house-moving-illustrationLast month my family and I did our first ever house moving with the help of professional mover company. It was a really tough work and many things did not go quite as we expected. Starting from the lack of preparation to the underestimation on the time needed to unpack. Based on real experience that’s still fresh in my mind, I write these tips hoping it would help some of you.

1. Preparation: NEVER underestimate it

It goes without saying that preparation is important. However, even after reading guides and forums about how important it is, I still ended up underestimating it. With professional help, you can choose whether you want to hire professional packer (rather expensive), or you may choose to do the packing yourself before the moving day. We choose not to hire anyone for this and did it ourselves, started 2 weeks from the moving day. Think 2 weeks are enough? The answer is: not always. It depends on how many hours are spent every day to actually do the packing. It depends on the planning of packing process itself. It depends on our other activities within the packing weeks. A lot of things can slow things down. And I literally mean a lot of things.

2. What goes into which boxes?

The intuitive choice of packing is to pack items of the same category into a box, then putting a label to it. This approach is not entirely wrong, but it also has a number of issues. First, some of the items in a category will be things we still need to use in the old house, so we will have the tendency to leave the packing of such categories up to the last days (or in extreme cases, until the night before the moving day). Second, putting items that we use every day and items that we use once a year in the same box just because they technically belong to the same category is going to make the unpacking process a lot more difficult later on. Three, prepare boxes and/or bags containing everything you will need to use in the new house in the first 2 days. Most people wouldn’t finish unpacking the whole thing in the first 2 days yet everyone would definitely need clean sets of clothings, blankets (if moving in winter, I did), cleaning tools etc. Fourth, also prepare boxes containing everything you will need from day 3 to the end of second week in the new house. Two weeks is a reasonable time for most important things to be unpacked from the boxes and you want to make sure all frequently used items are out, not mixed somewhere along with stuff we use once a year, or old clothing we always delayed from donating.

3. Spend few nights in other place

If your old house is not big enough to contain all the moving boxes while still being livable, you need to seriously considering a few nights stay in friend or relative’s house, or in a hotel. Not having to think how we are going to sleep at night will allow better planning, and more important items being packed earlier.

4. The amount of pieces to move matters

Small items go into boxes. Large items such as furniture are being moved directly. The tricky part is usually odd-shaped items that do not really make sense to be put into boxes. Some people end up not putting these items into any container. This could lead to significantly higher moving cost if our movers are paid based on time because they will carry those things one by one from their truck, and that’s going to take a lot of time. Solution? Basically avoid having anything that’s not furniture and not in boxes as far as we possibly can by the moving day. We can always choose to move those items ourselves before or after the moving date, considering the distance between old and new houses is not too far and we have access to both places.

5. Mark your boxes clearly

Boxes need to be marked clearly for different purposes. First, of course we need to write something to remind us the content of each box when we do unpacking. Second, we need to mark the boxes based on which rooms in the new house it should go to. Make sure the marking is clear and visible because the movers will work fast and any difficulty will slow them down, meaning more cost to us. For example, I marked my boxes with colored stickers, apparently red stickers appeared as orange inside the truck with limited light, so color-coding boxes was proven to be not-so-good idea. Lastly, talk to your movers about how they expect us to mark fragile boxes. Where we should put the fragile sticker is important. Some movers will ignore any fragile stickers and will read our content description instead and decide whether they should treat a box carefully or not.

6. Secure the parking area for the moving truck

The night before the moving day, put a cone or something in front of your old house to prevent other cars from parking there. We need to make sure the parking slot right in front of our house is available, Having the truck parked somewhere else will hit the total number of hours significantly, resulting in scary cost for us. Make sure the length of the protected parking slot is enough for the truck. Don’t forget that a truck needs to open its back and set up a reliable and easy access to our stuff, that’s going to add around 3-4 metres. The same preparation needs to be done in front of the new house too.

7. Where to put boxes in new house?

Obviously furniture and big appliances should be handled by the professional mover directly to the designated room or location. But what about boxes? Do they really need to be distributed into our rooms by professional movers? Learning from my experience: maybe not. If your new house has a garage and you can somehow get a temporary place for your car for few days, or you have other possible drop-off spot in the new house large enough to put all the boxes, you can consider to put all the boxes into one location. That would save the moving hours significantly. Of course, if some boxes are too heave we can always make exceptions.

8. Plan the furniture placements before moving day

You need to spend good amount of time to properly plan which furniture goes into which rooms and in which locations to make sure everything goes smooth in moving day. Some people get tempted with the idea of getting rid of old furniture and get new ones for the new house. My advice: unless money is not a problem for you, don’t. Getting good furniture that fits what we want takes time. Waiting for promo time takes extra patience. Being in a new house with some old furniture already discarded is not going to help with the time needed to hunt, choose and wait for the new ones. As a result, there will be significant block of time you might need to have to live in new house without some important furniture. I did my mistake with my TV unit. Got rid of the old one, and had to watch TV on the floor for almost a month before I got my new one. Basically: don’t mix changing furniture with moving house. Most people can do one at a time nicely, not both.

9. Unpack from the most frequently used items

This is a logical follow up step from point #2 above. Unless somehow you have enough help to complete unpacking within 2 days, you need to be realistic about which boxes to open in the first few days. Basically, house is our base in life. So it’s usually a good idea to get it up and running as soon as we can after moving in.

10. Get help, if you can

Let the professional movers handling the difficult things like moving furniture and large appliances. Carrying light boxes to different rooms do not have to be done by professionals. Having friends or relatives to help will speed up the process and will save us some money. Treating them to a nice dinner afterwards is not a bad thing either. Be aware that having too many people as extra help might complicate things instead though.


Better planning will bring better execution and (hopefully) better result. Drop me a comment if some of these tips are useful for you.