Published on August 11, 2019

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Photography by Cody Guilfoyle

Looking for a new apartment can be thrilling and daunting at the same time. On one hand, there’s the prospect of a new space to decorate and (hopefully) a few features your old space lacked (a dishwasher! corner windows with a view!). On the flip side, there’s the looming chore of moving and getting used to a new home and neighborhood. But once you’ve found a place, signed the lease, and dropped off your deposit, the hard work is about to begin. Moving can be stressful, but if you approach it strategically, the process can go smoothly. 

We compiled the ultimate checklist to help you get ready. We tapped seasoned pros, including Allison Bean, a home and lifestyle expert at The Spruce; Boris Fabrikant, an independent broker in New York City; and Jason Haber, an associate broker with Warburg Realty. Plus, we ticked off every hassle for which you’ll want to prepare. Print this handy checklist before your next move. 

Several Weeks Before 

Determine the Type of Move: Are you driving a U-Haul or do you want someone to pack? Some services will do the work for you, so make a decision based on your budget and time frame. 

Research and Interview Movers: Do your homework (and definitely don’t hire someone you randomly found online). Ask lots of questions. Will they expect snacks or water? Do they charge to rent blankets? Can they disassemble (and reassemble) your furniture? Asking these questions will save you headaches later. 

Set Up Mail Forwarding: USPS will forward all first-class mail to your new address for up to a year. 

Update Online Accounts and Subscriptions: Make sure your online accounts are up to date with your new address. Banks, insurance companies, phone, Internet, and utilities should all be notified. Likewise, change your address for newspaper and magazine subscriptions. 

Tie Up Loose Ends: Cancel your gym membership, pick up your dry cleaning, and use up all those prepaid beauty treatments. 

Start Packing: Yes, it can feel overwhelming, but if you break it up into small pieces, it will be easier. Be careful not to overstuff boxes with heavy things like books, especially if you’re moving solo. Wrap the really fragile items in Bubble Wrap or old newspapers. 

Sort It Out: Consider what you’re bringing to your new home. Ask yourself: Can I donate this? Should I sell it and make a quick $50? You’ll save yourself a ton of work if you declutter early.

Label Everything: Break out the Sharpie and carefully label your boxes. Label anything that’s fragile or high priority, and be specific about what’s inside (e.g., “pots”). Numbering boxes can also ensure that nothing goes missing.

Pack Your First-Day Essentials: Think about what you’ll need on day one and make sure you have everything handy in a box (or tote bag if you’re staying local): scissors, box cutters, Post-it notes, water bottles, toilet paper, and hand soap, which won’t be waiting for you in your new home. 

Wrap Beloved Items Separately: That crystal vase from Burma? Make sure you’re in charge of that, even if it means an extra cab trip. 

Make a Shopping List: Keep a running list of things you need to buy before you move in. Consider ordering online so they’re at your new home once you arrive. Remember that larger furniture like sofas and beds have long lead times, so it’s ideal to order them well ahead of your move.

Update Your Vehicle Registration: If you’re moving states, you’ll need to update the windshield sticker and paper registration for your car. 

Plan Renovations: If you’re buying a fixer-upper, plan your renovation early. Don’t tell yourself you’ll do it in stages—just get it done before you move in (as much as possible). These nifty home-renovation apps can help. 

Know the Rules: Avoid parking tickets or having your car towed by knowing the rules. Find out if you need to clear your move with your management company—some require a certificate of insurance from movers—and if any elevators are off-limits. Some buildings have strict rules around moving.

Register to Vote: Update your information if you’re moving to a new district. 

Arrange Help: From babysitters to boarding, have a plan for children and pets on the day of the move. 

A Week Before 

Set Up and Shut Down Utilities: Turn off the electricity, Internet, and cable. Schedule appointments early so you’re not moving into a dark home without wifi. In cold-weather regions, make sure the heat is working ahead of time so the pipes don’t break. 

Moving Day 

Do a Once-over: Thoroughly inspect your old place before you leave. Open the cabinets, clean out the fridge, take out the trash. Crunched for time? Consider hiring a cleaning service. 

Set Goals: Some folks need to set up a kitchen so they have access to drinks. For others, it’s all about the bathroom. Set up realistic goals for your first few days so you’re able to meet them and aren’t disappointed. 

Label the Room: If you won’t be around when the movers unpack, leave Post-it notes explaining how you want things unpacked. Here are some thoughts on how to get organized

Plan Lunch and Dinner: Think about what you and anyone helping will want to eat on the day of the move (and maybe even the morning after). This will spare you from rushing around to find a meal when you’re tired and hungry. 

Check the Furniture: Keep an eye out for any damaged or lost items, and notify the company stat if anything is broken. 

Get Cash: Have cash on hand to tip the movers (usually 5 to 10 percent of the total cost of the move). Make sure you have a little extra for food and coffee. 

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Discover more helpful moving tips: 
Consider This: 5 Easy Ways to Move, the Sustainable Way
Eight Places to Find Boxes for Your Move
IKEA Just Made Moving Essentials Infinitely Cooler

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