Every time I have moved, it has been a living nightmare: a hellish combination of packing frantically for weeks, breaking every knickknack I love and eventually throwing the rest of my stuff into boxes so that I can't even find my toothbrush at the end of moving day. In short: Moving is the worst.
According to a recent You Move Me survey, at least a third of Americans agree with me, calling moving one of life's most stressful events. The stress of a big move beats out the stress of a job interview by a small margin at 32 percent and even the stress of going on a first date at nine percent. In the average move, roughly 47 percent of Americans experience broken belongings, 35 percent get into an argument with a significant other and 34 percent accidentally leave important items behind.
As horrible as it sounds, a major move doesn't have to be entirely unpleasant. There are some people out there — you may call them moving experts but I call them unicorns — who actually have moving down to a science. Here are their secrets:
1. Take pictures of everything
No, I'm not just talking about the obvious — though taking pictures of valuables to make sure they aren't damaged by movers is a great idea. I'm talking about taking pictures of those ultra-complicated electronics with all their newfangled cords that can be almost impossible to untangle after they've been packed. Clair Jones, relocation specialist with Movearoo, says, "Setting up electronics can be super time-consuming. Before disconnecting any cords on your entertainment center or desktop computer, take a quick picture so you can have a reference for quick re-assembly."
2. Color code and number boxes
Let your inner geek rejoice! Allen Golan, COO of Shleppers Moving & Storage, an almost 40-year-old New York-based moving company, says creating an organizational system for boxes is the only way to make sure all your stuff makes it to your new home in one piece. "Not an organization freak? That’s OK — you can still set up an easy to execute organization system to make sure your boxes go to the right place. Make rooms 'colors' and then create subsections with numbers. For example, all boxes with a purple #1 might be cookware and appliances, but a purple #2 may be utensils and dishes. Meanwhile, your bedroom might be orange, but #1 might be closet items, whereas #2 may be linens," she explains. "This will help you find things in a flash when you arrive."
3. Seal with plastic cling wrap
You knew you kept that roll of plastic wrap in the back of your kitchen cabinet for a reason (since it certainly wasn't going to be used for baking). Jones says that the best tool to have on hand while packing for a move, besides duct tape, is Press n' Seal plastic wrap, used to seal the tops of drawers to keep loose items like jewelry contained. "You can save a lot of time by wrapping loose items in place instead of packing and unpacking them," she says.
4. Wrap clothes in trash bags
While packing clothes dorm-room-style by upending all your drawers into a garbage bag isn't recommended, Jones says trash bags can serve an important, and inexpensive, purpose during a move. "Leave your clothes on the hangers and slip a handle-tie trash bag over the bottom," she advises. "Use the ties of the trash bag to bind the hangers together, and your clothes are protected for the move and can easily be placed in your new closet without having to be re-hung."
5. Work with what you've got
Consider this the moving golden rule that will de-stress even the most hectic packing job: Don't pack what you don't need to pack. "A lot of people waste time 'packing' the items they keep in already packed spaces. If you have baskets, decorative boxes or other organization units, keep as much as possible in place. If your filing cabinet can be lifted, don't pack files — just securely close the drawers to protect items," says Golan. "If your rope baskets hold blankets or magazines you want to have at your new home, keep them 'as is' and just pack them safely in boxes. However, if your baskets contain breakables (especially liquids — like bathroom toiletries), be careful about how you 'pack in place.' It may be safer to transport separately."
6. Pack with newspaper
If there's one moving myth that all of us need to stop believing, it's this: It's cheaper and safer to pack fragile items with newspaper. Not so, says Golan. "Many customers get the idea that it is the right way to pack because of a misnomer with 'news print,' which is actually clean, white paper that you can use to pack and protect your stuff. Newspaper is dirty and will leave you with a whole lot of items to wash (or de-stain) upon arrival in your new home," she explains.
7. Forget to disconnect
This is the moment where even the most skilled mover can be brought to their knees: You forget to call the cable company (and the utility company and the phone company). And that's when the panic sets in. To prevent this all-too-common moving day mishap, Lindsey Schaibly, operations coordinator for Two Men and a Truck, recommends setting up a "disconnect day" to schedule disconnect times about a week prior to your move. "You don't want to have to pay for cable, phone and utilities when you aren't even there! Don't forget to cancel newspapers, cable, pest control, cleaning help and lawn services about a week before the move as well," she says.
8. Trust your friends
OK, OK, that's a little harsh. It's common practice to enlist the help of friends and family during a move as free labor in exchange for pizza and beer, but to avoid the bitter taste of disappointment on moving day, it's critical to have a backup plan in place, says Schaibly. Check the policies of local movers and rental truck companies before the big day to see what last-minute moving services are available.