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Planning a Move from Start to Finish


Preparing to Move? Use This Thorough Guide to Organize and Plan

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a first-timer, moving is never easy. If you’re smart, you’ll plan ahead to reduce the stress and keep your move on schedule and budget. Use our ultimate moving plan to help you successfully relocate and ensure you don’t miss any important steps. 



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19 Steps to Prepare for a Move

When we have a big project in front of us, it can be difficult to know where to start. That’s why we pulled together a complete list of steps to help you plan your move from start to finish.


Get Organized Before You Start Packing

Knowing how to organize a move is half the battle of getting all your stuff from your old home to your new one. Use the following steps to get everything in order, create a plan and reduce your stress.

1. Start a Moving Folder

It’s as simple as buying a notebook, two-pocket folder, binder or some combination of these. Use whatever method works best for your organization needs and style. 

Your moving folder should contain important checklists, your moving timeline, an inventory list of what each box is labeled and what it contains, and important paperwork.

Pro-Tip: Use our printable box labels to help keep things organized. 

Here’s a list of important paperwork to keep in your folder for a smooth moving plan:

□ Lease agreement or mortgage contract.

□ Financial documents needed for the lease or mortgage process, like paystubs and other important financial information.

□ Personal documents, like your social security card and passport, that you may need throughout the course of the move.

□ Contact information and corresponding account numbers for all utility companies and other companies you pay monthly for necessities (both old and new).

□ Receipts for new items you buy for your new home.

2. Make a List of Moving Tasks

We recommend using our Ultimate Moving Checklist to make sure you don’t forget any important steps or leave anything to the last minute. This guide is a six-week timeline to make sure your move goes smoothly, whether you’re moving to a new home or switching to a new apartment. Keep it in your moving folder and check things off as you go.

3. Declutter and Take Inventory of Your Belongings

Decluttering is one of the most painstaking — yet rewarding — parts of moving. One of the biggest steps is figuring out what you need to get rid of before you move. Hint: this includes anything you haven’t used in the last year, anything that’s damaged or no longer works and anything that won’t fit in your new house or apartment.

Peaceful Place Home Organizers logo.

“If it’s clutter now, it will be clutter in your future home. Clutter is things that you don’t need, use or love, but are still in your home anyway. Delaying the decision to let go of clutter before you pack only means you will have to deal with it on the other end. Don’t pay extra to move clutter.”

Julie Brooks, Owner | Peaceful Place Home Organizers 

Brooks says if you’re on the fence about keeping an item, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will this item help me live better in my new space?
  • Am I just avoiding the guilt of letting it go?

When taking inventory of your belongings, research how much it will cost to move them. If you’re relocating across the country, it may be less expensive to buy all new furniture as opposed to trying to ship it all. To find out, compare the cost of shipping to the price of a new couch, bed frame, dining table, etc., and decide what works best for your budget.

Cost aside, it might make more sense to buy new items in your new location. Consider the hassle of moving everything, from heavy furniture to endless boxes of clothes and kitchenware, and decide if it’s worth your time and energy. This decision may be largely due to how far you’re moving.

Pro-Tip: Have a floorplan of your new home in mind to make sure your furniture will fit in your new space. Measure everything to ensure each item has a place. If you’re moving to a smaller home, you may want to downsize before you move

Once you’ve separated clutter and other items you’re not taking with you from the important things you’ll be moving, it’s time to donate, sell or toss anything that didn’t make the cut.

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After you decide what to pack and what to get rid of, make a list of everything you’re taking with you. This will help you account for everything you have and figure out how much it will cost you to move everything. 

Reminder: Keep your inventory list in your moving folder. This will come in handy when you’re shopping for a moving company or looking for home or renter’s insurance.

4. Decide on a Moving Budget

There are a lot of costs to consider when preparing for a move. Take note of the following:

  • First Month’s Payment: Know when first month’s rent or your first mortgage payment is due and how much it costs. If you’re renting, factor in your security deposit and any additional fees. If you’re buying, consider closing costs.
  • Moving Truck: Consider how much you’re willing to spend on a moving company or renting a moving truck.
  • Supply Costs: Factor in the price of boxes, tape and bubble wrap.
  • Upgrades: Decide how much you want to spend on repairs in your new home and new furniture. Keep all receipts in your moving folder.
  • Employer Contribution: Find out if the company you work for will offset any moving costs or provide a relocation stipend if your decision to move is work-related.

Pro-Tip: To cut costs, ask your local grocery store if they have shipping boxes available. If you’re moving locally and only need to move a small apartment’s worth of stuff, try using any bins or other storage containers you already have to move your belongings in shifts. 

5. Ask Yourself These Important Questions

Take some time to think about these important decisions as you’re planning a move:

  • Should I hire a pro or pack myself? Take into consideration the amount of stuff you have and how much time you’re able to devote to packing.
  • Do I need to hire a moving company or rent a moving truck? If you have friends and family who can help you move, you may not need to hire a moving company. But if you need some extra hands or you have items that are difficult to move, it may be worth looking into.
  • Do I need to ship my car? Think about the quality of public transportation where you’re moving and the cost of getting a new car vs. shipping your existing one.
  • Should I get moving insurance? If you have a lot of expensive items, it may be worth the investment. If you know you’ll eventually upgrade what you have, it may be worth the risk.

6. Create a List of Essentials

Make sure to keep anything you need leading up to the move and on moving day handy. To avoid trying to clean up on moving day and realizing you packed the paper towels, make a list of things to avoid packing. 

Make sure to remember these items:

  • Basic toiletries.
  • Clothes.
  • Phones, tablets, computers and their chargers.
  • Cooking and eating utensils.
  • Paper towels, trash bags and cleaning products.


Take Care of Important Details Before Moving

With so much focus on packing and getting your mortgage or lease in order, it can be easy to overlook some other major moving necessities. We’ve outlined the particulars so you don’t forget.

7. Give Adequate Notice to Your Landlord

If you’re renting your current place of residence, be sure to give your landlord or property manager notice within the timeframe specified on your lease. This is usually between 30 and 60 days before your move-out date.

8. Update Your Mailing Address

Make sure the post office knows you’ve moved so important bills and other mail don’t go to your old address. All you have to do is fill out the U.S. Postal Service change of address form. Also, update your address on any subscriptions you regularly receive.

9. Transfer Utilities and Monthly Bills

You don’t want to spend your first night in your new home without heat, air, lights or internet. Get in touch with your gas and electric companies and transfer your service if you’re able to use the same company at your new home. Otherwise, designate a date to shut off service and get in touch with your new utility companies to set up service at your new house or apartment.

Note: Some utility companies may require you to be present when shutting off or beginning service. Make sure to find out and factor this in to your moving plan. 

Here are some tips from Price to Compare, an online energy marketplace, about transferring important services:

  • Beware of suppliers that offer variable-rate plans with a low introductory rate. They often provide a drastically lower price for the first few months to entice homeowners to sign up, but this rate usually ends up skyrocketing, causing your energy bills to skyrocket, also. In general, it’s best to choose a fixed-rate plan to make it easier to budget your energy month-to-month. 
  • Note the length of your new plan and mark the end date on your calendar. Be sure to set a reminder for a month or two before this end date so you can start shopping around again before your contract is up.

If you’re moving to an apartment that requires you to use a particular internet and cable provider, or you’re using the move as an opportunity to find a new provider, be sure to cancel service with your previous company and set up new service.

This is also a good time to cancel your trash and recycling pickup if that’s your responsibility. When you’re moving to a new home or your landlord requires the tenant to be responsible for trash, make sure to also set up trash removal and recycling at your new place. It will be a lot easier to manage trash while unpacking if you have a place to put it and you know it will be picked up. Check your city’s public works department website for details.

Lastly, transfer your home security system if you have one.

10. Tie up Loose Ends

Here are some other important services you shouldn’t forget to transfer or find in your new neighborhood:

  • Cancel or transfer your gym membership.
  • Sign your kids up at the local schools.
  • Find and transfer your pharmacy.
  • Look for a new primary care provider and other important doctors and have your medical records transferred.
  • Choose a new vet and transfer your pet’s records.

11. Prepare for Moving Day

Moving is a big task that will likely end up taking more time than you think. Take time off of work to give yourself the time and space to get it done without added stress. 

It’s also a good idea to ask friends and family for help. Give them notice to make sure they can work it into their schedule, and if you plan your move on a weekend, it’s easier to get other to help. Here are a few ways your friends and family can help you: 

  • Lift and move heavy items.
  • Assemble and disassemble furniture.
  • Pack and unpack.
  • Clean the old place and patch up holes in the wall.
  • Watch your kids and pets.
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Prepare Your New Home Before You Move In

Before you bring all of your belongings into your new space, make sure everything is ready when you move in. The following steps will help you prepare.

12. Clean, Paint and Remodel

These tasks are much easier to do when you don’t have to worry about all of your stuff being in the way. Clean, remodel, paint and clean again before you move so you can enjoy your new apartment or home once you get everything unpacked.

13. Find Your New Staples

It’s important to find your go-to spots in your new neighborhood. Find the local grocery store that meets your needs and explore the local restaurants, coffee shops and stores.


Get Your Old House in Order

Make sure to prep your old house for the next people who will be living there, or to boost your chances of getting your security deposit back in full.

14. Clean Up

Cleaning up each room will help you leave a good impression, especially when it comes to getting your security deposit back. Use this quick list to make sure you hit the basics:

  • Sweep and mop floors.
  • Wipe off counter tops.
  • Clean the fridge and freezer.
  • Get rid of scuff marks on the walls.
  • Cover up holes in the walls.

15. Prep Your Appliances

If you’re taking your appliances with you, make sure they’re prepared for the move. Following the steps outlined under each appliance type to cover your bases.

Fridge and Freezer

How to prepare your fridge and freezer for a move.

Stove and Oven

How to prepare your stove and oven for a move.


How to prepare your dishwasher for a move.

Washer and Dryer

How to prepare your washer and dryer for a move.

16. Do a Final Walkthrough

This is your last chance to make sure you didn’t leave anything behind. Open every closet and drawer, check every nook and cranny and, if you’re not taking appliances with you, make sure you didn’t leave anything inside them.

This is also a good time to take note of anything that is broken or out of place. Complete any fixes if possible and keep a list to help facilitate negotiations with your landlord if needed. Make sure you’re satisfied with the condition you’re leaving the home or apartment in.


Don’t Forget To…

Moving can be hectic, so don’t let these things get lost in the shuffle.

17. Indulge in a Farewell Tour

Moving to a new place is exciting, but you may also miss some of the local spots in your old neighborhood. Hit your favorite restaurants, coffee shops, parks and other frequently-visited places.

18. Get Your Security Deposit Back

If you rented your old place, talk with your landlord about when you can expect him or her to inspect the apartment or home and give you your security deposit back. If they don’t give you the full amount, make sure to talk about the discretions and come to an agreement. Security deposits are usually returned within 14 – 60 days after the move-out date.

19. Relax

Moving is stressful and exhausting, so schedule time for yourself to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Give yourself a break in the midst of the madness or schedule a day to pamper yourself once you’ve moved into to your new place.


Get to Know Your New Neighborhood

Once you’ve successfully moved thanks to your thorough moving plan, settle in and enjoy your new home and the new location. Make the space your own, find a new routine, explore the neighborhood and city and revel in the change.


Recommended reading: What to Do After Moving | How to Reduce Waste During a Move




How to Plan an Eco-Friendly Move 




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