Moving: Getting From Hither to Yon

Today I welcome Susan Gardner as a contributing author on a series of articles about moving. Whether you’re moving cross-country to “be closer to the grandkids,” finally going to your dream home, or finally going to a retirement community, you have to move. As our author would say, you get to “pick up every single item and put it somewhere else.” Susan’s expertise in this area is hard won. Enjoy this series.

-Ed Zinkiewicz


After making the decision to move and preparing your house for packing, it is time to get from Point A to Point B. Here you pack, move, unpack and get settled. Let the fun begin!

Checklist and Team

Most moving companies offer a checklist that you can use to schedule the two months up to moving day. Here is a link to one at Real Simple. As you work with the checklist, you have options. Some tasks may need to be do-it-yourself; others can be hired out. Or you can do it all yourself or hire everything done for you. But no matter how you slice it, moving takes a team.

And you are the team leader, setting the pace and tone for everyone through your energy, direction, emotion, and engagement whether you are hiring most of the work or relying on family and friends. While family and friends can be a tremendous help, I recommend that you hire as much of the work done as you can afford unless you really love the the control DIY gives you.

Packing Tips

The lion’s share of the work is packing. Keep the job systematic and orderly, whether you are doing it yourself or having it done. Packing is most easily organized when you have made specific decisions about things that will be moved and where they will be placed in the new home.

Specific labeling and photos make the difference. Labeling every box, for example, “Den” or “Bedroom A,” is a good start. But if you want to take full advantage of the help your movers can give, be more specific. Label the walls in the rooms where things go, and also put that label on each related box. Label other specific areas too (“Den–Cherry Bookshelf,” “Bedroom–Curio Cabinet,” “Garage–Workbench,” for example). The more specific the labeling, the fewer times a box or piece of furniture will have to be moved to be in the right place. Your back and your movers will thank you! Be sure the labels are large and clear and exactly match what is written on the boxes. Use the pictures, which you can put in a notebook or on the appropriate wall, as a roadmap.

One question to ask is, “Do I want to replicate this space in my new home?” If you want a grouping of art to be hung the same way, take photos of the layout and measure the dimensions from top to bottom and left to right. Tape the photo to one of the pictures and keep the group separate from other pictures. This small investment of time on the front end will make the re-hanging much simpler. If you want a bookshelf filled like it was before, again, take a photo and pack each shelf in a separate box. Print the photo, tape it to the shelf, and label each box to stay with that shelf.

One of the biggest reasons for time, and therefore cost, to increase in a move is indecision. To avoid, budgetary surprises, ask a friend or family member who has good spatial awareness to make a floor plan and be responsible for putting up the labels and pictures before the movers arrive. Having this step done can help you wake up on moving day prepared! If you don’t have anyone to help you with this task, consult with a professional organizer or a move manager for a step-by-step plan that can include directing traffic during the move.

Cost Considerations

Moving can run from low-cost/high involvement to high-cost/low involvement. The most obvious concern is the cost of movers and moving companies. Whether full service or rental of truck and equipment, you’ll want to do your homework on the options and look closely at your budget.

A less obvious expenditure, however, also needs forethought—the involvement, which demands both emotional and physical energy, both from you and other people who may assist you. How much support do you need to make the move? If you need a lot, where will you generate it? Now, figure out who is in your support network: specific family members and friends (recognizing what they can realistically offer in terms of their time, temperament, and personal engagement), professionals, hired workers, and so on.

When you talk with moving companies, you will often be given the option of an hourly rate or the total job. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

When hiring “by the hour,” you want a company that has a solid work ethic with movers who go about the task efficiently and carefully. While the move is happening, it is tempting to watch the clock and tick down the minutes. However, this approach increases anxiety on your end and sets up a critical attitude toward your movers, adding stress to an already stressful day. When you have hired a company well, have confidence in them and let them do their job. Also, don’t be surprised if professional movers unpack and re-pack the truck along the way. They know that a well-packed truck protects the contents.

If you are considering hiring a company that does a “guaranteed price” for your move, be careful to read the fine print to avoid extra charges the day of the move. Be wary of hidden fees, like weight overages or extra item charges. The more you show in advance all the specific items to move, the more accurate their estimate will be. Surprises at the end—including a truck on moving day that is too small—cost money, time, and stress.

When you drive your own truck, first consider your ability to maneuver it to your door for loading and unloading. Look at barriers between the truck and the door, account for close spaces around driveways or sidewalks, and take into account that you want your inner trucker to be successful!

When packing the truck, the tighter you can have it packed, the safer the items will be. If you have never loaded a truck and do not have innate spatial awareness, find an experienced friend to help. Alternatively, consider hiring movers by the hour exclusively to load and unload your truck. Go to a place like Moving Help, put in your ZIP code for both the “from” and the “to” locations, and find that specific assistance.

I also recommend renting a truck slightly larger than your estimate of what you will need. You do not want to run out of room when everyone is worn out and time is running short. Do not skimp on pads either, and make sure you have the right dolly or dollies available. Straps and bungee cords are essential.

If you are packing yourself, order boxes and supplies from a company that delivers them to your home at no cost and will buy back unused supplies. Be sure the buyback can be easily accomplished, often by returning them to a truck-rental location if you buy from them. Check online for people giving away boxes when you get near your move date. The people who have moved are usually happy to help those who are moving and glad the boxes get a second life.

Family, Friends, and Newfound Friends

Inevitably, family is involved in your move. To what extent depends on emotional and physical factors. Emotionally, family is concerned about your well-being, wanting this move to result in the best for everyone. Additionally, as you downsize, family possessions are either passed to younger generations or let go from the family, which can arouse emotions and sentiments. How you make decisions involves your family.

Physically, family can be involved in the packing and moving. My sister just moved to her retirement house this month, and our siblings and I spent time helping pack and move. We were thrilled to be working with her, and our family’s positive memory bank grew. Children and grandchildren also can be a great part of your moving team, if you want them to be.

Friends are another source of help when you are moving. Apart from physical help packing the dishes or the art, a good friend can help you make tough decisions. Friends can help you see objectively things the family sees emotionally. They also are emotionally connected with your move, and their presence can add to the excitement you feel or ameliorate the grief of the move.

You may also draw on the skills of professionals. Consider them newfound friends.

As a professional organizer, I see my role as helping clients like you transition into your new space while we do the work of decluttering and space assessment. A professional organizer can also break down the specific jobs that need to be done and help identify resources.

Another professional who can be the co-leader of your team is a move manager, a person able to take you from your current house to your new one. A benefit of hiring a move manager is their knowledge of moving teams and their breadth of experience with reliable professionals. Professionals in this field can provide floor plans, packers, movers, and set-up in the new house, using their expertise to organize the logistical details, freeing you up for the decision-making about particular items, the emotional work of saying goodbyes, and enjoying a smooth transition.

I worked with a woman who was distressed about her unwanted move. She hired a move manager, who specialized in assisting senior adults. She patiently worked out the floor plan with her, packed and moved everything, and put everything in place in the new home. When my client saw her new place after the move, pictures were on the wall, books were on the shelves, and the bed was made, ready for her to sleep there that night. Lots of stress was relieved and the transition to the new home eased. Because move managers move people every day, they have preferred relationships with vendors that guarantee a level of service that you won’t necessarily get by calling and scheduling a move on your own.

As you see, a move is time- and energy-consuming and can be laden with emotion. Whether you have chosen to move or your circumstances have made it necessary, there can be a sense of peace at the core. This core becomes the foundation of what you experience in the next chapter of your life, in your new place.

Susan Gardner

Susan Gardner, CPO-CD®, MDiv, is a professional organizer certified in Chronic Disorganization. Through Clearing the Way Home, she guides people in areas like organizing their homes, downsizing, or shifting expectations of organizing to meet individual challenges. Following a career as a pastor, Susan has organized for the last twelve years. She is a member of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization and the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals.

Published January 27, 2022 for distribution May 17, 2022