While you can plan a relatively easy and budget-friendly move with enough time, packing everything you own may still be overwhelming. It can be an even more exhausting experience if you’re short on time. But rest assured, with a solid plan and strong follow-through, you can pull off a last-minute move.
Whether your time crunch results from procrastination or something outside your control, the This Old House Reviews Team will walk you through moving on a tight deadline. Using the schedule outlined below, you can condense your moving to-do list into a single week of work.
Day 1: Prepare
Start your week with a deep, calming breath and remind yourself that you can do this. Then, begin preparing for your move. This day will consist of phone calls, paperwork, administrative tasks, and a quick shopping trip. Here’s what to do six days before your move:
- Plan the week ahead of you. You can do this with a moving planner, notebook, folder, or binder. If you prefer to keep digital records, use a spreadsheet or planner app. The goal is to keep everything move-related in one place so that it’s organized and easy to find.
- Buy packing and moving materials. Briefly take stock of what you own and the materials you need to pack it. In addition to moving boxes, you might need bubble wrap, packing paper, plastic stretch wrap, and packing tape. You can buy what you need directly from a moving or truck rental company. Stores such as Walmart, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Office Depot also carry packing supplies.
- Call a moving company. Decide whether you want to rent a moving truck or hire a full-service moving company, then call around. With a week or less to move, your options may be limited, and prices will be higher than they would be if you booked a month or two in advance. If you have the time and patience, it’s best to request quotes from at least three companies before booking your move.
- Ask friends and family for help. Ask local friends and family members if they can pitch in; it will save you time and money and make the process more enjoyable. Remember to show your appreciation. For example, you may offer a free meal and drinks in exchange for moving help.
- Transfer your utilities. Contact all of your current utility companies and tell them your move-out date and new address so they can send you your final bill. Then, set up accounts with the utility companies for your new home. Examples include natural gas, electricity, water, internet, and trash pickup.
- Set up mail forwarding. You can change your address online through the USPS website in a matter of minutes. In many cases, your mail forwarding will begin within three business days of submitting your request. However, it can take up to two weeks. For a last-minute move, it may be worth changing your address in person at your local post office instead.
- Hire any additional services. Long-distance moving companies offer services to make your move easier, including full or partial packing and cleaning services. Other available services include auto transport, pet relocation, furniture assembly, unpacking, and appliance installation. Although truck rental companies typically do not offer in-house moving services, they can often refer you to local companies that do.
Days 2–3: Organize
Days two and three will involve more hands-on work than day one, as you’ll spend these days getting organized. Here’s what to do four or five days before your move:
- Focus on one room at a time. Either start with the easiest room to build momentum or get your largest room out of the way first. The order is up to you, but it’s important to finish one room before moving on to the next.
- Get rid of items you don’t need, use, or want. Go through everything in each room and purge as you go. Downsizing and decluttering will make the rest of the moving process easier.
- Take inventory. If you hire a full-service mover or plan to purchase moving insurance, take inventory as you go. This will help you determine if anything was lost or damaged during the move.
- Group similar items together. Sort your belongings into groups. Organize them in a way that will make packing, unpacking, and finding what you need easier. For instance, you might pack kitchen decorations in a different box than kitchen towels, utensils, and tools.
- Donate unwanted items. With less than a week to move, you may not have time to sell anything, but you can still donate gently used items to Goodwill, The Salvation Army, or other nonprofits.
- Save any unused containers or boxes for packing. If you come across any empty totes, cardboard boxes, or other containers, save them. You might also set aside towels, blankets, and other household linens to use in place of bubble wrap and packing paper.
Days 4–5: Pack
Now that you’ve sorted your belongings, it’s time to pack. Here’s what to do two or three days before your move:
- Pack one room at a time. Just as you did when organizing, focus on one room at a time, starting with the least-used room. When you get to rooms that you use daily, pack non-essential items first.
- Pack similar items together. With so little time to pack, it may be tempting to simply throw things into boxes as quickly as possible. Resist that urge and carefully pack similar items together. Your future self will appreciate the effort.
- Label your boxes clearly. On the outside of each box, indicate which room it belongs in and what’s inside. Once everything in a room is packed, you can number the boxes so that you know how many each room has. For instance, if you packed two boxes in your master bathroom, write “1 of 2” on one and “2 of 2” on the other.
- Keep an inventory of important items. Make note of where particularly important or valuable items end up.
- Carefully wrap fragile items. Use newspaper, cardboard, bubble wrap, or another material. If you’re not confident that you can safely pack certain items, consider paying for partial or fragile-only packing services.
- Pack a suitcase of essentials. Put everything you will need while traveling and during the first night at your new place into a suitcase and keep it with you throughout the move.
- Store boxes neatly after each room is emptied. Once you finish with a room, stack the boxes neatly. This will streamline the loading process.
- Carefully store any bags of screws or parts. Some items, such as desks or bed frames, may need to be fully or partially disassembled before moving. To avoid losing any pieces, pack screws and other small parts into a plastic bag and attach it to a larger piece with packing tape.
- Keep cleaning supplies accessible. Make sure you don’t pack any of the cleaning supplies you will need to deep clean your home.
Day 6: Deep Clean
By the sixth day, you should have everything packed and ready to go. Then, you can move on to cleaning, which is especially important if you are moving out of a rental house or apartment and want to get your deposit refunded. Here’s what to do on the last day before your move:
- Clean one room at a time. Just like you did with organizing and packing, do your cleaning one room at a time. Make a list and check off each room as you go.
- Vacuum and mop the floors. Clean the floors thoroughly with a vacuum. For hardwood floors, follow up with a dust mop and a wet mop or steam cleaner. Consider renting a carpet cleaner for carpeted rooms.
- Clean out appliances. Cleaning out the refrigerator is probably the most important step. However, you should also clean out any other appliances that will be left behind, such as the oven and dishwasher.
- Wipe down the kitchen cabinets, sink, and counters. Use a gentle cleaner and cloth to wipe the inside and outside of your kitchen cabinets. Thoroughly clean the sink and countertops, too.
- Wipe down windows and trim. This includes any built-in shelves, crown molding, windowsills, baseboards, and door frames. You might also need to clean any window treatments, such as blinds or curtains, that you will leave behind.
- Clean the bathrooms. Clean out storage spaces and wipe down the bathroom cabinets and counters. Clean the sinks, bathtubs, toilets, mirrors, and showers.
- Make sure no food is left behind. If you diligently cleaned out your cabinets and refrigerator, you may have already covered this step. However, it’s worth taking a second look. Check storage closets and pantries, too.
- Clean any areas that were previously inaccessible. Pay extra attention to areas that were difficult or impossible to clean before, such as your now-empty closets and cabinets.
- Take out the trash. Once everything has been thoroughly cleaned, take out the trash.
Day 7: Move
Although you’ll have already done most of your work, you’ll still have a few more responsibilities. Here’s what to do on the big day:
- Let the movers do their job, or ask for help. If you paid movers to load your rental truck or hired one of the top local or interstate moving companies, let them handle the heavy lifting of items you are paying them to move. If you did not hire movers, recruit friends or family to help you move large pieces of furniture. Absolutely do not move large items by yourself if you cannot safely do so. The middle of a move is not the time to test your limits.
- Do a final lap around your home. Walk through your home one last time to ensure you haven’t left anything behind.
- Pack any remaining items in your car. You are responsible for loading anything that will be traveling in your car with you. This includes your suitcase full of essentials and any valuables or keepsakes you didn’t want to entrust to the movers.
- Turn off the lights and lock the doors. Before you leave, turn off the lights in every room. You should also make sure all windows and doors are locked.
A last-minute move will undoubtedly feel more rushed and overwhelming than a move you had months to plan. However, it is entirely possible to organize, pack, and clean your entire house in less than a week—especially if you enlist the help of friends, family, or professional movers. Just follow the steps above, and take things one day (and room) at a time.
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