Monday, August 24, 2009

Moving 101

As a real estate agent, landlord, person who likes to travel, and former member of the military, I know a few things about moving. This post is to give you a little advice on how to move. The advice is free, hopefully it's worth more than the price. If you can afford to hire movers to pack and move everything to your new location, you can skip this piece.

If you are thinking about selling your house, or vacating your rental now is the time to decide what you really need. This gives you an opportunity to downsize all of the 'stuff' you've been collecting. You will also save your (and the people you con into helping you) back when moving day comes. Moving day comes a lot faster than you think, and you have WAY more stuff than you think.

The first step is to sort your stuff into three piles of 'keep','toss', and 'not sure'. These are self-explanatory.

Advice for the 'keep' pile. This is all the stuff you pack immediately except for the stuff you need for day-to-day life, like food and toiletries, and whichever electronic devices you must have like your cell and laptop or business computer. All the family memorabilia, pictures, favorite china, silver, art work, jewelry, and furniture. For sellers, anything you are not using to stage your home.

Homemakers, I suggest you make meals with whatever you have in the house, and work towards, having a few boxes of mac'n'cheese, or pasta, or something simple for the first few days in the new location. Pack away all the dishes you want to keep, and serve on paper plates or plates you plan on putting in the toss pile. Start using plastic cups from Del Taco and commuter mugs for coffee that you're just going to put in the car when you leave anyway.

The 'LAST & FIRST' box: This is the last thing to get loaded into your vehicle and the first thing out. It has toiletries, some easy to prepare food (possibly in ready to eat out of containers and some utensils), can opener, coffee maker, alarm clock, some towels, makeup for the ladies. This contains everything you need to setup base camp in your new location. Once this stuff is unpacked and set up, you can more easily keep moving with the rest of the unpacking. These items are the last to be packed, but should be some of the first to be identified and planned for.

So you will have to store three things. The 'keep' pile, the FIRST & LAST box(es), and food, clothes, and toiletries. Hopefully you can store them in your garage or a shed. Furniture can be stored in the house. There is also the option of commercial self-storage. Keep two things in mind. They charge by the size of the room, so the less you store, the more you save. Most people intend to store for a couple months, but the average stay is about six. My uncle ended up using a small storage space for two years due to health problems and spent $1800 instead of the $150 he intended.

The 'toss' pile is everything you don't need or want to move. Most of the stuff you own will probably cost more to move and store than it would cost to sell and replace. Things in the 'toss' pile can be sold, donated, or given away. Used items,for the most part, lose a notorious amount of value.I have a few suggestions.

Want to keep your kids artwork? How about scanning it into your computer? Then you won't end up with an attic/basement/closet full of paperwork in the future. If you have a scanner with a document feeder you can scan up to 50 pieces at a time. Some will obviously need a flatbed scanner. This will also allow the paper to be put in the recycle container and might save a few trees.

Do you really need them? Think long and hard on this. Think especially long and hard about anything fragile. If your Capo di Monti or Belleek porcelain breaks in transit, will it be worth it. Luckily, there are plenty of types of packaging and cushioning available, much of it free or cheap on

If you don't have the original packaging for TV's, or old CRT monitors, they are not likely to travel well. Additionally, they are heavy, and are cheap to buy and sell used. You might also use this time to sell the unwanted and upgrade to a used flat screen at your destination. Additionally, if you have a flat screen and are changing elevation, it might be better to get a screen that at that altitude. As we all have experience, the continuing march of technology makes it cheaper every month, so the sooner you sell your old stuff, the more it will be worth. And you really don't need that Commodore 64 anymore.

Some of your friends and family will help you move. This is the time to listen carefully for them to admire anything you aren't sure you want. Give it to them. You can always visit it later (as long as you're still friends). Your friend will be ecstatic, and that will be one more thing you don't have to move.

If you know you're going to sell something, give your friends first crack at it if you need the money. Otherwise, give it away, or trade for help with the move.

Charities can be any of several varieties. There are thrift shops, churches, homeless shelters, public and private schools (have 500 pens from your bankrupt business?), political causes, etc. Just about anything you can think of has some sort of charitable establishment.
In these tough economic times, donations to charity are down. This may be the place to bring everything you couldn't sell,and get a tax break. If you couldn't sell it for a dime at a garage sale, it's probably not worth moving. Don't bring them trash, no one wants the couch that is torn up and smells of pet urine.

Price your items reasonably. Most items are worth a dime for a dollar. Think of it as someone paying you to move your stuff. Give bulk discounts. If you call it a moving sale, people will know you don't want to move it, so will make lowball offers accordingly--haven't used that exercise equipment in six months? Take what they offer, you weren't using it anyway. Sell your more valuable items at any of the free online advertising sites.

Packing is always problematic. Organizing will help minimize the difficulties. I've already mentioned the LAST & FIRST box. Some people like to organize by bedroom and that's good. I have another suggestion, that can be used as a stand-alone method, or in combination with other methods.

Label your boxes with a letter number combination. You could use 'K1' for 'kitchen 1' or 'J4' for "James' 4". The important thing to do is use your word processor to keep track of the contents. Most word processors have a "find" feature. So, if you use the box designations as paragraph headers, and type a list of items in each box, you are able to use the "find" function of the word processor to find any item you want, without having to write on the boxes, or tape lists to the boxes.

If you've labeled things as I've suggested, and you have a laptop computer, your move will be SO much easier. Even if you don't have the electricity on, you can whip out your laptop and start unpacking. After you get the boxes dropped into their respective rooms, you can start unpacking, and use the laptop to find anything you find an immediate need for.

Hope this helps. I plan to blog about packing your truck next time.

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