Trading spaces? Here's the ultimate moving checklist

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Congrats! You’ve submitted the down payment or signed the lease, and now you’ve got your sights set on moving to a new home.

If the thought of packing up your life into boxes is totally overwhelming, it can be made a little bit easier with the help of a moving checklist. Getting yourself organized well in advance of moving day will save you some stress, so that when it finally comes around, all you have to worry about is actually moving boxes.

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We spoke with Noah Duarte of national moving company Gentle Giant. The head of Employee Development formerly trained staffers on how best to help people move. He says most people are unprepared both financially and emotionally when it comes to changing up residences.

“The emotional stress involved in relocating the material representation of [one’s life],” Duarte says, well, it can be unexpected and overwhelming.

We’ve prepared a checklist to help you tackle all the essential steps of moving from one home to another. Steps include finding a moving truck or moving company, downsizing your possessions, and getting everything properly packed—just in time for the big day.

1. Create a budget

Moving is expensive. Not only will it require you putting down a lot of money up front when signing the lease or purchasing a home, but the process of moving is pricey.

Duarte says that many people are shocked at the cost of moving, whether they plan to do it themselves or hire professional movers.

Budgeting out how much money you’re willing to spend on moving costs can help you plan for which route to take when it comes to renting and driving a moving truck yourself or hiring a team of movers to do it for you.

2. Declutter before you start packing

Whether you’re downsizing or upgrading your actual square footage, now may be the time to say farewell to some of your belongings. Moving is made easier when you have less stuff, so create some ease by getting rid of what no longer suits you. And, Duarte says, you own more stuff than you realize.

If you have accumulated any borrowed items, whether it be books or appliances, returning them back to their owners lets you transport less.

Going through closets and cabinets to finally say goodbye to those old jeans and chipped dinner plates will save space in moving boxes while also making room for new décor. In other words, get rid of all that extra clutter.

Bring your wonky couch or dining room set to the curb if you don’t plan on bringing it with you. The more you’re able to move out earlier leaves more space for packing.

Unless you’re an extreme minimalist, you’ll probably need the assistance of an oversized vehicle and some extra hands to help you move.

Depending on the level of assistance, amount of stuff you own, and the distance you’re traveling you’ll want to consider different options.

If you’re staying local and packing up a small home or apartment, then renting a moving truck like , that you can drive yourself is manageable for most people. This will require you packing up and lifting all your belongings so you may need to bribe some friends with the promise of a pizza lunch.

If you’re looking to do more minimal work, a moving company may be of more interest. You can consider either a moving company that operates with movers and trucks or a moving pod company.

Moving pods are a great option if you’ll need some storage during the duration of your move. For example, if you need to temporarily downsize while your new home is being built or you have a gap between your leases, a storage pod can be taken to a self-storage facility until it’s ready to move into your new home.

On the other hand, a moving company with professional movers will drive the truck for you and do all the heavy lifting, meaning you don’t have to worry about throwing your back out in the midst of a big move. 

Hiring a moving company or renting a moving truck requires some planning and requires some nuanced thinking Duarte says. He notes that factors such as “where you live, what season it is, how large is your move, and what is your budget,” can affect the availability of scheduling movers or renting a moving truck. Starting to plan as soon as possible will help you find the right company to fit your moving needs.

If you’re an apartment dweller who is moving on big moving dates in months like June or September 1, consider booking your rental or moving company two months in advance. As you get closer to your moving date without booking your moving truck, you may find yourself in a pinch and no one wants to panic on moving day.

4. Gather moving supplies

The best part of going through everything in your home and saying goodbye to what you don’t need is that it provides you with an idea of how much stuff you actually own. This means that you can get a good estimate of the number of boxes (or moving bags) you’ll need to fit all your belongings 

Companies such as The Home Depot have created Moving Kits that come with a set of boxes, packing tape, and markers.

 also makes kits made for small apartments to 3- to 4-bedroom homes.

You can also go the DIY route and gather all the supplies you’ll need to pack up. It can be helpful to purchase these items and always have them on-hand, especially if you’re planning on moving multiple times in the future.

5. Pack up all your stuff

As soon as possible, start packing up your home. Once you’re about 4 weeks out, you can assess what you can live with temporarily and what things can start to get packed up.

When you have the extra time and aren’t in a rush, you can be more thoughtful about how you’re packing up items. Securing materials like thick foam sheets or specialized china storage containers will help protect your most valuable items.

Having the extra time to pack boxes also means you’ll be less likely to overpack a box. If you’re running low on boxes, rather than trying to cram in a few extra items here and there, go out and grab some more boxes. You’ll thank yourself for it when that precious glass vase stays in one piece.

As soon as you start packing up a box and before it gets taped shut—label it! You don’t want to forget the contents. You can label more generally by room (think “living room” or “kitchen”), but you can also list out the contents. That way when you’re looking for that one box of pots and pans you know which one to open.

Always make sure to label fragile contents. If you’re tired of writing that on the boxes or just want to be extra cautious, grab some fragile stickers. The bright red stickers will alert professional movers or your friends who are helping out, to be extra cautious.

6. Plan your moving schedule and communicate

While you will have a general idea of moving day, you’ll also need to coordinate the precise time that the moving will happen. This can be tricky for those who are moving apartments on busy lease cycles. Oftentimes you won’t have access to the new space you’re moving into until the day your lease starts.

Ask your current and future landlords for the contact information of the other tenants who will be moving into your current home as well as for the tenants who are in the space you’re moving into. This can help you coordinate the window in which you can move.

Communicating this timeframe to the professional movers or anyone helping you move keeps everyone on the same page and saves you the stress of scrambling around on the day of.

Most importantly, Duarte says, “Breathe, plan, and if you’ve done your research trust everyone to do their job.”

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