PREPARATION

It's moving day. Or hopefully, not quite yet. There's plenty of planning and preparations to take care of before the moving van pulls up at the edge of your driveway and your boxes are whisked away to your new address.

This chapter covers the ground work you’ll want to sort out before moving. You’ll learn how to set up mail forwarding, activate and shut off your utilities, and keep track of all those other little things you need to handle before your move.

Don't think of these initial stages before as extra work on your plate. Think of them instead as a roadmap pointing you towards a successful and stress-free move. After all, nobody likes rushing around at the last minute, wondering if there's any boxes left for the dishes or if there will be hot water for a shower at your new place.

mail icon

Set Up Mail Forwarding

Mail forwarding is a service whereby your mail is redirected from one address to another. Think of it as pre-emptively sending your mail forward to your next address, without you having to lift a finger once its setup.

Most post offices and mail service providers offer this kind of service. Setting it up is often as simple as a phone call or filling out an online form.

How to set up your mail forwarding

To get started, make sure you have your new address on hand or a PO Box where you'll want your mail forwarded. Be sure to also include a piece of identification in case they ask for one and a credit card to cover any fees.

Next, call your postal service provider or visit their website and set the date you want the forwarding to begin.


USPS (United States)

Website: USPS
Telephone number: 1-800-275-8777 (1-800-ASK-USPS)


Canada Post (Canada)

Website: Canada Post
Telephone number: 1-866-607-6301
Outside of Canada: 416-979-3033

All done! They’ll handle it from here.

Note: most post offices and mail services charge a small fee for mail forwarding. Typically, the fee covers any mail or packages delivered during a time period (one or more weeks or months) rather than being charged per envelope or package redirected.

mail icon

Change Over Utilities and Contact Service Providers

Changing over your utilities is all about making sure that you have electricity, hot water, gas and any other service that you use at your new location, and that the utilities at your current address stopped being charged to you once you move.

Most of the time, when making a change in services, you will need to contact your utilities providers by phone or through their website. The same goes for contacting government agencies for state issued permits and documents such as your driver’s license and banking branch (if applicable).

Note: Most states and Canadian provinces have a single provider handling utilities in your area. If you are not sure about your utilities provider, you can usually find them by Google. Try searching for “moving utilities in” followed by your state or province name. For example, if you are moving in Nevada, you’ll want to try “moving utilities in Nevada”. The first search result is NV Energy’s form to change over your utilities.

mail icon

Other Services

Phone plans (Includes both your cell phone and landline phone if you have one.)
Cable Television
Internet Service Provider (ISP)

Note: Landline phone, television and internet are often bundled together through the same provider.

Pro Tip: Now might be a good time to consider cutting the metaphorical cable cord and switching to wirelessly streaming your TV and movies, which could save $100’s per month on your bill.

Banking

Contact your bank by phone or in person to update your address and to change your branch if needed.


Voter Registration

For anywhere in the USA, head to https://www.usa.gov/voter-registration to ensure that your voter registration information stays up to date.

For Canadians, voter information is typically updated by other means, but you can verify that your information is correct by heading to: https://ereg.elections.ca/CWelcome.aspx?lang=e


Driver’s License

For anywhere in the USA, head to https://www.dmv.org/ and select the address change option on the home page.

For Canadian addresses, lookup and visit the website of the provincial services provider. Usually you can find them on Google by search for “province name + utilities.”

mail icon

Information on Hand

When calling, have this information at the ready:

  • Have your account number and / or other billing information at the ready. That way, you won't have to go looking for old bills or emails when they ask for your customer information.
  • Have your mail forwarding address on hand. If you collect paper bills in the mail, you won't want to lose track of those. (P.S. now could be a good time to opt-in for electronic billing sent to your email if your service provider offers it.)
  • Determine the shut-off date at your current address and the activation date at your new address. Typically, this will be the same day if you are moving only a short distance away. However, if you are moving across country you might need a day or two for transit.
Note: Be sure to call each service provider at least 3 weeks before the date of your move. Sometimes it takes utility companies a few days to process the information before they make the change. The last thing you want is to move into a new house without any power!

mail icon

Making A List Of Your Belongings

After you’ve sorted out all your phone calls and services forwarding, it’s time to turn your attention inside your home and your belongings. Making lists of your belongings might seem tedious at first, but there’s a few reasons why doing so will help you down the line.

  • First, keeping track of your belongings will help ensure that nothing goes missing during the move - or if something does, that you’ll notice right away and not weeks later.
  • Second, you’ll find plenty of household items that you forgot you had, and others that went missing (so that’s where those socks went!).
  • Third, your lists will be helpful later on when packing. You’ll have a better idea of which items to pack along with others, and not forget anything along the way.
  • Fourth, if you decide to hire a moving company, having the list on hand will help the company generate an accurate quote.
mail icon

Making your Lists

Your list don’t have to be comprehensive and overy detailed - we’re making these to help you save time and effort, after all.

  1. Important documents: Make a note of all your identification (passports, etc.) and keep them together and in a safe place. While you’re doing this, also make a quick list for all your valuables and most precious possessions that you definitely don’t want to leave behind (jewellery, antiques, collectibles, etc.).
  2. Large items: Make a list of all your big furniture (tables, sofas, armoires, desks, chairs, beds, etc.). This will come in handy when you are hiring movers as companies often need an estimate of how many items you will be bringing along and how much work is required to move them.
  3. Note: you might want to bring a tape measure with you while making your list of larger objects.

  4. Room by Room: Hit your kitchen, living room, bedroom, closets, etc. and make a list of the main items you have in each, along with more general lists of all your accessories and odds and ends. These can be pretty general (for instance, you don’t need to count every fork and knife, just writes “utensil” on your list).
  5. Unwanted items: Make a preliminary check of old clothing, electronics, furniture and other household items you might not want to bring with you for the move. Rather than leave them behind or tossing them in the trash, consider having a garage sale - or better yet, look up local organizations in need of donations (most of them will gladly take everything off your hands and save you the hassle of getting rid of them one-by-one).

  6. Note: this is a good time to start some basic sorting, such as making sure things are where they need to be - but don't get carried away with the sorting right now. There will be plenty of time for that in a week or two once you start packing!

mail icon

Taking Measurements

If you haven't already done so, now's the time to know the measurements of your largest items. Get out that tape measure and size up your big furniture. Check the measurements on your bed, sofa, armoires, desks, tables and chair space.

At your new address, make sure you have the measurements of not just the rooms but also the door frames. You don't want to discover that your bed won’t fit in the corner you wanted anymore than getting a big sofa stuck in a tiny door or in a narrow staircase on the day of the move.

mail icon

Acquire Packing Supplies

Aim to acquire your initial packing supplies at least a month before your move. You might want to anticipate heading out at least once more to pick up additional boxes along the way (sometimes we use up our boxes faster than we expected). Consider packing inessential items early on and taking stock on your supplies along the way to see if you risk running out.

Essential Supplies for your Move:


Cardboard boxes

Head to your local grocer, hardware stores or outlet and ask if they have any leftover delivery boxes. Boxes will vary in size and quality, but you can typically walk away with a few from any given location.

Pro Tip: If you’re moving on your own, banana boxes from your local grocer are cheap and typically sturdy but often need an additional piece of cardboard to cover gaps in the box.

Supply stores such as Staples and Home Depot sell packages of moving boxes that are sturdy and easy to assemble.

Pro Tip: After the move is over, you can store any leftover boxes someplace safe and dry and keep them for a future move. Or else, instead of recycling them, pay it forward by donating them to a friend or acquaintance who might be moving soon.


Tape

There are many different types of tape, two of which are very useful when it comes to moving:

  • Packing tape is the wide, clear plastic tape that usually comes in rolls with a rolling tool. This type of tape will be your best friend when it comes to closing up boxes. Be sure to pick up a few extra rolls of the tape, as most moves usually require a few rolls.
  • Masking tape is the thinner, beige coloured tape that comes in rolls without any tools required. It’s easy to tear and doesn’t usually leave markings after it’s been removed. This type of tape is great for keeping posters and blankets rolled up, or for taping sheets around fragile objects such as mirrors and lamps.

Box cutter

If you haven’t already added one to your toolbox, a box cutter with a retractable blade will come in handy for cutting tape and slicing through cardboard - even more so after you’ve moved and need to get your boxes open again.


Labels + Marker

After you’ve got your boxes packed and sealed, it’s a good idea to add a label identifying it for later. Aim to pick up a pack or two of adhesive labels along with a thick marker for writing.


Packing Paper

Useful for keeping your valuables and breakables safe. Wrap your plates and glasses, and stick alongside your items so they don’t move around too much in the boxes. If you can’t get your hands on packing paper, newspaper does the trick too!


Paper Towels

Paper towels are great for cleaning up messes, as well as protecting some of your valuables - notably your glassware when it comes time for packing.

mail icon

Start Using Up Your Leftovers

We all have plenty of things kicking around in our cupboards and pantries we can use up before me move and save precious space when we start packing.

Consider using up that half package of pasta, those last few drops of dish soap and laundry detergent, cat litter and other odds and ends that could easily be picked up after the move. Now’s also a good time to start getting creative in the kitchen, using up canned goods and other items purchased in bulk but which we never got around to using (hello, bean salads).

You’ll also want to start being more and more conservative with your groceries as the moving date approaches. Only buy what you will cook that week, and don’t bother stocking up until after the move. If something is on sale now, there’s a good chance it will be on sale again next month.

mail icon

Scheduling Logistics

Here comes the most important part of our preparations: finding or hiring help for your move. Be sure to call at least a month before your move date - especially if you are moving during the peak seasons or on a holiday.

As a general note, moving season generally begins around March and ramps up into the summer, tapering off again during the fall. Winter move dates are usually the least busy.

mail icon

Busy Days to consider

Not all moving days are equal. Some are absolute madness. Double check your calendar to make sure your moving day doesn’t conflict with other busy days in your area. A few dates to consider:

  • Any civic or federal holiday celebrated in your state or province (such as July 4th, Christmas, etc.)
  • July 1st is the traditional moving day for the Canadian Province of Quebec, so expect it to be busy if you are moving to an address here.
  • September 1st is a busy day in most college and university towns as students are moving in to begin their new semester.
mail icon

Getting Help for your Move

No one should be stuck moving alone - unless they’re living out of a suitcase. Packing up one house and getting all your belongings to the next can be trying unless you’ve got helping hands and a way of transporting all your stuff to its destination.


Option A: Hiring A Moving Company

Hiring a moving company to handle the move is by far the most stress-free approach. Below are the steps you should take to ensure you hire a reputable mover for the job:

Get recommendations. From friends, family, coworkers, and real estate agents. If you don’t have anyone to give you recommendations, you can start by running a Google or Yelp search for “movers near me” or “movers in [city name]”.

After you’ve gathered a few options, you can screen the companies at sites like MovingScam and Rip Off Report to make sure the company is reputable.

Request quotes. If it’s a small move, most experienced moving companies will be able to give you an accurate estimate based on the size of your current home and the address where you’re moving. That being said, to make the quote even more accurate you’ll want to provide a list of items and/or photos.

For larger jobs you’ll want to request an in-home estimate. With an in-home estimate, it is crucial that you show the estimator EVERYTHING you want moved, from stuff in the closets and bedrooms, to the backyard, and anything in between.

If your moving day comes along and you’ve left anything of significance out, the foreman can deem the job bigger than expected and “challenge” the original estimate (before everything is on the truck). While a company cannot technically force you to pay more to finish the job, they do not have to move your stuff for the original price, leaving you with few options.

Also, make sure the estimator is aware of any conditions at your new place that could complicate the move, such as numerous flights of stairs, narrow stairwells, elevator availability, parking distance and so forth.

While the estimator is at your home, you’ll also want to take the time to vet the business. By the time the estimator leaves, not only should you have your quote, but you should also have the following information (if you don’t already):

  • The company’s full name and any other names under which it does business.
  • The company’s headquarters contact information.
  • The name and contact information of your point of contact (the person you can call during the move for questions).
  • USDOT (U.S. Department of Transportation) and MC (motor carrier) license numbers.
  • If you’re moving across states consider the U.S. Department of Transportation booklet called “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.” Federal law requires any interstate mover to provide you with this guide, which is the official rule book of the interstate moving industry. (You can download a copy at FMCSA.)
  • If you’re moving in-state, know that movers are regulated by the state’s department of transportation or its public utilities or commerce commission. Some states publish their own moving-guide pamphlets.

Review the quotes and compare the bids

Once you’ve received all the quotes, review them closely to make sure you understand everything that’s included. Some moving companies offer different types of services (i.e. regular vs. full service), so make sure you’re clear on what you’ll be receiving for each price point. And don’t hesitate to reach back out to your point of contact at each company with any questions you might have.

Pro Tip: If a bid comes in significant lower than others, you should be a little wary. Don’t disregard it but make sure you investigate further. Go back over the quote and double-check that it accurately accounts for the details of your move, if the moving company is offering a promotion, etc.

Do one last quick vet of the winner

Once you’ve narrowed it down even further, do one last vet of the business to make sure they have the proper licenses and insurance.

Note: The dirty little secret in the moving industry is that, while required, insurance hardly ever covers 100% of any damage to your belongings during a move, especially if the moving company didn’t pack everything themselves. To help protect you, some moving companies will offer their own packages with guarantees to fully cover any damage to your belongings or home during the move, which you should definitely consider purchasing.

To do this, go to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration site and enter the company’s USDOT number (or name or MC number) and click on “Search”. If you have an accurate DOT number, you’ll be shown a screen with lots of information on the company.

Here’s what to look for:

  • The company’s name, address, and phone numbers match the ones they gave you.
  • The “Out of Service” field in the upper left of the form say “No”.
  • The fields labeled “Power Units” and “Drivers” tell you how many trucks and drivers the company has. A company that claims to do 100 moves a month but has only two trucks deserves skeptical treatment.
  • Under “Operation Classification,” there should be an X next to “Auth. for Hire.”
  • Under “Carrier Operation,” if you are moving out of state, there should be an X next to “Interstate.”
  • Under “Cargo Carried,” there should be an X next to “Household Goods.”
  • Farther down, in the “Inspections/Crashes” section, you should be concerned if the company’s average is much higher than the national average shown. In the “Safety Rating” section, if there has been a review, the results should be “Satisfactory.”
  • At the bottom of the page, click on the “FMCSA Licensing & Insurance site” link. On the next page, click on either the “HTML” or the “Report” button under “View Details” to get to the “Motor Carrier Details” page. Under the column “Authority Type,” there are three listings: “Common,” “Contract,” and “Broker.” The “Authority Status” column to the right tells you if the company’s authority is active. At least “Common” should be listed as active, with “No” under “Application Pending.”
  • In the next table down, there should be a “Yes” under “Household Goods.”
  • The bottom table contains insurance information. A moving company is required to have both bodily-injury and property-damage (BIPD) insurance ($750,000 minimum) and cargo insurance filed. Under the heading “Insurance on File,” BIPD should be at least $750,000, and “Cargo” should say “Yes.”
  • You can also call the FMCSA to get information on the status of a company’s licensing (202-366-9805) and insurance (202-385-2423).
Contact the winner.

If you’ve gotten this far, you should feel extremely confident in your choice of mover! Contact your winner, confirm the dates and details of the move, and put down a deposit (if they’ve asked for one). After this, you’re all set logistics-wise!


Option B: Renting A Moving Truck

Renting a moving van and handling the move on your own or with friends saves you money, but makes up for it in terms of your workload. In case you’re short on helping hands, you might be able to hire a pair of movers for the day to help you out, while you handle the truck and major logistics.

When browsing for van rentals, don’t reserve the first offer you see! It’s a good idea to compare prices, as different companies might have different rates for the same day, along with other costs to consider.

Don’t just check the initial rental cost. Consider the mileage allowance as well. Some companies charge a flat-rate for the day, while other companies require very little for the initial cost, but charge for the total mileage driven.

If you’re moving locally, consider paying for mileage, while if your move is out of town, see if you can find a company with a flat fee for unlimited miles on offer.

Check to see what accessories come with the rental. Some companies loan you a dolly (for lifting heavy items) and moving blankets (for protecting your valuables) along with the van, while others charge separately for them.

If you have plenty of large items, consider loaning a dolly - especially if you need to go up and down stairs with the items!


Option C: Getting Help From Your Friends & Family

Friends never let friends move alone, so start calling in those old IOUs. There's no shame in reminding your friends and how you helped them move the other year. You’re gonna need all the extra help you can get when it comes to lifting and driving your belongings to the new place.

Friends with vans and pickup trucks will save you plenty of trips, compared to sedans or other smaller vehicles. Though don’t say no to someone with a small car - they might not be able to move that sofa, but they will be able to ferry your friends from one destination to the next.

Letting your friends and family know you need help in advance is key to ensuring that some or most of them show up on the day of your move. Also, never turn down an offer of help. It’s always better to have too many people show up than not enough (worse case, your extra helpers can go fetch lunch, manage a moving playlist, or help unpack at the new location.)