Moving into a new place can be fun, scary, hard, exciting and, usually, all of that at once. Not to mention, a whole lot of work—from budgeting to packing, there’s just so much to do. So, to help you approach the transition like the hyper-organized pro you are, we tapped the CEO of New York-based moving company, Piece of Cake, on his best moving tips—including genius packing hacks you’ll wish you knew about before (see: number 13 on this list).
22 Moving Tips That Will Make the Whole Process So Much Easier
Pack better, stay saner
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Planning and Budgeting
1. Accurately Estimate Your Moving Costs
News to no one: Moving is expensive. How expensive, exactly? That all depends. “For smaller apartments (about 300 to 600 square feet), expect to need two movers at an average rate between $400 to $750 for local relocations,” says Popovic. “Then, for two- to three-bedroom apartments, you’ll need three movers. This should cost anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000, depending on the mix of furniture and building type. Then, for local moves that involves four bedrooms or more, expect to use four movers that charge between $1,500 and $3,500,” he adds.
There are three main approaches to pricing a move. “When you’re getting a moving quote, your question should be whether they use hourly, weight-based or flat fee pricing.” Below, the moving pro gives us a breakdown of each:
- Hourly Rates: It’s difficult to predict how long you will need movers and their truck, so this pricing model has uncertainty built into it. The rate can also be impacted by hidden costs like traffic, parking issues or storage check-in delays.
- Weight-Based Rates: A weight-based estimate often applies to long distance moves. Your movers will provide an initial price that includes any transportation fees, but once the truck is loaded, they adjust their charge according to the total weight of your items.
- Flat Fee Rates: If want to know your total cost upfront, choose movers who calculate their fee according to the volume of furniture (aka how many items you have in cubic feet). Typically, the formula goes: Volume of goods + mileage + special requests or moving complexities (like mounting an AC unit or TV) = flat fee estimate. Just be sure to check how your movers handle price increases if items are added the day of (more on that below).
2. Consider Insurance and Hidden Fees
The biggest hidden cost of your move can end up being fees that aren’t included in the original quote. While many moving companies have built-in insurance, it’s based on weight, not the value of items. So, you want to make sure that the moving company meets basic industry and insurance standards—and that they have the option to add additional insurance. At the very least, however, they should have a Federal Identification number from the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) which you can search for on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) website.
To that end, Popovic says, “Specialty items will add more time to the overall move and are usually itemized separately and in detail. Ask your movers how they will manage any valuables and what their insurance arrangements are.” He also adds: “Many movers will disassemble a bed frame and reassemble it [without an additional fee] if it’s outlined in your original quote. You will, however, incur special services fees for going beyond your agreement of labor, service and supplies without providing your mover with adequate notice.” So how do you avoid hidden fees? That brings us to our next point…
3. Don’t Agree to Anything Before Asking Your Mover These Questions
Here’s Popovic’s list of must-ask questions that’ll help you (and your movers) calculate everything before it’s too late (and you’re slapped with an extra $1,000 once everything leaves the truck):
- What additional moving insurance do you offer beyond basic protection? How much does that cost?
- How do you handle damage to belongings? Do you repair or replace things?
- Who pays for parking ticket costs?
- Do you handle fuel charges?
- Do you incur long carry fees if the movers can’t park in front of my building?
- Any truck cleaning fees?
- Do you apply any penalties applied for using stairs in walk-up buildings?
- What are your disassembly and reassembly charges for furniture?
- Do you impose a storage fee for long-distance moves? What do you do if delivery is delayed, and do you charge for extra stops?
4. Factor In the Cost of Supplies…
“You’ve budgeted for your move, but have you considered how many boxes, blankets, rolls of tape and bundles of packing paper you might need? Moving supplies for a one- to two-bedroom apartment can reach $300, including special boxes for stemware and oversized televisions. Some movers, like Piece of Cake will provide some boxes for free on the day of, like wardrobes and TVs (but this is a level of services that’s rare),” Popovic explains. “As a general rule, movers cannot be held liable for any damages that occur to your items that you pack in materials that are not designed for moving.”
5. Save Money on Supplies by Using Free Boxes or Existing Storage
If you aren't worried about insurance, you can reduce costs by sourcing free moving boxes or using storage you already have. You can fit a lot of stuff in that gigantic suitcase you bought for your European adventure. Ditto for your wicker laundry hamper and your vast selection of leather tote bags. Fill ’em up!
6. Make Sure You Budget for Tipping
“The general rule of thumb is to base your tip on a percentage of your total move cost. Fifteen to 20 percent is the industry average,” the expert says. “We recommend a tiered approach depending on whether you’re managing a large relocation, a medium sized move with some challenges or a small local move. Twenty percent is recommended for large and long-distance moves. Otherwise, 15 percent should be the minimum for a medium- or small-sized move.”
7. Make a Supply Checklist
Naturally, the recommended number of boxes will vary on a case-by-case basis (depending on how much stuff you have). Still, Piece of Cake offers bundles of pre-packaged supplies based on the following:
Studios and One-Bedrooms
- 5 to 8 small boxes
- 5 to 15 medium boxes
- 5 to 7 large boxes
- 2 to 3 wardrobe boxes with bars as a rental service on the day of the move
- 4 to 6 tape rolls
Two- and Three-Bedrooms
- 15 to 25 small boxes
- 25 to 40 medium boxes
- 10 to 15 large boxes
- 4 to 6 wardrobe boxes with bars as a rental service on the day of the move
- 6 tape rolls
- 12.5lb of packing paper
8. Make an Inventory
First and foremost, you want to write down the inventory of what you have in each room to help you identify what will be grouped together. “Where possible, bring together similar items from different rooms that would be better packed together,” Popovic says. Think: towels and bedding, appliances and electrical cords, glasses and vases.
9. Start with Storage Rooms
You want to start in any room that’s used for storage already, like a garage, guest room or basement. “Start with rooms that have non-essential items that aren’t needed or used every day. More specifically, the dining room and study ahead of the kitchen and bedroom.”
10. Don’t Leave the Kitchen Until Last
The expert cautions movers not to leave the kitchen until last: “It’s such a time-consuming room with a mix of non-essential and essential items. Surrender to the idea of having a night or two of takeout once the pots and pans are packed with the cutlery. It’s important to bubble wrap and pad your china and glassware properly (and carefully!). It’s not something you should rush at the last minute.” He also says playrooms and children’s areas should be partially packed: “Keep their toys and books out until the final day, so they can play quietly while you get on with packing.” Sure, the mess is annoying, but the stress you’ll save yourself is worth a few loose stuffed animals.
11. But Do Save the Kid's Stuff for the End
He also says playrooms and children’s areas should be partially packed: “Keep their toys and books out until the final day, so they can play quietly while you get on with packing.” Sure, the mess is annoying, but the stress you’ll save yourself is worth a few loose stuffed animals.
12. Color-Code Your Boxes
Scrawling ‘kitchen’ in black Sharpie is only going to leave you (and your helpers) squinting when you get to the new place. Instead, use colored label stickers on every side of each box so things can quickly be shuttled to the right spot. (Think red for living room, green for the master bedroom, etc.)
13. Pack with Newspaper
Do you still get a big, real-life New York Times on Sundays? Use the paper you already have sitting around instead of bubble wrap to pad your dishes and other breakables. “Always pack heavier items at the bottom of the box, wrap each item individually, and *never* stack fragile items with paper.”
14. Use Clear Bins for Important Stuff
You’re going to need your cleaning supplies, alarm clock and remote control right away, so pack those essentials in clear plastic bins so you can find them without going through a Big Dig.
15. Put Hangers in Trash Bags
The best way to cut supply costs (aka not paying for a wardrobe rack)? This genius TikTok hack, which involves grouping hanging items together and poking a hole through a trash bag to keep them together. It might not be as pretty as a wardrobe with a rack, but it’ll get the job done at a fraction of the price.
16. Take Pictures
Snap pictures of your new place before you move in so you can mentally start planning what goes where. Likewise, take pictures of how things are set up in your old place—how your books were arranged, how your electronics were hooked up—so it’s easy to get everything up and running again. “Take photographs of the back of electrical items, like the TV or Sonos speaker, to reconnect devices with ease,” Popovic suggests.
17. Label, Label, Label
When we say label everything, we mean it—from olive oil bottles to ski equipment. This will save you hours of sorting in your new place, and you’ll thank yourself when you can easily locate that phone charger the night you move in. “You can go one step further and number your boxes, to keep track of all essential items and ensure every box is accounted for on your inventory list,” Popovic adds.
18. Pack a Weekend Bag
The first few nights are going to be so weird. Make sure they’re not even weirder because you can’t brush your teeth. Fill your carry-on with personal essentials like your toothbrush, PJs, a good book, a snack, and something to wear to a celebratory brunch in your new neighborhood. “It’s best to pack a separate moving day bag for each member of your household…You should also include any important documents or valuables in this bag.” Think: passports, social security cards, your grandfather’s watch…you get the picture.
19. Overestimate Your Moving Time
Since moving day flies by faster than a normal day, Popovic urges movers to factor in more time than they think. “Whatever time you’re estimating to complete final tasks before the team gets there—double it.” This means waking up early to squeeze in a coffee, seeing the kids off to school and leaving pets with a neighbor, so they’re not running out the door while furniture’s carried out.” Plus, be sure to keep a notepad and pen handy for final reminders.
20. Go Over ETAs with the Movers
In a doorman building? Make sure you let your movers know when you have the service elevator. Have a hyper-vigilant Co-Op? Or a time slot you secured for the service elevator? Make sure you go over that with them upon arrival. “Also, vigilant supers like to drop by during a move and see how it’s progressing…keep an ear out for any questions they might raise which your movers can’t answer.”
21. Be Sure to Document What They’re Taking
Once you and your movers are on the same page about timing and logistics, be sure to really look over the inventory list with your movers before you sign it. This means documenting the number of boxes you have before they’re taken, plus your own list of what’s inside them. Then, when you get to your new pad, be sure to double-check that all your numbers line up.
22. Pre-Label Where Everything Goes
From installing a flat-screen TV to making sure the king mattress goes in the master, you want to stay on top of where everything is going (especially for larger items). The easiest way to do this? Labeling the outside of the boxes with their intended room. As for TVs, furniture or anything that needs installation, try placing some Post-it notes in the new place before the movers get there. That way, they know exactly where to put everything and you can relax (aka get out of their way while they’re hauling boxes).