5 ways to simplify moving day

Services take stress out of packing, cleaning, utilities

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Apr. 21, 2010

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Services take stress out of packing, cleaning, utilities

Mary Umberger
Inman News

It was a blistering August day, and I -- already stressed to tears over the endless preparations for moving out of the house where my family had lived for 14 years -- stood speechless on the sidewalk as a dubious cast of characters loaded the truck with something that struck me as less than tender loving care.

Then our beloved family babysitter, to whom we had tearfully bid goodbye, showed up at my side. Beaming, she presented my son with a huge package, the contents of which was making suspicious scratching sounds.

"It's a hamster!" she proclaimed, apparently fulfilling my 5-year-old's lifelong dream. I resisted the temptation to hand Billy, as my son promptly named him, to the movers and resigned myself to having one more responsibility.

But emblazoned in my memory -- and ears -- is the tedious, 35-mile drive to our new home, in a minivan stuffed literally to the ceiling with our personal items. Wedged somewhere in the detritus in the back, the rodent spent the entire journey running as hard as he could on his cage's squeaky little wheel.

There's a metaphor in there somewhere. Hamster-gifting probably is a rare enough occurrence that it probably doesn't merit mention in a list of "how-to-keep-saner-while-moving" suggestions. But to me that moment has always underscored the thought that moving is stressful enough without piling on -- that there ought to be ways to sidestep some of the tensions (and the costs, which are a source of stress unto themselves).

Five things to consider in simplifying your move (plus this tip: avoid last-minute hamsters):

1. Start thinking about moving as soon as you can. The American Moving and Storage Association, a trade association, has created a "Moving Countdown Calendar" at Moving.org that suggests a timetable for specific chores in the two-month period leading up to the big day.

On it are such necessities as interviewing three movers for estimates (60 days ahead), starting to gather and organize important personal papers (45 days), reserving rental equipment if you're moving yourself (30 days), and getting the car serviced if using it in the relocation (12 days). Start packing 28 days ahead, the chart says in bold letters.

2. Do you really need to be told to get rid of stuff beforehand? Apparently so.

"The big thing you hear about organizing -- you hear it again and again -- is worth repeating," said Bill Sheehan, chief operating officer of Relocation.com, a referral site for finding professional movers. Sheehan himself has moved eight times in the past 12 years, and says he's lost much of his inclination to accumulate possessions.

"People move junk all the time," he says. "Get rid of it, because you're going to pay for moving it."

Sheehan's firm says that, in a hypothetical move from New York to Los Angeles for a family with a three-bedroom house, 7,500 pounds of household goods typically would make the transcontinental journey. It assumed an average price tag of $6,500, though it said there were many factors that could affect those costs. 

Get rid of 10 percent of your belongings before you go and you'll knock $250 to $400 off the bill, the company estimated. Start "editing" your belongings by getting rid of clothes. Among your household goods, pack only items you've used in the past year, Sheehan said.

3. Third-party companies that will handle the chore of stopping and starting utility services abound on the Internet these days.

"These are one-stop shops," Sheehan said. They can be time-savers.

"The advantage is that you can get bundled service -- phone, electricity, cable all in one," he said.

"The disadvantage is that a specific company has a specific bundle that you have to purchase," he said. "Maybe you want DirecTV rather than cable from another provider."

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