Home Sweet Homo: Moving Tips for Efficient U-Hauling

feature image via Shutterstock

Welcome back to our Home Sweet Homo, the ongoing series where we attempt to turn a cardboard box into a home. Learning to be an adult is hard and paying for it is even harder! Thankfully we’re your Handy Homos, here to make U-hauling as painless as possible. Plus we’ll make sure you get your damage deposit back!

Hello and welcome to Hansen’s dramatic life, wherein I have moved/will move three times this spring and summer and have moved maybe three thousand times in total. My wanderlust, ability to only educate myself in places very far away and naive U-Hauling past have really made me an expert in the logistics of moving. I don’t recommend this. In the immortal words of Tegan and Sara, “It’s not fun. Don’t do it!”

If you do have to move, maybe in with your girlfriend who you’ve been dating for three months but you’re just sure she’s the one (or maybe you’re moving out of that situation, no judgment), you might as well make it as painless as possible. I wish you luck. We’ve already discussed how to move from Point A to Point B with minimal crying, but there’s always more to learn. Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way.

You, too, could look this happy if you stick to the moving schedule. via {Shutterstock}

You, too, could look this happy if you stick to the moving schedule.
via [Shutterstock]

Here’s a handy timeline for when you should be getting things done:

Six weeks ahead of moving day: Secure your new place to live. Get the new address and pay the security deposit. Notify your landlord you’re leaving soon.

Four weeks ahead of moving day: Put in a change of address with the post office to your new place, starting a few days before your move. Hire movers if you want the best moving day of all time.

Two weeks ahead of moving day: Hire a moving truck (compare prices on U-Haul, Budget, and Penske, which are usually the cheapest!), if you’re going to use one. Send out change of address cards to your friends and family. Begin asking friends if they can help you move. Start packing! Grocery shop for the last time. Arrange for gas/electric to be transferred and turned on the night before you move in.

One week ahead of moving day: Change your address for all bills and subscriptions. All of the knick-knacks and not-super-important things can be packed by this point, including wall art. Make a packed box corner to everything out of the way.

Three days ahead of moving day: Start cleaning your old place. I’m talking super clean. I’m talking tracks of windows wiped down clean. Do a little at a time to prevent yourself from feeling overwhelmed. Start with things that won’t necessarily be dirty in three days, like dusty blinds. If you’re moving far away, try to have all of your cleaning done a few days before your move to save on stress headache medication.

The night before moving day: Can you get the keys already? Do this! Or consider moving the day after you get the keys. Go over to the new place with toilet paper and other toiletries like shampoo and soap because you’ll want a shower after you move in. Take tons of pictures of the place before you move in to prevent future landlord disagreements. Move all of your boxes into one room to make getting out in the morning easier. Disconnect your major appliances and defrost your fridge.

Day of the big move: Be ready to move first thing in the morning. Have everything packed by the time your help arrives. Get the moving part done quickly and efficiently and don’t bother to start unpacking yet. If it’s an in-town move, come back in the evening and clean the rest of the way. Take lots of pictures of your old place to prevent landlord disagreements.

"Honey, we'll definitely need the Rodeoh in our first night box." via {Shutterstock}

“Honey, we’ll definitely need the Rodeoh in our first night box.”
via {Shutterstock}

The Packing and Pre-Move Part

Pack a box with all of the stuff you’ll need right away or on the first night: toiletries, surge protectors, box cutter, phone chargers, toilet paper, trash bags, paper towels, etc. This will help you immensely. Do you plan to eat in your new place the first night? Pack a few cooking and eating utensils in your first night box. Load this last into the truck or car.

Pack important documents together and take them with you in the car. Do not pack them in the back of the moving truck or you’ll never find them. This includes passports, certificates, social security cards. Put them immediately in a safe place where they won’t get lost. I like to put them on top of my desk as soon as it gets moved in, but the kitchen counter has also always proven to be a safe spot.

Use clean clothing/socks as packing for breakables. Clean socks will get you a long way without bubble wrap and newsprint can sometimes leaves marks on white dishes. Kitchen and bathroom towels also act as amazing buffers in boxes with fragile contents.

Label your boxes. I cannot stress this enough. Label what room they go into or you’re going to have a bad time unpacking. Color coding your boxes also works great, like green tape for kitchen, blue for bathroom, red for bedroom and so on. If you really want to get intense, number your boxes and write out a list of everything that went in box 1, 2, 3 and so on.

Place any hardware/screws/etc. and electrical cords into plastic baggies, label them, and tape them to the back of whatever they belong to. There’s nothing worse than tearing apart your room looking for the power cord to the printer.

Don’t bother unpacking dresser drawers. You can cover them in saran wrap if you’re intense, but I usually just place them on top of one another. And don’t move your dresser with your drawers in, that’s just silly.

Figure out how to use as much of the food in your house as possible so you don’t have much to move. Obviously perishable items aren’t going to work in a cross-country situation, but even in cross-town moves, it sucks to have to worry about frozen meat.

Pack smaller things in bigger things. This seems obvious, right? Pack your spices inside of your crockpot. Pack your books inside of a suitcase (the wheels make it so much easier to carry heavy things!). Pack your clothes on their hangers in trash bags. Utilize every nook and cranny you can.

Should have hired movers. Good job on the plaid, though. via {Shutterstock}

Should have hired movers. Good job on the plaid, though.
via {Shutterstock}

The Actual Move

Hire movers for the heavy furniture. And do so weeks in advance of moving. I know this sounds silly if you’re on a budget, but this will make your life so much easier. You and your friends don’t want to move things like couches, bed frames and large appliances, be honest. If you only have the movers lift the heavy things, it won’t take as long and it won’t cost as much. Plus, if they drop it and break it, they’re liable to cover the cost, as opposed to the terrible dramatics that will come from your friend knocking off the leg to your dining table and saying it’s your fault, anyway. If you don’t want to hire movers, at least get a dolly. You won’t regret it.

Feed your friends and family who helped you move. Or beer them, whichever they choose. Don’t skimp. They just saved you money and a headache. Also, remember them doing you this favor the next time they move or you will have no moving friends or maybe even just friends.

Moving cross country? Consider hiring PODS or movers to ship your things for you. I’ve also heard you can ship your things via Greyhound but your boxes will get a bit banged up.

Moving overseas? Container shipping is your friend! I moved overseas in two large suitcases and paid heavy baggage fees, which is crazy, but Space Bags are also your friend!

Packing Chihuahuas in boxes? Probs not recommended. via {Shutterstock}

Packing Chihuahuas in boxes? Probs not recommended.
via {Shutterstock}

Moving with Pets

Pack your pet’s things last and move their things into the new place first. Section off a room, preferably a bathroom, that can become their safe space for the move. My vet recommended moving all of your furniture in before letting them explore the new place to give them a sense of security and fill the place with your scent. Most importantly, while you’re moving your stuff in, make sure they’re safe so that you don’t have the added stress of chasing your dog in your new neighborhood along with your move. Trust me. Also, don’t forget to update your microchip information.

If you have a dog, putting up a baby gate that allows them to see you but keeps them out of the way can cut down on their stress. Give them extra attention, but beware of showering them with treats because moving might upset their little tummies and we all know how fun that can be. Take them outside of the new place right away so they can mark their new territory and sniff all the fun new smells.

For cats, my vet recommended Feliway and it worked so well. My cat is a Sensitive Sally, so I was really worried about her Feelings. I sprayed the old apartment a few days before moving out to get her used to the pheromones, then I sprayed the new apartment before moving her in. She adjusted really quickly and without any bad stress-like symptoms, so three cheers for pheromones. If you have more than one cat or if you’re merging cat households, make sure you move them in at the same time for territorial purposes.

Moving aftermath: you're doing it right. via {Shutterstock}

Moving aftermath: you’re doing it right.
via {Shutterstock}

The Aftermath of Moving

Make sure you wash all dishes and cookware, no matter what. I don’t care if you washed them immediately before moving. Wash them again.

To cook or not to cook? I prefer to eat out at restaurants or order in for the first few nights until I get my kitchen set up, so I like to tally that into my moving budget.

Personalize your place as quickly as possible. Hang up some art. Set up a bookcase. It’s going to feel weird for the first few nights in your place and these things quickly remind you that you’re not renting a vacation home, but that you’re really living there.

Don’t rush on unpacking. I like to be unpacked by about two weeks in, but I start with one room and set it up nice and then make it my safe haven for when stacks of boxes give me panic attacks about the state of my world.

What other moving tips have you found to be super helpful?

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Hansen is the former DIY & Food Editor of Autostraddle.com and likes to spend most days making and cooking and writing. She teaches creative writing at Colorado State University and is pursuing a Masters of Fine Arts in her free time.

Hansen has written 189 articles for us.


  1. Make sure you write down and label where you packed your bed stuff or you’ll sleep on the couch until you find the blankets and pillows.

    • Exactly! This is the most useful moving advice I’ve ever been given (thanks Aki). Sheets, pillows and bedding should be the last thing you pack and the first thing you unpack. I usually just put them all in a big trash bag because I’m fancy like that. If you want to be super amazing, include a bottle of shampoo and a towel as well. By the time you get to your new place you will probably be exhausted from driving and/or moving, but this packing magic will guarantee you’ll be able to shower and have a comfortable place to sleep without having to unpack one box.

    • I had a coworker tell me that the first thing you should do upon arrival to a new house is make the bed. It is good advice.

  2. Well this was just very handy (^-^). My gal and I are moving this August and this will help out a lot. Thanks!

  3. I just moved last month, and unless you’re a super focused cleaner or have kept weird things like your blinds/windows/under the fridge/walls *super* clean, probably you’re gonna want to start scrubbing a week ahead of moving. 3 days plus still packing was SO not enough for me. Also: sponge mops and Magic Eraser for the walls. Do not be me with a rag, crappy sponge, and bucket, even in a tiny place like mine.

  4. Even buy beer for your girlfriend’s ex (whom you refer to as Voledemort) when she volunteers to help you move all your furniture in her pickup truck.

    Also, I don’t know if I read this in a previous moving article on AS or just started doing it, BUT if you have lots of books, I usually pack a layer of books in the bottom of all my boxes of clothes. That way, I cut down on the number of ultra-heavy, book only, boxes that my friends have to haul.

    • that was definitely in an AS article! i think maybe rachel’s guide to moving back in the day.

      also LOL voldemort.

  5. I’m not doing any real U-Hauling any time soon, but some of these tips were still helpful since I’m going to be packing up and moving to college in about 2 months. :)

    • Good luck! That’s one scary packing situation especially if you’re moving a long way away, but don’t panic.

      My parents and I flew up with 3 suitcases when I first started uni and 2 of them got lost in transit and I didn’t get them for 48 hours. Once the initial panic wore off it was actually OK, but I now always carry medication and a change of underwear in my hand luggage just in case of disaster.

  6. Based personal experience and that of my friends, the timeline for moving in New York is a bit different:

    6 Weeks Out: Start looking for apartments. Cry when all of the realtors say that there’s no way they’re holding any of their apartments for Aug 1.

    4 Weeks Out: Start looking for apartments (redux). Let your current management company know that you’re moving out.

    2 Weeks Out: Still no luck finding a place that both allows cats and fits your bike(s). Start feeling anxious about not having a place to live.

    1.5 Weeks Out: Finally! Leased signed! Drink beers to celebrate.

    3 Days Out: Think about starting to pack. Drink more beer and continue to watch Netflix.

  7. This is VERY CONVENIENT because I am moving in 29 days. :D

    “If you really want to get intense, number your boxes and write out a list of everything that went in box 1, 2, 3 and so on.”

    This is brilliant and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, because I’m an insanely organized human being and I’ve already made lists of what to pack.

  8. Perfecto! We’re planning on moving at the end of summer & I think you may have just saved our lives.

  9. These are all great suggestions and I feel such solidarity with everyone that is currently in the throes of moving since I too am about to move

    I would like to add that planning clothing is important, like for laundry purposes, your ratty clothes to wear one move-in day that may get soaked in lots of sweat/tears and also list making and re-writing lists after your MAIN LIST becomes a bunch of scribbles and well gotdamn finding joy is crossing tasks off of a list is something me mum instilled in me at a young age

    Also, having a playlist to soothe anxiety and get excited about the imprending move, packing/unpacking is niiice. There is perhaps a playlist for this very event in the archives, but for me the soundtrack to this event goes something like

    Packing: Mortal Combat Theme and likewise motivational music

    Unpacking: A Whole New World and likewise music to lighten the soul

    Unpacking II: my neighbours were playing AWFUL musique when I moved in and were of the bro-dude obnoxious variety, so to assert my dykey presence I took to playing a lot of TATU and Tegan and Sara

    Anyway, happy moving all!

  10. I am moving in 15 days. I have moved 5 times since October of 2012, and It never fails that I cry. Me and my best friend have traveled alot always clinging to one another as roomies. She doesn’t lift heavy things, know how to use a hammer, or make a list. Maybe this article will show her the error of her ways.

  11. remember that horrifying picture of my stacked up boxes i sent you when i moved? WHERE WERE YOU THEN SARAH?! WHERE WERE YOU THEN?!

  12. Relevant, but reminding me how underprepared we are for all this. #panicattack?

  13. I would definitely suggest the labeling boxes by numbers and keeping a list of what’s in each box method. I did that when I moved from Philly to DC and it made everything soooooo much easier, omg. On your list even write down suitcases, etc. It made it very easy to look at my list and go, “Okay, my tanks are in the red suitcase, and my jeans are in my backpack. Got it.” Also, I was unpacked in two days flat.

    Also seconding the keeping important documents with you in the car.

    I would *not* recommend using UHaul – I had such a horrible experience with them and I’m never using them again.

  14. I have yet to be in a position where I had six weeks notice before moving except for school. When I moved across the state three years ago, I did everything in one week which left me with a three day long anxiety attack. This latest time I had about a month’s notice and there wasn’t near as much panicking. I took my time and arranged things how I like and still had everything unpacked in one day. It took three days for the cat to come out of hiding but she’s adjusted nicely since then.

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