Help me ace moving into a new house
January 10, 2019 10:09 AM   Subscribe

If you've moved into a new house recently, what are your magical tricks to make it smooth? I'm thinking I spend the first day doing a deep clean since it will never be so empty I need a broom, mop, towels, etc. for that. What do you wish you'd done differently, or what worked well for you?

If all goes well, in a couple weeks, I'll be moving into my new house. It's out in the country without much nearby, so I'm hoping to plan what I'll need in advance so I'm not wasting time running back and forth to the nearest town (which will take an hour minimum). I've been renting for a while, and before that was in the same place for over a decade, so it's been a long time since I've done this!

I have storage and other than a suitcase or two, most of my belongings will be there, to be moved at some flexible time after closing. There's a large garage where I can store things and gradually bring them into the house to unpack (boxes are labeled reasonably well regarding contents). The exterior needs some TLC, so the more efficient I can be with the actual moving portion of the program, the faster I can get to doing the things that need to be done, and the fun stuff like planting a garden.
posted by OneSmartMonkey to Home & Garden (35 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Box or bag of comfort essentials - soap, toilet paper, towel, supplies and accessories for your beverage of choice, snacks. Everything to keep you going while you clean.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 10:12 AM on January 10, 2019 [6 favorites]

Admittedly I haven't moved in a long time, but one thing while it was empty and before I moved everything in, was wire the house for network connections to try and futureproof. I ran Cat 6 cabling throughout the house to points where I thought I might need it.. I picked a place where I would probably have the modem/incoming and then ran from there to the wall where the TV would be, and ran at least one drop to each room in the house. It seems overkill in today's world of wireless, but to be honest, having a hard connection to my Tivo/AppleTV/TV has been a godsend as more and more data is being pushed to get 4k content... but again.. at this point, it's probably overkill :-)
posted by niteHawk at 10:18 AM on January 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

Call now to get cable/internet/whatever utility appointments set up.
posted by lalex at 10:20 AM on January 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

I have moved into 3 houses, and all of them were spotless on the day we got the keys. So if you are lucky, a deep clean may not even be needed!

I would pack a box full of things you will need in the immediate days so you do not have to look for things. It should have paper plates, cups and flatware (we tended to do carry-out to get everything done faster), scissors, hammer, nails, hooks, level various kinds of tape, the shower curtain, toilet paper, tissues, toiletries, medications, band aids, etc. It is a weird combination but keeps you from having to dig through multiple boxes for critical things. Then another box with all of the cleaning essentials.
posted by maxg94 at 10:35 AM on January 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

Paint the ceilings. So much easier than when full. And no matter what you see, ceilings always need painting. If you have, I'd do walls too at least in the bigger areas

If there are carpets, get them cleaned before moving in
posted by Ftsqg at 10:36 AM on January 10, 2019 [17 favorites]

If this is an existing house, since you plan on doing a deep clean, look into painting the interior before moving things in. It could just be to refresh the paint, make it a color you want, etc. Ceilings too. Much easier without furniture and belongings in the way.

Any bathroom or kitchen recaulking that needs to be done you may want to do before you move in, if the material can't get wet while it's curing.
posted by TheAdamist at 10:40 AM on January 10, 2019 [7 favorites]

Pack your stepladder, vacuum cleaner, and anything else you normally use for cleaning in an easy to access place.
posted by Pwoink at 10:43 AM on January 10, 2019

Clean the spot where you will put your sofa or comfy chair first, then put it there, then clean. Now you have a place to sit when you need a break, which you will. If you're sleeping there day one, set up the bed second, after cleaning that spot. Now you go sit in your comfy spot and look out the window for a few minutes and enjoy your new house, because moving and making beds is very tiring, but you don't want to fall asleep in the bed just yet. Try to have ready made food for the first day and prep a box of kitchen extreme basics. Like, 2 plates, 2 bowls, 2 spoons, 2 forks, knives, most useful pot/pan, pot holder, paper towels, dish soap and scrubber, a few dish towels. So then day one priorities are comfy sit, somewhere to sleep, something ready to eat when needed and something to eat it on, then cleaning.

When you do the final walk through with the realtor on closing day, be sure to push back hard on any stuff left behind. We had an extra dead xmas tree in our backyard in May but I was too excited about buying a house to say anything. It's surprisingly difficult to get rid of a dead xmas tree in summer in the city. It should be broom clean at minimum with no junk anywhere, though standards may vary regionally. Clean enough that a renter wouldn't lose their deposit, other than paint. My most recent house was spotless and it was amazing.

Beyond deep cleaning, try to do anything having to do with flooring that you could see needing to do in the next few years. Commercial carpet deep cleaning, carpet replacement, hardwood refinishing. This is really hard to swing money wise when you've just bought a house, but has been one of the bigger house related regrets I've ever had.

If you still have access to the boxes, consider also labeling where you plan to put them in the new house. It's amazing how much cognitive load there is when faced with a box labeled "computer cables" or "family photos" or "gift wrap".
posted by pekala at 10:44 AM on January 10, 2019 [9 favorites]

Take a folding chair and, if you have one, some kind of folding table, especially if you don't have much counter space in the kitchen.

Take an outdoor extension cord, so you can just plug in your vacuum once and drag it around. Take some binder clips and rubber bands (or zip ties, or velcro zip ties) and you can use your broom handle or vacuum extension tube with a rag or paper towels secured to the end to do cobweb sweeps and baseboard wipes.

Bring a supply of batteries and refresh all the smoke/co2 detectors. You may want to replace them entirely (depends if you're renting or buying), but if so wait and see them because if they're screwed to the wall/ceiling and you buy the same model you can often just pop them onto the existing mounting. I just did that with our CO2 detector that end-of-lifed.

Bring some kind of doormats or rugs for all exterior doors, it's surprising how much cruft you can track into an empty place.

If you do not already own a modern-version drill-driver, consider getting an 18-20v set. That'll give you drill and screwdriver capabilities for just about any need, and you can buy all kinds of scrub brushes, cooking implements, etc that'll run on them.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:47 AM on January 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

Shower curtain, toilet paper, paper towels.
posted by mochapickle at 11:07 AM on January 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

We bought recently and took advantage of the brief empty period we had to get the carpet in our bedroom and living room replaced. It was an additional cost that we probably could have done without at the time but I am so glad that we will not have to relocate some of the most awkward furniture for it to happen in the future.

If we had had more time, we would have stripped wallpaper and done a neutral paint job but we didn’t have the time to do it ourselves (or the money to hire it out).

Other than that, the box of essentials: kettle/tea/coffee/cleaning supplies etc (we duplicated the kettle but it was a temporary duplication as the old one went to the farm after years of good service), auditing light bulbs so we could swap them out/not discover that we had 15 screws and 2 bayonet or similar after buying 17 screw bulbs etc etc.
posted by halcyonday at 11:19 AM on January 10, 2019

Are you already packed? If not, my patent-pending packing method:

- Use a permanent market to number your boxes on at least 3 sides. I like to make a little square in the corner and write the number in that.
- Use a shared spreadsheet (like a Google Sheet) to list the contents of the box.
- Use colored labels to mark the destination room. For example, pink labels all get a K for Kitchen.
- Color-code the cells on the spreadsheet.

This accomplishes several things:
1. If you repack or move things around during packing, you don't have to scratch out what's on the box.
2. When you or your movers are bringing in the boxes, it's obvious where each box goes. If you're paying for movers, you may actually save money because they will be faster! They will also love you.
3. It's quick to figure out which boxes need to be unpacked first.
4. If you need to find something specific, all you have to do is search for it in the spreadsheet.
posted by radioamy at 11:20 AM on January 10, 2019 [9 favorites]

I built all my closet shelving before I moved a single box, so when I moved in I had a place to unpack all of my clothes. If I had to empty my closet now to install shelving, I would never get around to it. It's a small thing but every time I go into my organized closet, it feels very luxurious!
posted by girlalex at 11:26 AM on January 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

Painting the ceilings has been mentioned already. Also paint the inside of the closets while they are empty.
posted by tman99 at 11:30 AM on January 10, 2019 [5 favorites]

One thing I've been really glad for is that I saved all the listing photos. They've come in handy surprisingly often. One of them, for example, someone must have climbed on the garage roof to get, which I'm never going to do, and it's a great shot of both the back of the house and the yard that's perfect for dreaming about landscaping. Others have been handy to pull up when out shopping over the years, for confirmation about details that the mind sometimes glosses over, like whether the baseboard heater extends along the entire wall or just under a window, how quickly the upstairs ceiling slopes in each room, what kind of clearance there actually is around a doorway, etc. I could take photos like that myself, of course, but sometimes it's also nice to see how other people set the rooms up.
posted by teremala at 11:43 AM on January 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

Wash the walls. Wipe down the ceiling fans. Dust the baseboards. Clean all intake vents. Basically all the gross stuff that will require laying down drop clothes or moving furniture later.

If you are feeling particularly enterprising, now is a good time to paint the door frames in gloss paint if they aren't already -- it will cut down on smudges and dirt build up.

If you don't have blinds or curtains hung yet, pick up those cheap paper accordion blinds at the store so you are not on display to your neighbors in the evenings.
posted by ananci at 11:50 AM on January 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Paint. So very much easier in an empty house.
Light bulbs, lamps if they'll be needed.
Extension cords.
FLashlights, which are then placed near electrical panel, kitchen, for future emergencies.
Took kit with measuring tape. 1st aid kit.
Phone charger
Some nice chocolates or other treats, bottle of champagne, candles, whatever you like to toast to this new phase.
posted by theora55 at 11:59 AM on January 10, 2019

like others have said, painting and cleaning while the house is empty. Another good thing to do while it's empty is take a really good look over the place and plug any cracks or holes where mice or bugs could be getting in or out. Even if there is no problem now, this will help prevent them, and be about a million times easier where there is no furniture in the way.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:16 PM on January 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Bring your bluetooth speaker, or if you don't have one, buy a good loud one. I like the Oontz Angle 3.
Find out what size your furnace filter is and buy two: one to change now and set the furnace to constant fan for filtration, then another to swap in a week after you move in after all the dusting and paint fumes are in the first filter.
Schedule an appointment to have the locks re-keyed, this may be part of your home warranty.
Use an app or a notebook to measure all the rooms and make a detailed plan. Include things like window sizes (for blinds) and locations of outlets.
Buy a multi-pack of matching new light bulbs, LED reveals or similar, and bring your stepladder.
posted by a halcyon day at 12:20 PM on January 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

My favorite tip for moving: choose one room to make "normal" as soon as possible - furniture in place and no unpacked boxes. It will give you a place where you can relax while the rest of the house is still a bit chaotic.
posted by FencingGal at 12:23 PM on January 10, 2019 [5 favorites]

If the new place has any ceiling damage or cheapness- popcorn stucco, acoustic tiles, water damage- fix it while the place is empty!! Ditto putting more insulation into the attic if needed. Cleanup sucks!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:48 PM on January 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

New furnace filter, new batteries for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, whether they need to be replaced or not. Start the clock over from time you move in. (Not critical, but handy for later.)
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:56 PM on January 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Lots of good advice above. I would also add the following:

- Go into each room of the new house, measure the dimensions, and make a diagram of where the plugs and cable outlets are. Figure out if you need cable pulled and schedule it for the cable installation day.
- Get packing box stickers like these.
- Go online and get your mail forwarded and sign up for informed delivery.
- Keep a small notebook handy to keep track of everything you need so you don't have to make extra trips. We always think we will remember everything, but that's not always the case.
- Bring at least one lamp with you. You'd be surprised how many rooms don't have any overhead lighting.
-If you have storage areas (garage/basement storage), install the shelves/shelving units and move them in first.
-Don't to forget to bring a trash can and trash bags when you are cleaning up.

Congrats on the new house!
posted by jraz at 1:04 PM on January 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Be aware that anything about which you think "Oh, I'll do that in a couple of months once I'm settled in" will never, ever get done.

Take advantage of that period of time when you're not absolutely sick to the back teeth of cleaning and decorating to get as much as you absolutely can done, because once you sit down and stop and feel settled, you're not going to go back to it for a while.
posted by parm at 1:05 PM on January 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

Brilliant advice from everyone. Get an estimate on having the painting done.
For the whole house. It takes a pro one tenth of the time it takes the rest of us.
Seconding a lamp and light bulbs, trash bags and basic camping style comforts.
posted by Enid Lareg at 1:21 PM on January 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

I would look long and hard at the interior design and flow and see what seems to work and what doesn't. Now is the time to consider what you would change even if it isn't going to get done for a long time. Once you start to move your things in you will naturally accommodate design flaws and work around them and then they will be harder to see as well as harder to imagine differently. Once you put the rug where the stain is, the house is deciding your decor.
posted by InkaLomax at 2:33 PM on January 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

I would pack a couple of boxes of I need this immediately supplies and label them to be placed in the bathroom, because this way no matter what else you move around you will know what you need to get at first.

I would include all bath stuff in one - shower curtains, towels, washcloths, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, etc. In another I would put kitchen basics, and you may want to plan a few meals for early on so you can be sure you have supplies. In a third, bedding for immediate use, even if just a sleeping bag and a pillow.

The last time I moved I spent some time kicking myself for not packing some tea in the immediately needed supplies, instead of in with all the random kitchen junk. So - teakettle or coffeemaker, tea or coffee (or both) as your preferences go. I like the suggestion for easy access snacks - you will need snacks while unpacking.
posted by bile and syntax at 2:58 PM on January 10, 2019

Tips from my move to a new house a year ago:

Unpacking supplies. Snacks! Drinks! Gloves! Especially the gloves. Box cutter and several pairs of good scissors (they get misplaced among the clutter so easily), trash bags. Tools: screwdriver, drill, whatever your household toolkit consists of. Something to prop your door to your garage open with. Lamps. Order a thermostat now if you need one for the new place. Felt pads for furniture feet. A couple of big blankets that you can pile stuff on so you don't damage wood floors or get carpet dirty. Seconding the bluetooth speaker. Pad of paper to make lists.

- Before you move - make a to-scale drawing of your house and furniture and plan the layout, so you can give it to the movers and they'll put things in the right place the first time.

- Designate a specific spot for the scissors and box cutter to live as you're unpacking, and return them to that spot EVERY SINGLE TIME.

- A card table or other cheap work surface would be nice so you aren't bending over to address boxes sitting on the floor.

- I just piled all the boxes into "Mt. Cardboard" in the dining room, rather than putting them in their designated rooms. That way only one room was a disaster and there was space in the other rooms for my stuff (and to walk) as I put it away. Sounds like you can use the garage for that, although if there are stairs from the garage to the house, springloaded door, or a narrow door or hallway you might want to rethink that. Negotiating around things is going to get real old, real fast.

- Open one box at a time, and don't touch another box until everything in the first box is put away and the box broken down. Don't pile the empty boxes outside without breaking them down - crickets and spiders love that (Ask me how I know).

- Make sure your storage solutions (shelves, credenzas, closet systems) are squared away first. Gotta have somewhere to put stuff.

- Set up your TV and computer first so you can (a) relax when you're pooped and (b) put stuff in your Amazon shopping cart as you find the need for it (Hello, paper towel hangers!).

- Order at least one extra trash and recycling bin each from the city (the big ones the trash truck pics up). They're pretty cheap and you'll need them. People on craigslist will also take clean moving boxes. Make sure you have plenty of trash bags and receptacles all over the house.

- Fill your fridge with easy food - you'll be pooped.

- If you have pets, designate a quiet room as "their room" during the move and early stages, so they can have a place they feel safe in. I used my bedroom for that. A year later, that is still where they feel coziest.

That's all I can think of. Have fun with your new place!
posted by bluesky78987 at 3:54 PM on January 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

As others said, paint. It's also way easier for a pro to paint an empty house.
They can blow right though it.
But maybe more than that, do any floors you want to do. Please.
posted by bongo_x at 11:44 PM on January 10, 2019

You’ve got a lot of great advice here so I will just add one tip that I got from my mother years ago: before the furniture comes in, go around and put an extension cord in every outlet. That way, you don’t have to worry about blocking outlets when you’re designing your space.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:47 AM on January 11, 2019

If you can spray/bomb/exterminator visit (whatever) before doing any moving in - you will be so very grateful to your past self later on. Especially if you have pets of sensitive humans because you can never get the opportunity to debuggify the place once you move in.
posted by mightshould at 12:57 PM on January 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

one other thing - if you aren't able to repaint the walls and ceiling, give them a good brushing with a clean broom. When I moved into my current house, I swept the hell out of the popcorn ceilings on the main floor. A lot of dust and stuff came down that was easily vacuumed up when the room was empty. Now, 7 years later, there is still way less dust accumulation in the areas of the house where the ceiling was swept. I'm so glad I did it!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:59 PM on January 11, 2019

I'll second the floors. Refinish them now if possible. If not, go over them hard with restorers. Hit the marble with marble restorer, the wood with wood restorer, etc. That stuff is semi toxic so it's great to do while the house is empty and can be aired out.

I once got a great deal from a painting company by agreeing to let them come in on a rainy day (when their workers couldn't do their outside jobs) and just paint the house all in one day.
posted by xammerboy at 10:45 PM on January 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Bring lots of snacks and water and Gatorade. When we moved into our new place, we brought water, but didn't think about snacks, so we ended up eating a ton of fast food, which wasn't great for our bellies or our wallets. Nuts, cheese, peanut butter crackers -- stuff like that is a nice way of keeping your energy levels up without being too heavy.
posted by sarcasticah at 12:28 PM on January 12, 2019

Before my grandma moved into her condo, my family had her ducts cleaned. They were super dirty from the previous owner's pets. We also had our work cut out for us deep cleaning the place because it was grimy from years of candle wax buildup. We found magic erasers for some surfaces and orange cleaner invaluable.
posted by rawralphadawg at 12:59 PM on December 5, 2019

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