wikiHow to Plan a Move

Just about any way you slice it, a move is a big, disruptive change that will take a lot of time and hard work to execute smoothly. Careful planning can make things go a lot more smoothly.


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    Determine how much time you have before your move.
    • Even if you have very little time, a few minutes spent planning and organizing the basics can help you make the best use of the time you do have.
    • If you have more time, you can plan more carefully and possibly save money and time down the road.
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    Consider the distance you will be moving. Moving across town may be something you can do yourself, using a rented truck for the largest items. Moving longer distances or moving to a new country may require that you ship items with a mover. Indeed, the farther the distance, the better off you are having reputable professionals take care of everything, including your pets.
    • For overseas moves, remember there will be such issues as customs and bio-security clearances, appropriate shipping methods, and storage issues on arrival.
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    Assess your budget. Will you hire somebody to move your belongings or rent a truck and do the job yourself? Do you have money saved up? Do you still have time to set aside the money you will need? Will an employer cover part of the cost of relocating?
    • If your employer is assisting you, make sure that everything is in writing, including any variations agreed upon verbally or otherwise. Things do go wrong, and you need the written confirmations to ensure that you get reimbursed appropriately.
    • Written records are also vital when dealing with professional movers. Be sure that you get a signed-off contract, that you have read all the fine print, and that you have full inventory lists checked and signed off by both you and the removal company.
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    Allow some overlap. If your lease or purchase agreement(s) allow, get access to your new residence before you must give up your old one. Even a couple of days will spare you the stress and rush of an overnight move, or the hassle of moving into and out of a storage facility. A time overlap can also help in case of any delays with closing on the purchase of a home.
    • If you must move via a storage unit or if your dates do not overlap, see if there is a service in your area that will deliver and move storage containers for you so that you do not have to handle your belongings twice. The more moves you have to make in-between arriving at your destination, the higher the stress levels become and the more frustrated you are likely to feel.
    • If the move came as a surprise, such as if a landlord decided not to renew a lease or you have been posted overseas, you should have at least some minimum amount of notice in which to pack and seek new premises. In this case, your first priority should be to secure new lodgings, but you may still want to multitask the search for a new place with beginning to pack and sort your stuff, otherwise you might find yourself running out time.
    • Too much overlap can be costly. Don't pay double rent for longer than you need to. Seek the garages of friends and family before paying for storage options if possible.
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    Decide how much you will pare down your belongings. This is a personal choice, of course, but anything you can part with is something you don't have to move and moving is always a great time to be brutal with things you don't need or use. Keep in mind that you will have to balance the time spent to sort your belongings with the monetary cost and effort required to pack and move them.
    • If you move frequently, try to keep a minimum of basic belongings.
    • If you're downsizing with the move, you will have no choice but to remove things from your life. This can add to the stress initially but the resulting lower level of possessions is often a huge release for your new way of living.
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    Start right away if you want to give away or sell belongings, rather than move them. One alternative to taking that old sofa-bed with you is to sell it or give it away to someone else before you leave.
    • If you have expensive antiques or furniture consider an auction or estate sale.
    • Craigslist, Freecycle, and the like are excellent resources for selling and giving items away. In some places you can leave items on the curb and they'll disappear of their own accord in no time (check with municipal regulations though).
    • Consider having a garage sale.
    • Phone local charities to see what used items they can accept. Many can send a truck to pick up items you do not wish to move.
    • Many towns now have recycling centers so that you can have your items resold for the benefit of the community rather than simply dumping them to be treated as garbage.
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    Determine how you will dispose of things that cannot be recycled or donated. If all you have to do is haul stuff by the armload out to the apartment dumpster, there may be nothing to plan. On the other hand, if you will be shredding documents, making a run to the dump, buying extra trash tags, or hiring a hauling company, plan for these activities as soon as you can. Having a dumpster that is easily accessible during your move can make your job much easier.
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    Begin using up food. If you have time before the move, you may want to run through the usable foods in your pantry and freezer. If you do not have time, or if there are items remaining that you do not have time to move, see about donating the nonperishable stuff to a food pantry. You might also give usable items to friends and neighbors.
    • If moving overseas, carting food and beverages with you is rarely an option. Give away what you can, from spices to chocolate stashes. Investigate the rules about the carrying and acceptance of such items as alcohol if you wish to take your special wine cellar overseas with you. There can be a lot of strict rules surrounding food and alcohol importation, depending on the country; most countries do not let you move alcohol.
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    Line up help. Even if moving day is months away, start now to get the help you will need. The budget option is to call in favors from family and friends. Otherwise, look around for someone you can pay to help with packing and moving. Get recommendations from friends or read ratings if you have the time.
    • One thing friends can be a huge help with is meals. Once you start packing away your kitchen equipment, meals become problematic, so accept all offers for good food from others.
    • Friends can also be great babysitters for kids and pets, who can often get underfoot or increase your stress levels when you're worrying about where they are.
    • On the day of the move, strip all the beds, including the mattress pads, and gather the used towels. Get a neighbor to wash, dry, and fold everything, then pack all together in one box for immediate use in the new place.
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    Plan for any special or challenging objects you must move. If you and your friends can move the sofa, fine. But if you have anything especially large, heavy, or fragile to move (such as a piano), you may need specialized help.
    • When moving long distances, ask the removal company about their wrapping and packaging techniques, as well as their policies with respect to breakages.
    • If asking others to remove valuable items, get references from people who have used their services and been satisfied with them.
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    Make a list of people and organizations you will need to contact. When you move, you should inform government agencies, institutions with which you do business, utilities, and so on. Make this list as soon as you know you will move, and continue to update it as monthly bills and statements remind you of whom you should inform.
    • In some countries, the post office offers a standard form with a list of names that you can check and they will advise the most obvious companies and agencies that you have moved. Inquire at your local post office for more information.
    • Consider mail forwarding for a while. Although this can cost money, it is better than having your mail go astray until you've caught up with all the address changes.
    • If you cannot forward your mail to a foreign country ask a trustworthy friend, or family if you can forward it to them. They can hold the important mail and throw away the unimportant.
    • Consider opening a joint account with a family member or friend that you can access online. This way if you need bills paid you can transfer funds and have them pay with them.
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    Organize any repairs or cleaning. If the new place must be cleaned or repaired before you move in, plan overlapping time or time with your belongings in storage to complete these tasks. If you must clean or repair the home you are leaving (such as to recoup a cleaning deposit or to leave it respectable for the buyers), plan that time, as well. Remember that cleaning is generally easiest and most effective in an empty residence.
    • If you have purchased a new home, inform the real estate agent that you would like a time set aside for a cleaning company to assess the cost of cleaning before settlement is complete, if possible. This allows you to set up the cleaning well in advance and also encourages the seller to be more prudent in cleaning out their stuff because you'll be aware of what needs to be cleaned and can raise particular concerns. It is demoralizing to move into a new home with the old grime and junk of the previous owner still there.
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    Reserve a truck. If you will be renting a truck, using a shipping or moving company, then reserve your time as soon as you know that you will need it. In some areas and at some times of year (such as college towns at the end of the school year), the demand may be very high and you might have to wait longer than intended for a free spot.
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    List and secure any needed supplies. Boxes, newspaper, packing tape, and markers are the basics. Do you also need carts or dollies, any special carrying cases, or anything else?
    • Some companies sell quality moving boxes in bulk. This might be a good deal considering the boxes will be made for carrying items intended for household removal and won't be flimsy or strangely shaped as supermarket boxes can be.
    • Labels such as "fragile", "this way up", and explaining the contents and room, etc., can be made up on your home computer with ease. Just be sure to tape them on securely.
    • Check Craigslist or Freecycle if it is active in your area and time permits. You may find moving boxes and packing materials that others have just emptied.
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    Start at least a basic plan for how you will arrange your belongings in the new home. If you can, label or mark each box with where you want it to go rather than where it came from. (Often, this may be the same, since items coming out of the kitchen probably will go back into the kitchen.)
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    Plan and pack a survival kit. These are the items you will keep out or keep separate so that you have the most essential items at hand when you first arrive. These items might go in a specially labeled box or in suitcases. You will know best which items to pack for yourself, but remember to include medications, eyeglasses, wallets and ID, plus a few changes of clothes. If pets will move with you, include the basics you need to care for them, as well.
    • It's a good idea to pack one box with a teakettle, a small pot, some teabags/coffee/cookies, some cutlery, a few plates, a toaster, some hand towels and liquid soap, etc. for those much-needed things when you first arrive. This will save you from rummaging around for basics and allow you to get on with the business of unpacking methodically.
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    Plan to pack less-frequently used items first. Especially if you have plenty of time to pack, start early, packing things like books and clothing that is out of season. You will unpack in approximately the reverse order.


  • Make an inventory list of all the boxes and what's in all of them. This can help a LOT when you have them all in the new place and need to get one open to get at something specific.
  • If you are buying a house, your real estate agent is a great resource for planning help, referring contractors, selecting inspectors, and completing the paperwork.
  • Take your time unpacking and get everything comfortable.
  • Remember to plan time for walk-through and inspections if they are needed.
  • Anything that can be packed in ways it doesn't need to be unpacked to be used is great, like crafts stuff kept in plastic tubs. This works really well for hobbies and stuff that's out of season.
  • If moving during winter, bear in mind that snow, ice, mud, and damp will be tramped through your house and affect your possessions as they're shifted. It is possible, but it is messier than during warmer months.
  • If you live in one room or less like a dormitory, shared housing or rooming house and don't have furniture, consider moving by sending parcels. UPS and FedEx can handle boxes of clothes, books, miscellany and appliances well enough. It's a bit slower but if you bring the essentials on your trip you can save the trouble and expense of movers altogether.


  • Packing can be very stressful. Leave plenty of time for it and get as much help as you can.
  • Don't forget to put books, music, laptop, other entertainment in the survival bag. It can be a drag just unpacking and you may have layovers on the plane and so on. If you paint, write a personal journal or do crafts, pack up a mini-kit for travel.
  • Try to keep the routine in place for young children. This will help to lessen the impact of the move on them.

Things You'll Need

  • Internet access for comparing removal company prices and reputations
  • Helpers – as many as you can muster
  • Packaging materials and markers/labels
  • Suitable packing boxes
  • Transportation

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