The “big move.” For some, it’s an exciting change; for others, a dreaded chore. But love it or hate it, it happens. Often. Americans switch addresses an average of 11 times throughout their lives, according to Gallup – so they should be really good at it, right? Wrong.
The seasoned tenant or three-time homeowner is still human. Many of us leave preparations until the last minute. If you’ve ever spent your final hours scrubbing the dreaded gunk between the fridge and the oven in the dark because you transferred your utilities too soon, you’re not alone.
We’ve created the ultimate moving checklist for even the savviest movers. Below, you’ll find a timeline of tasks that’ll set you up for home-sweet success. From eight weeks out to two weeks after, we’ve put it all in a nice box that’s ready to go.
8 Weeks Before Your Move
6 Weeks Before Your Move
4 Weeks Before Your Move
3 Weeks Before Your Move
2 Weeks Before Your Move
1 Week Before Your Move
The Night Before Your Move
1 Week After Your Move
2 Weeks After Your Move
8 Weeks Before Your Move
56 days until your big move. At this stage, you’ll set the foundation for your big move. Consider this the planning and documenting phase.
Begin reading your housing-related documents. It’s probably been a while since you signed your lease or looked at your homeowners’ association rules. Now is the time to review all of the housing-related documents you’ve signed – or will sign – and consider how they’ll impact your upcoming move. (Below, we’ll also explain how to organize these and other papers.) Here’s a breakdown of common documents and topics to review.
- Consider lease terms and how they’ll impact your move. If you’re renting, re-read the requirements related to your home’s condition and move-out notice. Many landlords require tenants to restore walls to their original paint color and undo other minor alterations, but don’t forget somewhat uncommon or overlooked requests. These may include but are not limited to:
- Last month’s rent and deposits: Two months out is a good time to check if you’ll owe the last month’s rent, but read the terms carefully. Some landlords treat a last-month payment like a deposit, which means they keep it in an escrow account. You may not get it back until after you’ve vacated. Further, check the terms of your deposit. Is a walkthrough required? If so, you’ll need to plan around that appointment, especially if you’re relocating to another state.
- Cleaning floors: Some landlords require that carpets be cleaned with an industrial machine. (A rental or a professional service). Your handy Bissell might not do the trick. Check the requirements and save any receipts related to floor cleaning.
- Changing and/or replacing items: Look for rules related to changing all filters (from the AC to the refrigerator), light bulbs, or window coverings. Don’t assume your landlord wants your new drapery, even if it is an upgrade. These details could cost you your deposit.
- Refreshing outdoor spaces: Landlords who rent single-family homes may require you to power-wash driveways and other outdoor surfaces. Landscaping and general lawn care might need your attention as well.
- Giving notice: Most landlords and property management companies require some form of move-out notice – even if your lease is scheduled to end on a specific date. Some contracts state that failure to give notice will automatically roll your rental agreement to month-to-month status, which means you could still be on the hook for rent even if you’ve moved out. Cover your bases by emailing your notice letter as well as sending it by certified mail.
- Returning keys and passes: Figure out how many keys you were given when you moved in. Even if you were the sole tenant, you may have been given a spare key. If you’re unable to locate all keys, consult the lease to see if you’re allowed to make copies instead of paying a replacement fee. Don’t forget to review the terms for your parking pass, mailbox key, wireless sensors for gates, and any keys, access cards, or fobs for amenities like a gym or pool area.
- Consider homeowner documents and how they’ll impact your move. If you’re selling your home, you may be working with a real estate agent who can help you understand each new document (e.g., a buyer’s agreement) as well as the terms of preexisting documents (e.g., a deed). But a real estate agent won’t necessarily coach you on how some of the related terms may impact your move. Consider the following:
- Notifying HOAs: HOAs, or homeowners associations, often have rules and procedures related to selling your home. Pull out your documents and look for references to timelines (e.g., approval for prospective homebuyers or HOA-related property inspections). HOAs generally require homeowners to provide notice of their intent to sell. Parking can also be a consideration. If there’s going to be a large truck parked outside your home, you might need to get permission in advance.
- Making repairs and alterations: If there are significant repairs that are likely to be part of the sale negotiation, figure out if you’re going to handle them yourself or credit the buyer a certain amount of money to cover the cost. Projects like replacing the HVAC system or installing hardwood flooring might not fit into your moving timetable. As you’re working out the details of a purchase agreement, consider how a buyer’s requested repairs may impact your timeline. Whether it’s a DIY or professional job, undertaking repairs and quote-shopping take effort. You might be able to save some money by handling it yourself, but are the savings worth it? Weigh your options while you still have time to plan and negotiate.
- Understanding financial agreements: Review your mortgage terms inside and out. Real estate agents may be able to help, but your lender is really your best resource. Pay especially close attention to language related to the timing of a sale and potential profit or loss. In rare cases involving an unexpected move or the intent to turn your home into a rental property, the type of mortgage you have may matter. For example, Federal Housing Association (FHA) loans provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development require homeowners to live at a residence for at least one year before selling.
- Don’t forget utilities, insurance, and other contracts and agreements. Last, but definitely not least, you’ll want to review all the secondary agreements that apply to renters and homeowners alike.
- Notifying service workers: Make a list of all of your home maintenance and service providers and round up your contracts or agreements, if you have them. Lawn care, pest control, and similar services can often be canceled with a single phone call; however, in some cases, they require one month’s notice. Whether you’re discontinuing the service altogether or simply switching it to a new local address, check the service terms with your residential water delivery, house cleaning, HVAC maintenance, and other providers. Some contracts attach fees for missed appointments, so it’s good to start making calls early.
- Consulting insurance providers: If you have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, the policy generally does not automatically transfer – even if you update your address. In some cases, you may need to give notice and terminate your contract before beginning a new one; in others, you may need to find a new provider. Check for terms related to jurisdictions (e.g., within which counties or state lines), neighborhood types, and type of residence.
- Transferring utilities and other services: This last-minute transfer still requires your first-minute attention. Utility providers can vary by county and especially by state, so now is the time to understand whether you’ll need to transfer or switch providers altogether. The same is true for internet and cable providers. Many of these services have an initial deposit or loaner device, so you’ll want to determine the timeline for receiving and returning.
You’ve gathered a bunch of papers and you understand a bit more about the weeks ahead. It’s time to start a filing system for all your important documents. The following tips will also help you get organized.
- Organize your documents. Our sample documents list for moving will help you understand the types of papers you’ll need to gather if you haven’t already.
- Scan your documents. If you don’t have a scanner, a mobile scanner app will do. Scan or take pictures of your documents and file them immediately so nothing gets lost or forgotten. Consider printing additional hard copies of key documents, such as estimates. Important: Your digital files should serve primarily as reference materials. Some duplicated documents, such as a deed, are not valid unless they are a certified copy from a government agency.
- Get a portable file box for hard copies. The best place for your physical papers is a standalone file box with a handle. This makes it easy to move the box when you’re, well, moving. If your folders are stashed in a bulky filing cabinet, you won’t have on-the-go access during your final walk-through with your landlord or closing meeting with your realtor.
- Create folders within folders. In our sample documents list, you’ll see we’ve created an outline with main topics and subtopics; consider these folders and subfolders. You can recreate this structure with envelopes within each folder. Place sturdy manilla envelopes with clasp closures within each folder. Label them on the front, but don’t forget to attach tab stickers that display the envelope contents without the need to pull them all the way out.
- Use paperclips. Within folders or envelopes, group smaller papers (e.g., receipts) with paperclips. Bonus: Choose tabbed paper clips or attach a title paper to the top of each document group for quick finding and sorting.
- Enjoy the benefits of digital. Scanning your documents eight weeks ahead will keep you on schedule with the ability to recite documents and send emails with ease. From disagreements over lease terms to reassessing property value, the answer will always be at hand – and on your phone.
Plan for the weeks ahead. Not everything on this moving checklist will apply to everyone. Eight weeks out is a perfect time to tailor it to fit your needs. Some items may need more attention than others. Figure out what applies to you and map your plan of attack accordingly.
- Identify pain points. These high-stress items will mean different things to different people. Homeowners may choose to make a list of potential problem appliances that could get flagged during an inspection. Renters might make note of the financial stressor caused by overlapping leases. People often avoid this step because they believe it will bring more stress – and it will if you don’t follow each issue with a potential solution. Psychology Today’s Carrie Barron M.D. backs up the benefits you’ll get from this problem-solution strategy.
- Communicate with decision-makers. Identifying pain points and solutions is useful to an extent, but only if you follow up by communicating with the homebuyer, mortgage company, landlord, or other stakeholder. For example: If you’re short on time or money, talk to your landlord or buyer about forgoing a repair or alteration in favor of having the amount deducted from your deposit or sale proceeds. If you fail to communicate, you may learn too late that some landlords charge “convenience fees” in addition to the cost of the repair. This additional expense could add to your stress instead of lessening it.
- Create a list of contacts. Make a list of everyone related to your move, from your real estate agent to contractors. This list can go on your fridge, in your phone, or inside your file box, but it should be front-of-mind in a place where it’s easy to access. This will ensure you’re adding to it frequently, as well as using it to jog your memory regarding people to contact regarding important deadlines. Consider highlighting contacts with a color system that identifies the person’s importance or role.
- Develop a budget. Based on the action items above, you’ve likely uncovered a few expenses you’ll need to plan for. It’s important to start documenting these so you don’t get caught short. Customize our sample moving budget to figure out much your move will cost and how much you need to set aside.
Begin the Pre-Packing Phase. Smart packing involves careful planning. The following action items will reduce your workload and keep you organized:
- Unclutter your surfaces. Before you get started, complete your everyday cleaning routine to make sure everything is in its natural place. For example, areas such as kitchen islands, countertops, bookshelves, or desks can become catch-alls for papers and mess. Clear these spaces now so you can use their surfaces for organizing later.
- Organize and tag. Develop a pre-box tagging system for sizable items – such as countertop appliances, houseplants, lamps, and entertainment systems. Use colorful circle stickers to code items in ways that are meaningful to you (e.g., green tags might mean “pack right away”; red tags might mean “never pack.”).
- Discard, donate, and sell. Pre-packing is the prime time to pare down and eliminate. Start one room at a time. It’s a good idea to tackle the attic, garage, or spare room first, since they are most likely to contain things you don’t need or use often. Try to do a room every day or two. Make a staging area for your “donate” and “sell” piles.
- Schedule pickups with local charities. Many thrift stores offer free pickup of unwanted items in gently used condition.
- Hold a garage sale. Before you even think about packing, consider your excess valuables and decide if they’re fit for sale.
- Invite your friends to browse unwanted items. Host a party with a theme related to moving, such as “Out With the Old.” Set up tables with items of interest that have little-to-no monetary value, and allow friends to take what they wish.
- Shred old mail and unwanted loose documents. Reduce clutter further by shredding and/or recycling paper waste around your home.
- Create a home inventory. Making a home inventory can help bring order to the chaos of purging and packing. You can use it to catalog and prioritize items as you box up each room. It can also help you get the right amount of insurance for your belongings and file a claim if anything goes wrong. Use our sample home inventory sheet to keep track of anything that could get lost or damaged in transit. You can modify it to fit your specific needs. When you’re done, print it out and keep it with you – not packed away – along with any receipts and warranties you have.
- Obtain moving-related quotes and review contracts. It’s time to shop for service providers. We’ve created a quote comparison sheet to help you keep track of common service categories, company names, related ratings, and quotes. As you fill in your spreadsheet, make note of any seasonal discounts or promotions that may fall within your moving timeline.
- Protect yourself from scams and frauds. Before doing business with a company, check them out online. The Better Business Bureau received nearly 6,600 complaints from consumers last year. Check the BBB and reviews on consumer sites like Google or Yelp. A pattern of complaints should be a red flag. Legitimate service providers often come with a contract, as well as certifications and/or awards based on their area of expertise.
- Check credentials. Make sure any company you deal with is properly licensed, bonded, and insured. Most industries have credentialing agencies. For instance, interstate movers must be licensed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The American Moving and Storage Association issues ProMover certification to reputable firms that maintain high standards, adhere to its code of ethics, and background check their employees.
- Negotiate for a lower price. Leverage the research you’ve done to negotiate with movers, contractors, or service providers for a lower price or added benefits. The “value factors” on your quote comparison sheet can give you bargaining power.
- Confirm timelines and accountability. It’s not enough to simply schedule a service. You’ll also want to make sure the contract outlines the company’s accountability, financial or otherwise, if they do not meet deadlines. Recouping costs is about much more than customer service. Failure to meet the terms of agreements with a landlord or buyer could be costly to you. Get reassurance that each service provider has a foolproof, money-backed approach to staying on schedule.
- Understand liability. Damages to your home are one thing; damages to the body of a worker are another thing entirely. Most professional service providers have liability insurance that covers the properties they work on, as well as their workers. However, independent contractors might not be licensed, bonded, or insured. Request a company’s proof of insurance if you have any doubts, and review all contracts for any terms related to your liability is a customer.
- Read up on warranties. Similar to timelines and accountability, warranties guarantee the long-term quality of a completed job. For example, painters or repairmen may offer money-back guarantees based on a specified quality standard extended over a certain number of days, months, or years. If the paint on cabinets chips too soon or an appliance stops working 30 days after a service, you may receive compensation or free services. Warranties offer value to prospective homebuyers and even landlords, so look for warranty terms that can be transferred to another owner.
- Review cancellation policies. All sorts of unforeseen circumstances can delay or change moving dates – including a rescinded job offer, cold feet from a buyer, or damages to a new home. If you cancel moving-related services, you may be on the hook financially. Some contracts specify not only acceptable time frames for the cancellation of services, but also the amount you’ll owe if you fall outside of the terms. You may have to pay a penalty or relinquish your deposit.
6 Weeks Before Your Move
42 days until your big move. Now, you should secure the services and supplies needed for a successful move. Consult the documents you created two weeks ago, and continue to fill them in as needed. Remember the check back with this moving checklist as you go along to ensure you don’t forget anything.
- Finalize quotes and sign contracts related to moving. You’ve taken the time to review the quotes and contracts you compiled in two weeks ago; now it’s time to sign and secure those services.
- For a self-move, be sure to reserve your moving truck. Make sure you select the right size for your belongings. It’s better to err on the side of caution and get a larger truck than to find out on moving day that your items don’t fit. Most people underestimate how much stuff they have.
- Research storage options. If you’re going to be in a temporary place for a while and need to store your belongings, research storage facilities near you.
- Gather moving supplies. When you organize and plan your moving materials early, you minimize little trips to the store over time that could cause you to overspend your budget.
- Determine the moving supplies you’ll actually need. Try to estimate how many boxes you’ll need. Heavy items like books should go in small boxes. Lighter things like bedding can go in large ones. If you’re working with a professional moving company, confirm whether supplies are included in their services before you get started.
- Create a supply list. Use our sample moving-supply checklist to get started. Don’t forget tape, markers, bubble wrap, packing paper, and other materials. Make sure your supplies fit the bill and adjust your budget sheet as needed.
- Consider buying a kit. Moving kits are a convenient and cost-effective way to get all of the basics in a bundle.
- Look for donations. Ask friends and family for old or unwanted boxes. Ask local store owners for recycled boxes too. Some self-storage facilities offer free boxes. Cross these items off your list and budget.
- Get creative with protection for breakables. Plastic grocery bags, old clothes, towels, bedding, and even socks and stuffed animals – these are all free items you can use to pad your possessions. Bonus: You’ll need to pack items like stuffed animals anyway; when you forgo traditional packing materials, your everyday household items can “hitch a ride.” You may even reduce the number of boxes you use overall.
4 Weeks Before Your Move
28 days until your big move. It’s time to give notice and transfer important documents. You’ll also begin the most notorious aspect of moving: packing.
- Last call: Send notices. About 28 days ago, you looked at deadlines and other details related to moving. If you haven’t already, give notice to your landlord or HOA; this is generally your last opportunity to do so before you’ll face a penalty.
- Obtain and transfer records. One month allows just enough time for an organization to compile and forward important records. Consider the following:
- Notify your child’s school. School administrators should know your child’s new district. You can also request transcript forwarding to the new school.
- Notify routine service providers. If you’re moving to a new county or state, you’ll need to request and forward documents from doctors, attorneys, car mechanics, banks, and more. Take this opportunity to ask for recommendations for other service providers in your new area.
- Reserve vehicle storage, if needed. Depending on your destination or plans, you might need to store your vehicle for a while. This is a good time to check prices and reserve a space. You can choose a covered garage or open space on a short-term or long-term basis. You can also arrange storage for RVs or campers.
- Begin packing: nonessentials and more. In this round, you’ll stow away rarely-used items.
- Start with the basement, garage, and closets. Work your way up and out. Everything from family heirlooms and memorabilia to out-of-season clothing should find a box
- Unload nonessential cabinets and shelves. That forgotten cabinet above your fridge, the for-show bookshelf, and all of the knick-knacks – nonessential baubles, books, and tools must go (into the boxes).
- Wrap up spare rooms. If it’s not a living room or a bedroom, pack it now – all of it. In some cases, a spare room might serve as a studio or an office; take this opportunity to pack everything but the computer, work files, canvas, and paint brushes. Be honest with yourself about what you’ll truly need access to in the coming weeks.
- Label with detail. Add detailed descriptions to your boxes not just for movers, but also yourself and your family. Because rooms often hold multiple types of items, it’s a smart idea to list the intended room’s name, as well as the box’s contents. For example, “Master Bedroom Closet: Seasonal clothing, hats, boots.” This approach should apply to all phases of packing.
- Flag boxes that need immediate unpacking. If you haven’t already, review your boxes and mark them with a colored tag that reminds you to unpack them first.
- Consider loading order. Once you’ve flagged items, you’ll also have a loading strategy. Remind movers to load the flagged boxes last; the last boxes in the truck will unload first in your new home.
3 Weeks Before Your Move
21 days until your big move. Here, you’ll find even more tips on sorting and stacking that “cardboard castle” because, let’s face it, you’re still packing. It’s also time to communicate your schedule with your boss, neighbors, and more.
- Continue packing. In this round, you’ll persist in wrangling nonessential items – but with an emphasis on simplifying your list of everyday items.
- Have tough talks about “toys.” This strategy applies to children young and old. Obtain an extra-large plastic storage bin for must-have toys that will never make it to the moving van or storage pod. This bin should include comfort as well as activity-based items – such as art supplies or cherished books. Begin to pack everything else. Apply the same logic to “toys” for adults with serious hobbies.
- Don’t forget outdoor areas. Grilling tools, string lights, potted plants, side tables, umbrellas – you name it. Dismount porch swings and dismantle decor. All of these items are ready for boxing, sorting, or stacking.
- Address duplicate items. At this stage, you won’t need 20 pairs of shoes, three blow dryers, three TVs, or two dining tables. Discern the essentials and pack the rest.
- Repeat. Breakdown tables and other items; pack the legs or other parts so the furniture is less cumbersome to move.
- Consider temporary or long-term storage. By now, you’ll have an idea of just how much stuff you actually have in your home. Seeing it all in boxes provides perspective on space. Decide whether you’ll need to offload some items to a storage unit.
- Notify a trusted neighbor. Notifying your favorite neighbors of your move isn’t just good etiquette – it’s also a way to keep a close watch on your home. Moving fraud happens. Protecting your loved ones and your valuables by communicating with neighbors is key. The following action items will help you talk to neighbors about your move from a security standpoint.
- Discuss the people or companies you’ve hired. During your move, strangers may come in and out of your home often. Let neighbors know what companies you’ve hired, as well as the look of their uniforms (including colors and logos). Ask them to contact you regarding any suspicious activity.
- Outline your timeline and the key dates. Let neighbors know when workers are scheduled to enter your home. Ask them to contact you if they see workers, even in uniform, outside of these dates.
- Confirm the information with your service providers. Ask moving-related companies to guarantee workers will show up in branded uniforms.
- Plan your personal schedule. Moving day itself may take a few hours, especially if you hire professional movers. But it’s important to factor in time for packing, unpacking, and cleaning – in both your old and new homes.
- Request time off from work. You’ll likely need to request the time in increments (e.g., hours or days for appointments and meetings related to the move), as well as blocks (e.g., an entire week near the end of the process).
- Coordinate childcare. Even if you plan to drop off the kids with relatives, schedule these dates with caregivers at least three weeks in advance. Follow up with reminders as needed.
- Don’t forget your furry friends. If you’re moving across county or state lines, you’ll need to schedule travel arrangements (e.g., crating for plane travel). On moving day, you’ll likely need a boarding option or a pet sitter who can safely secure your pet – keeping him safely out of the way of movers.
2 Weeks Before Your Move
14 days until your big move. You’re getting close. You’ve employed your packing techniques. You can see the finish line. With the boxes squared away, you’ll have a lot more space to begin cleaning. It’s also time to finalize your services.
- Schedule utilities. At this point, you’ll need to set a transfer or cancellation date for your utilities. Electric, water, and gas, as well as entertainment and convenience services (e.g., cable and telephone), should be on your to-do list.
- Confirm contracted moving services. Call to confirm not only the date of your moving service, but the plan for the day. Ask about arrival times, as well as anything the company may need from you on the day of the move.
- Book short-term storage if needed. If you’re doing any work on your new home, you might need a storage facility close to your new house where you can keep your belongings while floors are being installed or other major work takes place.
- Strategize your transitional lifestyle and continue packing. This week, nearly everything should go in a box – even some of the essentials. Planning your transition will help you determine the exact items that should remain unpacked until the very end.
- Plan upcoming meals. Begin getting rid of food you won’t be able to finish. Plan simple meals that require a single pan or pot. Think over-roasted meats surrounded by vegetables and potatoes on a single sheet pan or hearty stews made in a slow cooker.
- Consider temporary tableware. It’s time to gradually pack your kitchen. As you begin to secure extra pots and pans – and later, plates, cups, and silverware – decide how you’ll serve meals in the final weeks before your move. Remember: You’ll need to clean both your dishwasher and oven; paper plates and plastic cups and cutlery are an option. You can also set aside one place setting per family member and hand-wash these items.
- Plan a light, versatile wardrobe. The goal is to select just a few items that coordinate into multiple looks. For example, one pair of dress pants that match several button-down shirts. Don’t forget comfortable moving-day clothes, including breathable cotton and durable, sensible sneakers.
- Consider travel-size toiletries. These mini items are especially important for long-distance relocation. Common items, such as toothpaste and soaps are just as important as lotions and styling products when everything must go in a box. Don’t forget a toothbrush!
- Create a transition plan for children. Moving is an especially difficult time for children. Among other tips, com recommends sticking closely to a familiar routine and finding opportunities for children to make empowering choices related to their new environment.
- Create a backup plan for unexpected events. Are your movers driving across country with an uncertain schedule? What if you arrive before your bed does? Consider transitional items – such as an inflatable mattress. Scope out local hotels in the event that the closing date of your new home gets pushed by a few days.
- Begin cleaning forgotten details. At this stage, you’re likely still living in what will soon be your old home. Aside from your regular cleaning tasks, you’ll want to focus on the details that often go unnoticed. It’s important to spend time on these to-dos and not major overhauls since you’ll run the risk of creating more work through the messes of daily living. For example, it won’t make sense to rent a carpet-cleaning tool if you have pets that frequently drag in dirt. Here are a few places to start:
- Dust and wash baseboards.
- Scrub around and behind toilets.
- Scour grout in bathrooms and between other tile surfaces.
- Wipe or dust fans, light fixtures, and blinds.
- Wipe the insides of empty drawers and other storage areas.
- Pull weeds in outdoor areas.
- Clean windows and mirrors in spare bedrooms and bathrooms.
1 Week Before Your Move
7 days until your big move. It’s the final countdown. If you’re feeling the pressure, simply follow these final tips in the moving checklist on heavy-duty cleaning and more.
- Schedule you address change with USPS. You can easily submit this change online. Select the “Regular Forward Service,” which is best for permanent address changes.
- Make a list of forthcoming address changes, by business. Even though the USPS change applies to your new, permanent address, it’s still a temporary forwarding service that will eventually end. You’ll need to change your address with the people and companies you do business with as well – including your current landlord, credit card companies, and much more.
- Begin the heavy-duty cleaning. Address the major areas of the home. At this stage, you’re so close to moving that it’s easy to correct the lived-in messes you’ll make in the final days. Here are a few places to start:
- Wipe down the refrigerator, microwave, and stovetop. If possible, remove interior drawers, shelves, turntable, or heating elements to wash in a sink with a mild soap and water.
- Wash countertops, sinks, and other surfaces. Focus on common areas such as the kitchen and bathroom, but don’t forget built-ins (e.g., bookshelves and desks).
- Run auto-clean cycles. Many dishwashers, ovens, and washing machines feature cleaning cycles that remove the grime from daily use. Follow up with additional cleaning products as needed.
- Wash all doors, walls, and windows – exterior and interior. Use a mild detergent on doors and walls to avoid damaging the paint. If necessary, rent a power washer.
- Clean carpets and floors. Rent industrial tools as needed. Look for stains and scratches that might negatively impact your lease or buyer’s agreement, and notify the appropriate people.
- Scrub toilets inside and out. Don’t forget to rescrub the details you cleaned last week.
- Scrub bathtubs, showers, and sinks. Rescrub the grout you scoured last week. Focus on soap scum and discolorations. Consider reapplying caulk.
- Focus on fine details you may have missed last week. Don’t forget showerheads, faucets, mirrors, knobs, buttons, latches, and more.
- Repaint and patch walls and doors. If you’re renting, be sure to ask your landlord for touch-up paint or the brand and name of the original interior colors.
The Night Before Your Move
1 day until your big move. This is it. It’s time to put all that hard work and planning into action, but not before you pause to review.
- Finalize cleaning tasks. This is your last chance to give your hard work a once-over. Review the following and consider other areas you may have missed during your previous rounds.
- Recheck the fine details you covered above.
- Spot-clean appliances, floors, countertops, and more.
- Defrost your freezer and remove food items throughout.
- Take pictures to document the home’s condition.
- Round up your transitional items, including the essentials. Prepare a backpack or suitcase with the items you set aside last week. Tomorrow, load the luggage in your car right away to ensure it doesn’t accidentally end up on the moving truck.
- Assess best practices for DIY moving. Most moving companies will handle the following details, but if you’re moving with the help of friends or family, it’s a good idea to create and share your game plan for the big day.
- Identify entry and exit points. If there are multiple exterior doors, choose the best route to the moving van to minimize the potential for last-minute damage and dirt.
- Plan for foot traffic. Here’s where those other moving materials come in handy. Lay secured cardboard or moving blankets on your floor to keep them clean and protect your hard work. Supply your “team” with shoe covers.
- Map side streets for local moving. This is especially important if you plan to secure items to the top of your car and drive slowly.
Today’s the day. You’ve almost checked off everything on the moving checklist and it’s the big day. Throw on the moving gear you set aside, and get to work. Whether you’re lifting boxes on your own or sorting on the sidelines, you know exactly what needs to get done. But in case you need some busy work, we’ve outlined your moving-day musts below.
- Begin organizing and sorting. While your movers are hard at work, find opportunities to organize boxes in a way that leaves easy-access pathways to storage areas – such as closets.
- Return to your old home for final preparations. This is your last chance to review your home’s condition and ensure it meets the terms of any applicable agreements.
- Clean moving-related messes. Floors, walls, and doors will most likely need retouching.
- Secure entries, exits, and windows. Protect your empty home to ensure you aren’t held liable for damages caused by intruders.
- Return keys and passes. Leave these items in a visible area; communicate their location with your landlord, real estate agent, or new homeowner.
- Leave your contact information for the new residents. You can send this information in the same correspondence regarding the location of your keys or you may choose to leave a handwritten note if you’re welcoming a homebuyer.
- Assess your new home. Homeowners and renters alike should ensure there are no mover-related damages to the new home.
- Bonus tip for renters: Landlords and property management companies may require you to fill out paperwork during an initial walkthrough. Scrutinize all areas with defects and take pictures. You may be responsible for damages if you don’t properly document them.
1 Week After Your Move
7 days post-move. You’ve made it past the threshold. Now it’s time to unpack. Don’t forget to spot-clean first.
- Begin spot-cleaning and organizing your new home. Review the home’s overall cleanliness. Check for the following situations that are sometimes missed:
- Look out for construction dust on surfaces in brand-new dwellings.
- Use antibacterial cleaning products to reduce your exposure to germs from the previous owner.
- Wipe down cooking appliances that may have been exposed to harmful cleaners.
- Unpack the essentials. Use the tagging-and-flagging system you established weeks before to quickly identify your must-have items, including dishes, bakeware, toiletries, and clothing.
2 Weeks After Your Move
14 days post-move. By this week, you likely still have a lot of unpacking ahead of you. Don’t be so hard on yourself! Want to feel like you’re making progress toward a “home sweet home”? Consider the following tips:
- Throw a “House Settling” party. Housewarming Parties put a lot of pressure on a new homeowner. Instead, consider enticing friends and family with no-fuss snacks and drinks by hosting a party with a productive goal. “Painting Party,” anyone?
- Break down boxes ASAP. Nothing clutters a new house like cardboard. Commit to breaking down boxes directly after you empty them. Before you recycle or donate, consider ways you can reuse them at part of your homemaking. Cardboard is a durable material that can protect floors from paint and much more.
- Start decorating slowly. Decorative flourishes are a huge part of what makes a house a home. So much so that it’s tempting to try to do it all at once. Instead, focus on placing the most meaningful items first – such as that extra-large family portrait. Adding those small touches of texture or color from curtains or rugs will also add homey comfort with little effort.
The key to a stress-free move doesn’t come from your new landlord or previous homeowner; it comes from you – but not without a lot of planning and very little procrastination. Extend the work over an eight-week period, and you’ll see problems before they arise. Plus, you’ll reduce moving-related stress by spreading the “heavy lifting” of packing and cleaning over several weeks.
Finally, don’t forget the bonus materials found in this guide! Bookmark, save, fill-in, and customize our DIY move-in docs:
- Sample documents list
- Sample moving budget
- Sample moving home inventory sheet
- Sample moving quote comparison sheet
- Sample moving-supply checklist
Here is a link to a printable version of the moving day checklist so you can check off items as you go, or use the image below.
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