51 Moving Tips: The Ultimate Guide to Stress-Free Moving on the Cheap
1. Do anything to avoid moving on the 1st of the month.
The first of the month is the busiest day of the month for moving companies, and May, June, July and August are the busiest months. Especially June. So try not to move on June 1st.
If you use a moving company, that’s going to be a tough time to get movers assigned to your job, especially if you book late. Some moving companies overbook. We get lots of calls from folks whose moving company hasn’t shown up and they want to book us last minute. The movers may not be the best the company has, and they may be rushed or tired from having to do other moves that day.
If you rent a truck, you may have availability issues and cancelled reservations are not unheard of. The local Uhaul office may not be amenable to giving you extra time if you need it.
If you are planning on renting a unit at a storage complex, it’s going to be their busiest day and the unit you reserve online may be gone by the time you get there.
So, if you can move a day or two ahead of or behind the first, you’ll get more rested crews and generally a more stress-free and smooth experience. And, after all, that what we’re after, isn’t it?
2. Start organizing, calling, reserving, prepping and packing early.
Don’t procrastinate. If you start early you can snag good deals on tape, boxes and packing materials. You can order color coded moving labels, so each room has a distinct color. You can put an ad on Craigslist for boxes and get real moving boxes from other folks that have just moved for super cheap. You can save your old blankets and use them for moving. You can get your items hauled for cheaper by trucks that are going in your direction. You can do a bunch of things that make it cheaper and easier if you start early. So start early!
3. Use a moving checklist.
Using a printable moving checklist will keep every one of the many tasks in order so things roll along smoothly. Organize and thrive!
4. Hire a good mover.
Sure, we’re going to say that, being movers. Doesn’t it make sense, if you’re going to move all belongings, to hire someone like me who has made it their profession and is really good at protecting them and making sure they make the trip safely? Almost all of the time of the time, it’s going to be cheaper than renting a Uhaul and bribing your friends with pizza and beer. Especially when you consider the damage to your furniture. Especially when you consider the fact that if they get hurt, you’re liable. Don’t risk it. Hire a pro.
5. Show your mover everything you’re moving.
I’ve had many people ‘forget’ to tell me that they have an additional shed full of stuff, shed, or a heavy gun safe, or a bunch of stuff in the basement. On the day of the move. If we’d known, we’d have brought a bigger truck, or the right equipment to move the item, and it wouldn’t have cost more. But at the last minute, making an extra trip to retrieve the right tools or a bigger truck costs more and it adds greatly to the stress of the day. And our goal is always a stress free and smooth moving day, right? So please, show us everything you have, even if you’re not sure if it’s going.
1. Look at all your options
There has never been as many options as there are now for long-distance moving. You can move with a national van line, and have a professional mover and driver haul your goods from door to door. This has been the safest way to move for many years. You can take a DIY approach and have professionals load your U Haul, or watch my video and load it yourself with some friends. If you want to fill a container, you can have PODS, or U-box by U Haul ship a small 4’x7’x8′ shipping container. For bigger loads, you can fill up and take an ABF, which gives you up to 28 feet of a semi trailer. Two Men and a Truck has a container option called ValueFlex now, that falls right in the middle size-wise.
2. For small loads, 1 room or less, consider UShip.
If it’s a small load, like 1000 pounds or less, this may be a good way to go. Truck drivers with extra space will bid on your load, and the rates are less than what you can get anywhere else since they are already going in that direction. We’re on 5 star rated on UShip, but give us a call directly if you want a rate quote for this, because they charge us about 15% if you book through them.
1. Save the movers some time by reserving the moving truck a close-by parking space.
When you’re moving an apartment, the further the space where the truck can park, the more time can add to your move. A far off space can double the time it takes to get your items in the truck, and therefore double the cost. Since we and most other movers charge by the hour, it’s worth it to take a look outside and see what the closest parking spaces to your apartment are. You can take that space and then move your car when the movers show up. You can let them know of your masterful plan, I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. They may tell you that the moving truck needs two spaces. Your apartment complex or moving company may have cones that you can use to get additional spaces reserved, or you can bribe you neighbors with candy or snacks. In some cities, the city will issue a temporary parking permit and no parking sign for a space for your moving truck and only you can park there, everyone else will get towed. However you manage to get the space, it might be worth a few hundred bucks in saved time and hourly charges, never mind tired movers, on moving day.
2. Use bigger boxes to reduce the number of trips up and down the stairs.
Consolidate tiny boxes into one 4.5 cubic foot box, a dish pack box, or a wardrobe box. I recently moved someone that had a small apartment on the third floor with four sets of stairs. That’s usually no problem. But she had gotten a bunch of liquor store boxes and a whole slew of wedding gifts in their original, small boxes. 400 sets of stairs later, she had some tired movers and a more expensive move than it could have been had all those small boxes been consolidated into a few bigger ones. It would have taken a few minutes of packing but saved a few hours of moving time.
3. Bring plenty of dollies, but avoid using the wrong type of dolly down the stairs.
I cringe when I see someone taking a load of boxes down the stairs and slamming down, KADUNK, KADUBK, on every stair. Good moving dollies have a plastic ridge or a track with wheels to quickly and smoothly go up or down stairs.
1. Bribe whoever you have to for an elevator key.
An elevator key is worth it’s weight in gold. Otherwise, you have to fight the elevator constantly trying to close and possibly alarms going off. The Garden Terrace Apartments here in Colorado Springs are notorious for their horrible elevators. If you try to hold them open, they force themselves shut and try to decapitate you. Having an elevator key saves you from a horrible decapitation by effectively reserving the elevator for your use only.
2. If you can’t get an elevator key, build a prop to prop the doors open.
You can use a 1×4 piece of wood to prop the door open, and if you put it up top, it wont get in the way of the doors.
3. Bring at least 3 dollies for elevator moves.
You need a dolly for upstairs, one of the elevator, and one for downstairs. You last dolly load of boxes for each elevator load can stay on the dolly an be transported downstairs on the dolly. That way, you have 2 dollies when you’re under pressure. Any time the elevator door is open, you’ve got 2 dollies working. You should also bring some carts if you have them
4. You need at least 3 movers for efficient elevator moves.
You can also get the kids on the move to run the elevator up and down. You want, preferably, one person in the elevator, one or two movers downstairs and one or two movers upstairs. That way you can fill and empty the elevator as quickly as possible each time. According to the Theory of Constraints, you shouldn’t waste time making sure the elevator is 100% full every time, just make sure it is fairly full and keep it moving. I don’t know if the Theory of Constraints holds true for moving, but I know elevator moves go much quicker the more movers that you put on them.
When you’re moving a big house, the part that takes up the most time for the movers is telling them where everything goes. You can:
1. Color code each room.
You get some multi-colored post-it notes and put on on each box, or they sell multi-colored tape on Amazon for this purpose too. The question comes in when it’s furniture and it’s covered by a blanket. We don’t take the blanket off outside because that kind of ruins the point of protecting it in the first place, but we do wrap everything up the day before. After everything is wrapped, you can follow behind and put a sticky note, colored dot, or piece of tape matching up will your color code scheme on each piece, or ask the movers to do it as they’re wrapping everything. That makes for easy identification and fewer questions on the way back in the new house on the delivery.
2. Go through the storage room in the basement.
In big homes, there’s usually a room full of storage that most folks disregard on packing day. It usually has decorations, totes and boxes. I’d go through the storage, pack up all those boxes, and make sure they and the totes are securely taped, and label them. Those are always the boxes that don’t have a label, and unlabeled boxes slow the move down.
Prepping all the furniture the day before makes moving day smooth and stress-free. 100% Guaranteed. On our prep days, we do everything that we would do on moving day except actually put the items in the truck. Since we don’t have a truck there, it’s at a lower hourly rate. We wrap all the furniture, disassemble it if needed, disconnect washers and dryers, and pack up mirror, lamps and glass that the customers may not have packed. They never pack those. Then, on moving day, you have a fresh crew come, and all they have to do is load it into the truck and unload at the new house. Easy day. If you have to pack, I’d schedule an additional day to pack. Trying to squeeze it all into one day adds too much stress and confusion, never mind tons of people in your house.
4. Prop open the doors, and disconnect the piston hinge onthe screen door.
This makes moving a lot easier. You can also prop it open this way, without damaging the piston. There is a small bolt that holds the piston to the screen door, it slides in and out without tools.
1. Please don’t get your moving boxes from a liquor store.
Some people out there say “Get boxes from a liquor store, it’s free!”. Those boxes are tiny and a bunch of different sizes. The people that tell you that arethey are not the ones moving those small liquor boxes up and down three flights of stairs. We strongly advise against using boxes from a liquor store. They are all different sizes, so they don’t stack well. The inserts to separate the bottles are useful, though. The best free boxes would be ones that are all the same size, and are thick enough not to collapse if stacked. We’ve seen some really good ones from medical supply places and hospitals. Walmart and other grocery stores have decent bigger boxes, those that Sterilite containers come in. We don’t really like the banana or fruit boxes, even though they’re normally pretty thick. Besides having holes in them so that the fruit can breathe, the lid that they come with wastes space on the side and requires more tape to stay on, and they sometimes have mashed up fruit and bugs inside. I’d stay away from banana boxes.
Many moving companies, like ours, have a program where you can get free used moving boxes. We charge 50% of the normal cost of the box upfront and you get that 50% back when you bring the boxes back to our warehouse. (We’ll come get them, too, but then you don’t get the money back.)
There a couple of other strategies. If you have a decent head start ahead of your move, you can post an ad on CL asking for moving boxes. If you offer to pick up everything including the packing materials, many times you can get a whole moving box assortment for free.
2. Make the box fit perfectly. By telescoping boxes, you can customize and create any size box you need.
We have a guide on how to do this. This way you can pack vacuum cleaners and oversized items without having the original box.
3. Score and make 2 cuts for some sweet box handles.
If you want some nice box handles, this is how you do it.
4. Buy picture/mirror pack boxes.
Around here, in the Denver metro area, you can get them from Pioneer Packaging and a couple of other folks. Home Depot has a pretty sweet deal on 20.
5. If you don’t want to buy mirror boxes, you can make your own with this handy video.
Here we show you how to make them out of cheap Lowe’s boxes.
6. Please don’t put all the books in your luggage.
I saw this tip on another site and was horrified. Boxes of books make a good base, on the bottom. Luggage, because it doesn’t have a flat even surface like a box, usually goes near the top of a tier. If you filled the luggage with books it’d likely break he luggage. If it didn’t, you’d still be stuck with it on the bottom of your tier. You’d also be stuck, because being so heavy, it wouldn’t have a good space to stack it on top of.
7. You can use the garbage bag trick on your clothes, but still put them in a box.
A lot of the moving tips lists will say to put clothes in a plastic bag. This leaves the clothes a slippery mess, and you still have to stack it. I prefer to leave clothes in dressers, if they’re in dressers.
1. Get plenty of tape
You always need a ton of tape. Don’t get really good, expensive tape, get cheap, tan, packing and shipping tape. I’d get a 36 pack if you’re moving anything bigger than a 2 bedroom apartment. Yeah, that’s a lot of tape, but the $40 or so you’ll spend is cheaper than everything breaking because you don’t have it taped up. I use it instead of plastic wrap to keep dresser drawers shut, I use it to keep pieces of beds together, I use it to tape my kids down to a chair. Having plenty of tape is a game-changer.
2. Buy plenty of newsprint.
Newsprint is the do-all when is comes to packing. You probably want to buy at least 3-5 lbs per room that you are packing.
3. If you don’t want to buy newsprint, you can use newspapers.
Newsprint is faster, because it’s in a nice easy stack, but you can probably get day-old newspapers from your local convenience store.
4. Please don’t use garbage bags.
Garbage bags are the bane of my existence. They are hard to pack and slip and slide around even on top. If you absolutely have to use them, ok, but then put them in a big box.
5. Pack a first-night box.
If you don’t get to unpack everything on the first night, you’ll want access to your toothbrushes, deodorant, and other toiletries.
6. Stack Plates Sideways.
Don’t stack plates one on top of the other because a speed bump in the road could cause the truck to jump up and the crash down would break all the plates.
7. If in doubt, plastic wrap it.
You know those cool Sterilite containers that are great for art supplies? Yeah, those bad boys are going to open up in transit and have glitter all over the moving truck. Stretch wrap them tight so that doesn’t happen.
8. Make a packing supplies basket.
You can quickly pack one room at a time and bring all your supplies with you.
9. Leave the sheets on the mattresses.
We usually use a mattress bag but this adds another layer of protection to the thin plastic. You can run a piece of tape along the bottom to secure it on, and if it gets dirty you can just throw it in the wash.
10. A FRAGILE label doesn’t do much.
If you are worried about the box, it’s best to put more padding in it, reinforce the box, or put it insode another box. Look at how fragile items like Tv’s or lamps come from the store. They are tightly packed to avoid damage in the first place. They usually have several layers and different boxes inside the main box. So for example, if you have a box of dishes still packed from a wedding present, it makes sense to put it in a bigger box with additional cushioning materials, and now you have a fairly resilient package.
Professional movers are not going to handle boxes roughly on purpose. We treat all boxes with care. But your load is going to move around. Slapping a fragile sticker on an improperly packed box and then blaming the movers if it sustains damage is not good. Pack it right.
11. You can usually leave the dresser drawers full.
as long as the items aren’t going to roll around, for local moves, we generally leave clothes in the dressers. I wouldn’t leave jewelry or perfume bottles in nightstand because they can break.
12. Please, please, don’t leave boxes open on the top with stuff sticking out.
If the items exceed the height of the box, grab the same size box and flip it over on top. Telescope the two together and tape it down. Now you have a box that is structurally sound and the items are not going to spill all over the place. And the movers won’t hate you.
12. Pack a parts box.
Preferably, if you take apart furniture, you want to put the pieces right back where they came from. Like if you take bolts out of a table, try to put them back in the same table. Some won;t go back in, so you want to put those in a ziplock bag, label them and put together a parts box with all those parts. Label it clearly and put it on the truck last so it comes out first.
13. Avoid Lowe’s large, green, regular strength boxes.
Lowes has an affordable line of boxes and then a heavy-duty line. The problem with the large, light green boxes pictured here, is that they are really weak and the wrong size on top. they are 18″ x 24″, and most medium, 3 cubic foot boxes are 18″ x 18″on top, meaning these boxes leave a 6 inch gap, often causing them to collapse under the weight of the box on top.
1. Drain the gas and oil from the lawn equipment.
Gasoline and oil can ruin furniture and clothes if it spills out.
2. Fold down the handles on the lawn mower and empty the grass catcher.
We often are asked to move lawn mowers with plenty of grass still in it.
3. Take the wheels off the bikes.
1. Put the pieces back where they go if you can.
This means, if it take apart a table, and the bolts are permanently affixed to the table legs, I put the washers and nuts back on the legs when they are removed from the table. Same with beds, although most beds don’t have many removable pieces. Most beds snap together, with no need to remove hardware.
2. If you can’t put the pieces back in, put them in a ziplock bag.
We then label the ziplock bag and tape them securely to the same piece with clear tape and tape them securely to the same piece with clear tape. If I cant’s do that, I put it in a parts box.
Moving with a UHaul
1. Rent plenty of blankets.
You need 1 or 2 blankets for each piece of furniture you want protected. You need more than you think. A dining room table with 6 chairs needs 10. A bed generally needs 4 or 5. You can also save you own blankets and use them or buy bulk blankets from Goodwill.
2. Bases, boxes, BS.
When you are loading a moving truck, the object is to use all the space and keep the load from moving around. This is how you do it. First, put the bases on. Bases are solid pieces of furniture that you can stack on top of. Then, add boxes to create another flat, level surface about shoulder height. If there is a mom’s attic, you already have a flat surface about shoulder height. Then put unwieldy and odd-shaped objects up here. I call this B.S., Bulky. Stuff. Some movers call it chowder. It’s the lump items, anything that isn’t boxes or bases. Garbage bags, if you are unlucky enough to have to pack them, can go in the B.S. layer.
3. Put all the unwieldy items in the “Mom’s Attic”
You want to put all the garbage bags, luggage, chairs, and other unwieldy and odd-shaped items in the overhead cab portion and get rid of them early. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with a bunch of unpackable items at the end.
4. Use all the space in the truck, and then some.
If you stack properly, you can use all the space in the truck. If you run completely out of space, you can pull the ramp out and put all the mattresses on the ramp. You’d have to wrap the mattresses in plastic wrap if you are moving in inclement weather. I’ve gone from Colorado to Pennsylvania with 6 mattresses on the back, fully wrapped up in plastic and tarped, of course.
5. Don’t pack the boxes first.
You don’t want a bunch of hard to pack items at the end. You want to pack bases, boxes, b.s., like I described above, using only as many boxes as you need to to make the tier level. Having a only a bunch of boxes at the end is ideal. That way if the load overflows it’s easy to fit into a trailer or in a car. If you save bulky and unwieldy items till the end, like chairs, bikes, and lawn furniture, good luck trying to get that stuff in a trailer or car.
1. Call around and ask if they’ll price match.
Uhaul and Budget will generally price match their competitors. For 26 foot trucks, Enterprise has some great pricing too.
2. Diesels are much better for long trips.
Diesel moving trucks have much better fuel economy and power, so for longer trips over hilly terrain, they can’t be beat. A diesel is what you want if you’re towing a car, because a gas powered truck fully loaded and towing a car is going to crawl up hills at 10-20 mph, if it can make it at all. Penske and Budget generally have 24-and 26-foot moving trucks that are diesel, and their 16 foot truck are gas powered. Enterprise and Ryder have the only 16 foot diesels that I’ve seen. Anything smaller than that is going to be a ‘gasser’.
1. Save your blankets for wrapping furniture, or buy some from Goodwill.
Unless you want all your furniture stacked on top of each other bare, wood on wood, it makes sense to save your blankets
2. Go take a look at the unit before you rent it, before moving day.
There’s nothing worse than standing outside the storage unit with your movers and realizing that it won’t work.
3. Get an outdoor unit.
Outdoor access units are much better for moving because you can usually pull the truck much closer and load directly into it.
4. Get a big enough space.
If you fill a 26 foot truck, you usually need at least 20×10 unit with a tall ceiling to fit everything. A Uhaul 26 footer can hold 1664 cubic feet. So unless your 20′ x 10′ foot unit has taller than 8 foot ceiling and you can stack very well, you’re going to be about 64 cubic feet short.
5. Make sure your unit has a roll-up door.
Roll up doors are wider and easier to work with than hinged doors.
6. Make sure you buy some DampCheck.
Damp check is great from keeping your humidity levels in check and stopping your unit from getting moldy and mildewy.
7. Put a dryer sheet in your mattress bag to keep it smelling fresh.
What’s that I hear? You didn’t buy a mattress bag? Buy a mattress bag and protect your mattress from dust, dirt and mildew if you ever want to sleep in that sucker again.
1. If you’re moving out, give the movers the code.
It’s going to get inactivated after you vacate anyway, and they may as well be able to get in and out.
2. Bring mirror boxes and general purpose boxes.
There usually going to be some glass, mirrors, painting, or other flats that just got put in the unit bare, and you’re going to want to pack those.
3. Bring plenty of tape.
Tape gets dry, and when it dries it loses it’s stickiness. Have some tape to retape boxes that may have gotten wet and fallen apart.
1. Check the Yelp, Facebook and Google reviews.
Yelp reviews are fairly reliable, and facebook and google reviews are a close second. It’s nearly impossible to fake all three. Sometimes I hire a local mover in a different city to help me load or unload a long-distance move. 4.5 or higher star rating almost always guarantees quality. So I look for movers that have around 30 reviews, but more than 4 stars. That means a positive review from me will affect their score positively and I generally always leave them a positive review. If I find things they can improve on, I generally tell them during the move so they can fix it on the spot. I now have good relationships with movers in various cities that do a great job.
2. Ask them if they hire temporary help.
You want full-time, professional movers that are background checked only on your move.
1. Use mirror cartons.
Mirror cartons are the best way to move mirrors, glass, and other delicate flats.
2. Tape the glass
Making an X on the glass won’t protect it from breaking, but it will
1. Take a picture of all the cords
Take a picture of the cords on the
1. Empty and defrost the fridge.
Moving a fridge with the items in it can add up to double the weight. Trust, me, it’s worth emptying it. You don’t want to move a 600lb refrigerator anywhere.
2. Remove the handles and secure loose shelves.
Make sure you have an inch on each side. It’s a good idea to wrap the entryway door-frame with blankets and face the front of the refrigerator towards the blanketed side.
4. Use Shoulder Dollies.
Shoulder Dollies are like a moving wonder tool.
1. Try to have the pets put away.
I love pups, and I’d hate to step on a puppy’s foot or tail or something while my hands are full and I can’t see where my feet are going.
2. Let the kids know they can’t play on the ramps.
The ramps are going to have a lot of activity and it’s easy for a kid to get hurt falling off. Most insurance companies only allow company employees on the trucks.
I figured I’d include this since folks always ask me about it. In my company, the movers are well paid and you certainly shouldn’t feel obligated to tip unless you receive incredible service and want to reward them. In my company, they get a cash bonus for any 5-star Yelp, Facebook, Google, or BBB review with their name in it, so that’s a good way to reward them as well. For a local move and great service, meaning they went out of their way to save you time and money, $10 per mover is pretty standard, $30 is pretty generous. For a long distance move, if I saved them a bunch of money, I’ve gotten tips of $500-$1000. It’s totally up to you to tip, and the many customers don’t.
Hi! I’m Andi Devlin, The World’s Strongest Mover™ and a local moving company owner in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I’m always adding to this guide! If you have any tips, you can text them send them to me at 719-581-9081 or email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be sure to give you credit, a backlink, or a shout out on twitter, whichever you prefer. Thanks!