Moving Like a Pro

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Moving Like a Pro

By Marilyn Pribus –

Even when you’re moving to a wonderful new abode, the mechanics of getting your belongings from the old place to the new can be confusing, even overwhelming.  Fortunately, practicalities have improved since our ancestors trundled belongings from one cave to the next.

Unless it’s a do-it-yourself move, the place to start is with moving companies. Their websites have lots of good information, detailed pointers, and brochures, Remember, however, you’ll be dealing with a local agent, so you want to be happy with that representative.

Get at least three estimates. Things to ask: Can you provide me with used moving cartons for free? Will you accept my credit card (which can yield substantial points or cash rewards) at no additional cost? Can you promise me a “door-to-door” so our goods will not be offloaded and reloaded on the way?

Transfers along the way can lead to damaged or lost items, such as only three of four matching chairs appearing at the destination. Door-to-door also means every last dresser drawer doesn’t have to be emptied into shipping boxes—to guard against theft—then have to be reloaded into the correct drawer at the other end.

Once you’ve settled on a mover, here are some prepping tasks you can take on to reduce your expenses.

Be Ruthless
Even people who think they are ruthless in sorting and discarding things often move too much. Especially if you are moving a long distance, check to see just how much you’re paying per pound. If you’re forking over, say, 50 cents a pound, do you really want to ship the bricks for your brick-and-board bookcase, the kids’ outgrown toys or those last two cans of soup?

Stockpile Packing Materials
Put out the word you are collecting bubble wrap and similar lightweight packing materials. If you have friends who often order from eBay or other online websites, ask them to save those little plastic pillows and padded envelopes.

Newspapers don’t seem heavy a few sheets at a time, but the ounces turn into pounds quickly and newsprint can stain items. Although it may mean an extra washer load or two, it’s more economical to use scavenged bubble wrap, pillows, bedding, towels and soft apparel such as sweatshirts or socks as packing material rather than simply filling a box with them.

Online sources such as Craigslist often offers free moving boxes. Grocery stores are another good source of shipping cartons although produce boxes may not be a good choice because they are often treated with insecticide or even have bugs.

Wine cartons with their internal dividers are perfect for packing dishes and other breakables. (Wrap each dish and glass individually and pack dishes on edge rather than flat.)

Pointer: Books get a special shipping rate from the U.S. Postal Service and if you have a long move, this can be a good way to save money. Those wine cartons make excellent uniform-sized containers and hold just about the right number of books to heft and ship easily.

If you are moving yourself locally, you don’t have to pack as carefully but you still need to protect your belongings. Consider transporting open drawers on your vehicle’s seats to reduce the weight of desks and dressers. Use blankets and mattress covers to protect furniture in that borrowed or rented truck.

When packing, it’s essential to label your boxes. Be specific. Instead of just “clothes” write “winter jackets, scarves and mittens” or “Claire’s sportswear and shoes.”  Be sure to clearly mark FRAGILE on containers with breakables since this will help the movers know where to load them on the truck.

Having the mover pack items can be a considerable expense, but they won’t take responsibility for damage in PBOs—boxes Packed By Owner. Many people opt to have fragile and valuable items packed by the professionals. For example, movers have special mirror boxes for artwork and for particularly fragile belongings, they might even build wooden crates.

Changing Your Address
For at least two months, keep track of things you receive in the mail and prepare to notify senders of the new address. Visit your post office to fill out a form and request a Mover’s Guide packet. There is no charge for this and first class mail is forwarded free.

You can now change your address online as well.  The Postal Service requires a $1 payment on your credit card as a security precaution for online changes. 

Moving Day
Have pets crated or off the premises.  There are completely true stories of animals—especially cats—getting packed and having to survive for days.

Be sure you have the company’s phone number, your local agent’s number, and the driver’s cell number and that they all have yours. In fact, it’s a good idea to provide several numbers to be contacted in case your phone isn’t charged when they call. You should have a timetable for the van’s arrival, but things happen—from blizzards to floods to truck trouble.

Finally, remember to have the crew on your side. It’s friendly to offer morning coffee, constant cold drinks, and a plate of donuts or cookies. Be sure workers know they are welcome to use the bathrooms. While tips are not required, they never hurt. Mention to the boss—whether the local crew chief or the incoming van driver—that you’ll be giving a “bonus” and maybe a cold six-pack at the end of the day to divide among the workers.


Marilyn Pribus and her husband moved to Charlottesville more than ten years ago and have no plans to move again. Ever.

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