Here are a few tips that we have picked up from our own experience and from horror stories from fellow military families...
1. Prep starts with Planning- a few weeks out from Packing Day make a list. I am a big fan of lists (I even made one before writing this post). Detail all the things that you need to get done before the packers arrive. Packing your travel with you items, taking stuff off the walls, and organizing needs before they arrive. I shared my to-do list from our last move in a previous post: Preparing to PCS...Again.
2. Go Zip-Lock Crazy- This is a tip a friend of ours gave us two moves ago and it has made unpacking SOOOO much easier. Bag all the small items that are meant to stay together. Each drawer in the kitchen, storage baskets around the house, small bathroom items, undies drawer, Legos, desk drawers, etc. We found large, and extra large storage bags (generic brands are just fine, I like the ones with the zipper so they are more secure) the 2 gallon size are perfect for kitchen utensils. Not only does this help insure that you don't end up with 1000 push pins dumped in the bottom of a box (can you tell I have made that mistake) but makes it a lot easier for the packers to quickly pack and for you to quickly unpack later. I even fit the entire-full silverware holder in one bag.
3. Tangle Prevention- I have spent hours trying to get one knot out of a necklace and trying to get all the TV/Computer/Power cords separated. A little prep can save a ton of time later. I roll up all my necklaces (costume and nice) in plastic wrap before each move. I have a lot of necklaces so I end up with a giant 'roll' but it makes for super easy unpacking and a lot less headaches. Hair ties, zip-ties, rubber bands, plastic bags, painters tape, etc. are all great ways to secure all of your cords in neat little rolls to help keep them in order.
4. Cord/Remote Box-Find a central location for a 'parts' box (or even one for each room or floor of the house). Packers usually ask that you have all electronics unplugged before they come so go ahead and start grouping all these items together. We usually take this box with us so that we aren't searching for it when the cable/Internet guy comes to our new house. Include everything from cords, router, remotes, etc. I also label each cord by wrapping a piece of blue painters tape or a post-it note taped to it so I know which TV/Computer/Printer it goes with.
5. Trash Bag Organizing- In an ideal world, the Packers would neatly and orderly hang all of your clothes in well marked boxes, then gingerly move them on and off the moving truck so that you could just quickly and easily transfer everything into your new closet. The reality is that many moving companies don't even use hanging boxes, they get tossed around like crazy, they are not concerned with keeping it organized for you and if there is spare room in the box they will add anything and everything that they can fit. Group your hanging clothes into trash bags (still on the hangers) and label them clearly. I used pink labels for my clothes, blue for my husbands, green for our sons and separate winter, summer, pants, dresses, maternity, etc. That way when we get to our new house and my husband realizes that he needs a random pair of dress pants right away we can find them quickly without having to unpack every box the first night. I also bag all of our drawers, that way the movers don't have to gather up my undies and we can just dump everything right back into the same drawers at the new house.
6. Dirty Don'ts- Packers will pack everything!! Including the trash still in your trash can's, toilet bowl brushes (these things really gross me out), wet mop heads, and anything else that is in their path. They also don't care if those nasty things are in with your perfect clean guest bath towels. Don't assume that you can just go around ahead of them the day of and move stuff out of the way either, they are faster than you think. The night before, make sure to take out ALL of the trash, bag anything that you don't want touching other things, and designate a 'DO NOT PACK AREA' for items you are going to take with you or will need to use for your move out cleaning.
7. DO NOT PACK AREA- We always set up an area before each PACK DAY to start setting aside all of the items that we are either going to throw out last minute or move ourselves. I like to use a closet or bathroom where I can close the door and put a clearly marked sign letting them know not to touch the stuff inside. Some of the items are valuables that we just prefer to keep with us like jewelry, precious photo albums, baby books, personal documents, etc. But we also set aside cleaning supplies that we will need for the move out cleaning, moving related documents, clothes, toiletries and travel needs while we are between houses (make sure to account for unexpected delays- our moving truck was delayed an extra 10 days last move- check out a suggested list here). Also, remember to pull anything out of this area that you DO want them to pack and move it somewhere else. I made a pile of packable things on our guest bed and just made a big note asking the movers to label those things for the bathroom that they came out of.
We usually have a large plastic bin in the kitchen too for items that we know they won't pack (liquids and perishables). This way we can still access them up until Pack Day but they are out of the way. Also helps us know what to try and use up so we don't have to haul it cross country ourselves (or throw out if we don't have room or have an overseas move).
Important documents you may need to set aside and keep with you:
- military orders
- new lease
- mortgage info
- hotel/RV park confirmations for the move
- pet vaccine info for hotels that require them
- medical records for all family members
- printed driving directions- in case you don't get phone service in the middle of Texas
- landlords move-out checklist
- info for new utility companies
- passports/ birth certificates/ marriage license/ power of attorney/ SS cards/ etc. (just make sure to keep them secure)
- info for new schools, jobs, etc.
- anything and everything that you may need within the first few weeks of getting to your new home or that would be a MAJOR issue if they went missing during the move
8. Move-Out Cleaning-If you are on a tight schedule or just don't want to deal with it, check around with local cleaning companies for one-time move-out cleaning specials. Many companies in military towns especially offer special services designed just for this. Also, be sure to check your original lease agreement and see if you are required to do anything extra like have the carpets professionally cleaned or sprayed for bugs. Local companies usually have special move-out rates for these things too, price a few different places and make sure to save copies of your receipts for your landlord. We try and do as much of the cleaning ourselves as possible to save money and to make sure that we are going to get our full deposit back. Landlords tend to love military families because we are all very thorough (we need that deposit $$). We try not to buy new cleaning chemicals for a few months before a move so that we can use up every last drop and not have to move too much with us or throw out full bottles. I also have a firm germ policy of replacing things like toilet brushes (yuck again), mop heads and plungers at each new house. Those things need to be switched every so often anyway so a move is a great time to start fresh.
Here are some areas to be sure not to miss when cleaning for a move-out inspection (based on things previous landlords have checked for):
- in, under and behind appliances (unless landlord prefers you not to move large appliances)
- air vents- change out filters, clean returns and vents in all rooms and baths (we just get the cheap filters for move-out and change them day of inspection so they are pristine)
- cabinets, drawers, closets, shelves- inside and out- remove any drawer liners and wipe everything down really well
- bathrooms- every last nook and cranny- bleach and mold remover are a must here
- floors- leave all floors until the last minute so they are sparkling when the inspection happens
- dust everywhere- blinds, moldings, corners, etc.
- windows- inside and out- Windex makes a spray that attaches to a hose for outside that is quick and easy.
- garage/ outdoor areas- knock down cobwebs, pull weeds, sweep, etc.
- touch up- paint, nail holes, etc. - some land lords prefer you leave these though so they can have it done professionally so check with them first.
9. Know your Movers- If you get to choose your movers then ask around and check online reviews to find the best option. We usually don't have a say in the matter though so we get to know as much about them as possible to make the process smoother. Ask them ahead of time for a list of what you need to have prepped for them. They should come to your home in advance of the pack day to determine how much stuff you have not only to determine the size of the truck needed but also to see how long they think it will take to pack and how many people they will need to have working on Pack Day and Move Day. Make sure that they see everything inside and outside your home that they will be packing including garage and attic items. Pay attention to what they decide on, if it sounds like their assessment is too small or they aren't going to have enough time/people make sure to let them know your concerns. We had two moves in 6 months, accumulated more things and somehow the second moving company estimated that we had much less stuff than the first move and didn't send nearly enough boxes or packers.
Keep documentation on the moving company with you and make sure to get the moving truck driver's contact info. and give him yours. Double check the scheduled delivery day and call a day or two before to make sure nothing has changed. Take a picture of the truck's license tag and if for some reason your things will be stored somewhere before moved make sure to find out where and who will be moving them. We learned a lot of this the hard way.
Find out what items they will NOT move. This usually includes- plants, liquids, batteries, candles, perishable items, ammunition, basically anything that will die, spill, melt or explode in high heat.
10. Notify your Landlord- again, check your lease. Some landlords require a certain amount of notice of your move-out so that they can begin the process of finding a new tenant or planning any cleaning/renovations between tenants. If their notice requirement seems excessive (typically 30 days) check your State laws and be sure to let them know that you are military . By law, they have to let you out of a lease if you provide military orders and if need be you can always get help from your JAG office on post. Give them notice in WRITING, an email is fine but be sure to keep a copy of it for yourself. When you notify them ask for a list of move-out requirements (they should have provided one when you signed the lease but not all do). Also, schedule a move out inspection. Many landlords don't require you to be present for the inspection but remember that if you have already moved and they find something wrong they will just take it out of your deposit and not give you a chance to fix it yourself. We have been charged for someone having to pull a few weeds and change a light bulb. Very Frustrating!
I have started informing my landlord of a potential move as soon as I know an approximate date. We sometimes aren't given 'official orders' until the last minute or an exact moving date until a few weeks out so it is a good idea to just give them a heads up and send them the specifics as soon as you have them.
11. Final Prep- The morning of PACK DAY things to do:
- remove bedding from all beds and group together in trash bag or pillow case (so you aren't searching for the fitted sheet in new home)
- bag pet beds- who wants dog hair on everything
- Put Obvious (but sometimes very necessary) Labels on rooms so Movers know how to label boxes. I don't know how many boxes we had after our first move that just said 'Closet' so we had no idea what part of the house to even begin to set them for unpacking.
- TAKE OUT ALL TRASH
- Don't forget to empty washer/dryer/dishwasher
12. Get out of the way, if you can- we are lucky enough to have a travel trailer that we use for vacations so we always move-in to it a few days prior to Pack Day so that we can make life a little easier on us. Obviously, this isn't an option for everyone so if you are able to stay in a hotel or with a friend for a few nights you might want to. Or, plan ahead and set aside sleeping bags, air mattresses, etc. so that you can be prepared to possibly not have a bed to sleep in. Often, Pack Day is actually several days and then you may have to wait around for the Move-out day too. You will also most likely not have your things right away when you get to your new home so be prepared. If you have kids or pets try and find someone that can help watch them or have a plan for keeping them entertained and safely out of the way.
13. Expect the Unexpected- Nothing will go exactly as planned. Our Packers showed up a day early last move (mis-communication somewhere) so our perfect plans for me staying out of the way with our toddler while my husband was on site went out the window since he was still working that day. Thankfully, we had very friendly packers so they were understanding of the screaming toddler and gave me time to do my last minute prep. We also moved during the busiest moving season so several events led to our truck being delayed 10 days. We did get compensated for having to stay in the RV park longer and eating out every meal (save receipts) but that took several weeks so we were glad to have some extra money set aside and plenty of our own belongings with us (and access to a laundry mat). It actually worked out in the end because it gave us time to finish painting and cleaning our new house and thankfully we now live close to family that were more than happy to entertain our toddler.
14. Keep an Eye on Things and Speak Up (politely)- We have had some AMAZING packers in the past that did a better job than I ever would have expected. But, unfortunately we have had the opposite too. We got the 'new girl' once who packed our nice china at the bottom of a huge box with heavy books on top. We caught that one in time because we noticed the lid of the box bulging sitting next to our china cabinet and nothing labeled FRAGILE. I knew that the movers stack those boxes five or six high in the truck so I went snooping since I knew whatever was in it was going to be crushed. We did however miss the fact that on that same move they threw a few oddly shaped items in the back of the moving truck without boxing or wrapping them, they didn't survive. We also had un-packers use our particle board entertainment center as their own personal umbrella during a rain storm and it hasn't been the same since. I wish I had asked them to hold off for a minute on that one- they could have taken a little break and let the storm pass.
15. TIP and Treat- If you are nice to them, they will be nice to you. Of course, accidents and slip ups still happen but usually the people helping you move mean well. They are doing a tiresome job and often don't get paid very much or get many breaks. Much like waiters, they make most of their income with tips. So make sure to provide drinks, snacks and even a meal if they are there for a long time. Doesn't need to be fancy or excessive and you can even ask them what they want and order or run out for it. We usually have donuts/bagels in the morning, pizza or sandwiches for lunch and plenty of drinks and ice. I have tried to put out healthier items thinking that they probably get sick of pizza but they are human just like the rest of us and usually skip the fruit and go for the chips. We also try and tip, the amount varies depending on how many people the company sends and how much we can afford at the time. My husband even went out and got a couple of 6 packs for the guys that moved us on a Holiday weekend.
If you are properly prepared before your next move, you can avoid a lot of unexpected mishaps and unnecessary stress. Moving is never stress free, but it doesn't have to be a nightmare. I try to look at the upsides to the moving process. It is a great time to clean out and purge unneeded junk in your home, reorganize in a fresh new place and of course always fun to explore your new home and community.