Earlier this month, I did the absolute worst thing you could do in August in New York City: I moved into a new apartment.
Moving in New York, when you’re dealing with expensive movers, double parking UHauls, narrow brownstone stairwells and walk-up apartments, is basically heinous. Add to that the sticky August heat and you’ve got yourself a really special day. If you need further proof, just check out this essay I wrote on my last moving day, which found me in tears in the middle of the street.
While moving in NYC is it’s own special animal, no matter where you live, moving homes is tough. There’s so much to coordinate, so many logistics to figure out and so many little things that could go wrong at the last minute. And that doesn’t even get into the expense–of movers, of UHauls, of replacing your junk that gets broken along the way.
Luckily, I’ve moved a fair number of times myself and have picked up a few tricks along the way to share with you. Here are a few hacks I’ve learned to make moving just a little bit less beastly, and make your settling in time that much easier.
1. Label Every Single Thing. In Every Single Box.
I don’t mean writing “kitchen stuff” and “linens.” That’s all well and good, but if you haven’t gotten around to totally unpacking your kitchen and suddenly you NEED your cheese grater, looking in all the boxes marked “kitchen stuff” isn’t going to be very efficient. I write every single thing that goes in every single box on the outside, either directly on the box or on a piece of paper taped to it. Yes, it’s a little more time consuming when you’re packing up, but when you need that random gadget and can see exactly where it is without unpacking all your boxes, it’ll be worth it. Pro tip: write the box’s contents on the sides so you can see what’s in each box even if they’re all stacked on top of each other.
2. Pitch In.
If you’re still in the trading-moving-services-for-pizza-and-beer stage of life, you’ll be doing much of the moving yourself anyway. But even if you pay movers, I suggest pitching in here and there to preemptively save your valuables from ruin. I try to pack all my fragile/sentimental stuff separately and carry those boxes in and out myself. That way I know exactly where my fragile things are at any given time, and I am 100% responsible for them. I don’t have to worry about movers accidentally knocking my antique card catalog against the wall and dinging the stain. Serious peace of mind.
3. Pack Last In, First Out.
Pack all your last minute things in a separate “first night” box. Kind of like you pack your toiletries last when you go on a trip so you can use them to get ready, you should pack all the things you use regularly or will need right away in a separate box or bag. That includes sheets and towels (see below), meds, toiletries, a box cutter, a reusable water bottle, Swiffer mops (for cleaning the new floors) and maybe even a little snack if you won’t want to order a meal right away. Keep all that need-it-fast stuff handy so you won’t have to go searching for each thing as you need it (even though your new labeling system would make that easier).
4. Pack Clean Sheets and Towels.
I always put a clean set of sheets and towels in an overnight back (not a cardboard box) and move that directly into my new bedroom. Once all your boxes are in and you’re sweaty from moving into a third floor apartment, you’ll want nothing more than a nice shower and to immediately settle into bed. Sure you could just transfer the sheets you had on the bed in your old apartment that morning, but I’m a firm believer that nothing feels as good as fresh clean sheets after a hard day. Fresh apartment, fresh linens, fresh start. It’s worth it, I promise.
5. Take Your Clothes Off the Hanger.
A lot of people, when it comes to moving their clothes, will just take armloads of clothes directly from one closet to the next, without even taking them off the hanger. On the one hand, that saves you time unhanging and hanging clothes up. But think of all the time you waste in taking trip after trip from your closet! Unless you’re a clothing minimalist, you probably have at least two armfuls of clothes hanging in your closet, which is at least one more trip than it would take if you folded all those clothes in a rolly suitcase. Plus, your clothes will stay cleaner than if you just toss them in the back seat of the car.
6. Tally Supplies for Your Next Move.
This is a trick I picked up in my most recent move. Take a quick tally of how many small, medium and large boxes, rolls of packing tape and sheets of bubble wrap you used for this move. Write it down in a note on your phone so that the next time you move (which, once you’re finished with the current move you probably hope will be never) you’ll know how much you need and will save yourself multiple trips to the hardware store to buy more boxes.
7. Purge. Twice.
Everyone knows you should purge your belongings before you move. KonMari your closet, get rid of stained towels, chuck the grody Chucks you’ve been needing to replace. But once you do that, and you’re all moved in, purge again as you unpack. When you’re fresh off the exhaustion of lugging stuff from one house to another, your tired body will be A LOT less sentimental about your belongings. Play the “was it worth moving here” game and anything that you don’t say yes to, goes.
8. Pack in Small Boxes.
Books, clothes, linens, pots–things that don’t weigh that much alone get heavy real fast when you pile them all in a box. To prevent myself from accidentally loading one box up a bit too much, I try to pack as much as possible in small boxes. It takes a larger number to hold my crap, but the max number of books I can cram in one of those is still light enough that I won’t throw my back out trying to pick it up.
9. Get Ahead on Paperwork.
When you move, not only do you have to switch over your utility accounts, you need to set up a mail forward, notify your bank and credit cards and let your fam know–which is a lot of changes that can add up. Luckily, all of these things can be done well in advance, so start the notification process at least a week before you move. That way no mail will slip through the cracks, your credit card won’t be flagged if you’re moving to a new city or state, and you can even use it as an opportunity to try to haggle with your cable and internet provider for a new price (we just knocked over $20 a month off our package, and got the equipment installed on our first day!). Plus the notification might just prompt a little housewarming mail from a thoughtful friend or family member ; )
Have you learned any tips for smoothing out the moving process?