The mountain of boxes. The rolls of BubbleWrap.® The weeks of winnowing down your earthly goods and packing up what you’ve decided to keep. If you’ve got a move in your near future, chances are you’re dreading the time suck that awaits you. Oregon Home talked with four movers about how to best move your household from here to there without damaging your art or losing your marbles.
[1. AVOID THE MOST POPULAR MONTH TO MOVE IN YOUR AREA—AND THE BUSIEST DAYS OF THE MONTH.]
For most of the country, that means summer. From the moment the kiddies are out of school—mid-June through the end of August, in most cases—is the busiest times for professional movers. While rates for moves within Oregon are regulated and don’t vary seasonally, you can pay as much as 10 percent extra for long-distance moves during peak months, says John McAfee, the household goods manager at WDI Company of Oregon Inc. in Portland, an agent for Wheaton World Wide Moving.
According to the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA), an Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit organization which tracks 3,200 professional movers who move household goods interstate and intrastate (locally), July has passed June as the most popular month in which to move a household. In addition, the AMSA (go to moving.org) advises that you always try to schedule your move during the middle of the month to avoid the days at the beginning and end of each month, which are traditionally busier days, regardless of the season.
[2. SPRING-CLEAN, DECLUTTER AND PURGE BEFORE YOU START PACKING.]
For a local move, you pay movers by the hour. If you’re moving long distance, you pay by the weight of your total household goods. Either way, you’ll pay dearly if you decide to toss everything (from the clothes you don’t wear in your closet to the old computers you don’t use in the basement) into boxes and discard items as you unpack. Why pay to move items you’ll end up hauling to Goodwill anyway? Use a judicious eye and purge before you begin the packing process.
[3. ACCEPT THAT MOVING IS THE THIRD-MOST-STRESSFUL LIFE EVENT AND BUILD SANITY-SAVING STEPS INTO THE PROCESS.]
Only death and divorce outrank moving as a stressful rollercoaster. “You’ll never be able to e-mail your worldly goods from one location to another, although you might wish you could,” says Teresa Priestley, a partner in Priestley & Sons Moving Company, a Gresham, Ore.-based firm that her grandfather started in 1929. The company specializes in moves in Oregon and Washington state.
Before you box up your first room, Priestley says you should acknowledge the emotional price of leaving one house for another. “Moving is always traumatic, even when it’s a happy situation,” she says. “When you move, there always seems to be the feeling that you’re leaving something behind. And as you go through all of your things, you experience a range of feelings based on the sentimental attachments you have to specific belongings.”
[4. DON’T BUY MORE MOVING CARTONS THAN YOU NEED.]
Your goal isn’t to end up with a truckful of perfectly aligned brown cartons that would make Martha Stewart purr with satisfaction. Professional movers say scavenging for used boxes at a grocery store works just fine, as long as they’re in decent shape and they can be sealed shut. “Any box will work, especially if it’s a local move,” says Priestley. “You can even buy used cartons—which work great—from some moving supply companies. Get them as cheap as you can. Just pack the good stuff in better cartons.”
[5. DON’T FORGET TO BUDGET FOR OTHER MUST-HAVE MOVING SUPPLIES.]
Pinching pennies on cartons will give you more money to spend on all the other mailing supplies that the typical household move requires (BubbleWrap,® carton sealing tape, blown stretch film, packing peanuts, mattress covers, etc.). Before you head off to Office Depot for a single roll of mailing tape, log on to the website of a mailing supply company such as shippingsupply.com to see what the going rate is for buying some of your supplies in bulk—and to get a heads-up about some of the choices you’ll have to make such as whether you want to buy packing peanuts that are anti-static, biodegradable or recycled. A little research on the front end can save you big bucks once you’re in the checkout line at the store.
[6. TRUST NO ONE WITH IRREPLACEABLE POSSESSIONS THAT YOU CAN FIT IN YOUR OWN VEHICLE.]
Transport irreplaceable, extremely fragile and one-of-a-kind treasures yourself in your own car. “It’s best to move belongings such as your jewelry—or anything else that would leave you emotionally crushed if something happened to it—yourself,” says Kristie Pempek, the interstate freight manager for WDI Company of Oregon Inc.
[7. FOR FRAGILE ITEMS, “OVERPACKING” SHOULD BE YOUR MANTRA.]
When it comes to protecting fragile items, more—boxes, BubbleWrap,® foam peanuts—is better, says Rob Herman, the owner of the Hillsboro, Ore.-based Craters & Freighters, a national company that specializes in packing and moving high-end, fragile and unusual items worldwide.
Herman and his crew have built custom wooden crates, and wrapped, packed and shipped lots of unusual items including planes, custom motorcycles, expensive paintings and sculptures, Abraham Lincoln’s rocking chair (it was part of a traveling national exhibit), and even a taxidermied adult grizzly bear. “Use foam liners, double boxes and BubbleWrap® with large air pockets; the small bubbles don’t protect as well,” he says.
[8. HIRE A SPECIALTY MOVER TO TRANSPORT YOUR HANDFUL OF LARGE HEIRLOOMS.]
Don’t think all of your worldly possessions have to be on the same moving truck. “We do a lot of small, one- or two-piece moves, where the homeowner may have a piece of artwork, an antique or a grand piano that needs specialized moving,” says Herman.
[9. FOR DIY PACKERS, DON’T OVERLOAD YOUR BOXES.]
Don’t cram 75 books into one large box just because they’ll fit. If a box is too heavy, it will split out the bottom or wreak havoc on your movers’ backs. Also, make sure your boxes are only filled to the point that they can be sealed shut. It’s difficult to stack boxes in a moving van if the cartons have jagged, open tops.
[10. IF A QUICK MOVE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR BOTTOM LINE, HAVE PROFESSIONAL MOVERS PACK UP YOUR HOUSEHOLD.]
If time is of the essence, and you can spare the extra cash, use professionals to pack for you. “When people pack their own stuff, they tend to look through
everything really closely,” says Priestley. “Every item brings back a memory—and all of that takes up time. When you have a professional pack up your belongings, he or she doesn’t have a sentimental attachment to your things. We can get things packed up more quickly.”
[11. START PACKING EARLY FOR A LESS STRESSFUL MOVE.]
How to ensure that you’ll be among the packed-up-and-doing-yoga-when-the-movers-show-up crowd rather than a Lucy Ricardo-type trying to sneak laundry baskets heaped with unpacked clothes onto the moving van? Don’t wait to start packing until the night (or week!) before your movers are due. You need a tactical approach.
Several weeks before the Big Day—the AMSA recomends four to six weeks—develop a master list of to-do tasks and then make smaller, daily lists. As you pack up each room, the association suggests you write your name in large letters on the side and top of each box (the belongings of several families are often used to fill a large truck on interstate moves). Adding the name of the room that the box will end up in at your new home also helps movers. Whether you use a color-code-by-room approach or you label each box with a detailed list of contents, use an inventory system that works for you.
[12. TO SAVE MONEY, IF YOU’RE MOVING LOCALLY, SCHLEPP MORE OF YOUR SMALL BELONGINGS.]
For a local move, you pay by the hour, so if you want to save money, consider moving smaller items yourself and save the bigger, heavier items for the professionals. “We’re happy to carry out that vacuum cleaner or lamp for $117 an hour, but is that really how you want to spend your moving budget?” asks Priestley.
[13. TAKE PRECAUTIONS TO INCREASE THE ODDS THAT YOUR FURNITURE WILL ARRIVE UNDAMAGED.]
Wrap your upholstered furniture, especially pieces with light-colored or silk fabric, in plastic or blown stretch film, then place and secure blankets over that, says Pempek. A professional mover generally uses padded blankets, but they’re frequently dusty, so use the plastic wrap method as an extra layer of protection. She also advises wrapping chair and sofa legs with foam padding to protect them against nicks and scrapes.
[14. DON’T TRY TO GET AN OVER-THE-PHONE BID.]
“People call us all the time for an estimate to move their household,” says Priestley. “They say, ‘I have an average, three-bedroom house.’ But there’s no such thing; every household is different.” The AMSA suggests that you get bids in writing from three different movers who have done a walk-through of your home, and that you spend time comparing each company’s services and prices. It warns to be wary of “rogue movers” who promise an accurate over-the-phone bid; a low estimate often leads to additional charges on moving day.
[15. DISCLOSE ALL OF THE FURNISHINGS YOU WILL BE TAKING WITH YOU.]
Thinking about keeping that hefty partners’ desk hidden until the moving company’s rep has done his or her on-site visit so that you can get it moved for free? “People try that all the time,” says Pempek, with a laugh. “But it’s not to your advantage to try and hide things. For a local move, we charge by the hour. And with a long-distance move, we charge by the total weight of what we move.” So save your devious gene for accidentally donating your spouse’s 1970s wardrobe to charity.
[16. PACK A SUITCASE WITH ESSENTIALS AND TRANSPORT IT YOURSELF ON MOVING DAY.]
“One of the reasons moving is so stressful is that your daily routine and everything else is in complete disarray,” says Pempek. “You don’t know where your hairbrush is, much less your underwear.” Pack a suitcase with a few days of necessities—medications, a few changes of clothes, toiletries—which will help reduce your stress as you begin moving and unpacking, and take it with you. The typical homeowner sells his or her home every five to seven years, so you’ve got a few years to rest up before your next adventure in moving begins.