Do you know when to start packing for a move? The short answer is to do it as soon as possible, but sometimes life has other plans.
We recommend giving yourself a minimum of two to three months before the intended move date to start packing for a move. Not only do you need to put all your belongings in storage, but you also need to clean up and contact moving services. Saving all of these steps for the last second will leave you frazzled and potentially paying more money.
How much do movers cost? Should you hire packing services? Our guide will give precise, step-by-step instructions on each phase of the moving process. Once you’ve reached the end, you’ll be able to execute an efficient and affordable move. As you prepare for your move, decide whether to go with a reputable long-distance mover or moving container company.
How long does it take to pack for a move?
Everyone’s move will look a little different depending on the size of their home and how many belongings they own. Two to three months is a good moving timeline, but you may need a little more or a little less.
Factors to consider in your moving timeline when learning how to pack for a move include:
Do you have children?
If you have children, you will likely need to add another month or two to the standard timeline. Managing your children’s school, play, and caretaking is a lot of work on an already involving process.
Do you have pets?
Pets are another element that can significantly lengthen the moving process. You’ll need another few weeks to determine a moving method that keeps your pet safe and sound, such as renting a moving truck or asking friends for help.
Do you have a large home?
A studio or 1-bedroom apartment doesn’t usually take long to move. Homes with multiple bedrooms, studios, and/or basements are generally packed with belongings.
Even if you downsize and declutter, you’ll need a few extra weeks to donate or sell items.
Take four to five weeks to narrow down what you’re taking
Your first step is the most time-consuming, but it’s also relatively simple. You need to narrow down what you want to keep and what you plan on taking with you.
The most straightforward way to complete this step is to go through each room separately. If you have a large volume of items and aren’t sure where to start, try these packing tips.
Choose your most valuable items first
What are items you do not want to part with? These items could be sentimental gifts you’ve had for years or functional belongings like a computer desk.
When you put down your must-have items first, you automatically shrink your list into a more manageable target. Valuable items you’ll have to take extra precaution for include:
- Original art
Follow up with less valuable items
Less valuable items are belongings you’d rather keep but could easily replace in your new house. These non-essential items can be just about anything: dining room chairs, small bookshelves, or extra silverware.
Put these items in a separate section for you to review later. Due to their ambiguous category, these belongings take the longest to sort.
Sort out the items that movers won’t move
A much smaller but still essential section includes the items that professional movers won’t touch. You’ll have to find another way of moving these belongings or give them away.
Common items movers usually will not move for regulatory or safety reasons include:
- Cleaning supplies (like bleach or ammonia products)
- Important documents
Wrap up with items you don’t want
On the other side of this spectrum are the items you don’t want. Once you process your nostalgia, you’ll be amazed by how many things you can go without.
In fact, this part ties in nicely with the second step on our list…
Spend two or three weeks downsizing by donating or selling
A win-win strategy for a successful move is to spend two to three weeks downsizing, donating, and selling your items. Not only does this spare you excess packing, but you can also get a little extra money for your move.
Separate your unwanted items into donating or selling. Here are a few tips on how to do both effectively.
Donate your unwanted items to local charities
Unless you live in an extremely rural area, there’s a high chance you have a few local charities willing to take your unwanted items. These charities may be non-profits with specific goals or general thrift shops.
You can physically take the items to the store, or check the organization’s website for charitable pick-up services. Make sure to review which items they accept to label your donations accordingly. Anything damaged might still be accepted and sent to local recycling services, but keep these items separate from undamaged items.
Sell your items on an online marketplace
If you want to make an extra few bucks to put toward your move, sell a few of your belongings on an online marketplace. This process is more involved than donating to a thrift shop, so make sure not to do it at the last second.
Selling on an online marketplace involves taking clear, crisp photos of the items you want to sell. Make sure to get multiple angles in clear lighting so the buyer knows what they’re getting. You also need to fill out a description of the item, such as wear-and-tear or appealing qualities.
Save essential items for last
Don’t get overeager by donating and selling everything. You want to leave basic kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom items for last so you can still live in your home for the next few months.
Save simple items for last such as:
- Mattress and bedding
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Toilet paper
- A few food items
- Change of clothes
Give yourself at least a month to research service options and moving companies
Once you’ve cleaned up and downsized, you need to reach out to moving services. We don’t recommend packing quite yet because you may want packing services, too!
Finding an appropriate moving service needs at least a month due to the competition in the industry. One moving service may cost less, but another may better fit your schedule. Your job as a responsible mover is to do your due diligence on hiring a safe and reputable moving service.
Sort through prices
How much do movers cost, and does it matter? We’re firm believers you can find a compatible price while still getting most of the services you need. That said, you may need to nix one or two to stay within your budget.
Consider packing services
If you’re extra busy, packing services may be a worthwhile investment. Many moving companies also offer professional packers who will swiftly and safely put all your items away.
Packing services already come with essential packing materials such as cardboard boxes, plastic bags, bubble wrap, packing paper, and packing tape to create a stress-free move.
Get a minimum of three moving quotes
You deserve to explore your options before committing. To keep choice fatigue at bay, get three moving quotes before choosing a service.
Your moving quote is an estimate, not the final amount, but you want to get the most accurate guess possible. Make sure to provide your movers with an honest assessment of your items, timeline, and budget so they can help you out.
Double-check the qualifications of your moving service
Does your moving service have a polished and professional website? Do they have a USDOT number or state license?
Double-check the qualifications of your moving company to reduce the risk of scams or stolen items. The best interstate moving companies will be licensed to operate in their state and should ideally have positive reviews online.
Consider moving insurance
Are you worried about your items becoming damaged or lost in the move? Talk to your moving company about the moving insurance options they provide.
The most common options are full-value protection and released-value protection. The former is comprehensive and ensures your items will be reimbursed or replaced, but it is more expensive. The latter is more affordable but offers limited reimbursement.
It can take up to three weeks to pack for your move
Now that you’ve gotten the most complicated steps out of the way, your remaining order of business is to start packing. If you hire packing services, you may be able to whittle down this timeline to just a few days.
If you decide to pack yourself or with the help of friends, we recommend two to three weeks. You need time to put everything away, clean up, and look for moving resources.
Rent a moving truck
Renting a moving truck will allow you to transport most, if not all, of your belongings to your destination. This option isn’t viable if you don’t have a driver’s license or don’t feel comfortable operating a large vehicle.
If you’re in the latter category, consider this next option…
Consider a shipping container or moving pod
A moving pod or shipping container is an excellent option for people who don’t drive or don’t have the time. All you have to do is load up the container with your items; then, the company will drop your items off at your new home.
This option snips out the transportation aspect as long as you’re willing to do the packing and unpacking. The best moving container companies may also offer benefits such as long-term storage or unlimited unloading time.
The final week to move to your new place
Your last week is the final stretch before reaching your new home. This step is glorified cleaning, double-checking, and saying your farewells.
Since it’s best to save basic kitchen and bathroom items for last, you’ll need a few extra moving boxes and bags to pack these items at the last minute. Keep basic packing principles intact by carefully sorting, labeling, and wrapping up each item. Since you’re in the final stretch, it’s all too tempting just to throw everything together and call it a day.
The packing process may be tiring and complicated, but it’s much easier when you break everything down into steps. If you give yourself extra time to do the job properly, you’ll be on your way to your new life in no time!
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