Ahead of the Pack

No matter how much stuff you own, getting it into a new home doesn’t have to be a chore

September 28, 2012

Cecily Cutshall, far right, and her husband, Jason, not pictured, asked friends to help unpack their stuff from the PODS storage container they used for their move.

When packing for their recent move, Cecily Cutshall and her husband, Jason, found they had slightly different strategies.

“I like to label everything and label very specifically what’s inside the boxes,” says Cutshall, 29. She’s labeled one box “kitchen breakables,” with bullet points detailing its contents: Glass Pyrex dishes, wine glasses from her wedding and a blue teapot. “Jason would tend to label the box ‘kitchen’ and that’s it,” she says.

Marital tiffs — however adorable they may seem to outsiders — are one of a host of things that can make moving a stressful experience. What helps reduce that stress is a little planning and organization. Taking the time to do things the right way can prevent confusion, damage and the frustration of frantically searching for the coffeemaker the morning after your move.

Do Some Prep Work

Before you even start packing, get rid of anything that doesn’t need to make the move with you. “The earlier you start the process of paring things down the better,” says Carly Poppalardo, owner of Real Organized VA (703-405-4082), an Arlington-based organizing firm. “It can save you time and money because you’ll have less to move.”

Speaking of time, have a realistic view of how long it will take you to pack up. “It takes more time than you think,” says Nicole Anzia, owner of D.C.-based professional organizing company Neatnik (202-320-4204). “Give yourself enough time to pack in an organized way so that you’re not doing it all the day before you’re moving.”

Gather Your Supplies

You can buy variously sized boxes at the Container Store, Home Depot and U-Haul. Or save some money by finding them in the “free” section of Craigslist.org or at your local grocery and liquor stores (call ahead to find out when shipments arrive).

Don’t underestimate the supplies you’ll need to pack and protect your stuff. “If you think you’ll need eight rolls of tape, have 16,” says Scott Roewer of D.C.-based professional organizing company Solutions by Scott (202-249-8330).

And make sure to use the best materials for the task. Newspaper can leave dirty smudges on dishes and glasses, so opt for bubble wrap, foam sheets or unprinted newsprint for cushioning.

Those supplies may cost a bit more, but usually “that turns out to be cheaper than having to replace broken items,” says John Bisney of the American Moving & Storage Association.

Get Packing

Start your packing with things that you don’t need right at that moment, such as off-season clothes and holiday decorations.

Fill each box all the way to the top to prevent it from collapsing. If it’s getting too heavy, fill the top part of the box with pillows, towels or linens that provide padding without adding much extra weight.

You’ll want to seal your boxes with heavy-duty packing tape — anything else and you’re taking chances. Cutshall learned the hard way when she used duct tape on a few boxes. “There were a couple of moments where our heart rates accelerated as boxes started to come open when we picked them up,” she says.

Label the top and at least two sides of each box, so no matter how it gets stacked you know what’s in there. Designate what room the box should be placed in when you reach your new home and whether it’s holding anything fragile.

Handle the Logistics

How will you be moving all of those boxes from point A to point B?

Take a good look at your budget and schedule. If you’re short on time but flush with cash, hiring movers might be your best bet. Renting a truck yourself will save you money, but don’t assume your friends want to lug your belongings up three flights of stairs.

Cutshall and her husband had to be out of their apartment a month before moving into their new place, so they rented a portable moving container from PODS. They packed it themselves (with help from friends), and it was whisked away to storage for a month. On the day they moved into the new place, the pod was delivered for unpacking and taken away once empty. The whole thing ran them about $500, which included about $300 for the month of storage.

“[A pod] will cost you more than renting a truck, but it will save you considerably compared to hiring a professional moving outfit,” Roewer says.

If you do want to hire the muscle of a moving company, line one up well ahead of your move date, especially during the busy summer months.

Ask friends and family for referrals and use such resources as Angie’s List, Yelp and the Better Business Bureau to find reviews of local firms. Look for outfits that have a ProMover designation from the American Moving & Storage Association, which signifies that the company is reputable, has passed a background check and has the proper licenses and insurance.

Professional movers cost more than a DIY approach, but some people prefer to leave things to experts. “Everything is wrapped and carried the way it’s supposed to be,” says Ryan Bass of Gaithersburg-based Town & Country Movers (800-683-6683). “The customer can focus on all of the other aspects of switching homes.”

Like finding the coffeemaker for your first morning in your new place.

 

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