How to Move: 10 Tips for Planning a Move

By: Amanda Arnold & Danielle Fisher  | 
Family sitting on floor of living room of new home during move in day
Make a moving list and check it multiple times to minimize stress on moving day. Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Getting everything you own from one home to another can be difficult to orchestrate. So, rather than just play it by ear and hope everything gets done in time, it's a good idea to make a solid plan for how to move well in advance of relocation.

There are plenty of reasons to pack up your belongings and find new digs. Is your family growing? Are you in search of lower rent or moving to live in a better home? Has a new job or job transfer landed you in a new city?


No matter the reason for the change of scenery, these moving and packing tips to make the moving process smoother.

10. Take Care of Address Change Details First

Be sure to fill out a change of address request form with the U.S. Post Office.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Once you've unpacked your last box at your new home, you might consider celebrating with a drink, a nice meal or by collapsing on your newly arranged couch. The last thing you want in that moment is to find more tedious tasks on your to-do list.

Save yourself the annoyance by taking care of your change of address requests first.


They rarely take effect immediately, so notifying the post office, bank and other important contacts — like that monthly candle subscription you splurged on — before you start packing will ensure everything is updated and in order by your move-in date.

If you can, schedule service with utility companies in advance.

9. Make a Master List of Moving Tasks

It's easier to remember what you need to do if you sit down and make a list. That also gives you the opportunity to check off to-do items as you go, which is always satisfying.

A moving checklist will help you organize your thoughts, and it should be made several months in advance of your move. Including deadlines is paramount; some tasks need to be completed before others, so schedule deadlines accordingly and stick to them.


While you're in list-making mode, make an inventory of what you're moving for insurance purposes. This inventory will be helpful as you unpack as well to ensure you're not missing anything.

8. Don't Pay For Packing Supplies

You can get all of your moving boxes for free from package and grocery stores.

Moving is a lot of work and, even if you're moving to a more affordable place, it can really drain your wallet. So why pay for moving supplies if you can save money by getting them for free?

Have you estimated the number of cardboard boxes you will need for your belongings? Well, multiply that number by 20 percent, just to be safe, and start hitting up your local appliance or department stores.


You might try your local grocery or package store as well, but avoid boxes that carried frozen foods or produce as they may have water damage or food stains. Ask someone when the store expects shipments. They may even volunteer to set some boxes and packing paper aside for you.

After a few trips to the right store, you'll have all of the boxes, cardboard dividers, packing paper and bubble wrap you need without the high price tag.

Start saving household items like toilet paper rolls (you can pack jewelry in them), tissue paper and small boxes. Even that plastic bag from your last trip to the grocery store will be helpful when wrapping fragile items. Hopefully, the only thing you'll need to buy is packing tape.

7. Plan New Rooms as You Pack the Old

You won't be able replicate everything in your new home exactly the way it was in your old one, and who would want to anyway? Your new place is a fresh palette for new ideas.

But taking pictures of every room before you start packing items will help you plan how to unpack. It will save you a lot of time too. While you're taking pictures, snap some of your important documents in case they get lost in the move.


You can see what worked (maybe your dining room table really needs to be directly under a chandelier) and remember what may be hidden in an unpacked box. Knowing, for example, that your scissors are in the same box as your home office supplies and not with your toolbox will help you avoid a major headache later.

Don't forget to take pictures of complicated electronic hook-ups, such as for entertainment systems, to help you put them back together. If you can find a floor plan for your new home, you'll have an even more detailed plan.

When packing, color-coded boxes according to room. Use colored masking tape to label boxes or different colored stickers to indicate where each box belongs.

6. Research Moving Companies

Professional movers will cost you more money, but will save you time and energy.

If you're short on time or you just hate the idea of walking up and down stairs with countless heavy boxes — or you're moving across the country — you might want to look into hiring movers. While professional movers can be expensive, they don't have to be.

Be sure to get quotes from several moving companies, and don't be shy about the fact that you're shopping around. Making companies aware that you're checking out the competition might just result in a lower quote.


Ask about different options, from a semi-DIY move to full-service movers. If you haven't already, create a moving budget based on your research.

If you have flexibility on your moving date, ask if you can wait to be added to a moving truck that is going to the same area. This will reduce the cost of long-distance moves.

Finally, make sure you know your rights and purchase additional insurance if necessary.

5. Ask Your Friends to Help

Even if you hire movers, and especially if you don't hire a moving company, you'll need some other people to help you carry items out of your old house and into your new one.

If you plan to rely heavily on friends to help with your move, you need to make sure they're committed to your plight. And you need to line up your friendly labor early in the game.


If you want help, it's best to schedule your move for a weekend day, when most people are off work. When your helpers arrive, have a plan in place for what each person should do; assign each friend a particular set of boxes or a specific room to focus on.

Be sure to thank each person individually and, even better, schedule some sort of formal thank-you for everyone, such as a dinner out or a cookout at your new place the next weekend. They deserve it.

4. Get Your New Place in Tip-top Shape

Getting most home projects and cleaning out of the way before you move in will make those jobs much easier to complete.

If you're moving to a fixer-upper, there might be some plans you have for your new place. Whether you hope to paint, do minor repairs, conduct extensive renovations or simply give the place a nice squeaky-clean shine, try to do so before you move in and start the unpacking process.

Any projects you have planned will be easier and faster if they're completed before your boxes and furnishings arrive.


If you don't have time to get in there yourself, consider hiring some help who can complete your tasks while you finish packing for the move. You'll have a much better chance of making your plans a reality.

3. Read Up on How to Drive a Rental Truck

If you're going to drive your own rental truck or van, read up on how to drive it before you get out on the road. There are several things to keep in mind when you're driving a truck: First, if you normally drive a sedan, the truck is going to be much wider than what you're used to driving.

It's also heavier than a car, so it won't stop as quickly. Be sure there's more than one car length between your truck and the vehicle ahead of you at all times.


Pay attention to road signs regarding trucks, never pass a vehicle moving more than 40 miles per hour and, unless you're particularly adept at using your side-view mirrors, avoid backing up as much as possible. It's tricky.

2. Have Rugs, Drapes and Slipcovers Cleaned

Take advantage of the move to have rugs, drapes and other soft goods dry cleaned so they're fresh and clean when you move in.
Thinkstock/Eyecandy Images

Moving is the perfect occasion to have some things cleaned that tend to go without cleaning for long periods of time. For example, if your couch has a cover that can be removed, you can send that cover and the cushion slipcovers to the cleaners for a good washing.

The same goes for your rugs (depending on what they're made of). Drapes, shower curtains and bed skirts are other fabric items that should be washed before they're moved. You don't want to bring dirty, dusty fabrics into your new home, so clean them before you move.


1. Purge

Moving is a great time to maximize space — and minimize the amount of stuff you need to pack — by getting rid of stuff. Who wants to waste time packing clothes you don't wear anymore, anyway?

If your home is cluttered, then you may need to schedule when you'll address each pile of junk over the next few months before the move. Go through each pile more than once, setting aside the definite giveaways in garbage bags during the first sweep and the less obvious giveaways during the next couple of sweeps.

Keep in mind that you can donate many of the items to charity. Go online to see what local charities you'd like to support and figure out which ones will benefit most by what you have to donate. Don't forget to keep a record what you donate and get a receipt for your taxes.

If you have more time on your hands, you can schedule a garage sale before your move.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • "10 Summer Moving Tips." (Jan. 9, 2011)
  • Datko, Karen. "The ABCs of DIY moving." MSN Money. Nov. 3, 2010. (Jan. 9, 2011)
  • Johnson, Stacy. "7 Tips to Save at least $1,000 on Your Next Move." Money Talks News. June 9, 2010. (Jan. 9, 2011)