A Moving Experience: How to Pack, Move and Keep Your Sanity

You’ve heard that Chicago has two seasons, winter and construction. But there is at least one more—conveniently timed with road construction—moving season.

More people move in the summer than any other season. You’ve got college students moving after graduation, families moving after school gets out, people who choose warm months to make the move easier and renters whose leases tend to end in the spring and summer.

If you are planning a move soon, it helps to plan ahead—and that means starting as soon as you know you are moving. That sounds like common sense, but those who haven’t moved very often may not understand what’s

Family moving home and carrying cardboard boxes outdoors

involved, whether they are new college graduates or have lived in the same house for decades.

I’ve known people who tried to rent a truck the day before the move, who had no clue how to pack or protect their best furniture, who hadn’t factored in moving a pet and who hadn’t checked the weather to learn they were moving in the rain.

Several had no idea they had to pack their things ahead of time, and another, who previously had only been moved by corporate movers, didn’t realize how much that service costs when you’re paying your own way.

For awhile we were moving every three to seven years. With each move, it was newly astonishing how much stuff we had and how long it took to pack it. For the last move, we actually ran out of time to throw things out and ended up moving things that belonged in the trash.

Following are some tips from self-storage marketplace Spare Foot, and from moving company Two Men and a Truck.

  1. If you hire a moving company, be sure to check references and organizations such as the Better Business Bureau or Angie’s List. Movers cost more than you might think, even if you do all your own packing.For our last two moves we hired movers mostly by price—as in, the cheapest ones we could find.The first company had amiable, trustworthy movers, showed up on time and didn’t break anything. However, they had a last-minute job come in for the same day of our move, so they rushed our job by stacking all my carefully marked boxes, “bedroom 1,” “kitchen,” in the garage. It took me months to find things and get everything to the right room.During the chaos of a move, you won’t always know what every mover is doing until after you’ve paid them.

    The second moving company had a great price and also showed up on time. Even though we tipped them nicely, afterwards we realized that an expensive laptop had not made the move with us.

  2. Reserve your truck or moving company well in advance. Especially during the summer it can be difficult to get the size of truck you need, and movers are busy, too. If you are moving yourself, some companies offer advice on the size of truck you will need based on the rooms of furniture you have. Don’t skimp on the packing materials, especially if you have nice furniture.
  3. As soon as you know you are moving, start getting rid of things. Have a yard sale—say yes to the scavenger companies who call asking for donations, tell your adult children the free storage years are over.
  4. Assuming you are packing your own boxes:• Buy new boxes at stores such as UPS. I used to scavenge grocery stores for boxes—however, those are not reliably clean or strong.• Pack things you don’t need every day first. Books, china, out-of-season clothes can be packed up early. To find the things you must have the night you move in, use your luggage for those items. All your other boxes will look the same, but the luggage will be distinct.• Keep like items together in boxes; don’t mix bathroom products with kitchen items.

    • Pack books in small boxes; books are heavy.

    • Use lots of bubble wrap on breakables and be sure the boxes have lids that you can tape down. Use packing tape, not masking tape or duct tape.

    • Label each box clearly with its contents and the room it should arrive in. Mark top and at least one side.

    • If you have china and crystal, invest in boxes designed to for those items.

    • Keep all your electronic paraphernalia (cords, routers, etc) together and mark them.

  5. This sounds like a lot of work—get some help!

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