10 Moving Nightmares (and How to Avoid Them)

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couple with boxes and mad faces pen marked on them, in the midst of packing
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Moving is a terrible chore that can easily go from affordable inconvenience to pricey disaster. The percentage of Americans moving from place to place has been on a steady decline since 1984, to the point that about half haven't moved in the past 10 years, according to a 2017 survey by Homes.com. Most of those who have moved more than five times in that period are ages 25 to 34 (the most likely to have friends willing to help for little more than pizza and beer). With proper preparations, you can keep moving costs down and avoid some common catastrophes.

moving important day calendar concept
Photo credit: Leszek Glasner/shutterstock

Solution: Ask your current landlord if you can stay for a portion of the next month for a pro-rated amount — that is, you pay the value of what a day would typically cost at your monthly rent, multiplied by the number of extra days you need to stay. If that's not possible and the gap between your move-out and move-in dates isn't more than a day or two, the cheapest option is probably to pack everything into a rental truck or moving pod and leave it somewhere safe where you can monitor it. That's likely cheaper than renting a storage unit, and more efficient than moving things into and out of someone else's garage.

frustrated woman sitting by cardboard boxes in new house
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Solution: A move has to start somewhere. Begin by filling a duffel bag with the things you'll need for the final days in your current home, as though you were going out of town for the weekend — clothes, toothbrush, and other necessities. Gather packing materials, including tape, labels, markers, scissors, and bubble wrap or other padding, in a container so nothing is misplaced. Then the fun begins: Go room to room, placing grouped items in boxes, bins, or bags. Label each with color-coded stickers or labels designating the intended room. Tape securely to avoid broken or lost items, and keep related boxes together.

view from above to the city traffic jam
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Solution: Make sure to have reliable contact information before the day of the move. That way, if there's a traffic delay or another problem, you won't be left in the dark. Have a contingency plan, whether it's a friend with a truck or the number of a local truck-rental location. If possible, give yourself some leeway. Don't schedule a move for the last possible minute.

sad homeowner moving home in the midst of moving boxes
Photo credit: Antonio Guillem/shutterstock

Solution: There's no way to avoid this scenario except to plan ahead, and stay organized and on deadline. It might mean taking days off work to get the packing done, calling in favors from friends, or hiring someone to pack for you, a service that ideally includes packing materials and saves time.

worried couple budgeting with laptop and bills
Photo credit: valentinrussanov/istockphoto

Solution: There are plenty of strategies for saving money on a move without the risk of hiring a cheap, potentially disreputable moving company. For instance, schedule a move for the middle of the week — when rates are lower, because most people tend to move on weekends. Summer is a popular season to move, so try to avoid moving in June, July, or August. Use boxes and packing materials you already have or borrow from friends, family, and co-workers.

mover guy holding agenda asking information to write with cardboard box
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Solution: To find a reputable moving company, start by asking friends for recommendations. Get multiple estimates, and be wary of companies that offer suspiciously cheap bids. Other warning signs are companies that give estimates without knowing anything about a move (valid movers will provide an in-house inspection before throwing out a figure), or demand partial or even full payment in advance. Research moving companies via the Better Business Bureau or Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which has tips for sussing out earnest movers from scammers and complaint histories for registered movers.

young man sleeping underneath moving boxes
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Solution: Lifting heavy objects and carrying them around can lead to injuries. Lift by placing feet shoulder-width apart, then squatting down, bending at the knees and hips only. Keeping the back straight and looking straight ahead, lift the object slowly by straightening the knees and hips. Carry objects at bellybutton level, close to your body. For especially large objects, use a dolly. Drink plenty of water and take breaks as needed.

young woman bored with moving
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Solution: Moving is typically dull and unpleasant. If you don't have one already, now's the time to buy a portable Bluetooth speaker. Make the most of the time by catching up on a podcast, new music, or an audio book. If you've roped friends into helping, it's a good time to catch up.

white door opens in a yellow room to reveal a room full of cardboard boxes
Photo credit: Tim Masters/shutterstock

Solution: Measure the entries and hallways of the new place and compare them beforehand with the measurements of your largest furniture pieces. Break down the furniture, if possible — some couches and bed frames have legs that come off, and many shelving units can be split into smaller parts. If furniture can't be broken down and still doesn't seem to fit, try new angles and press soft parts against door frames. You may have to remove doors from their hinges to eke out a little more space. If you're still stuck, try thinking outside the door: There may be a window or balcony that will accommodate the object. If all this fails, it might be time for new stuff.

messenger delivering a heavily damaged parcel
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Solution: Properly pad and secure fragile items when packing, of course. But if you're worried about breakage, get moving insurance and take photos of the most important possessions beforehand. Then make sure they're intact as soon as the move is complete. Take pictures of any damage and immediately file a claim with either the insurance company or the moving company.

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