Moving Checklist

moving boxes in kitchen
Moving can be stressful, but it doesn't have to be -- a checklist can help.
George Doyle/Thinkstock

It's safe to say that moving is pretty high on most people's lists of things they hate to do. Uprooting yourself, especially to a new town or state, is never easy. But we'll let you in on a little secret: Procrastination is what will really make you miserable. Trust us -- there's nothing worse than frantically dumping your stuff into trash bags as the movers wait (and the clock ticks). If you don't keep on top of things, there will inevitably be all kinds of odds and ends that you'll be forced to reckon with on moving day. And that is never fun.

Packing up an entire household -- no matter what size it is -- can seem like an insurmountable task, especially if you've never done it before. But fear not, first-time movers -- we've put together a timeline and a ton of handy-dandy tips that should ease some of your stress.


Moving Timeline: Two Months

Most experts (and by "experts" we mean "people who have done this many, many times") say that you should start the moving process about two months before the big day. So, here goes. Eight to six weeks before you move you should:

  • Go through all your stuff and decide what to purge. When that's done, then you're ready to start packing up everything you can live without for the next few weeks.
  • Gather packing supplies. At a minimum, you'll need boxes, tape, bubble wrap and markers.
  • Make a moving budget. Are you going to do it all yourself or hire movers? And if you do hire movers, are they going to pack for you?
  • Get estimates for movers or rental trucks and hire one (see sidebar).
  • If you have roommates, figure out who's bringing what -- and who's paying for what.
  • Talk to (OK, maybe butter up) your friends and family to persuade them to help you on moving day.

Keep reading to find out what you need to be doing one month prior to the big move.


Moving Timeline: One Month

Moving day is a month away -- you might be starting to feel the crunch, but don't panic. While you're not packing, now's the time to:

  • Fill out a change of address form with the post office -- and notify all your credit cards, banks, doctors, schools, utility and insurance companies of the move.
  • Arrange to disconnect the utilities at your old place and connect them at the new one.
  • Have a garage sale if you're so inspired. Remember all that stuff you decided to purge last month. If you can, try to sell it -- you might just recoup your packing supplies expenses.

What to do at the two-week mark is up next.


Moving Timeline: Two Weeks to Go Time

Man using telephone in empty home
Looks like this guy might not have confirmed everything with the movers.

Moving day is just around the corner, but because you've been faithfully following the timeline, you feel footloose and fancy-free, right? Although you are in the homestretch, you're not quite finished yet. Here's what to do in the final two weeks:

  • Confirm that your new utilities accounts have been set up and that electricity, heat and water will be up and running when you arrive at your new place.
  • Finish up the major packing about a week ahead of time -- just leave yourself a suitcase with enough toiletries, clothes and other necessities for a few days.
  • Designate a few "open first" boxes so you don't have to search for things like glasses and silverware.
  • Refill any prescriptions you might need over the next couple of weeks.
  • Plan meals so you use up whatever's in your fridge and cupboards.
  • A couple of days out, confirm with movers and/or your moving helpers.
  • Make sure that everything is clean and in place at your new abode so you don't run in to any disasters when you open the door for the first time.
  • Give everyone your new address!

Read on for tips on packing.


Packing Checklist

movers with boxes
Be sure to clearly label those boxes so that movers/helpers know where they go.
Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock

OK, so you know you need to start packing early and pack, pack, pack until everything is done. Sounds simple enough, but where do you start? And how do you keep things under control and organized? A good packing job will not only make your life easier while you're packing, but also while you're unloading in your new home. Here are some pointers:

  • Start collecting boxes and supplies way ahead of time -- chances are you'll have to go back for more at some point.
  • Pack by room, and try not to put things from multiple rooms in one box.
  • Label boxes by room -- and color-coded labels are always nifty if you're feeling extra-organized.
  • Pack clothes and linens in suitcases.
  • Put heavy things in small boxes and light stuff in big boxes, with the heavier items always at the bottom of each box.
  • Pack dishes on their sides, never flat. Be sure to wrap them individually -- whether you're using old newspaper or those fancy foam sleeves.
  • Use towels or wadded-up paper to fill empty space in boxes -- never leave a box half-full.

An out-of-state move can be just a little different -- keep reading for a few tips on what to do if you're changing states.


Moving Out of State Checklist

Except for the obvious distance issues, moving to a new state isn't all that different from moving to the other side of town. You won't be able to pop back in to your old place to grab that forgotten toaster, but it's not like you're going to be speaking a new language or learning about a foreign culture (we do realize that people moving from New England to, say, Southern California may disagree with that last point, however).

Probably the biggest issue you'll face is just getting your bearings -- you know, figuring out where all the places you need to go are. For example, you will have to find your way to new schools, stores and doctors' offices. Before the move, it's probably a good idea to make a list of these important places and then figure out where they are. With so many online mapping services at your fingertips, this can be super easy.


Moving Tips

Couple carrying carpet
Get your rugs professionally cleaned before you move -- they'll be rolled up, fresh and ready to go.

Just as you always find miscellaneous items sitting around when you're sure you've finished packing, there's always extra moving wisdom to impart. And every little bit of advice helps when you're in the midst of a stressful life change, right? Here's one last list of tidbits you might not think of on your own:

  • Make a handy binder of important moving-related papers such as receipts, agreements and contracts.
  • Get your rugs professionally cleaned before you move -- they'll be all wrapped up and ready to go.
  • Photograph or videotape anything particularly valuable before you pack it.
  • Don't label every single box you pack "fragile."
  • Don't label anything valuable on the outside of a box.
  • Always have extra boxes hanging around on moving day for those pesky odds and ends.
  • Leave out a small toolbox and first aid kit for moving day.
  • Tip your movers 10 to 15 percent, more if it's a difficult move.
  • Have plenty of bottled water on hand and buy food and drinks for your movers or your moving help.

On the next page, you'll find lots more information on moving and packing. Good luck!


Moving Checklist FAQ

Who do I need to tell when I move?
Fill out a change of address form with the post office and notify all your credit cards, banks, doctors, schools, employers, and insurance companies that you are moving. Letting your friends and family know, as well as providing them with your new contact information, is a good idea.
What do I need to arrange when moving?
Arrange for a moving service or book a DIY moving truck from a company like U-Haul. Be sure to disconnect the utilities at your old house and arrange to have them connected at the new one starting on your move day. Call your doctor and arrange to have any prescriptions sent to a pharmacy close to your new house.
How do you keep track of boxes when moving?
To keep track of boxes, pack by room and don't put things from multiple rooms in one box. Label boxes by their room contents (i.e., "Living Room" or "Kitchen") as well as any critical things that are inside (i.e., coffee maker) so that they're easy to find when unpacking. Finally, count the total number of boxes once you've finished packing and make a note on your phone so that you can verify that everything made it on the other end.
How much do local movers cost?
According to Consumer Affairs, professional moving for a three-bedroom house will cost you between $600 and $1,000, based on 10,000 pounds, no packing services, and a local move of 100 miles or less. Referrals are the best way to find reputable movers, but always get at least three formal written quotes. Make sure to ask about extra fees, hidden charges, and licensing and insurance costs.
Is there a checklist for moving?
This article will give you a full checklist for moving, starting eight weeks out, all the way through to moving day.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Bluestein, Adam. "12 Steps to Hiring a Mover." Real Simple. (Accessed July 29, 2010)
  • Bluestein, Adam. "Moving Packing Tips." Real Simple. (Accessed July 29, 2010)
  • Martha Stewart Living. "Simplifying the Big Move." April 2008. (Accessed July 29, 2010)
  • Martha Stewart Living. "Moving Checklist." (Accessed July 29, 2010)
  • Martha Stewart Living. "Packing Checklist." (Accessed July 29, 2010)
  • Real Simple. "Moving Checklist." (Accessed July 29, 2010)
  • U-Pack Moving. "Moving Checklist." (Accessed July 29, 2010)