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How to Avoid a Moving Nightmare

Getting ready to relocate? Whether you’re moving across town or across the country, moving is a chore that almost everybody dreads. Yet, you can’t escape doing it: The average American adult will move about nine times after they’re 18 years of age.

Missteps in your moving process, however, can turn what is otherwise just an inconvenient chore into a virtual nightmare, so take the time to plan your move carefully. Here are some tips that can help you avoid major problems:


  1. Pack early and carefully.

What’s worse than having moving day arrive when you’re not even close to packed? Packing has to start somewhere and you need to start early in case it takes a little longer than you expect.

To make this step easier:

  • Get a variety of boxes in different sizes, all of the packing material and tape that you think you’ll need, and some markers and labels.
  • Use a distinctive (hard-to-lose) bag or suitcase as an “essentials” bag and put everything you might need for a day or two in it, including medication and contact lenses.
  • Don’t overpack a box. Just because something fits in a specific box, doesn’t mean that’s where you should put it. Remember: Someone has to lift those boxes eventually.
  • Declutter as you go. Moving forces you to physically lay hands on everything you own, so why not use the opportunity? Move unwanted items to a “donate” or “trash” bin and get rid of them.
  • Don’t try to pack large pieces of furniture. Ask your moving company if they can handle those for you.

As you fill the boxes, make sure that you label them. Some people prefer a complete inventory, but even labeling the boxes with the room (“kitchen”) and general items (“plates and bowls”) can make unpacking again vastly easier.


  1. Research your moving company.

You can, of course, always rent a truck on your own and ask your friends to help you pack and unpack it again. The drawbacks to that idea are huge, however. Your friends may suddenly cancel on you or be unable to commit to the entire process. Driving a big moving truck can be difficult and dangerous. You — or one of your friends — could end up hurt. If you have anything more than a carload of stuff to transfer to your new digs, hire professional movers.

Your moving company can be your best friend during this time — or your worst enemy. Don’t just pick the cheapest moving company around because that can lead to other nightmares. Some moving companies will offer too-good-to-be-true quotes and then upcharge you later (after you’re locked in and don’t have the option to go elsewhere). Some hire just about anybody who can carry a box and don’t fully train their employees on how to safely move someone’s precious belongings.

Research your options and pick the moving company that’s right for your needs. Some steps to take include:

  • Look for a company that offers in-person estimates. In-person estimates enable a company to offer fair quotes (and make it harder for there to be any confusion about the job).
  • Ask about their warranty or replacement policies for broken items. Breaks happen, even with careful movers. You want to know that the company you hire is prepared to handle the problem, if it occurs.
  • Check online reviews. Yelp, the Better Business Bureau and other online sites can give you a good idea about the quality of service you can expect.
  • Find out out if they have an on-time guarantee. It’s incredibly stressful when moving day arrives and the movers don’t show up for hours. Ask if you’re the only move the team will have during that day so you know if you’ll be waiting your turn or have their full attention.
  • Ask for their licensing credentials and insurance information. Any reputable mover should be willing to give you that information upon request.

Once you select your movers, you should also ask about prohibited items. Anything corrosive, flammable or potentially explosive has to be moved carefully or may be restricted.


  1. Scope out your new space.

Grab a notebook, a pen and a measuring tape: You’re going to need them.

Before your belongings ever hit the back of a moving truck, you need to know that they’ll fit in the new place. Your king-sized bed won’t do you a lot of good if the mattress won’t go up the narrow Victorian steps in your new place.

You need to measure the spaces for any major pieces of furniture you intend to bring along, especially:

  • Oversized couches and any “king-sized” beds or seats
  • Dressers and bedroom sets
  • The stove and refrigerator
  • The washing machine and dryer

If these things don’t fit, you’ll have plenty of time to sell them and replace them in advance of the move.

Getting a good look at your new digs also helps you put together a game plan for moving day. You can decide which rooms need to be packed into the moving truck first (based on where the boxes need to go in the new space) and designate a holding area for most of your smaller boxes once they arrive. That can keep you from being overwhelmed when it comes time to unpack.

Relocating your family should be a wonderful adventure — so don’t let the moving process put a damper on your enthusiasm about the upcoming changes.