Frugal Hound with all her worldly possessions on her back
Frugal Hound with all her worldly possessions.

It’s moving season! No, Mr. Frugalwoods, Frugal Hound and I aren’t moving–yet–but we’ve moved a grand total of 15 times between the two of us (not counting Frugal Hound’s various hound-related moves). All of these moves were between states and, in some cases, across vast swaths of the country.

Since most of us are probably either too old or not idealistic enough to move with just a backpack, let’s assume the few of you who can pull that off don’t need to read this post. You’ve figured out a far more frugal and minimalist life than I. Though I do think Frugal Hound would look pretty cute moving herself with a doggy backpack strapped to her little houndy shoulders…

For the rest of us, moving doesn’t have to be a stressful, time-consuming, nightmare of money-draining madness. Indeed, it’s totally possible to approach relocating yourself with frugality, grace, aplomb, and above all, organization (and snacks! don’t forget the snacks!).

The Frugalwoods Patented “Move Yourself On the Cheap” 15-Step Method

1) Be organized.

Nothing will save you more time, money, and heartache than approaching a move like an organized mofo. Scrambling around to find things and haphazardly throwing stuff into boxes is not a recipe for happiness or moving success.

I’ve moved organizedly and I’ve moved disorganizedly and the former is definitely preferable. Our most recent move (from Washington, DC to Cambridge) was one such disorganized move since I was finishing up my finals for grad school (oh yeah and working full-time) and Mr. FW was dealing with a huge project at work.

Needless to say, we did not follow rule #1. It started out pretty organized, but as moving day approached, we had no choice but to abandon all semblance of order and start maniacally throwing stuff in boxes. Not ideal. In addition to our stuff being jumbled together, we moved things we really could’ve gotten rid of, mostly because we didn’t…

2) Plan ahead.

In the same vein as #1, do not wait to pack until the last momentito. Give yourself twice as much time to pack as you think you’ll need. Nothing bad has ever happened to anyone who got something done ahead of time. But bad things befall those who wait (oh, ask me how I know this…).

Movers make a ton of money off of people who aren’t fully packed when they show up. They’ll pack for you and charge you for the privilege. And even if you’re not using movers, procrastination could mean you’re charged an extra month of rent or miss a deadline at your end destination.

For the moves where I’ve been on top of my game, we’ve spent weeks planning out our approach before going to battle with boxes.

3) Go through things and get rid of stuff before packing.

Pursuant to #1 (you’ll see that #1 is a common theme throughout my moving diatribe), don’t pack stuff without first going through said stuff. Consider this: you’re essentially paying for every single item you’re moving in one way or another. Don’t move things you don’t need.

Our (now) organized closet
Our (now) organized closet

Do yourself a favor and prune your greyhound figurine collection, be honest about your argyle sock hoarding tendencies, and get rid of that fondue pot you’ve never (not even once) used.

In this case, your money is literally your stuff. Plus, since you totally followed rule #2 and are planning ahead, you’ll have plenty of time to sell your trinkets on Craigslist and reap a tidy little profit.

I failed on this front in one move and I still rue the day. I was much happier with our extremely organized Cambridge to Washington, DC move whereby I sorted through every closet in our apartment before starting to pack. Sounds laborious, but it saves so much time in the long-run. I’m just now finally going through every box and closet in our home and have discovered quite a few hunks of junk give-aways. To think we moved this junk across state lines!

4) Negotiate for paid moving expenses.

If you’re moving for a job, ask them to cover your moving expenses. We’ve had two moves paid for thanks to Mr. Frugalwoods’ job and let me tell you, it’s the way to roll. Thankfully, our lackadaisical DC to Cambridge mishap move was paid for, so we didn’t feel the monetary sting of toting all those extra boxes.

I’ve talked to a lot of folks who don’t realize that you can (and should) negotiate moving expenses into your job offer. I highly, highly recommend you at least ask. I once requested moving expense coverage and was turned down, but the employer instead gave me a signing bonus–just because I’d agitated for moving expenses. It never hurts to be your own champion and negotiate hard.

5) Decide on your mode of move.

Mr. Frugalwoods and I have moved in a number of different configurations requiring logistical orchestrations of varying complexity. For my first post-college move (from Lawrence, Kansas to New York City), I flew on a plane with two suitcases. I certainly wasn’t going to rent a truck or drive myself (in my nonexistent car that I wouldn’t need in the city). So, I stuffed more stuff in those suitcases than was probably reasonable and set off for the airport.

I also shipped a few boxes to myself, which turned out to be a somewhat poor idea since the delivery person only came during the day (while my roommates and I were all at work) and required a signature. Have you ever walked across Brooklyn from the UPS store to your apartment while lugging a box you shipped to yourself? Not my finest hour, but it did inspire my largely minimalist existence for the remainder of my time in the big apple.

For Mr. Frugalwoods’ first post-college move, he loaded up his ancient Ford Escort (a vehicle that has since departed this world) and drove from Overland Park, Kansas to Cambridge, Massachusetts. For the cost of a few tanks of gas and one cheap hotel stay, he was officially moved.

Our first apartment. It was a windowless basement, but we made it as cheery as possible.
Our first apartment. It was a windowless basement, but we made it as cheery as possible. Note the “slipcover” on our free couch… P.S. 8 years later and we still have the same TV.

Our next move came about after we got engaged and I was relocating from NYC to Cambridge. Mr. Frugalwoods took the bus down to New York to help me pack up my few belongings, and we rented a truck.

We would’ve been fine with just a car or minivan, but turns out, there wasn’t a company that would facilitate a one-way car rental (and it was too expensive for Mr. FW to rent a car in Boston and drive it down).

The only place that did one-way rentals for a small truck? Budget Rent-A-Truck. I gamely signed up for the smallest, non-gargantuan truck they offered and we trotted to the nearest lot to pick it up. However, apparently a lot of people were moving that day and they’d run out of small trucks. And so for the same price, we were given a much larger truck, which was not ideal.

My stuff took up about one-fourth of the space, leaving a gaping wide nothingness all around. After a relatively ridiculous comedy of errors trying to maneuver this gigantic truck out of Brooklyn (only once did someone get out of their vehicle to scream at us over our gross incompetence), we were on our way to blissful cohabitation.

There seems to be an age/stuff correlation and, as we’ve gotten older, we’ve amassed more belongings, which would make our previous modes of move (except for the truck rental) nearly impossible. But if you’re under the age of 25, there’s no reason to do anything other than fill your car (or rental truck) to the brim and drive off into the sunset.

If you’re going the bargain basement route of flying or driving your own car, consider a few alternate methods of moving the extra stuff that won’t fit into your suitcases:

  • Ship your stuff via Amtrak. I haven’t done this personally, but color me intrigued. Apparently this method can take awhile to reach you, but it’s pretty darn cheap.
  • Use media mail to ship books. This I have done and it’s awesome. If you’re sending only books in a box, you can take advantage of the much lower rates for media mail from your local post office.
  • Ship stuff via UPS/USPS. As long as you can intercept the packages on the other end (unlike me in Brooklyn), this is a pretty decent option.

While this is all well and good for the young people, if you’re getting aged like Mr. FW and me, you’ll probably need to go with one of the more traditional, and higher on the payment pyramid, options. But be aware that you’re not limited to the most expensive route of hiring movers with a truck. There are myriad methods of transporting your belonging these days:

  • You in a car towing a trailer.
  • You in a rented truck towing your car.
  • A moving pod you load yourself.
  • A moving pod loaded by people you hire from Craigslist
  • A truck with movers.
  • A truck with movers who packed you.
  • Moving your actual house (probably unwise in 99% of situations).

Moving pods are a pretty neat concept–you rent a pod that they place in the street in front of your house and you load it with all of your stuff. You then get to your final destination under your own steam and the pod company delivers your pod to the street in front of your new house. Nifty and especially thrifty! If you’re intimated by the loading aspect, you could always hire a few people off of Craigslist to do the literal heavy lifting for you.

A truck with movers is probably the simplest option, but you’ll certainly pay for the privilege. If you do go this route, make sure to at least do #8.

6) If you’re moving locally…

Instead of renting a moving truck, consider other short-term vehicle rental options, such as ZipCar or Home Depot trucks. These companies both rent by the hour and are likely to be much less expensive than a traditional moving van.

7) If you’re moving long-distance…

Ask moving companies if they offer the option of sharing a truck with another person for inter-state moves. This is what we did for our infamous DC to Cambridge move and it worked phenomenally well. We don’t have enough stuff to fill a full moving truck, so they coupled us up with two other households. We paid less, but still had the benefit of movers with a truck.

8) Pack your own stuff.

There cannot be a worse deal on earth (ok maybe buying a new car) than paying a moving company to pack your house for you. Even if you’ve succeeded in getting your company to cover the costs of your move, it’s very possible they won’t foot the bill for this luxury. In addition to charging you for the labor of packing, the company will usually bill you for every box and piece of tape and square inch of bubble wrap they use. Plus they’ll be going through all of your stuff, which for my taste, is a bit unsavory.

9) Get used boxes.

The boxes we sold on Craigslist
The boxes we sold on Craigslist

You knew I was going to include something about using used stuff since that’s basically my chief advice for all things frugal. There’s just no beating the used market! People give away and sell used moving boxes on Craigslist and, grocery stores will often give you their old produce boxes for free.

How do I know these things? Because I’ve done both. If you’ve ever priced out new boxes, you’ll know what an incredible racket they are (unless of course you’ve succeeded in #4 and you can just expense the boxes and then later sell them on Craigslist…. which is exactly what we did).

10) Label everything and create a spreadsheet.

This might sound obsessive, but I guarantee you won’t be sorry. I created a system in our first “big” move whereby every box had a number, which corresponded to a spreadsheet I’d created that listed all of the items in each box. For reference, here’s what the first five lines of our spreadsheet looked like:

Box Number Size Destination Contents
1 medium kitchen glassware and tablecloths
2 medium kitchen glassware and tablecloths
3 medium kitchen glassware, coats, scarves
4 medium kitchen green plates, coats, scarves, hats
5 small kitchen food processor, popcorn maker, measuring spoons and cups, Aeropress

This allows you to easily tally how many boxes you have and, keeps track of where everything is located. In the event that the moving company breaks or loses one of your boxes, you’ll know exactly what’s missing and its approximate value. Plus, the question of what to unpack first is answered because you’ll know what’s in each box.

I created and updated the spreadsheet as we packed, so it didn’t entail much extra work. And, wouldn’t you know it, my efforts paid off! I checked off each box number as it came into the house and, lo and behold, on our last move, the movers said they were all finished, but three box numbers still remained on my spreadsheet. They gamely went back out to the truck (which we were sharing with two other households) and located our three missing boxes wedged between the divider separating us from the other families. Spreadsheets for the win!

11) Pack a box of immediate supplies.

Mr. FW and I always set aside a box of supplies so that we don’t have to rush out and buy stuff the minute we get to our new home. We typically pack: silverware, cups, plates, toilet paper, paper towels, rags, coffee and mugs (these are emergency supplies after all), a first-aid kit, non-perishable snacks and foods we can prepare easily (like pasta), a pot, a pan, and whatever we’re going to sleep on (usually an air mattress). There’s just nothing quite like arriving at your new home and realizing no one brought the toilet paper. Do yourself a favor and pack this box!

12) Pack kitchen supplies and food separately.

Since we never want to be caught unawares and needing to eat out, Mr. FW and I always pack our kitchen supplies in clearly marked, easily accessible boxes. We unpack the kitchen first so that we can resume normal cooking operations ASAP. Moving is expensive enough already and we don’t want to add a few hundred dollars worth of eating out on top of it.

Also, I try to pack breakable kitchen items with seasonal clothes wrapped around them so that we get a double bonus when we unpack those kitchen boxes first. It ensures we’ll have outfits and, is a lot cheaper than buying packing material like bubble wrap (although I do love me some bubble wrap…).

13) Absolutely everything should be ready when movers show up.

Hello. We are your moving crew. Show us to the treats.
Hello. We are your moving crew. Show us to the treats.

If you hire movers, when they show up they start packing the truck immediately. They’re on a schedule and will not wait for you to finish packing just one last box. They’ll pack it for you–hastily and expensively. Make sure that everything is ready to be carried out the door well before they’re scheduled to arrive.

14) Don’t allow your movers to do bizarre things to get stuff inside.

I’ve mentioned before that our front door is rather small, and this fact combined with an extra low ceiling above our staircase, meant that our box spring set wouldn’t fit up the stairs. Our movers, who were entirely focused on getting this thing upstairs, started to rock the box springs back and forth, causing the ceiling to lose little bits of itself.

We politely stopped them, at which point they suggested we allow them to entirely remove several upstairs windows in order to lever the box spring in that way. Uh, no thanks. A box spring is not worth the cost and drama of removing windows! Instead, we sold the box spring on Craigslist and bought some slats to support the mattress instead. A perfect solution that did not involve cutting holes in our home. Keep in mind the actual cost of an item before going to tremendous lengths to squeeze it into your new home. Some things are just not worth it.

15) Don’t buy all new furniture.

Ok, ok, I realize this is sort of outside the scope of “moving,” but I just couldn’t help myself! It’s so tempting when moving to a new place to dash out and buy all new furniture and decor. But restrain yourself! Thousands of dollars later, you just might regret it. Instead, bide your time, go the frugal weirdo route and scope out garage sales, Craigslist, and the side of the road. Almost all of our furniture was bought used off of Craigslist for a mere fraction of what it would cost new. Patience is a frugal virtue.

Final Thoughts

While moving may not be my #1 favorite activity, there are ways to make the process more bearable and not outstandingly expensive. Organization, patience, and creativity–the typical tropes of a successful frugal life–are incredibly helpful in plotting out a sane and thrifty move.

How many times have you moved? What are your frugal moving tips? Or worst moving stories?


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  1. Moving can truly be hell on earth….good tips!

    How about another one….have your friends over and pay them with beer and pizza!

    Also, clean, clean, clean! You want to make sure you get your security deposit back.

    On the move in side, we also clean the fridge and hard to reach places right away, as its easy to do when the house is empty.

    Also, start to pack non-essentials at least a month ahead of time. When you do that, it makes moving day easier.

    1. Ahh yes! All great points! Roping friends in to help is always good too :). And, I think it’s true you almost can’t pack far enough in advance.

    2. And how about this one, Brian (which we have actually done 2 times now).

      (1) Rent a truck at U-Haul or wherever.
      (2) Contract with a “moving labor” company (easy to find on the web) to send a couple of guys to load up the truck.
      (3) YOU drive the truck to your destination (after dismissing the loading-up guys).
      (4) Have another set of “moving labor” guys meet you at your destination and unload you.
      (5) YOU return the truck to U-Haul or wherever (after dismissing the unloading guys).

      For a semi-lazy guy like me, this has been a fairly frugal way of outsourcing a move without having to pay fullbore for a moving company. That process I outlined saves the cost of paying for the moving labor to sit on their tushes traveling back and forth with your packed stuff. And you don’t pay for a driver, either. This should work well for moves between places up to 100 miles apart (which we have done).

  2. Great tips. We haven’t moved in over 15 years, but the last time we did with DIY it, with a little help with some friends. It helps to pay it forward too, when other needs help moving lend a hand, that way they are on the hook when you need help.

  3. I can’t even count the number of times that I’ve moved, let alone Mr SSC and I combined – about 8 times for me since college, probably over a dozen for Mr. SSC. We have been spoiled the last few – because our company has paid for it, but it still makes it a hassle! I mean – last time we moved, it was to a new state and I was 8 months pregnant… I didn’t even see the house until an hour before closing, I let Mr SSC pick it out! I totally agree with paring stuff down BEFORE you move and having a ‘supplies’ box – but add some tools to it – particularly screwdrivers and alan wrenches for reassembling furniture. I also like to have an idea of where all the furniture will go – and a little chart laid out. Save hassle of rearranging stuff while unpacking, or constantly moving boxes from one room, to another, to another.

    1. Oh wow–I can’t believe you moved at 8 months pregnant! That is hardcore :). Glad you made it to tell the tale! Good call on adding tools to the essentials box–very smart.

  4. I’ve moved so often, I have it down to a science! I used a lot of your tips such as purging before packing and finding used boxes. When I moved into my house I did pay for movers since it would be the last move for a long time, and I had acquired a lot more furniture in this third floor, no elevator apartment. I have great friends, but I just couldn’t ask them to help with another move so soon!

  5. Great ideas, including some I’d never thought of. We haven’t moved since that 25-year-old threshold but it’s so true that we’ve accumulated a lot with age–or I should say with babies. We’ve always had a hoard of friends show up and move us in their cars. Last time we moved down the street, out of our friends’ basement we were renting and into our home 8 doors down from them. We couldn’t load the refrigerator we’d purchased on Craigslist into the pick-up we borrowed, so we pushed it down the (snowy) street on an appliance dolly. Too bad that approach doesn’t translate to most situations.

    1. Now that’s a frugal way to move! And, that’s wonderful you had a bunch of friends come help–how very sweet!

  6. 16) Have Frugal Hound haul most of your stuff =P

    I moved recently and boy was I disorganized. I vastly underestimated the amount of time it would take to pack. It was only with the help of a friend that I moved out on time (and because I was moving out of on campus housing, I would have been charged $100 had I moved out late).
    Fortunately this was a local move so I just made a couple trips with my car and that was that.

    “Ship your stuff via Amtrak. I haven’t done this personally, but color me intrigued. Apparently this method can take awhile to reach you, but it’s pretty darn cheap.”
    I’ve never heard of this but I’ll definitely look into this one next time!

    I have failed at #11 twice now. But also, not only should you pack that box of essentials, you should label it! On one occasion I did pack that box but I couldn’t find it in all the mess. I might as well as not have packed it haha.

    For #15, I did get some of my furniture used: desk drawers, desk, bookshelf, bed frame, mattress (mattress was from former tenant, no delivery required! haha). But I capitulated after a month of having stuff totally disorganized and bought a new folding table from Walmart and a dresser from IKEA. I tried, I really did. Hopefully I’ll have more patience in the future!

    1. I only wish we could employ Frugal Hound as a mover–she’d be pretty cute, but probably totally ineffective ;). Yeah, the organization and planning ahead thing is always a trick. Sometimes I’ve nailed it, and other times we’ve started way too late. Sounds like you found a pretty great amount of furniture used!

  7. I was certain I had every aspect of my last move nailed down. The move was going to be easy, effortless, with two quick small trailer trips 2 miles up the street. Turns out the relatively dry and mild winter we were having heard about the move and promptly dumped two feet of snow and ice! We spent the day before the move shoveling the driveway and deicing in front of a house we didn’t even own yet. Roads the day of were ridiculous and the whole experience was darned cold. It reaffirmed the decision to move into a forever house and never.move.again.

    1. Oh wow, that sounds pretty rough. I can’t imagine contenting with weather on top of the gigantic hassle that moving already is. Somehow, we’ve always moved in the summertime and so haven’t had to deal with snow and ice–you’re reminding we that we’d better move to Vermont in good weather!

  8. Another way that planning ahead benefits – if you live in a city like Cambridge where the ENTIRE CITY moves on September 1, you’ll need to play ahead to get any kind of moving vehicle. Like, months and months ahead.

    For my last move I was fortunate enough to move mid-month and avoid the moving madness. I had great luck with a local company. I had everything 100% boxed and ready and they emptied my apartment, drove across town and moved everything into the new apartment in less than 2 hours. It cost about $250 but it saved so much time and hassle (and my dad breaking his back) so it was definitely worth it!

    1. Great point about the rental truck planning! We’ve had friends who’ve been out of luck here in Cambridge with the September 1 melee. One of our friends actually moved with a shopping cart–it was pretty impressive. And, $250 sounds well worth it for movers!

  9. Great tips, especially the essentials box!
    Hubs and I plan to move in ~2 years and while that may seem far away, we’ve already started using that as a catalyst to get rid of stuff. As a hoarder (me) and a collector (him), we have a lot of stuff. Thankfully, I moved like 13 times from birth to graduating college, so I never really had the ability to accumulate too much excess. Each day, I consciously try to keep the stuff level in the same or lower it. Hopefully, in 2 years, we’ll be ready!

    1. You are so smart to start getting rid of stuff now! I’m trying to do the same in advance of Babywoods’ birth. I work well with a concrete deadline like that :).

  10. Too many moving experiences to tell you or too painful to remember. Having not been born into a wealthy family, we always pulled our resources and moved each other in the back of pick-ups like a bunch of gypsies. Now that I’m passed a certain age, I no longer have a desire or ability to move boxes and stuff up and down stairs. I’m also a lot better off, financially. That being said, I do agree to pack your own stuff. It’s not hard, and it gives you the ability to sort through accumulated stuff. Plus, no one cares about your stuff and/or sentimental pieces like you do. Pack your own things, hire professionals if you can/should, and do shop around for price. You two are organizing fools, and I just love that about both of you. A joy to read your posts!!

    1. Great point that no one else will pack as carefully as you will–so true. Plus, it’s kind of fun to sift through memories :). Haha, I try to be an organizing fool–but sometimes I’m definitely just the fool part.

  11. Having moved 6 times in the last five years, I have my own list of tips:

    1. Liquor stores are for boxes not for buying booze because you are stressed from moving.
    2. Ask your husband before you get rid of his stuff.
    3. Say no to large rubbermaid bins for packing (they get all squishy in the moving truck).
    4. Decide how much space “sentimental” things are allowed to take up, and then take a few pictures of the rest and pitch it.
    5. If your appliances are kind of crappy, you should just sell them, and either upgrade upon moving or buy similarly crappy appliances off of craigslist.
    6. Moving should start 6 weeks prior to moving, when you pretty much stop grocery shopping.
    7. Evaluate all recreational equipment. If you can “lend” your snowboard, boots, helmet, etc. to someone before you move to the Southeast, you will be thankful that you did. You might not get your stuff back, but it will be better than storing it for five more years across 3 more moves.
    8. Your car is your lifeline in a cross country move. It should have an air mattress, your child’s pack and play, clothing, toiletries, clean sheets, and a few basic kitchen items. You never know when you might move into a house with a newborn baby and your stuff is caught up half a country away for the next 8 days.
    9. Your utility knife and packing tape should be glued to your body at all times. Children should not play with either of these. Nor should irresponsible adults.
    10. Seriously, if you haven’t unpacked a box from your last move, just bring it to goodwill without searching the contents. You don’t want or need them anymore.
    11. Lightbulbs- if you bought a bunch of LED lightbulbs it’s not cheap to take them out of the house. However, it is cheap to not replace them with something.
    11. Gardening equipment will be a point of contention in all moves. Be the bigger person and just back down before the argument starts.
    12. Clean out your filing cabinet before you leave, but be sure to shred personal documents (a good frugal way to do this is to put them in the shredder bin at your workplace- but that also might be stealing).
    13. Line up helpers well ahead of time, and feed them well (cookies and beer seem to go over particularly well).
    14. Build in 4 hours to clean after you’ve moved everything out (or pay your sister in law to clean for you).
    15. Boxes are fun toys for toddlers, but they also tend to destroy the boxes, so don’t let them go too crazy.

    1. Awesome list, Hannah! Sounds like you’ve got it down! #9 is so true–somehow the tape always mysteriously floats away… that and the scissors. We now own about 10 pairs of scissors thanks to that fact :).

  12. My boyfriend and I used Amtrak on our move from the Midwest to Seattle. They do have requirements about how big and heavy the boxes can be and how many boxes total you can ship per person. Because of that, you can’t really ship furniture. But that was fine for us because we just bought used furniture when we got out there. It actually worked pretty well, and by the time we had driven out to Seattle, our stuff was there waiting for us. I think pretty much everything was intact on the other end except for my boyfriend’s box of cds. He ended up having to buy some new plastic cases. But that was a small price to pay for the convenience.

    1. That’s awesome! I’m so glad to hear of someone who successfully used Amtrak to move. I’m intrigued by it but haven’t done it. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  13. We’ve moved twice across country and I can vouch for the Amtrak Express option. It is amazingly inexpensive, efficient, and easy to-do. Of course, you can only send things in boxes that are no more than 3ftx3ft but that can be an easy work around depending on how much furniture you have.

    I would also make a plug for ABF Upack. They have pods but the real deal comes with their Upack semi-trailer option. You fill as much space in a semi-trailer and then install a false wall. They fill the rest of the space up with commercial goods and then send your stuff on it’s way. When you have furniture it’s one of the best deal of any of the moving options.

    1. That’s great to know! What a good idea for truck sharing. And, glad to hear the Amtrak option is a good one!

  14. #11 is the tip I give everybody. My essentials are dish soap (to wash out glasses for water and double as hand soap), TP, paper towels, granola bars, and basic cleaning supplies, because I don’t like to unpack anything until I’ve cleaned. That kit rides with me so we’ll have immediate access when we get to the new location and it sinks in that we we have to do all of that again, only backwards.

    1. Dishsoap is a good one as are cleaning supplies–smart! I always feel like I’m finished after we pack everything up, and then I realize…. we have to unpack it too :)!

  15. Absolutely great tips! My family and I have moved several times cross-country and my biggest tip relates to #9! From several moves and stressing over cardboard boxes, my mom decided that she would locate the best sales of sturdy plastic bins (the storage ones you can find at Target, Home Depot, etc.). When that time came she made the investment of purchasing several of the bins throughout the year (we knew more moves would be in our future). The best part, is when they’re not in use for moving they stack easily in garages/storage! The storage bins have been in the family for over 5 years, and we pass them between each of us (siblings, cousins and all) every time we make a move! They’re still durable and allow for less cumbersome carrying since the handles are available. It is an investment, but if you know that several moves will be coming your way they pay off incredibly fast!

    1. I love those sturdy plastic bins too! They really do last forever. That’s what I use to organize our stuff in the basement and I just love them. Home Depot seems to sell the cheapest–they have them for $6.97 each, which is actually cheaper than even the dollar store (not sure why I have these prices memorized… probably a sign of illness 😉 ).

  16. Get banana boxes for free from your supermarket. They will throw them away anyway and they hold up much better to heavy stuff like .e.g books.

  17. Once again, a very timely article! I moved 14 times in 4 years (college, military, etc) and it wasn’t too bad. My stuff fit very neatly into my surprisingly spacious Pontiac Vibe. However, I just moved to a new place last weekend and there’s no way all my stuff would fit in it anymore. I rented a UHaul (free upgrade in size) and had some friends over to help lift the heavy stuff. I had it all ready to go and paid for their expenses in thanks. Moving cost me $1500, but most of that will be reimbursed through my moving allowance! Woo! Now to stay put for another 18 months.

    1. $1,500 is pretty good–and, that’s awesome you’ll get reimbursed! That first move when you realize you can’t just throw it all in the car is always a shocker… ;).

  18. Getting rid of stuff before you move is an excellent tip. I know so many people who’s garages are filled with boxes months and months after they moved because they still haven’t gone through all of it. You probably don’t need that stuff if you don’t even know what is in the boxes and have been managing through life just fine without it. Another reason to live a minimalist lifestyle… it makes moving so much easier.

    1. So true! If you haven’t opened the box in months…. it can probably go to Goodwill (unless of course it’s Christmas decor 😉 )!!!

  19. I moved out of my parents house when I was 18. I am now 36. I have moved 9 times in between, and I hope to never move again. I don’t hate moving, I just really love our neighborhood.

    Until I got married at 22, all of my moves were just throwing stuff haphazardly in various elderly cars. On our first cross country move, we sold or gave away all of our hand-me-down or yard sale furniture, loaded up the car, and shipped our books via media mail. That is a pretty good option, though the boxes do get pretty banged up.

    I never shipped stuff Amtrack, but my best friend did. A lot of it got stolen, so make sure not to ship anything irreplacable and also get the insurance.

    We did the moving pod from CA to NC. This worked out cheaper than renting a UHaul or similar. I don’t know that it always would be cheaper, it might have been just the particular company we used plus the high price of gas that summer (’08.) Again, we sold everything that would be cheaper to replace than to move. I regret not selling more stuff, actually, I don’t think we still own any of that furniture. it wasn’t nice stuff, more like Ikea furniture we had bought used on Craigslist. Easy resold, easily replaced.

    Everything arrived intact, but over the course of the following year, every dish we had shipped broke. We would set a dish on the counter and it would just shatter. So that was weird. My theory is that the agitation of the pod led to instability in the dishes.

    The last time we moved was within our city. It was just a few blocks. Friends helped us with their minivan.

    If you have friends help 1) It is more important than ever to be as organized as possible and have as much done ahead as possible. We had moved everything over ahead of time that we could, they were really just helping with furniture. We have helped many people move and it is absolutely maddening to show up on a beautiful Saturday morning and there are piles of junk everywhere that they are halfheartedly tossing in boxes. Everything should be packed ahead of time! WAY more important when you are having friends help out rather than professional movers! You can pay the movers extra, you will just annoy your friends.
    2) Make sure to provide things like coffee and donuts in the morning, cold water and soda during the move, and pizza and beer in the afternoon/evening.

    1. That’s great that you have no plans/desire to move again! I think I wrote this article in part to start preparing myself mentally for moving up to the homestead… I have to plan ahead in order to get myself in the right mindset to move again :). So strange about your dishes, huh. Good call on being prepared when friends help–it makes everything go more smoothly. And, food is always a good idea to have on hand.

    1. Haha, thanks! I think it just photographed well ;). It was kind of dank, but, I did have about 50 lamps in every room (ok maybe not quite that many… ).

  20. I live with a ‘never do today what you can put off until the last friggin’ minute’ type and boy howdy, does that make for a stressful move. NEVER AGAIN!
    Although I am not moving in the next few months or probably even for a year or more, I am starting to prune my stuff NOW! Here’s looking at you clothes closet, kitchen junk and kitty figurines and snow globes!
    I am not sure if I would hire people off Craig’s List. My friend had her house redone and the guy who redid it hired helpers off Craig’s List and/or the day labor company and they stole from her. The contractor paid for the missing stuff but geese..
    Liquor stores are one of the best sources of free boxes! Also go by dumpsters in commercial areas where they dump or recycle their boxes.
    I always have a box I call “immediate use” that included my toiletries, meds, tp, the alarm clock, spare underwear and socks, my journal and a few personal doodads that make me feel at home. I always move anything of value that could easily be lost or stolen such a personal papers, jewelry, small valuable collectibles, cash, camera, computer and tablet with me. That DOES NOT go with the movers, ever!
    I’m with you on clearing out early. I have lost things I did need (shoes, purses) and kept junk I really wanted to dump all because I didn’t clear our early enough and rushed to pack at the last minute.
    BTWY: nice apartment. Did you get the couch throw at Costco? I have one just like it on my rummage sale couch and that’s where I bought the throw!

    1. Yes to planning ahead! I think it’s the single most important tip for a successful move! I’m already starting to think about our next move… it just never hurts to start in advance. You’re smart to be starting now too! The couch throw was a gift from my parents who did indeed buy it at Costco–it’s a great blanket :)!

        1. She loves it! In fact, it has actually become her blanket (once you give a dog a blanket, you kind of don’t want it back 😉 ).

  21. Our one big move from our apartment to our current home was done with U-Haul’s smallest truck. Like you say, organization is key. I mapped out the floor space in the U-Haul we’d be renting, measured all our furniture, and was able to figure out how to get everything in the truck and make only two trips (Our new house wasn’t that far away). That way, we got our entire move done in one afternoon with the help of a few friends and family and spent little on gas. I think the truck cost $20 for the day.

    Used boxes helped. I had a bunch of breakdown cardboard boxes from moving back and forth to college. My other move from CT to NY was when I had almost no stuff. I might’ve actually fit everything in my Honda Accord in one trip!

    That said, I am not looking forward to moving again. We’ve definitely expanded to fill our 2,000 square foot house with a full basement and what a pain that would be to do DIY. We don’t plan on moving again any time soon!

    1. You’re smart to measure everything out and plan ahead! And, that’s awesome you were able to get it all done in one afternoon. It’s amazing how we do seem to expand to fill whatever space we’re in… in thinking about moving to the homestead, I’m looking around wondering where all this stuff came from ;)!

  22. Great post! We will be moving again next year and need all the tips we can get. We have moved a decent amount of times but there’s still something that we usually forget.

    1. Another move–you have my sympathies! I imagine you two are pretty darn organized about it though!

  23. We are moving cross country soon (nearish to you) and the move, packing, and flights as necessary will all be paid for by hubs’ new employer. But I can tell you, I’ve packed myself and I tend to throw out more stuff that way. I also don’t have to deal with the gobzillion sheets of paper the movers will wrap around everything when my clothes, sheets, and towels work perfectly well. While I did love not actually having to pack, I had no idea what was in what box so my coffee pot (gasp!) was lost for days.

    1. Ack! A lost coffee pot would be a crises in our house ;)! That’s exciting you’re moving–clearly I’m behind on my reading. Whereabouts are you moving to?

  24. We moved about 2 years ago, and it was a nightmare cleaning out 15+ years of STUFF. However, we did label most of the boxes which helped us a lot in the unpacking process. I didn’t use a spreadsheet but I wrote on the box and/or taped a paper with description of what’s inside the box and which room it belonged in. When we moved in, we tried to pile boxes for the same rooms together and unpacked 1 room at a time.

    1. That sounds like a great system. It really helps when you have a sense of what’s in each box. They all look the same when they’re packed ;)!

  25. I’ve moved 20 times in my 41 years of life. This doesn’t include about another 5+ times of temporary living situations. I’ve done the rent yourself moving truck, the POD and the “just fill up the car and only take what you can fit” scenario. I prefer the latter. Since our last move (this week), we have decided to only accumulate furniture that can fold up and fit into a car. That means no couch, no bed frame and a very small TV. We are very, very minimalist and I love every minute of it!

    1. That’s a lot of moving! And, I’m impressed with your super minimalist life–that’s awesome! I imagine it’s very refreshing and liberating not to feel loaded down by your stuff.

  26. When I moved from NY to AZ . I used USPS parcel post. It is only going to costs you $ 1 /LB….. it is too much but cheaper than other options.
    I only had things that could fit in large boxes. I packed 40 to 50 lbs. in each.
    Sold every thing else in CL.

  27. While I sometimes dream of downsizing, the thought of moving makes me pretty happy to stay put. This would vary by location, but look around your community for moving resources. My sister recently moved across town and discovered that local off duty firefighters would move your stuff for a donation. Very nice of them and very easy for her!

    1. What a fabulous idea! I never considered that as an option, but how cool and, I love that you’re making a donation instead of paying a company.

  28. Great tips. Using used boxes will save you a ton of money. I can’t believe people actually buy new packing boxes.

    My thought is that if you have something packed in a box that you haven’t opened after 3 months, you probably don’t need whatever is inside. Time to throw it out.

    1. Haha, thanks! I think that basement apt photographed better than it actually looked 😉

  29. re;#10, labelling. I suggest you label the destination room as well as a number, eg, K10 for Kitchen box #10, LB10 for Large Bedrom 10, etc. Then tell the movers where the letters go. The destination rooms should have the same letters on them. I printed out these numbers on sticky labels. Labels/numbers should be placed on at least 3 sides/ends of the boxes. Labelling with numbers is also safer than “Jewellery” or “cameras” when boxes might go missing….
    At the same time as boxing, you might also take photos with your phone or camera, including the to-be-stuck labels, (& close-ups of serial numbers). This could be useful for insurance purposes, either for the move, or if you ever get burgled. Yes,… more work….

    For boxes, wine & liquor stores are a good source. Try to get the ones with a double layer of cardboard on the outside. Last move, I got a bunch of double-layer boxes which brought toilets to a town house project. You can break boxes down to be flat when collecting./storing.

    Use a tape gun & wide plastic tape on all open edges & across tops & bottoms of cardboard boxes.

    1. All good tips! And, I completely agree on not listing valuables. I actually labeled the boxes containing valuables with something like “sheets and books” and then wrote “jewelry” on my spreadsheet.

  30. Perhaps we should have tried your approach with the spreadsheet. We inexplicably lost a 10-inch aluminum skillet in our last move, which was only 7 miles. Seriously, did it vanish into the ether?

    Our greatest moving triumph was when we moved from Pennsylvania to Colorado by ourselves. I drove our car with the children (then ages 2 and 3). Mr. FP drove a sixteen-foot moving truck with the cat. Took three days and I don’t mind telling you, it was excruciating–imagine rolling through Kansas with “Do Your Ears Hang Low” repeating on the CD player (I had Call the Midwife on audiobook playing through one ear bud). But it was over soon enough.

    We found that it was lifesaving to get help with our kids, especially when we arrived in Colorado. We took them to a drop-in day care center (they charged about $12/hour for the two kids) so we could really concentrate on unpacking.

    1. It’s amazing how stuff seems to vanish when you move… despite our spreadsheet method, I too swear we’re still missing some stuff. Who knows!

      Oh wow, your move from PA to CO sounds intense–driving across Kansas (something I’ve regrettably done) is easily the WORST. How flat and boring can a place be??? Also, I love Call the Midwife. LOVE it. Have you watched the PBS show? One of the few TV programs I watch.

      1. I actually haven’t seen the show. Mr. FP is generally in charge of our program selection and I may or may not put my book down! Maybe the next time he’s out of town…

        1. It’s seriously worth it. There are very few TV shows I’d say that about, but this one does not disappoint :).

  31. We have moved long-distance 3 times using Basically, you hire an free-lance trucker to pick up your stuff and deliver it for you. You post an ad for your shipment, name what price you want to pay and the truckers can put in an offer or accept your price. Uship handles the liability/insurance issues for you. Your stuff will most likely be loaded on a truck with other deliveries. We saved SO much money! We moved 24 Rubbermaid totes (a 1 bedroom apartment minus furniture) and a queen mattress set from Blaine, WA to Minneapolis, Minnesota for $627. Uship pays the drivers once you authorize that the delivery was made to your satisfaction. The drivers all have profiles and ratings similar to eBay sellers. We were so glad not to have to drive a moving truck that didtance and it was so much cheaper too. It’s not for the faint at heart, but I highly recommend it! All 3 of our truckers were the nicest people!

    1. That’s a great tip–thank you! I hadn’t heard of Uship, but $627 is a price I like! Nicely done!

  32. I have moved 24 times in my 30 years. About half of those were as a child, and half since I moved out of state for college. My parents were pretty disorganized when I was a kid. We were definitely that family that hauled all their crap around in boxes never opened since the previous move. The first time I really remember moving we were going cross country. We actually made an attempt to be organized that time, with all the boxes numbered and a master list of what was inside each. We made quite a sight on that trip! We had this huge dodge van with a rack welded on top, carrying 2 car top carriers (remember those?!), with my dad’s handmade wooden canoe strapped over them, towing a large trailer behind us. 🙂 More than one picture of us was snapped by passersby at intersections.
    Right out of college my husband (then boyfriend) and I worked seasonally for a few years, spending our summers in Alaska and winters in Arizona – a pretty good gig if you ask me. We’d drive back and forth and get rid of everything that didn’t fit in the back of his small truck. A good way to keep your possessions minimal, and sort through all the junk that inevitably accumulates over time! At this point we are looking to buy a farm in our area. We’ve definitely acquired a bit more “stuff,” but I like knowing that I could pare it way down if necessary.

    1. Oh wow–with a canoe on top! I hope you have a photo of that somewhere :). The Alaska–Arizona deal sounds pretty sweet. What type of work were you doing?

      And, I agree, moving is the great arbiter of stuff–we always accumulate too much when we stay somewhere for too long. Good thing we’ll be moving again in a couple years… I guess ;).

      1. My husband was a chef, and we worked at a wilderness lodge in Alaska. He cooked and I did everything else! In AZ he cooked at fancy restaurants, and I taught preschool. It really was a wonderful arrangement…

  33. My best moving story was our last move when my fiance and I were moving back to the US from New Zealand. Since we both had jobs lined up our company paid for all of his moving expenses (which naturally included all of my stuff too). Then I opted for a lump sum payment instead of moving expenses which we put toward the down payment on our new house. It was great!

  34. Not moving anytime soon, but loved learning you’re from Kansas! From, your biggest fan in Prairie Village

    1. How fun! Mr. FW and I are not actually from Kansas, but we both went to KU and absolutely loved it :).

  35. My last move I was out of town for work the 2 months leading up to it, and promptly went away again the week after the move… My fiance did most of everything… I pretty much showed up to sign papers and serve lunch to the movers.

  36. Such great advice, as always! Particularly #3. We moved into our current home from an apartment that had a TON of built-in bookcases and shelves, which of course we had filled with all sorts of books and various “decor” during the time we lived there. I wish now that I had gotten rid of everything that was on those shelves/in those cabinets before we moved, because obviously (obvious now, anyway!), I was not going to be able to find places for all that stuff, unless I bought a ton of new bookcases and shelves that I didn’t really need. And it was all pretty much yard sale and goodwill “treasures” anyway, most of which I got rid of within a few months of moving. So my #1 tip before moving is get rid of stuff…then get rid of more stuff…then get rid of so much stuff that you start to worry that you’ve gone too far and will have nothing left in your new home. Then get rid of a little more, and you’re probably good 🙂

    1. So true about getting rid of more… and more stuff! I’m in the process of doing this right now in anticipation of our move to the homestead. For people who don’t shop, we seem to accumulate a lot of stuff ;)!

  37. Wonderful ideas and tips! “Proper preparation prevents failure” – this is my rule when moving abroad! And saying proper I mean – planning in advance, do some research of the area, decluttering, donating, packing, etc. Greetings, Man With Van Forest Gate Ltd.

  38. This one hits home for me, as I’ve lived in 5 states and am into the double digits with homes, so I’ve moved quite a bit, lol. Organization and planning are SO key… I’ve failed miserably on this one in the past and had to scramble to throw crap into my car the night of the move. One thing I have NEVER been good at is labeling and organizing lists of things you’re bringing. I’ve always borrowed boxes from friends and thrown as much as I can into them, with no rhyme or reason. Yes, this has led to chaos after moving. Maybe next time I’ll plan a little better! Awesome post, great tips, thank you!

    1. You have moved a lot, wow! And, I totally agree, organization and planning are where it’s at. Good luck to you in your next move :)!

  39. I’ve now moved 7 times in my own household, and 3 before that with my parents. All pretty much inter-state moves (although, in DC, the movers don’t count MD to VA “interstate”). We’ve done the last 2 with movers, but we pack ourselves. I have to admit we got into the “just throw stuff into boxes” mode towards the end – it’s 2am and the movers are coming at 8am – you just start tossing! We got a lot of free boxes from a neighbor that just moved, but we did end up buying speciality boxes from Uhaul (they buy back what you don’t use!). I was able to negotiate a (extremely small) moving “bonus” of $1500 – just the movers were $6k – but I did get to deduct the initial expenses on 2014 taxes, and the rest will be deducted on 2015 taxes. The IRS publication even has an example of moving across years 🙂 Every time we move, I keep saying I’ll never move again, but then we end up doing so in 5-6 years *sigh*. We’re hoping this is the last move for a while, but we *definitely* do not want to be in this area to retire, so we’ll have at least one more move coming.

    1. Every time we move I vow it’ll be the last, even though I know it won’t… wishful thinking :). That’s great you were able to get a moving bonus–every little bit helps!

  40. Check out Youtube videos for how to pack breakables. Several professional moving companies have shared their methods. Did this recently after helping a family member move and discovered that I had packed the heirloom wine glasses and wedding china all wrong. After packing it according to the experts, it all got there in one piece!

    1. Awesome tip, thanks! It’s amazing how many things you can learn on youtube. My diy skills would be in sad shape without all the pro’s who show their tricks on video.

  41. I am late to this post’s comment party, but you might like to know that REI is an excellent source of free boxes. Theirs actually reassemble and close without tape, and have little handle holes in them! If you show up when they are not busy, they will happily give you as many as you are willing to take away – every box you take is one less they have to drag to the recycling.

  42. This is my third time I have to move in two months. Obviously I would be tight on the budget because of that and it’s probably the main reason I decided to seek help. This article is exactly what I needed and your tips are more than helpful. Thanks for everything. Also thank you guys for the discussion below. Everyone is really helpful and it’s exactly what I needed.

  43. One thing I learned when I moved recently was that everything that contained gasoline had to be drained, and I didn’t know this until the movers showed up. I was only moving about 3 miles from my home. I had to drain the lawnmower, snowblower, generator, and leaf blower before they would allow them on the truck. This took some time and I had to search frantically for containers that I could drain the gas into, everything was packed so it was not easy to find the gas can(s). In hindsight I think this requirement makes sense but it was an unforeseen task and did take some time (and the movers were on the clock). Next time I’ll know.

  44. #9: Caveat. The best things to move are Rubbermaid totes. 68.1 L (18gal) roughnecks are perfect. Because they are so so so reusable, you can buy a fair amount on Craigslist, move all your stuff, and sell it back on Craigslist when all is said and done for no cost (except whatever gas you used to meet the sellers and buyers). I’ve hauled bins and bins and textbooks, to glassware, to whatever.

    1. Oh good call! I too love my Rubbermaid totes. I’ve actually gotten some great generic ones for cheap from Home Depot of all places.

  45. Oh wow! Never heard of this pod method before; definitely will be considering it. I know someone who drove a truck from Texas to NY! That was two best friends and they ended up getting crazy cabin fever! Would not be recommend! hahaha They made the mistake of not canceling their utilities before leaving too! Learn from that experience! 😛 There’s a great checklist I found that I’ll be using before moving next time: Hope this helps! I’ve also noticed that pharmacies are the best place to find boxes. They’re usually very clean and have varying sizes.

  46. Here’s another tip. I bought large-ish labels (3″x4″) to label my used packing boxes. I stuck them on *both* ends of each box and used sharpie to write their destination. Since the previous owners wrote “kitchen” “bedroom” etc all over the boxes, the stickers ensured the boxes ended up in the right room. And putting them on both ends ensured that I could pick out the right box from the pile of boxes that ended up in each room.

  47. Great tips! The one thing I have to disagree on is the used boxes. I have moved in the past using a mix of used boxes and ones that I’d bought (because I wasn’t able to scavenge enough of them). The boxes I’d bought were so much easier to deal with because they were all the same size. The used ones came from a bunch of different sources and it seemed like no two of them had the same dimensions. This meant the new-bought boxes were much easier to stack and it was a lot easier to maximize use of the space in the truck.

    If you can find used boxes in standardized sizes (from someone else who bought a bunch for their move, or a business that receives lots of similarly sized boxes) that would really be the best of both worlds. If that’s not possible then I think buying moving boxes is strategic frugality (especially if the new place has enough space to store the boxes so you can get multiple moves out of them).

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