cardboard boxes

How to Plan a Move, Part 2: Think Ahead and Keep Yourself Organized

Welcome to Part 2 of my How to Plan a Move series!

To follow up on my Universal Truths of Moving post, I developed a set of tips to help you manage a major, messy, complicated, awesome move:

  • Prioritize
  • Budget
  • Think ahead
  • Keep yourself organized

I dive deep into the first two tips in Part 1 of this series, but now we’re back with more ideas for two equally critical components of a major move: thinking ahead and keeping yourself organized.

Two dear friends – Ashley and Coral – who’ve undergone ridiculously awesome life upheavals are here again to share their insight.

Think ahead

Once you’ve got an idea of what you want to spend and what you want to take with you, think about your options for getting yourself, your stuff, and your life situated.

Getting your stuff there

I mentioned the storage container, which works great for me, but there are other options:

  • Moving service: Potentially expensive but someone else packs and ships your stuff, then unpacks it at your destination. You may need to account for an extended amount of time between when you arrive and your stuff arrives.
  • Shipping container: You’re on the hook for packing and unpacking, which sucks, but this is a significantly more affordable way to move a lot of things than using a moving service.
  • Physically shipping: Also potentially expensive, but if you have boxes of items that you’d like to hang on to, could be a good option. Media mail shipping is a good option if you have lots of boxes of books, although I haven’t done this.
  • Selling everything and traveling light. The cheapest way to move, of course. Plan on the time it takes to sell your items/flakey people who respond to your Craigslist ads but never show up to pickup the stuff you’re trying to sell. (You may not be able to get the money you’re expecting for your stuff.) As mentioned, there will be a period of time after you reach your destination when you don’t have stuff, and unless you have accommodations that make it so you don’t have to worry about this (i.e. furnished intern housing), you’ll need to start purchasing the stuff to furnish your life.

Getting yourself there

Consider transportation. What are your options? What do you want to do? What will you have to do? I’ve driven in all of my kooky moves, but both Ashley and Coral have had to fly.

  • Flying: The option for both Coral and Ashley, both having relocated to islands in the Pacific. If I didn’t have a car, I’d have to fly.
  • Driving: First move: Drove 2,500 miles by myself. At age 18. I was a badass. Second move: Road tripped with my SO and did all the cool road trip stuff (Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, etc.) and got into a huge fight while driving through Chicago at rush hour. Third move: Will be road-tripping with my mom. This will be thoroughly documented on social media, but don’t tell her that (JK, she’s reading this).
  • Other (train, etc.): Be aware of the costs and time required for other means of transportation, as well as the drawbacks.

Also consider what you’ll be carrying with you, including your luggage: There will probably be a few garbage bags full of stuff crammed into my car, but if you’re flying a long distance with multiple stops, plan to upgrade. Ashley says: “If the only way to get to your new home is to go by plane I recommend *trying* to travel as lightly as possible and pay that little bit extra in order to get that nicer suitcase from Target.” Having your wheels fall off your luggage at the airport is probably not the way you want to start the journey toward your new life in the new place.

Getting yourself situated at your destination

Once you’re there, you may or may not be done with the transition. Coral says: “It takes so much effort for me to learn about a place that I have never been to: so many questions are hard to answer without having been there first to feel out the atmosphere and accommodations. Something as simple as ‘Is this area easy and nice to walk around (both for daily commuting and for recreational walks)?’ can be answered after walking around the neighborhood once, but is much harder to answer from a distance. I’m very affected by my surroundings, so I like to see a place before signing a lease. We were moving to another country and didn’t know the layout of the city, so we rented from Airbnb for the first 40 days while we settled into jobs, the culture, and the city districts.”

My SO has already moved to the place where I’m moving and is currently in the process of unpacking our stuff, scoping out a bunch of cool stuff to do (i.e. bars), and relaying this information to me. Last move, however, we picked out an apartment online. Stressful.

  • Where will you be staying? Will you have a place lined up?
  • If you’ll be flying, what are you going to do about ground transportation or short (or long-term) transportation?
  • What essentials will you need to purchase immediately? What can be put off?
  • Where will you go to acquire your essentials? Where can you find furnishings that will meet your needs?
  • Who do you know at this destination? Who do you want to know? How can you get to know these people

Ask for help

Be sure to tell everyone you know that you’re moving (in your own style, of course: social media announcement, emails, whatever) and ask for help. Do any of your contacts know of people in the place where you’re moving that could introduce you? Does anyone have space for you to store stuff? Does anyone want to buy your stuff? Does anyone have leads on the job market in that area? Going it alone is not in your best interest. People are going to want to help – let them!

Keep yourself organized

There may be a surprising amount of emailing and phone calls in any aspect of moving as you sell stuff, donate stuff, coordinate with a moving service, etc. Figure out a system. I use spreadsheets to keep track of expenses and to-do lists, Google Calendar/tasks to remind me of dates and those to-do’s, folders in your email, a physical notebook to take notes during phone conversations.

Keeping an eye on your finances and spending, however it is you do that, is important throughout the whole process. As the stress and obligations pile up, your budget may be forgotten.

When it comes to actual stuff, figure out a way to label and track your stuff. I’ve personally never had a chance to create a shipping master list and organized box numbers whenever I’ve moved, but I’d like to at some point.

What do you think? Anything I missed that you want to add? Let me know in the comments or @GailMarieCole.

P.S. Ashley blogs about life in Hawaii here!

P.P.S. Check out part 1 of my How to Plan a Move series here.

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