What NOT to move
April 15, 2019 2:55 PM   Subscribe

I've never made an inter-state (let alone cross-country) move as an adult. What are some things we should not pack?

I know not to pack candles, whatever may be on our eventual moving company's no-no list, random convention swag, and things I'd be better off just scanning (if there's time to scan). What else should go on the toss/donate list?

Note, if it matters: I don't know how much packing we'll be doing ourselves vs. how much a moving company will be doing.

(Because I'm a wee bit overwhelmed at the moment, I would especially appreciate specific examples and categories--beyond general guidelines like "things you can easily replace." Thank you!)
posted by wintersweet to Grab Bag (28 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
I used moves to rid myself of things I don't/won't use any more or won't fit in the new residence (because of size or style). Clothes are a good example, and easy to donate. Same for books and furniture. I try to be as ruthless as possible, or as much as the spouse will agree to.

Be careful with packing fragile items, even if you have the movers pack them AND take the insurance, you usually aren't getting anywhere near replacement/repair value.
posted by billsaysthis at 3:06 PM on April 15, 2019

If you are a person with books, now is a good time to take a hard look at your bookshelf and decide if you are a person who spends money on moving books. I am a person who loves books and for me the answer is yes for

- irreplaceable stuff
- frequent re-reads
- sentimental stuff

I try to ditch most trade paperbacks that I could get again at a used book sale. Books add up and are heavy.

I also feel this way about any crappy furniture you have if you are someone who has been lugging around furniture that is of iffy quality that you don't like (note: only do this if you can afford to re-buy on the other end). Moving time is a good time to Get Rid. Likewise, pack very little food or toiletries. They're fiddly to move and pretty easy to replace in most cases. And if you haven't made a big move before, it's worth looking at anything that is a hassle. That fussy floor lamp. That weird narrow bookshelf. Likewise things that may not reflect who you are anymore like a VHS collection (no shade, if you still play with them, that is great but make sure you at least check in with yourself)
posted by jessamyn at 3:09 PM on April 15, 2019 [18 favorites]

Best answer: Anything you have kept just in case you might fix it, buy a replacement part, find the other half: food containers with no lids / lids with no containers, the bowl that fits the mixer you threw away, the power cord for something you can't remember, etc.

Anything you keep only out of a sense of duty or sunk costs - because someone gave it to you, because you paid so much for it, because you should using it even though you don't. My big example here is art, I can't seem to get rid of it especially if its framed and people keep giving me things that are just not I want on my walls. So I have two big boxes that I've not unpacked in two moves.

Any large furniture that you're not enamoured of, or that you plan to replace 'soon' and would be hard to get rid of. For example, every try to get rid of a sleeper sofa?
posted by buildmyworld at 3:10 PM on April 15, 2019 [8 favorites]

Unless you love your couch, sell it and buy a new one when you get to your destination.

Also, if you own any IKEA furniture or bookshelves/desks, don't bother moving those - most movers won't include DIY IKEA stuff in any protection they offer against damage anyway.
posted by pdb at 3:18 PM on April 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

Rule of thumb: if you haven't used it in 5 years, you don't need it.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:19 PM on April 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

For books, I found it was handy to scan them all into a spreadsheet with an ISBN app, or with the Amazon app. Then you can see if any are actually worth anything, which are easy to re-purchase, and better calculate your tax writeoff if that matters.

Expired meds -- toss.

Conference swag -- toss a few light pieces into your misc. bin to avoid the mental overload of culling it.

CDs/DVDs -- maybe rip them out of their jewel boxes and stack them on a spindle or in a soft case? Or sell/donate most of them?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:21 PM on April 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

My company paid for my move from the west coast to the east coast. If I had it to do over again, I would use pods and pack the contents myself. The movers broke all my oak chairs, smashed my dish set (it looked like Veserion had stepped on the box), lost my gilded mirror and stole/lost my hand tools. They loaded my stuff, then added a bunch of extra charges to the original estimate. Ok, my employer paid to replace the stuff they broke, they paid the extra moving charges. Only. When I returned to California five years later, I had almost the same set of experiences from a different moving company, only there was an entire month delay whilst they were getting my stuff back to California. It was traumatic. Pre packed containers.
posted by effluvia at 3:31 PM on April 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

My wife and I moved across the country in November. This is what Team Sparkles got rid of:

Bookshelves we weren't in love with
Heavy furniture that was more on the utilitarian/industrial side
TONS of clothes that we hadn't worn in a few seasons or more
We got rid of our couch
We got rid of a lot of kitchen items
Everything that was on the back porch that was "something we'd been meaning to do something with" but never did. (just random shit, really.)

We used a relocation service and they came and hauled a bunch of stuff away, some other things we just loaded into the car and took to Savers/Value Village and dropped it off.

We could have gotten rid of even more, really.
posted by nikaspark at 3:32 PM on April 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's a strategy rather than a category but here we go. Walk through your place with a big bag for donations: collect five things, big or small, you no longer want and put them in the bag. Repeat! You can break it up into subcategories: five books, five kitchen items, five articles of clothing, etc.

Organization and lists are so helpful BUT, when you're having trouble starting, sometimes just going with your gut helps. Try it right now! For me, it's less about scheduling a big cleaning day and more about a few little steps every day.
posted by smorgasbord at 3:38 PM on April 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

When I did a big cross country move I found it really helpful to work with an organizer as a second pair of eyes to help me think through what I was actually using and what was junk. Having a neutral third party who was also experienced in this new-to-me thing was incredibly helpful. She also brought a couple of helpers to do a couple of packing sessions with us which was also incredibly helpful to make sure that our items would be easy to unpack later. We did about a third of the packing like that, a third by ourselves and the movers did the rest.

Mostly the stuff we left was stuff we didn't want to have anymore like a bunch of old, broken down furniture (couch, bed frame), useless old pieces of paper (old bills, magazines, instruction booklets), unidentified cables & power cords, curtains that wouldn't work in the new place, stuff like that.

One thing we did that worked well for this was after the movers left we called a junk removal service and told them to just take everything away until the place was empty.
posted by bleep at 3:49 PM on April 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

#1 thing to NOT pack and ship in the moving truck: toilet paper. Keep several rolls with whatever stuff is traveling with you alongside other essentials that you'll want on day 1 at the new place. This also includes toiletries, and a week's worth of clothes. You do not want to have to scour a million boxes later trying to find those things.

Moving is also a great time to force yourself to empty out your pantry. There's always some random half-full packages of chips, pasta, etc, old spices, and expired canned stuff hidden in the back. Just don't bother keeping any food unless it's something really expensive or unique (and obviously non-perishable). It'll most likely be cheaper to rebuy and then you're starting with what you really need.
posted by joan_holloway at 4:04 PM on April 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Now's a really good time to seriously cull your clothes and/or shoes.
posted by spinifex23 at 4:04 PM on April 15, 2019

I'd agree with everyone that's it's a good time to do a cull, but with a caveat. You're going for the easy stuff, the low hanging fruit. Unless you have months to prepare, it's ok to move some boxes of momentos and not to figure out exactly which T-shirts bring joy. It's great to pare down, but it's also ok to move the stuff that's slow to sort and not that bulky.

Another thing I'd think about in move vs. dispose of, is how long it will take you if you want to get new at the new house. Depending on your desire (and price range) a new couch can take weeks to arrive after you order, and it can be sort of a bummer to live in a nice new place with no where to sit.
posted by mercredi at 4:12 PM on April 15, 2019 [7 favorites]

Best answer: What’s your timeline like? We just moved and I 100% do not regret the time I spent organizing before we packed.

Spices and baking stuff - cull and toss duplicates. For some unknown reason I had 3 jars of paprika. I had like 12 cookie cutters but I only really liked 4 so I donated the rest.

Meds - each time we are sick we must buy a new bottle of DayQuil because we had so many bottles and pills of. s medicine. Kept newest bottle of each thing.

Books- got rid of college textbooks. Never looked at them after graduation.

Clothes - got rid of enough stuff so that all my dresser drawers close easily.

Holiday stuff - packed it all into a plastic chest of drawers. When it’s tume to decorate tree we’ll be able to wheel out the chest.

Craft stuff - got rid of the majority of it. Part of the fun is in the hunt and I have been too busy to do much. Gave it to y kids art teacher.

Cleaning supplies - consolidated bottles so instead of two half empty bottles there is 1 mostly full bottle. Chuck anything groudy, like toilet bowl brushes and old sponges.
posted by MadMadam at 4:36 PM on April 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Pillows, duvets... bulky stuff that you can replace fast.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 5:27 PM on April 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Depending on your budget, don't pack a lot of certain types of decor that are more dependent on the environment of the home. So for lamps and curtains and rugs, unless they are very important to you, leave them behind. Because nothing will quite fit in your new place, curtains will be the wrong length or type for controlling the light, carpets won't fit in the rooms the same, lamps won't be as functional with the different lighting. This will mean that you'll need to shop for many of these on arrival but the end result will be a new home that feels better and less cobbled together.
posted by Mizu at 5:30 PM on April 15, 2019

Response by poster: Timeline: My guess is 10-14 weeks. That said, there are a bunch of complicating factors here that mean we're starting from way behind where a random normal household would be.

And I forgot to ask--what about our bed? We have a thick, floppy Cal King mattress (and wooden frame). We've had it for about 4 years but it has one "sprung" spring. If I propose not moving it, I think my partner will to see if we can get money back from the makers (who are in a city about 90 minutes from here) which just sounds exhausting. But trying to find a new bed immediately after moving cross-country sounds exhausting, too, and I can't imagine being happy with something we would order without seeing and trying first.

Thank you for all the great suggestions so far!
posted by wintersweet at 6:24 PM on April 15, 2019

Personally I would just move with the existing mattress and deal with replacing it after the move, if it's still functional enough to sleep on. Moving is enough work as it is. Don't add to the stress by trying to deal with returning and buying a new mattress in the middle of it.
posted by joan_holloway at 6:44 PM on April 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

I don’t have a lot to add, except that when I moved cross-country in 2011 we shipped our substantial heap of books via media mail instead of packing them with everything else, and it saved us a LOT of money. They also arrived before the furniture and we had a sofa made of boxes of books for a week.
posted by centrifugal at 6:50 PM on April 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Maybe this is obvious, but certainly ANYTHING you haven't touched since your last move! No matter the rationalization.
posted by reksb at 6:51 PM on April 15, 2019

Dishes and glassware, unless they are fine China or crystal, are a pain to pack, often break, and are easy to replace.

That box of cords and chargers and connectors to old devices you have been saving? Just toss it. You'll feel better.
posted by ananci at 6:57 PM on April 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Five Rules of Discarding
As you go through your stuff....
1) Do you remember you have it? Rando stuff that you don't even remember getting -- toss it.
2) If you remember you have it -- do you remember where it is? What about all the pieces that go with it? The pieces that you actually use, as compared to the pieces that are still in the box/drawer/who knows where? Pare down to what you actually use and get rid of the rest.
3) If you remember you have it, and you remember where it is, can you get to it in 30 minutes? Or is it hidden in some jumble or behind a mountain of clutter? If you can't get to it in a reasonable amount of time, you have not been using it. It's not important enough to keep.
4) Have you used it in the last two years? Don't hold onto "just in case" items, and don't waste money on them in the first place.
5) How many copies do you have? This is a failure of Rules 1 to 4.
A couple of hammers because you like a shared project -- sure. Place settings for six because you feed that many people multiple times a year -- go for it. But how many socket sets do you need, when you always grab the same three sockets? Reduce it down to one complete set stored in one tool kit, pitch in the extras of the three you always use, and get rid of the rest. If you really -- really -- need copies, buy them. Note how many years go by until this happens.

The Four Baskets Method of Discarding
As you go through your stuff....
Laundry Basket One: Keep (see Rules of Discarding)
Laundry Basket Two: Toss in the trash
Laundry Basket Three: Give away or sell
Be careful -- time is money and this basket tends to stick around long past its due date.
Laundry Basket Four: Sentimental keepsakes
Mark the boxes with sentimental keepsakes -- if you are not opening them regularly and enjoying these things, move items to Baskets Two and Three. Life's too short and your children will thank you for getting rid of this stuff before they have to. Take pictures, make scrapbooks, send items on to those who will make use of them.
posted by TrishaU at 7:26 PM on April 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

The less you move, the cheaper it will be and the less you'll have to unpack. I would probably do a full konmari, if you've got the time and resilience to do so, with one caveat - do the furniture first.

Furniture and larger appliances - Only ship the sentimental, unique or beloved. If something is from a chain store, you can probably buy exactly the same item secondhand when you get there. It takes time to sell/donate/get rid of furniture, so decide what's going ASAP, and start advertising it. I'd let your wife look into getting a refund for the bed, and if she manages, take the money and buy a blow up mattress for the first few days. Or a cheap mattress that will eventually become the guest bed.

Clothes - get rid of as many as you feel comfortable leaving behind. Lifestyle changes in your new home may mean that you need/wear completely different clothes when you get there, but the "spark joy" check is a pretty good starting place. At least get rid of anything that you actively dislike.

Books - Cull hard. This is similar to the Furniture. If it's easily replaceable, then donate it and buy another when you want it again. You can pack books as soon as you've decided what to keep, as you can survive without books for weeks. Use the smaller strong boxes, or you'll regret it when you try to lift them.

Papers - I wouldn't get too bogged down in papers. They don't take much space, so make sure you know where the important stuff is, do a quick cull and pack the less important stuff. You probably want to carry the important stuff with you.

Everything Else - Start with the categories that you'll get rid of the largest volume of stuff. Kitchen is a pretty good place to start. Also the garage. Gardening stuff can probably be left behind unless you truly love it and it's high quality, but small tools will be useful, just label that box well!

I probably wouldn't ship food, too much potential for leaks and it'll all be available when you get there. Start eating down the freezer and the pantry, and only buy what you'll eat before you go. They often won't let you pack flammables, corrosives or other dangerous goods.

I wouldn't cull linen unless it's truly excessive, as you can use it for padding as you pack. I often pack my linen and boxless electrical goods together.

Extension cables and power boards may be needed in your new place, but you won't need cables for equipment you no longer have, so get rid of that.

Cushions, pillows, pictures and lamps take up a surprising amount of space in boxes. Cull them if you don't love them.

There are checklists online that you can use to remind yourself of the "komono" categories you have. It can be overwhelming, but it's a great time to go through your stuff and be brutal about what you truly want. Focus on the large stuff though - don't spend a week going through your bathroom drawers.

You might not get to sentimental. That's OK. Unless it's large, just pack it up and deal with it after you're settled and have bought a bed. Even if you don't do a perfect job, it's really depressing to unpack crap you don't even want.

If you end up doing the packing yourself and you've got some practical friends, ask them to come and help with the packing and the delivering of unwanted things to donation points. The decision making part is the hard part, putting the stuff in boxes is trivial in comparison.
posted by kjs4 at 10:06 PM on April 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Have you actually found a new home yet? If not you’re just second guessing as to which of your possessions would fit into your new home.

Secondly, who is paying for this move? Minimising the amount of things you move is great if you are paying and if your stuff would need to go into storage the other end because you’re still house hunting and you can’t be sure if it will ever be useful to you again. But if your employer is paying I’d plan to take all my furniture that is not on its last legs. Even the IKEA stuff-some of mine has moved internationally and it was fine. I’d still have a go at culling clothes, shoes, any kitchen and pantry items you’ve not used in the last year. But I’d take all furniture/lighting/curtains until I can assess what won’t work in the new place.

You can still replace the things that don’t quite work but you can take your time, learn the light patterns and how you move in and use the new space and come up with the best solution. I have often found that things I buy in the week I move is not something I’d buy 3-6 months down the line when I’ve had a chance to settle into the new place. Having your old stuff, even if it is not quite right, can take some of the urgency out of these purchases.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:20 AM on April 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Books - depending on your move, it may be cheaper to send them media mail. If you want to purge, Bookscoutr + a spreadsheet is good for figuring out what to sell where.

You may want to book your move soon! Dates book up in the summer. I also found it useful to get a few quotes to help make decisions about what was worth moving / whether to buy help packing and loading.
posted by momus_window at 11:05 AM on April 16, 2019

Response by poster: We're paying, and we don't know what kind of place we'll be moving to yet, or whether we'll be putting stuff into storage or into an apartment or a house, or what the exact date will be. I don't think we will know till late May or early June. So I don't know when exactly we can even talk to a mover.

(Although it's on our dime, I do want to hire movers. I've driven cross-country with my stuff before and I'm not doing it again!)
posted by wintersweet at 6:08 PM on April 16, 2019

Based on your update then cull vigorously - unless an item has high personal value or high value the cost of packing, moving and storing and unpacking soon adds up to the point where you can buy a lot of replacement items. And at that point you may still not have items that work for your new space. So I‘d probably get a few quotes, with(out) packing, with(out) storage and see where the sweetspot is between cost to take or to replace. I have had significantly better experiences with movers who refused to give a quote without visiting my home to assess how much stuff I really was planning to move. And talk to people sooner rather than later, they do get busy.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:58 PM on April 16, 2019

Ditch sheets and towels, pillows, shower curtains, regular curtains etc if you can afford to replace.
posted by emd3737 at 5:29 AM on April 17, 2019

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