Table of contents
- Donate your unused things.
- Donate duplicates of things you own.
- Sell anything unwanted that may have value
- Update, swap or sell your old furniture
- While you pack, determine if you actually need an item
- Find free moving boxes
- Donate your moving boxes when you’ve completed your move
- Label your moving boxes with what is inside
- Label your moving boxes with the room you’d like to put your items in
- Make sure your boxes have handles, or cut your own!
- Use reusable containers instead of moving boxes
- Plan your meals
- Donate any food you weren’t able to consume, and can’t move with
- Don’t pack things you need during everyday life into your moving boxes.
- Pack your existing suitcases with clothes
- Patch up holes in the walls in the apartment you’re moving out of
- Take photos of the apartment right after you’ve moved out
- Take photos of your new apartment before you move anything inside
- Finish packing the night before your move
- Make sure your biggest items will fit out of your door and down the stairs
- Use T-shirts to pad some of your valuables
- Save packing material from packages you receive a few months before you move
- Ask your moving company if they have a preference to take apart any furniture
- Have a tip for your movers ready to go in your wallet.
- Move any super delicate items yourself, if you can
- Save boxes for important items that are hard to pack
- Take photos of complicated furniture that you’ve taken apart
- Save any screws or hardware for furniture that you take apart
- Take photos of complicated electronics that you break down to pack
- Get multiple quotes from movers in your area
- Get a few door stoppers to assist with the move
- Measure your new place and imagine where your furniture will go
- Assemble any new furniture right away!
- Give yourself some time to unpack and unwind
- Set a budget for new furniture and home improvements and stick to it
- Try to negotiate a 1- or 2-week overlap with old place and new place
- Ask your landlord at your old apartment or house what the move out process is like
- Try to not use a storage unit, if you can swing it
- Set up your new utilities in advance
- Meet your neighbors
- Test everything in your new apartment at once, and group several maintenance requests together
- Get to know the neighborhood before you move
- Take note of everywhere using your old address
- Set up mail forwarding to your new address
- Order a few necessities to your new apartment in advance
- Duplicate your new keys and pass them to a friend that lives close by
- Clean the new apartment before you move in
- Set up your bed first and don’t unpack on your bed!
- Have a housewarming party to make your new home feel welcomed (and warm)
Becca and I have lived in several apartments in New York City. We both moved to the city in 2013 and between the two of us, we have moved in and out of eight apartments!
While moving isn’t always fun, we’ve picked up a few tricks that have made moving a little bit more fun, affordable and meaningful.
You may know us as the people who brought you the guide to minimalist packing and travel, but the truth is, we do have a home, and we live in it, when we are not traveling.
Not to talk too much about travel, but we do think that our experience in packing for all our trips has helped us figure out how to pack for a move.
And we’ve both moved every few years, from moving from place to place while working remotely around the world to moving from apartment to apartment in NYC.
If you think moving is a chore, you’re not incorrect.
What I mean by this is that yes, it’s pretty terrible to have to put all your things into boxes and figure out if you want to keep them or not when you move into your next place.
What you can do, though, is find ways to create a meaning or life change within your move. If your move is something that excites you, like moving to a bigger, brighter, or better-located home, check out what we’ve done that made moving into a project that we wanted to complete together.
Here we go!
Donate your unused things.
This is one of the most important things that we do to make sure that we’re not holding onto things that we’re not going to use.
We don’t claim to be minimalists, but we do like to reduce clutter and not hold onto things that don’t have any value to us and take up space.
Often, someone might be looking for the thing that seems like trash to you. In this way, I’ll note that I recently bought furniture legs to spruce up a bookshelf in our new home. I would have loved to pick up some recycled legs instead of buying them new!
Also, lots of schools and other community-based programs might have a need for a specific excess of items and products. Call your local community center and ask around to determine if there’s a need for any specific item.
Here in New York City, lots of people are learning remotely and any device that can connect to Zoom is valuable to help kids learn! Getting rid of your old phones and tablets are a great example of things to donate, or sell.
Donate duplicates of things you own.
During packing, you might notice that you have duplicates of certain things. These items might be too many pens, lots of bed sheets, too many towels, more plates than you actually need, or two pots of the same size that you never wind up using quite exactly at the same time.
Before you put something into a box, make sure that you need it and try to donate it if you can!
When we realized that we had two pans of the same size (in our minds, the same ‘use case’) we gave one away on our local BuyNothing group. This is a way to give things away for free to people who actually want them, rather than leaving them on your stoop or on the curb.
Sell anything unwanted that may have value
While we were packing most recently, we decided to sell some of our clothes, photography gear and furniture.
With clothes, we’ve held onto a lot that we don’t wear anymore. For me, this was a lot of my formal clothes. I rarely wear a button-down, and didn’t need to have so many!
I’ve collected a lot of photography gear over the years.
I wanted to slim down my collection and only hold on to the equipment that I was using on a regular basis. I was able to sell some of my older camera bodies, accessories and lenses that I use once or twice per year.
For times when I need those things, I can either rent them, or ask to borrow them. There’s not much of a point in keeping things you only use once or twice per year. For these types of things, the less you use them, the higher your ‘cost per use’ is.
Update, swap or sell your old furniture
Furniture was a big deal to us with our most recent move.
Because we moved into a small apartment and we both work remotely from home, we wanted to have a lot of intention with our furniture selection.
Our old furniture was a collection of things we got for free and things that we thought we needed. We realized that we had a random and non-cohesive set of furniture that didn’t serve a good purpose for us.
We carefully measured our new apartment and picked our furniture to make everything feel more open. We tried to use the space as efficiently as we could!
We also sold a good percentage of our furniture, especially if we didn’t think we’d have a good use for it.
So, we sold our bar stools. They had been being used as surfaces and shelves for our plants! We figured they could go to someone who actually had a breakfast bar countertop and wanted to get a good deal on great condition bar stools.
While you pack, determine if you actually need an item
Packing things that you won’t actually use is the worst. It can be really frustrating and pretty dissatisfying.
Whatever you pack needs to be unpacked, or even worse, stay in a box until your next move.
Making sure that you have intention with everything that you’re packing is a good practice to ensure that your new home will be clutter-free!
This is the topic where you can bring things like keepsakes, souvenirs and knick-knacks into view. Do you have a use for them? Would another family member enjoy having them more? Are they not creating any type of happiness for you?
Determine if you really need something and determine if you’ll even have a reason to unbox it in your next home. You can do this easily!
Find free moving boxes
In our most recent move, we spent a lot of time debating how many large boxes we thought we needed to fit our things inside. We settled with seven, and it actually worked!
Well, let me back up for a second,
While we did pay for seven boxes at Home Depot, we used these boxes to make it easier for our movers. Having 15-20 small boxes would have been inefficient and probably would have caused more trips up our fifth floor walk-up!
The 15-20 small boxes that we did have were a great way to pack some valuable items and not make any particular box too heavy for us.
So how did we get these boxes for free?
Whenever we received a package, we tried to save the box that it came in. When we received a bigger or smaller box, we tried to nest as many boxes into each other as we could.
We tried to stash away these extra boxes on the top of our closets, under the couch and when it got closer to our move, behind the couch.
Having smaller boxes to pack into larger ones was a HUGE save, and this is because we packed breakable items like wine tumblers, glass mason jars and random sharp things like knives, into smaller boxes, before placing the small boxes into larger ones.
This was like a super-satisfying game! We packed up the empty spaces with packing material or sweatshirts.
Our tip is to make sure your breakables are packed tightly away with packing material, and this is something you can also save, every time you get something in the mail from Amazon.
Donate your moving boxes when you’ve completed your move
Once we moved into our new place, we had a lot of boxes.
In fact, we had even more boxes in our new place because we saved a lot of the big boxes that our new furniture arrived in.
We did use the nesting trick, but over time, it actually got a bit too overwhelming! We had a mountain of boxes that we had to walk around every time we wanted to access our laundry machine and dryer.
We recycled some of the boxes that were banged-up and saved all of the other boxes in a corner in our new apartment as we were unpacking.
Once we had all of the boxes cleared, we listed free boxes on a few neighborhood apps, like Craigslist, Nextdoor app and a Facebook group local to our neighborhood.
Someone came to pick up a good amount!
We were glad to be able to help someone move in a similar way that we did. Plus, we eliminated waste, and both people who came to pick up our boxes for their own use were really grateful.
Label your moving boxes with what is inside
We labeled most of our boxes, and for the boxes that we did label, it was actually really helpful.
While sourcing ideas for tips and tricks for having an easy move, we got some ideas from friends. We had a friend who told us to ‘tier’ the boxes, calling them Tier 1 (needs to be unpacked ASAP for everyday living) to Tier 3, for ‘stuff you might not miss or use daily.’
Because we didn’t have that many things this time around (or so we thought), if we were looking for something specific as we were unpacking, there were really only a few boxes that we needed to check before we uncovered it.
Plus, we were able to unpack everything the day we moved and were settled by the end of the long weekend. Our friends thought this was really impressive. ; )
I can see if you are packing a bigger apartment or a house, this step would be absolutely critical if your unpacking process spans more than a few days!
Label your moving boxes with the room you’d like to put your items in
Again, this is only really useful if you’re moving into an apartment or a house with more than two rooms. Our apartment is NYC-sized (small, relative to most of the rest of the country and world except for maybe Hong Kong!) and we have a bedroom and a living room (with the kitchen) in an open layout.
When the movers asked where we wanted everything, it was easy for us to have a dedicated space for boxes.
Our furniture was easy to figure out for where it should go, because, well, the couch goes in the living room and the bed goes in the bedroom. That was pretty much it!
If we had stairs or multiple rooms, it would have been helpful to have boxes placed in the general area of where we would have needed to unpack things. This would have helped keep everything organized and avoid being overwhelmed with the unpacking process.
Make sure your boxes have handles, or cut your own!
For the small boxes that we packed, this wasn’t really an issue. The boxes were small enough for us to carry them from the bottom.
With some of the larger boxes that we packed, carrying the boxes at the bottom meant that we wouldn’t really be able to see over the boxes as we were carrying them.
This wasn’t great if we were going down a flight of stairs or loading the boxes into a car, van or truck.
I made the mistake of packing a box too tightly, and didn’t allow any room for the handle. This made carrying that box a little more difficult. Rookie mistake!
Because most boxes come with handles, make sure to leave room in your box to be able to use them. Handles can be your friend when you’re carrying a big load.
If you are using boxes that don’t have handles, try cutting your own, if it makes carrying the box easier.
Watch out to not rip the box, because then it would be much harder to move it!
Use reusable containers instead of moving boxes
When deciding how to move our things and researching our options, I stumbled across a few services local to NYC that were able to rent storage containers.
With any of these particular services, they actually move whatever you pack in your containers. The price didn’t really match up to our expectations, so we ended up exploring other options.
During this research, I actually really liked the idea of eliminating the need for boxes, tape and other packing suppliers. Being able to pack reusable containers would have made us feel much better about creating a bit of waste during our move.
If you have the space, keeping the storage containers that you used to move could be useful for other things, like garage items and spare pillows and blankets for guests.
Storage containers are also useful to help keep things try in a basement in case of a flood! You can also get reusable collapsible moving bags like these extra-large moving bags.
Plan your meals
The week before our move, we tried really hard to consume all of the perishable food that we had in our fridge, freezer and pantry.
Some of the meals toward the end of our moving week were really creative!
We wanted to save money by not ordering delivery or going out too frequently toward our moving date.
We were okay with a few creative meals, because it made our all-in cost for the move much lower.
Using up everything in our fridge and freezer also eliminated the need to throw away anything we weren’t able to consume. And luckily, we only moved a few blocks away, so we were able to take some hot sauce bottles, freezer goods and our frozen wedding cake with us.
Even though we do live close, we didn’t want to risk anything melting or create an issue in which we needed to throw anything away.
We’re all about sustainability, which we detail in our travel guide called how to be a more sustainable traveler that you can use for your next trip. A lot of these sustainability tips apply in everyday life.
Donate any food you weren’t able to consume, and can’t move with
If you’re able to, donate some of the food that you didn’t know that you had! If your area has a local food pantry, call ahead and check if they need anything in particular.
And, as you are packing up your kitchen and you come across something that someone else needs, donate it!
There’s also local Facebook groups like BuyNothing. See if any of your packaged or heavy canned food could go to someone who wants it more than you do, and make a post in your local BuyNothing!
Don’t pack things you need during everyday life into your moving boxes.
We moved on a Friday morning. On Thursday night and throughout our packing process, we set aside a bag of things that we wanted to have for Friday. These were things with which we didn’t want to be without, for more than a day or two.
For us, this was mostly the clothes that we wanted to wear (we made sure to check the weather to see if temperatures were going to surge, or dip), our laptops and our phone/laptop charging cables.
It would be the worst if you packed all of your charging cables and needed to buy a few new ones during your moving process. Make sure you’ve taken inventory of everything you use on a daily basis, and put this into a backpack, like you’re going on a short vacation away from everything you own.
Pack your existing suitcases with clothes
As you are packing clothes, your suitcases or luggage that you use for travel would make a perfect place to stash away your clothes. Because luggage has handles and is meant to be moved and tossed around, it totally works!
We packed a few duffel bags and moved some of the items in our closets ourselves. This was to save a few trips up the stairs for our movers and allow us to get a head start setting up the closet.
Patch up holes in the walls in the apartment you’re moving out of
We hang a few items like picture frames and spice racks to the wall wherever we wind up living. When we left our last place, we had quite a bit of holes to fill to make it easy for management to repaint and turn over the apartment for a new tenant.
If you don’t patch your holes, you can potentially risk giving up a portion of your security deposit.
Patching holes is really easy and you can even ask your management company or super if they have any spackle that you can use.
In all of the apartments that I’ve lived in, I haven’t found the need to patch thumbtack holes. The holes that I’ve patched have typically been things that I’ve anchored into the wall with a drill.
Take photos of the apartment right after you’ve moved out
When I was much younger, I rented an apartment and the landlord tried to charge me and my roommates for the full amount of the security deposit.
He claimed that we left some damage to the apartment that was clearly not the case. We spent a lot of time cleaning up and making sure it was as close to the same condition that it was in when we moved in.
He provided his photos to prove his point, and these were blurry photos of things that didn’t match the description.
After that experience, I started taking photos and doing an apartment walk-through with the landlord or a management company (if applicable).
The pictures, which should be geo-tagged and time-stamped, provide some proof to show that you left your rental in good conditions.
Take photos of your new apartment before you move anything inside
It’s a good idea to take photos of your new house or apartment rental when you move in!
If there is any damage, like scratches to the floor, dented appliances or cracks in the wall, you want to make sure that you don’t get charged for those things once you move out.
Because the photos should be time-stamped via your phone, this should be your proof that you didn’t cause any of the damage.
When we moved into our new apartment this time around, we noticed some gashes in the hardwood floors, and some bang-ups to the cabinetry doors in the kitchen. We got in touch with management before our move-in date (we luckily had access to the unit before the lease began) and made note of these items before move-in day.
Finish packing the night before your move
To prevent any stressful moving days, make sure you have everything put away in its place by the time you are ready to make your move.
What do you do the night before the move? Having everything ready to go the night before the move gives you some peace of mind and prevents any situations in which you throw random things into a box.
You hopefully spent a good bit of time trying to keep things organized and wrote some labels and notes on the boxes. When you start throwing random things into the box to get it out of the way, it’ll make it much harder for you to unpack later on.
Make sure your biggest items will fit out of your door and down the stairs
When we moved into our last place, everything came in a box from IKEA. There weren’t any questions about whether something would fit or not, because each item was all tucked away in a perfectly-packed box.
After everything was put together, we realized that getting some of our bigger items like a table and our couch might actually be a struggle.
I measured the couch and the door and figured that it would all fit because of my measurements.
Well, the couch didn’t fit out the door.
It wasn’t a huge deal, because the couch comes apart rather quickly. The issue was that the couch was already wrapped in some padding, as it was about to go down a few flights of stairs.
We learned our lesson!
Use T-shirts to pad some of your valuables
If you are like me, and have a seemingly endless supply of T-shirts, you can use them for padding some of your valuable items.
If you take this advice, make sure to also label the boxes that you put t-shirts in the box. You might forget otherwise!
Instead of buying rolls of bubble wrap or packing paper, we rolled up some of our glass items, like jars, cups, mugs and other breakables with some of my T-shirts. This worked surprisingly well, but we do recommend plastic-bagging breakable items before wrapping them in fabrics, in case they do break. This will help any broken parts to not contaminate everything else in the box.
The same goes for liquids.
You can also pack your stuffed animals, towels, extra sheets and other soft items for the same effect.
Save packing material from packages you receive a few months before you move
We had a lot of random boxes filled with some air mailers and other recyclable paper that we used to pad some of our boxes.
Because we were already saving boxes for our move in our closet, keeping the packing material inside those boxes was really no issue.
Keep sustainability in mind. There is nothing wrong with box-hoarding in the six months before you move, if you have the space or brainpower to have boxes and packing material on hand for use.
Ask your moving company if they have a preference to take apart any furniture
For us and our movers, they didn’t care for us to take apart anything. In fact, it probably would have caused them to take more trips up and down the stairs if each item was in several pieces.
For our dresser, they wrapped everything up and didn’t need to take the drawers out. We made sure to clear our drawers, though, so it was a bit lighter!
If you have any valuable furniture that you know won’t fit out of your apartment, you may want to take it apart yourself so that you can take the time to do it right.
Movers will usually take stuff apart and put it back together, but they also charge by the hour. So more time with disassembly and assembly means more money that you have to pay.
Have a tip for your movers ready to go in your wallet.
Luckily, because we sold a lot of furniture and other electronics, we had some cash laying around. We paid for our move and the tip entirely with profits from our furniture sales.
We ended up enjoying the company of our movers and tipped generously. We were really happy that they were communicative, prompt, polite and respectful of our timeline.
Ask some friends or other people who have moved locally in your city and get a sense for what is normal in terms of how much of a cash tip to give.
Make sure to have cash available and don’t pack it where you won’t find it!
Move any super delicate items yourself, if you can
Because our old apartment and new apartment were so close, we took a few trips during nights in the weeks leading up to our move, to walk over a box here and there with dried flowers, vases and other kitchen appliances that we felt like didn’t need to be banged around in a box.
For most people that don’t live in a major city, like NYC, driving some of your items over from your old place to your new place would also work, if the new place is un-inhabited by a homeowner or tenant.
We drove our plants over the day before the big move and that was an effective way to ensure that all of our plants survived!
Save boxes for important items that are hard to pack
When I got my computer monitor and our printer, I saved both of those boxes because I figured it was much easier to move those items in the box that they came in.
I’m glad I saved the box because it worked out really well, and such a custom-sized box was completely necessary for transporting something like an expensive large computer monitor.
Everything made it to the new apartment in one piece and with no dings, dents or scratches.
Storing these boxes can be a bit of a challenge if you don’t have a good place for it. We tried to find a place under the bed, but ultimately used the back of our closest to store these boxes. We’re still planning on saving these uniquely-sized boxes for our next move, or for as long as I have these high-value items.
Take photos of complicated furniture that you’ve taken apart
If you’re doing a self move, or even if you are selling furniture, taking photos of how you took apart your item can help you, or someone else, reassemble the furniture item you took apart.
I sold my big IKEA standing desk and took a few photos throughout the process. If the person who I sold the desk to had any issues, I would want to be available to help troubleshoot. I also provided him with all the screws and allen wrenches in a little baggie.
Or, if you aren’t that handy, but need to take apart something, these photos can be a guide for someone else to help you put together whatever you took apart.
Save any screws or hardware for furniture that you take apart
Make sure that you have a little sandwich bag that you can use to keep any hardware that comes off of the furniture that you take apart.
The worst thing ever is trying to put something back together and realizing that you lost one critical screw. You’ll be completely dead-ended.
Whenever I get new furniture, I always save some of the spare parts that the manufacturer may include, in case something breaks or if I have to share parts from different items.
Don’t tell Becca, but I forgot to put a full set of washers on her new home office desk. So, we have a lot of extra washers in our toolbox!
Take photos of complicated electronics that you break down to pack
You may have a complicated TV entertainment system or you may have a lot of in-home networking setups.
Maybe your home office desk setup has a lot going on, and when you move, you want to make sure everything goes back together the same way.
A quick way to fix this is to take plenty of photos of your current setup. When you are setting up your new home, you can reference these photos to make sure everything is plugged in correctly in your home office, even a home office in a small apartment.
Get multiple quotes from movers in your area
Becca and I have moved into three apartments together. Two of those three were self-moves. Our first apartment was easy because we didn’t have too many things, and we were both coming out of sublets.
However, we had more than we expected (this will ALWAYS be the case!) and moving everything ourselves was something we told ourselves we wouldn’t do again.
For our third apartment, we finally hired movers! And we were really glad that we did. It was worth every penny to not figure out how to bring our couch down five flights of stairs like amateurs.
First, we shopped around and got a sense of the rates for movers in our area. We already had an idea about which companies existed, because there are usually a lot of moving trucks in our neighborhood.
Next, we asked some of our friends and actually did a bunch of market research through networking to find out which moving company people used and which type of experience they had.
Once we narrowed down the companies that we felt comfortable working with, we reached out to every one and got some quotes.
We took the quotes, and ended up choosing the company that had the most reasonable rates for what we thought our move should cost.
We also wound up choosing a company that replied SUPER fast to our emails, which was really impressive. Both of us value responsiveness and that can be a good hint of a good company for choosing.
If you live in a doorman or concierge apartment building, make sure to ask the new management about if you need a COI. The company may have a move-in packet to help you out. The key is to make sure your movers are insured, and make sure they can provide a proof of insurance, or a COI (certificate of insurance). This sometimes comes at a fee, but it is also worth it (and required).
Get a few door stoppers to assist with the move
We actually didn’t do this and it caused a few minor issues for us during our move.
The apartment door in our last apartment didn’t stay open and I ended up jamming a folded cardboard box under the door that worked. I was nervous that someone would slip on it, but it was okay in the end! One great tip is to always be resourceful.
At the entry to our apartment, we had the same problem, and both entryway doors didn’t have any good way to stay open. The area rug was able to prop one of the doors open, and I used a big rock to prop the other one open.
Resourcefulness is key! (It’s also a characteristic you can use about yourself in an interview, so this is great to keep in mind as a life skill.)
All of my solutions weren’t great, and could cause issues for someone else. Door stoppers are really affordable and can significantly help your move!
Measure your new place and imagine where your furniture will go
We spent a lot of time imagining what our new apartment setup could be. We tend to spend a lot of time in our apartment, and we wanted to make sure that it worked for us and what we like to do.
We came over to our new place a few times to take measurements and even lay out markers with painter’s tape to mark where we expected to put furniture.
I used a few online room planners to visualize our furniture in the space and make sure everything was usable and accessible.
This was more of a big deal for us because we were buying a few new pieces of furniture and wanted to make sure everything fit properly.
Assemble any new furniture right away!
Luckily for us, our new and old apartments were close to each other. Whenever a new piece of furniture arrived, I walked over and put it together.
It saved a lot of time for us because the eight hours of furniture-building were spread out over a few days and it’s something that I didn’t have to do as we were also trying to unpack things.
Building the furniture gave us additional surfaces to use right away as we were unpacking our boxes and trying to put everything away.
Give yourself some time to unpack and unwind
We worked really hard during our move-in weekend to make sure we were 100% settled by the time the weekend was over.
Most people aren’t like that and we’re probably a little crazy for doing that.
It’s totally normal to chip away at some of the bigger projects, like hanging pictures, unpacking some of the secondary boxes that you have and setting up your kitchen.
It’s more important to enjoy your new place and imagine how you can create new memories inside. Where your cutting boards go shouldn’t take up too much mental energy.
Set a budget for new furniture and home improvements and stick to it
When you move homes, it’s likely that some of your furniture won’t fit.
Maybe the bookcase that fit perfectly in one corner of your current home really has no place in your next apartment or house.
Maybe the sectional couch doesn’t work with your living room arrangement.
Whatever the case, you’ll probably need to invest in new furniture or other home improvements.
Try and set a budget for these home setup items and stick to it! It’s easy to get carried away and order lots of things that you don’t actually need.
A strict budget helps you stay on track and can help lower the overall cost of your move.
Try to negotiate a 1- or 2-week overlap with old place and new place
Having the keys early and setting up an overlap between your old place and new place are critical in having a smooth move. It’s not always possible, and may not be typically for many apartment moves, but we’ve been able to overlap leases every time.
This time, we had a three-week overlap and it was crucial for us to get set up so fast. We were able to spread out setting things up over a long period of time, and we were grateful to have that opportunity.
Also, getting the keys early allows you to see your new place in a few different times of the day. This information can help determine where you place some furniture or where art gets hung up on the walls.
What I mean here is if you were envisioning your home office near the window, but then you stop by the apartment only to see that the afternoon light is terribly harsh and would distract you or cause working problems, you have the opportunity to reconsider.
Ask your landlord at your old apartment or house what the move out process is like
Our last landlord was a fairly standard New York City landlord. We never met them, they barely took care of the building and tried to cut all of the corners that they could.
They didn’t really have a move-out process! Well, they instructed us to leave the keys inside on the kitchen counter and that was about it. They said the super would pick up the keys from inside a kitchen drawer, and all we did was send him a photo when we left that apartment forever. It worked out totally fine and we got our deposit back a month later (hooray!).
From our past experience, we made sure to clean the place really well, patch any holes, and make sure that we left nothing behind. We did the best that we could, in order to get our full original deposit back like a clean slate.
Try to not use a storage unit, if you can swing it
Storage units have their moments. If something that you own cannot fit in your home like a family heirloom, then sure, a storage unit is great.
If you have any hobbies like snowboarding or music that require a lot of items that you don’t want to look at and need only a few times per year, then sure, a storage unit is great.
If you’re using a storage unit for boxes filled with stuff that you probably don’t need and probably won’t use again, then get rid of the storage unit! It’s going to cost you a set amount per month, and if the stuff in those storage boxes isn’t providing immediate value to you, then it’s time to sit down and really think about that.
I never could justify getting a storage unit. Every time I did the math, the price of the storage unit would always end up costing more than the actual items that I wanted to store inside it like bikes or beds.
Set up your new utilities in advance
This seems simple, but make sure that your utilities are all set up by the time \ you get to your new place.
This also means to make sure that you’ve cancelled or moved any of your existing utilities to a new account.
For us here in New York City, we needed to set up the internet, gas and electric. Everything else is covered by our building like, well, water.
Meet your neighbors
Neighbors are great!
At our last apartment, we had an issue where packages were getting stolen, about once a month. This is pretty common in NYC, especially for small walk-ups for which the delivery person might not have been given the building code or key. Thus, they’ll leave packages right on the doorstep, and thieves snatch them within minutes.
Our former apartment building had an unspoken rule to bring other people’s packages up to their apartments. This made it so packages would never sit in the lobby area for too long. It turned out to be a sweet way that we all gave back to each other, from bringing up the mail for other units, to texting them if Amazon left a large box near the garbage bins outside (true story).
For us being on the top floor, it usually meant that we would take everyone’s package up. We didn’t mind!
We also needed to borrow a vacuum when we were moving out. We texted one of our neighbors and we got what we needed. In fact, we texted both neighbors whose phone numbers we had, and wound up hearing (luckily) from the one right across the hall from us.
Neighbors can be useful for helping you water your plants while you are away, get your mail if it starts to build up, borrow some ingredients that you ran out of and so much more.
Test everything in your new apartment at once, and group several maintenance requests together
It’s probably a good idea to save a bunch of small issues that need fixing for one event, in which the super or building attendant can come over and fix everything at once.
Batching together any issues is much more mindful than having someone come out to fix something small every few days.
Before we moved in, we submitted a maintenance request to clean the floors, patch up damaged cabinets and a few more things. After we moved in, we submitted a request to fix our faucet.
Get to know the neighborhood before you move
Part of the fun of moving is getting to explore new and existing things about your neighborhood. We like to find new cafes around Brooklyn, and discover neighborhood secrets like cool alleyways and buildings in Brooklyn Heights, where we used to live.
One thing that we do not like hunting for are things that we need, like grocery stores and pharmacies. We made sure to get a sense of where those things were before we moved.
Take note of everywhere using your old address
I’ve moved almost every year since I was 18. That’s a lot of addresses at which I have received mail.
I couldn’t imagine how many times something that I didn’t know I needed ended up in the wrong mailbox. When I was traveling, I even had an extra physical address registered with TravelingMailbox, one of the coolest apps for travel I’ve found, and this service sent all my mail to an address in North Carolina while I was abroad.
Before Becca and I moved, we audited and updated all of our banks, work accounts and family members with our new address. We wrote down everything that we changed in case we had to do this again in the next year or so.
We actually came up with 40+ websites, apps and services that required changing our new address. We grouped these into categories like banks, shopping, travel, and others, to jog our memories in how many websites store our addresses online.
The last thing you’d want is a package or important bank letter defaulting to being sent to an old address, and this actually even happened to us the week after we moved, from a company that decided to go rogue and use our old address on file, mistakenly.
Set up mail forwarding to your new address
If you’re in the United States, USPS has a mail-forwarding service that you can sign up for.
It’s about $1 and allows you to forward your mail for up to a year after you submit the request.
As an extra step, I signed up twice to check that mail addressed to “Dan” and “Daniel” would both make it to my new address. I can’t figure out how temperamental USPS really is in this sort of way.
Address-forwarding is a temporary step. If you’re receiving mail at your old address, make sure to update the original sender with your new address.
Keep track of the new location that you updated! It’ll be useful when/if you move again.
Order a few necessities to your new apartment in advance
Necessities are different for everyone, but having the things you need on your first night in your new home can be useful.
Our new apartment has a dishwasher and we didn’t have that in our last place. Before we officially moved in, we made sure to get dishwasher detergent so we could wash dishes right away.
Duplicate your new keys and pass them to a friend that lives close by
With everything going on with your move, you want to make sure that you don’t lock yourself out of your apartment.
When I was moving out of an apartment a long time ago, I was helping someone down the stairs with a dresser that I sold.
The door closed and I didn’t have my keys. I was locked out and didn’t finish bringing everything down. It was so embarrassing!
Luckily, someone from my building was able to open the door. I didn’t lock my apartment door so it was totally fine in the end.
Before you officially move in, it would be a great idea to have a second set of keys that you leave with someone whom you live close to and whom you trust.
If you ever lock yourself out, you can call this person and hopefully they are available to help you out!
Clean the new apartment before you move in
Usually, apartments are cleaned before you move in, but ‘clean’ is a really loose term.
This is typical and a nice gesture that the landlord or management company can do for you. They also may choose to skimp on hiring a cleaning crew and may leave your place dusty, dirty or grimy.
Keep in mind that if an apartment is empty for a while, it may collect dust. If many different people are viewing the apartment, the floors might not be the cleanest.
While this is up to you and your landlord who cleans it, ultimately, you are living in the apartment and may want to move into a clean space.
When we moved into our new apartment, we spent some time mopping the floors and wiping down all of the window sills and counters. This is a) because Becca loves cleaning and b) because we knew that this was before our furniture moved in, and cleaning around furniture is much more complicated.
Set up your bed first and don’t unpack on your bed!
After moving, you’ll probably want to go to sleep early and get a good night’s rest. Whenever you get tired, you’ll want your bed to crash into at night or whatever time of day you need sleep.
Having your bed clean and ready to go is the first step in that process.
You may also want to not unpack things on your bed so that you don’t have to put lots of random things away before you can go to sleep.
Have a housewarming party to make your new home feel welcomed (and warm)
You’ve made it!
You successfully moved. Now it’s time to celebrate and thank all of the people who have helped you along the way.
Now that you’ve hopefully met some neighbors and had your friend stash away your keys, you can invite everyone over to celebrate. You’ll have clean floors, dish detergent for your dishwasher, your furniture all built and your boxes all donated or given away.
You crushed moving, and now it’s probably time to start planning a trip.
Last updated on June 10th, 2021