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Moving in D.C.? Here are tips to keep it stress-free

When Molly Olsen, 21, and her roommates were preparing to move to Capitol Hill in May, they expected hours of packing, heavy lifting, sweat and stress. What they didn’t expect was the police. Olsen heard the telltale sirens while driving a U-Haul truck just blocks from the White House.

Olsen, a new George Washington University graduate, was informed she was passing through a no-truck zone. “They let us off [with a warning],” she says. “They saw how frazzled and flustered we were.”

Still, Olsen says, the experience made her “never, ever, ever want to move again.”

Moving is notoriously annoying, and the D.C. area offers its own special set of hurdles. But take heart: Here are some ways to make the process smoother, if not entirely enjoyable.

Plan ahead
Moving starts long before you pack up and haul your belongings across town. It requires planning — and lots of it.
“Being prepared is 80 percent of it,” says Lisa Wise, the owner of boutique property management company Nest DC (3634 Georgia Ave. No. 3; 202-540-8038).

One big thing: “Make sure that you don’t get caught without a mover,” Wise says. It’s not just moving companies that get booked up in advance, truck rentals and even friends do, too. To make sure you can move on your preferred date, book these things as soon as possible. Gather your packing materials early, too, Wise says.

When it comes to your new building, “make absolutely sure you know what their policies are,” says Max Behrens, a property manager with Scout Properties.

Ask your landlord or building manager about parking rules, quiet hours and move-in fees. Set up a move-in time — and call the day before to confirm it, Behrens says.

The police can give you temporary signs to reserve street parking outside your old and new residences. To get them, it’s advised to bring your lease to a nearby police station at least 10 days before the move.

Free for all
You can keep moving costs low using the magic of the Internet. “Craigslist is a great way to find a mover,” Wise says.

Do your homework: Ask potential movers for a reference from a similar-size move in a similar neighborhood. And make sure your hire is licensed, bonded, insured — and has their own equipment.

If you just need extra help, look online, too. Tim Wessel, a financial analyst who moved from Philadelphia to Arlington last year, hired a D.C.-area college student to help him. “It was worth it. It would have taken my dad and me a lot longer,” Wessel says.

Use Craigslist to snap up packing materials, too, as lots of people are looking to offload boxes — often for free, Wise says.

Or just ask around. Olsen and her roommates “went around to our local grocery stores and got their leftover boxes,” she says. “It saved us a lot of money.”

The actual move
It probably should go without saying, but when moving day rolls around, be ready. Keep time limits in mind. For example, if you have to reserve an elevator, expect to have it for only two to four hours.

Beware of strict cutoffs at your new pad: During one move, Behrens says, he exceeded his reserved time and was shut out of the building. He had to quickly stash his furniture in a friend’s garage to return his U-Haul. He finished moving in over the course of a few weeks.

If you’re driving a truck, make sure you are comfortable with it while navigating the streets.

Mike Rogers, an accountant, drove a rented truck from D.C. to Arlington, but its wheel alignment was off, he says. “I was holding the wheel at a 45 degree angle, trying to drive it,” he says.

Timing is crucial, too. Rogers struggled with Memorial Day weekend traffic.

And be sure you pack strategically to unload what you need first. The first thing Rogers unpacked after his exhausting experience? His bed.

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