photo of the box contents before you tape it closed. You won't see everything in the box, but it will jog your memory enough to find needed items quickly.

Program into your phone the number of a local food delivery. It's really good to be able to order a pizza or Chinese food when you get there without fumbling for a number and figuring out who delivers. Hungry people are not happy unpackers.

The first box to get unpacked should have bedding, TP, towel, cleaning supplies, the coffee maker and packets of coffee/filters. You do not want to wake up on the first morning without coffee.
posted by 26.2 at 12:59 PM on July 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Consider this an opportunity for getting rid of excess stuff: you can either pack/load/unload/unpack something you no longer use, or toss it.
posted by easily confused at 1:00 PM on July 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Pack an easily accessible box or two with enough dishes and cookware to make a quick meal. Isolate these boxes, and put them in the truck close to last. Resist the urge to pack all the plates/pots/pans/utensils up. You want one or two boxes with some plates, some pots, some utensils, etc. That way you don't need to unpack your entire kitchen just to make some (usually much needed) food.

We've always sacrificed "full moving boxes" for "moving boxes that only contain 1 room's shit" If you have a nearly empty box or two, thats usually better than having those 'grab bag' boxes that never fully get unpacked.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:06 PM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Giant bubble wrap is amazing for protecting TVs, other large electronic devices, furniture with glass doors, glass tabletops, etc. Plus when you're done moving and unpacking you have giant bubble wrap to play with.
posted by BlueJae at 1:08 PM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Check that you don't require a loading/unloading parking permit at both your old and new locations. Sometimes they are required to not get a ticket. They can also be helpful: sometimes the city will put up cones and signs for you for the duration of your load/unload, which helps a lot if you're parking the truck on the street, though this is usually a service you have to pay for.

Google restaurants that deliver for your first night, so you can order food and eat it and collapse after you get unloaded.

Decor should go in first. The last thing you're going to do is put up pictures, after pretty much everything else is unpacked.
posted by blnkfrnk at 1:08 PM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Have toilet paper handy.
posted by AugustWest at 1:09 PM on July 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

Pack a bag or suitcase of first night essentials, and make sure it either rides with you to the new place or is the first thing out of the truck. Toiletries, a bath towel, clean underwear or change of clothes, phone charger, etc.
posted by Sara C. at 1:09 PM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Most locks with cut-resistant shackles don't actually fit onto the latch on a UHaul truck. That left me in a lurch the first time I moved. The lock that UHaul will sell you is a piece of shit. Find a nice lock online ahead of time.

Really do consider getting movers to load and unload. For my 2 bedroom apartment, it has been ~$250 on each end, and 100% worth it each time. If you've got some flex in the budget, I strongly recommend it. It's so much easier to start a trip with a giant fucking truck you're not used to if you're not exhausted from loading it.
posted by slagheap at 1:13 PM on July 5, 2016 [10 favorites]

Movers don't have to actually do the moving -- you can hire a couple of people to load (and unload) the truck for you. The people who do it all day every day are amazingly fast and are very good about packing the truck from floor to ceiling. Spending a couple hundred bucks to have someone load the truck for you, in my experience, is worth every penny every time.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:17 PM on July 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

Pack as much into standard sized boxes as possible. It's worth it to shell out money for some actual moving boxes rather than dicking around with a lot of odd-shaped things. The "medium" sized moving boxes from home depot are pretty cheap and actually quite large. You can stack 'em 3 tall on a dolly and 4 tall inside the truck and everything will go on and off the truck faster than you can imagine. Like saradarlin says, stack all your boxes at the back of the truck and don't worry so much about order of use. Everything should be on the truck in a couple hours at one end, everything should be off the truck in a couple hours on the other end.
A roll of craft paper is a lot cheaper than bubble wrap, just as good IMHO for packing dishes and other breakables, and much faster because you just tear, wrap, tuck, tear, wrap, tuck.
posted by drlith at 1:39 PM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

My recent experience suggests that having and confirming a reservation does not mean that they will have your truck available. You can't do much to plan for it, but don't be surprised if you have to go to another location or otherwise adapt.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:48 PM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Come up with what you think is a realistic estimate for how long it will take you to pack all your stuff and to load the truck, and add at least one full day to it.
Really do consider getting movers to load and unload. For my 2 bedroom apartment, it has been ~$250 on each end, and 100% worth it each time. If you've got some flex in the budget, I strongly recommend it. It's so much easier to start a trip with a giant fucking truck you're not used to if you're not exhausted from loading it.
This is a brilliant idea and I wish it had occurred to me the last time we did a "Everything in one go" move! We didn't finish loading the truck until hours later than we'd planned. We were so utterly wiped out that we pulled over and got a motel room about 20 minutes down the road.
posted by usonian at 2:39 PM on July 5, 2016

Have you read the previous questions about this? I feel like I have responded to moving advice several times on the green. :)

Definitely agree about the toilet paper. Also a shower curtain is often forgotten. It's hard to take a shower without a shower curtain (although not impossible...ask me how I know).
posted by radioamy at 2:40 PM on July 5, 2016

Oh, if it's a Uhaul truck-- the gas caps are extremely easy to steal. People either steal them for replacements (it's a common size) or to siphon gas. Consider planning ahead as to where you can get a new one along your route, or if it's a long route, buy a couple at a chain autoparts store with the intention of returning them on the other side. Driving with an open gas tank is really dangerous, so it's best to be prepared (no, a potato is not sufficient.)
posted by blnkfrnk at 2:57 PM on July 5, 2016

If you can only afford movers on one end, much better to pay to have them load the truck. Unloading is much easier and basically requires no thought if you have labeled boxes well. (Plus you avoid exhaustion before driving a truck, as mentioned above.)

Also, write the contents on the side of the boxes (versus the top), so you can read it when they are stacked.
posted by ktkt at 3:19 PM on July 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Take photos of all the connections for your electronics so you know how everything plugs together at the other end.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:44 PM on July 5, 2016 [6 favorites]

If possible arrange for your electricity to be hooked up before you arrive.
posted by bluesky78987 at 3:47 PM on July 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

my wife and child follow after me in a week or so

There's an important part of your question you've left out -- what are your wife and child doing for that week? Are they leaving at the same time as you and visiting friends or relatives for the week? Leaving before you? Or will they be living at the house you've packed up for another week before they leave?

You should take into account what their plans are while you are packing. If they are staying in the house, if they happen to like camping that's a good way to think about it -- things like camping mattresses that can be packed into a small bundle will be helpful. If there's a friendly neighbor who has a couple chairs your wife can borrow that might make things a bit more comfortable.
posted by yohko at 4:09 PM on July 5, 2016

In my experience, the closer one was to the front of the line when U-Haul opened, the more likely one got what they expected. Also U-Haul often said we don't have the truck you reserved, but here is a bigger one for the same price.
posted by Homer42 at 5:12 PM on July 5, 2016

I totally agree with everyone who said that if you can, get actual movers on both ends. It is faster and more efficient and far less aggravating.

We wrapped our furniture, mirrors, artwork, and the like in stretch wrap and/or and furniture paper pads. Result - much less damaged stuff upon arrival. Not as "fun" as bubble wrap but much easier to grip and carry.
posted by sm1tten at 5:40 PM on July 5, 2016

U-Haul and Budget "reservations" are just for the pricing and have nothing to do with the actual number of trucks on hand. I strongly suggest Penske if you want to be sure the truck you need is sitting there and ready to go as planned.

Loaders and unloaders are absolutely worth it.

You can get moving blankets from Harbor Freight that are much larger, thicker, and cost about the same to buy as it does to rent them from the truck company.
posted by Max Camber at 6:33 PM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Number each box. Have a master list with the box numbers and a brief description of the contents of each box.

When we moved with a small child, after completely setting up the bathroom with soap, TP, shower stuff, Band-Aids, tissues, rug, towels, etc., my next priority was to set up his room to look as close as possible to his room at the old house. This made the move go a lot smoother for him.
posted by chickenmagazine at 8:08 PM on July 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Have a consistent system for labeling your boxes. If you use room names, make it clear if the label means the room where it should go in the new house, or where it came from in the old house. Especially important for things that you don't have a designated place for in the new house.

I wish I had thought this through when we moved my mom and her 50-odd years of accumulated stuff. Boxes that came from the basement in the old house that should have stayed upstairs in the new house (like laundry items), ended up in the basement in the new place, and there was a lot of moving things around after the movers left.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:14 AM on July 6, 2016

I've moved a ridiculous number of times in the last few years. Thinking about this more, and aside from the truck reservation issue I mentioned above:

-- Get help with at least the unloading. For the loading you are starting fresh, and you might have your wife or friends to help. Unloading, you will be tired and stressed from the drive, and you are in a new place. And worst, the unloading is really just the first step. Then you have to return the truck, find food, and start the unpacking process before you can rest or even bathe.

-- Don't worry about it excessively, but pay some attention to your route and places to stop given that you will be driving a large truck and possibly towing a trailer. Hotel parking lots are not always well set up for this, and you will need to watch overhangs and edges. Not all roads are equally pleasant in a big vehicle, either.

-- The suggestion of having a box or duffel bag with TP, clothes, snacks, and toiletries is really good. Do this. If you are beat you can throw a mattress on the floor and get a nap, but having no TP is a more serious problem.

-- Will you need tools to put furniture together? Keep those tools in the "open first" box along with the TP and snacks.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:16 AM on July 6, 2016

Please do not forget to organize and safeguard a "critical info box," with passports, birth certificates, checkbooks, insurance documents, healthcare/medical records for children daycare/activity enrollments, pending bills or critical info that my be needed in next month. Will make your immediate landing so much smoother. Good luck!
posted by zachxman at 8:09 AM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't know if anyone mentioned this, but one of the reasons movers are so good is their equipment. We recently moved an large window airconditioner. While it is awkward and heavy, with moving straps it can be comfortable for one person to move it. My recommendation is to get movers and if not moving straps for yourself.
posted by Gor-ella at 8:19 AM on July 6, 2016

Shrink wrap is essential to moves. (Wrap open drawers, rolled up rugs, cabinets that open, a blanket over your TV screen, bins that don't close completely, disassembled shelving units, paintings).

It can also help to have very large, open top boxes and a furniture dolly for getting large items that are loose to and from the truck without multiple trips (lamps, decorative non-fragile items, end tables, gardening stuff, cushions/pillows, etc.)

Lots of blankets for wrapping furniture with said shrink wrap.

Agree with the others that I prefer Budget and Penske for trucks. They're usually less expensive.
posted by cnc at 9:03 AM on July 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Two things:

1. Ask your truck rental company if they have had problems with bed bugs in their trucks. Sometimes people will tell you honestly that they have.

2. Have the address and hours of a recycling center handy at your destination. You're going to have tons of boxes to get rid of, and you'll want to know where to bring them, rather than keeping them around at your new place.
posted by yellowcandy at 10:49 AM on July 6, 2016

Take care of the people helping you move. Feed and water them; ply them with alcohol afterward, and have a first-aid kit on hand for injuries sustained while they're schlepping your stuff for you.

This is kind of a sore spot for me, because I'm a weightlifter, and I have spent four of the last seven weekends helping various friends move objects over 100#, because they're too broke to hire movers. And each time, I've been looked at with astonishment when I mention that I'm hungry, thirsty, or am bruised and could use an ice pack. I don't usually mind helping out, provided there's some kind of acknowledgement of my time and effort, and enough food and water to keep me going for the hours and hours moves often take.* I do, however, get cranky when I'm expected to not only give up an entire day moving heavy, bulky, unwieldy objects, but there's not enough food and water, and my strength is taken for granted. Yeah, I lift heavy things for fun, and yes, I'm pretty good at it — but a 300# deadlift isn't the same kind of lift as a 300# pinball machine, down two flights of stairs. I'm strong, but I'm not Superman; I possess no magical powers or immunity to gravity. And I get really cranky when I'm bruised and banged up from literally doing all the heavy lifting.

(Yes, I'm rethinking these friendships.)

*A side note that might seem obvious to you, but it's not been obvious to my friends: if someone's big and strong enough to be able to lift things that weigh hundreds of pounds, they're going to need a lot more calories to fuel that effort than a smaller person does. Plan accordingly when ordering food.
posted by culfinglin at 11:23 AM on July 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Colour code the boxes with tape; different colour for different rooms.

Collect plastic shopping bags; they're good padding wadded up/twisted up for between glasses/mugs/dishes.
posted by porpoise at 12:07 PM on July 6, 2016

Came in specifically to suggest a first night box. We packed a suitcase with clothes and toiletries but also a first aid kit (which we used several times), earplugs, a shower curtain, bed sheets, a kitchen sponge/dish soap, beef jerky and almonds/snacks, a few towels, cell phone chargers and extra pairs of socks. It was a Godsend when we were hungry after a long day and also when we we wanted to Take A Shower Now! and could hang the curtain quickly without digging through boxes. It's amazing what you don't think about, and having that suitcase was a relief.
posted by onecircleaday at 12:08 PM on July 6, 2016

Oh yeah, this isn't directly related to a move, but one thing that we did that I'm so grateful for, is hiring cleaners to clean the old place. We got our entire security deposit back and now we have a rental reference for a long time because she was so impressed with the job we did. We didn't have a lot of money to spend, so we hired one person to come and help us clean, and it was worth every penny.

My one regret is not hiring them to clean the new one, because it was not clean when we moved in, despite our landlord's statement that she takes $100 out of previous tenants' security deposit to pay for cleaning. Had we known, we would have gone in and cleaned before we moved, but we assumed she'd hired someone to do a deep clean. Or, at the very least, a better-than-surface-cleaning. Not so much.
posted by onecircleaday at 12:16 PM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just did this move not even six weeks ago! I was the advance party, setting up the new house before my wife and kid arrived a week later. So this is fresh in my mind.

You must MUST MUST get a whole bunch of ratcheting straps to secure your belongings into the truck. Without these things, your stuff WILL fall and break, guaranteed.

Shrink wrap (get a roll with the "wand") is really useful, too.

I found it utterly worth the money to pay to have three guys to help unload the truck. (I worked alongside them to unload, too.) We used Moving Staffers but I'm sure there are other choices, too. I was quite happy with this company - the guys were friendly, professional, and hard-working. You can't - or, believe me, won't want to - unload the truck by yourself.

I kept with me in the car a folder of all the essential documents (lease, bank account info, etc.), as well as a bunch of cash. It never left my side.

Label your boxes well!

Either pack your bed last or get a decent air mattress and pack THAT last (along with bedsheets and a pillow) so you have somewhere to sleep. Other things that I found handy to have on hand as soon as I arrived at the new place:
- towels
- paper towels & TP
- basic set of tools
- packing tape and duct tape
- power strips and extension cords
- some non-perishable food & bottled water
- all necessary device chargers + bluetooth headset
- a couple pairs of shoes and a few changes of clothing
- plates & utensils (plastic/disposable otherwise)
- garbage bags
- a few books and magazines
- small amounts of laundry & dish detergent
- shower curtain + rings
- toiletries like toothpaste and soap, etc.
posted by Dr. Wu at 12:54 PM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

The very very best thing you can have after a hard day of moving in (even if you hire people to carry the things, it's draining to try to regroup in a new home and even harder to find the things you need) is your own comfy bed with clean sheets/bedding. You're probably gonna crash hard. Find local pizza delivery too because you probably won't want to unpack your kitchen enough to cook. If you do, know exactly where the dishes, utensils and cooking supplies are that you need.

The other suggestions are great, you definitely need a bag you take with you that has a couple days worth of clothes and toilet articles and medications. I'd also take fragile or valuable things to the new home seperately - plants, laptop, important papers/passport, prized family heirlooms. Also, as others have said, power strips, chargers, adapters and your current todo list.

Try to get your WiFi and other utilities set up before you move. Nothing worse at the end of a long day of moving than to try to unwind with the internet but it's not there.

If you have movers, treat them like the amazing people they are (maybe this is just me, but I hate lifting and carrying and think that movers are almost godlike). Offer cold bottles of water frequently. Tip well (I usually give each one a twenty). In one case in San Francisco, I went to a taqueria and got us burritos and we shared a meal after the move was done.
posted by bendy at 9:45 PM on July 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

If I'm not too late:

Weigh your boxes (bathroom scales work for this) and mark the weights on them. It makes life better when you have advance warning that this box is 60lb rather than 30lb.

Stickers are easier to write on than boxes. If you use 6 per box (one facing each way on the top flaps, plus four on the sides) you will never have to play 3D Tetris to find the box you need.

If you are taking furniture apart, put all the fastenings and other small bits in a ziplock bag, label it, and tape it to one of the large bits. Make sure not to lose your tools.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:27 PM on July 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

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