I’ve done a lot of big moves. Cross the world big. Four different shipments big (suitcases, unaccompanied air baggage, household effects aka sea freight, and storage). Keeping everything organized and not going crazy moving day (or realistically days) IS possible, especially with these tips.
- Get rid of the pets and kids. You do not want them in the house on moving day (or days) if at all possible. Send them to Gramma’s. Arrange playdates. Whatever is necessary. When we left India, I didn’t have family around, but our nanny kept our daughter out of the house at playdates as much of the day as possible. I moved everything out of one bedroom that was being moved (luckily furniture stayed with the house) and put our cat in there. You don’t want a cat to get into a moving box. You don’t want a young kid getting in the way. You don’t need meltdowns about which toys are going which shipment
- Ziplocs. Ziplocs. Ziplocs. Seriously, go buy boxes of gallon and quart sized bags at a minimum and maybe snack sized ones too. Prior to movers arriving, stick any liquids you are shipping into the bags. I tape over the lids first too. Gather small things and put into bags–puzzle pieces, art supplies, small bathroom items, kitchen utensils, everything. If there is more than one piece and it fits into a bag, it goes into one. On moving day, carry Ziplocs and a Sharpie around and anytime a mover takes screws or small pieces from an item when disassembling things, put them in a Ziploc, label it, and then tape it back to the piece.
- Detailed Labels. If you have good movers, request at the beginning that they label boxes well. Rather than just writing “books” on a box, ask them to write something more specific like “books, novels, adult” or “photo books and Arabic textbooks.” I also like them to write what room it came from so I have an idea on the other end where to have those movers place it. “Bookshelf” becomes “tan bookshelf from dining room.” Depending on language barriers, you may have to run around the write labels yourself. When we left India, I had to do all the labels and I requested via the foreman that no one tape a box closed until I had written the label. This most recent pack out the movers handled the labels beautifully themselves. Why label? Three reasons–one, it makes placement in the new house easier so you know whether the books go to the kid’s room, the office, or the living room. And two–if a box or crate gets lost or damaged, you’ll have a detailed inventory that tells you exactly what was in there so you can put in an insurance claim easier. And three-if you are sending boxes to storage you will know specifically which boxes to request later on if you need something and don’t have to guess if box 12-kitchen or box 13-kitchen is the box you need.
- Bring in the help–You’ll want at least two adults in the house. If you’ve shipped the kids off to friends or family and both you and your spouse are home, great. You’ve got your two! If your spouse is at training, like mine was for the most recent packout, or if one of you is dealing with the kids, then you’ll want to enlist help. Your helper can write inventory, add detailed labels, run errands (HELLO Starbucks!), pick up lunch, and in general help keep an eye on everything. If you’re lucky, like we were this move, you and your helper will both be a little bored and can chat and keep each other company. If your movers are not as skilled, then you might both be run ragged trying to keep fine dishes out of the box with massive coffee maker!
- Stage by Room–whenever possible, make whole rooms going one method of shipment. Most of my daughter’s furniture was going to storage (our new housing had a bed and dresser for her) while most of my son’s was coming by boat (they don’t provide cribs or changing tables). So I moved his dresser into her room for storage and her toy chest and shelving into his room for the boat. I also shifted toys to his room. That way on day of, I could tell movers (and hang up signs) that indicated her whole room went storage and his whole room went by boat. We also did that for the guest room and office–everything in the guest room went to storage and everything in the office went by boat. The exception being the sofa in the office which was clearly marked as storage. Rooms I couldn’t completely make one way or the other I at least divided down the middle into sides.
- Get the luggage out of the house–anything you are personally taking on the plane (aka checked and carryon luggage) and anything that is not moving or being sent to storage needs to get out of the house or locked into a room. We loaded our van with luggage before the movers showed up. In the laundry room we put some things that were staying with the house, closed the door and wrote a big NO sign for the door. In the pantry we stuck purses and snacks and labeled it with a NO as well. Our movers were great and all read English well, so I trusted that level of hiding. In India, language was more of a barrier and there were 10+ movers, so I literally locked a room to make sure nothing was taken from that room. You do NOT want to get to the end of packing and realize someone packed your purse with the passports!