Organizing to Move: How to Work with Movers

A friend of mine recently shepherded her family on their move from PA to Chicagoland (yes, that’s really what they call the area there!).  Since I moved here less than two years ago, I was just getting to know her, but I was happy to offer a few nuggets of advice about the moving process from my many, many moves over the years.


Lucky for her, she had a relocation company and professional movers handling the stuff that comprised their two kid, one dog household.  But just 5 days before the move, she sent an email to friends where she admitted she didn’t know what she should do just before the movers came, or what she should have them do first.  Having admitted that she’d already cleaned out the entire house prior to putting it on the market, using the help of a 2 ton container (read: dumpster), I knew she was in good shape for the actual move.  Here was my advice to her.


Let the professional movers pack everything.  That’s what they do.  If you don’t move things around for them, they’ll pack things and mark them from the room they came in, so you can remember where they came from, and not where you thought they would go.  Just make sure your stuff is in the room where it belongs, and you’ll be able to find it when you unpack.  The movers are insured, so let them take even the valuable stuff.  And you need less than you think you need while you are in transit.  You can buy almost everything you need at Target for the couple of days you’ll be separated from your stuff.  Your cars are going to hold much less than you think they will, especially with 2 kids. Except for possibly one precious photo album and the suitcases and comfort items the kids need, let the movers pack, inventory, and transport it all!



If you have a room in your home that has a split personality, make sure the movers know what you call it, so they label the box right.  They might call it “bedroom” but you call it “office”.  Or something that you call a “den” they call a “living room”.  You get the idea. You can tape a sign to the door that says, “This is the office!”, so if the movers start in on that room while you are handling something else, they’ll still label boxes correctly.
Remember, they will pack EVERYTHING.  They will pack your broiler pan that should stay with the oven you are selling to the new people.  They will pack trash.  They will pack dirty toilet brushes.  Yuck.  There may be 2-4 of them packing you in different rooms all at once, and you may be tied up on the phone or with last minute details on packing day, so you want things to be really clearly laid out for them. Things that should not go with you should simply not be there or should be marked and placed in one specific area that the movers know is off limits.  Writing a simple sign on a peice of paper that says, “Don’t pack anything on the Dining Room Table,”  is the simple and cheap way to handle this.  Otherwise you’ll be running from room to room yelling “yes, this, not that!”
Keep out for yourself a small set of tools.  Hammer, screwdiver, allen wrenches.  Most movers tell you they don’t travel with tools, and if you need to disassemble something, they’ll just stand and look at you.  I run in to this every single move.  Borrow from a neighbor if you don’t want to have to worry about packing and transporting yours.
If you are in to comfort items, like toilet paper and forks, pack yourself a “red cross” box.  When they arrive, ask your movers for a medium sized box, and put into it a few things that you know you’ll need the moment you arrive at your new home.  Good items to include are toilet paper; cups, plates & utensils for the first meal or two; one or two lamps and bulbs; a flashlight; extra baby, medical, or pet items you really need to locate quickly; and possibly a set of sheets for each bed. Make sure that you pack this box, then mark it on all sides with a big red X.  Instruct the movers that this is the LAST box to go on the truck, so it will be the FIRST box to come off in your new home.  This will save you a trip to the drug store, and allow you to stay home and direct the movers to place furniture and boxes in the correct spot in their new home. 
There’s lots more to moving, but these are tips that your moving company, as good as they may be, probably won’t let you in on the day before they get there.  Happy moving!