Roughly 15 percent of Americans will move from one dwelling to another this summer, according to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. I was offered the privilege of helping one of those in the 15 percent move last weekend. Joining in with a group of friends to help move another friend revealed to me some simple steps to make moving day a bit more palatable -- especially if you're moving in the same area from one house to another. Watching this project from a safe arms-length distance (usually with a box in my hands) provided some ideas on how to make the process work a bit smoother.

This particular move involved about a dozen men and women swooping down upon a mutual friend's house and his family to help make a huge job a small job. Bottom line: we had all their belongings from their three-bedroom rental into their purchased home of about the same size in roughly three hours.

Coming fresh off this move reminded me of some tips I've heard over the years (and some I thought of while pushing packages) on how to create a pleasant moving experience instead of a horrible nightmare.

Plan The Move

Sit down with your moving partners, spouse, roommates, etc., and figure what it's going to take to move. Plan out what truck rental company you'll use (make the reservation early) and don't forget the residual tools you'll need (boxes, blankets, dollies, hand trucks, etc.) for hauling a house load of stuff from one location to the next. Planning out all your needs will keep you from realizing you've forgotten something very important in the midst of all your volunteer help.

Volunteers. Lots of Them.

Begin early soliciting help from your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, fellow worshippers. Get a commitment if at all possible. This isn't a cookout for a football game -- you're moving, don't forget it. Offer food -- and lots of it, for breakfast and lunch. (Be sure to budget for this, as well.) The more hands you have the quicker you'll get through the move. Like I said, we had this family of five and all their stuff packed into a truck and several vans and personal vehicles, transported about five miles, unloaded and placed into their new home all in about three hours. By lunch, we all were out of their hair and eating fast food.

There was more work to be done, for sure, with cleaning up the rental property and then unpacking and setting up the new house, but the majority of the work was done and the family could go on organizing their new home.

More Than a Truck

The truck is only one part of the equipment you'll need to make the move happen quickly and effortlessly. Look at the list below as a minimum:

  • Rental truck (big one)
  • Hand truck, dollies
  • Blankets (at least 10)
  • Boxes (you can never have too many)
  • Broom (to sweep out the truck)
  • Small piece of plywood for a ramp (if necessary)
  • Trash bags (for last minute tosses)
  • Duct Tape (three rolls, at least)

Let me mention the boxes again. There's a lot of stuff that can easily be tossed into the back of a truck, i.e., children's big wheel, small stereo, grocery bags of food, but placing them in boxes that can be stacked works much better. You can't stack items symmetrically into the back of a box if they are the shape of a toddler's plastic slide -- but put that in a big box, and the load can be stacked to the very top of the truck.

Color Coding

As you pack up boxes, use color stickers on top and on the sides to identify where the boxes go. Red for living room, blue for master bedroom, green for Billy's room, white for garage, etc. That's step one. Then make a chart with these colors on them placed at the entrances of the house with arrows pointing where to locate the aforementioned rooms.

This way, the volunteers know exactly where to go to drop off their load of boxes. At each room, tack a piece of paper covered with those colors on the door so the movers then know exactly where to place the boxes. There's nothing worse than having boxes for Billy's room (on the upper level) carried down in the basement.

In the next of this series, I'll deal with controlling the flow of stuff, what NOT to pack, and a few more tips on organizing the move.

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