The moving process is such a difficult one but there are definitely things you can do to making the whole process easier and less stressful. Edwin and I are excitedly anticipating our move at the end of the summer into our house, which got me thinking about our cross-country move to Charleston. We learned SO much from our move from Los Angeles to Charleston so I wanted to share some moving tips with y’all. There are a lot of common moving mistakes and we definitely fell prey to most of them! In a word, our moving day, move cost, and whole packing + moving process was NUTS. Did I mention that we drove through a flooded Texas after Hurricane Harvey on our drive across the country and that Hurricane Irma hit Charleston right after we arrived from our drive? It was crazy! In an effort to help y’all avoid some common moving chaos (hurricanes excluded), here are the 6 moving mistakes we made and what we could have done differently.
The 6 Moving Mistakes We Made
1. We Didn’t Get Rid of Things and We Kept Unwanted Items
There isn’t a better time in life to purge and get rid of things you don’t want or need than moving. We all have so many things we possess that are unnecessary and cause clutter. For me, a cluttered home causes a cluttered mind so I absolutely need to get rid of things to stay sane. Edwin and I would both say that I did a better job of this one than Edwin did. I used to be quite a packrat and would save every note passed in class, every polaroid, and every memento no matter how significant. However, I’ve really changed my ways for two reasons. In college, I moved every year between the dorms, my sorority etc. so it was impossible to hang on to too much. Also, after college, my parents downsized and moved from my childhood home. I flew home for a weekend and took a serious dive into decluttering, purging, and packing my room with my best friend. We laughed non-stop the whole weekend at the memories and things I saved before we really cleaned house on everything. So, in the 5+ years I lived in Santa Monica before moving to Charleston, I didn’t hang on to too much. When I moved, I donated a ton of books to a local bookstore, I made multiple trips to Goodwill, I sold clothes to a secondhand shop, and I threw away odds and ends. Even still, when I look back at photos of the boxes I packed, I could have done an even better job and I plan to purge again as I unpack. I’m going to be ruthless!
I did a lot so you might be wondering why I’m calling this a mistake. Well, as I said, I think I scratched the surface myself and I know I could have done more. Also, Edwin didn’t throw away any unwanted or unnecessary things. The photos we have of Edwin’s “packed” moving boxes make us both breakdown in tears of laughter because they are so outrageous! Edwin had the mindset that he would “deal with everything later when he unpacked” so he quite literally threw everything into boxes. If the boxes are labeled at all, they are labeled “stuff.” Inside of the boxes are everything you could imagine – hard drives, random cords, loose photos, old keyboards, broken cameras, books, receipts, film props, everything. I’m not throwing Edwin under the bus here, he signed off on me sharing our mistakes and all we do now is laugh at his boxes as we anticipate going through them when we move into our house. Even as I write this, I’m laughing out loud because our move was utter chaos!
What we could have done differently: Before we packed up our respective apartments, we should have spent a few days going through our places identifying items we hadn’t used in the last year or two. This would have helped us save money because we wouldn’t have paid to move as much stuff and helped us save time because we wouldn’t have packed as much stuff and wouldn’t have to unpack as much either. Donating, selling, throwing away, and recycling unwanted or old things, kitchen supplies, furniture, clothes, books etc. is mentally liberating and the smart route to take!
2. Procrastinating the Planning Phase
So much planning goes into packing and moving! A huge moving mistake we made was not making a concrete plan for packing or moving in advance. We both definitely had the mindset that moving would come together once we got started and that things would just fall into place. Oh boy were we wrong. We procrastinated planning to the nth degree! We didn’t plan where to buy all our packing supplies (costs on boxes, tape, bubble wrap etc. can really vary). We didn’t plan on a moving company. We didn’t plan on storage options far enough out to really compare prices. We didn’t plan a timeline for packing. We didn’t plan on a packing inventory system. We straight up didn’t have a planning phase.
What we could have done differently: A month out, we should have sat down and made a list of everything we’d need to do for our move including: all the errands we’d need to run, everything we’d need to buy to pack and move, and every phone call we’d need to make to research options. We should have divided tasks, phone calls, and research to make this happen. We didn’t do any of this! We quite literally flailed about town like lunatics!
3. We Didn’t Research a Moving Company
What I’m about to say next literally blows my mind when I think about it… we moved across the country and we didn’t use movers. Haha, I’m laughing out loud at the sheer ridiculousness of this decision! We thought we could do it ourselves and we thought we’d save money by not using movers. We both agree now that we made the wrong decision. We packed up stuff and put it in storage that was super far away from where we lived and then months later found a guy on Craig’s List to drive everything across the country for us in his truck… I definitely admit that this was a risky move. We also panicked and tried to get a U-Haul at the last minute but were unable to because we procrastinated on the planning phase and there were literally no U-Hauls available in all of Los Angeles the day before our move. We bought a Thule from REI the day before we left to put on our car racks that we filled with as much as we could. We also spent the entire night before we left going back and forth between our apartments and a 24-hour FedEx to ship boxes across the country, which you can imagine cost a small fortune. In addition, since we didn’t have professional movers, we didn’t ship our car across the country either. Shipping cars can be expensive but so is gas and hotel rooms. P.S. don’t forget to ask what your movers offer in terms of insurance coverage options.
What we could have done differently: We should have researched a few different moving companies to read reviews on them. We then should have called a few different reputable moving companies to get moving estimates from each. Choosing a moving company takes a bit of time but it’s time well spent. We definitely then should have used a moving company to move our belongings across the country instead of attempting to do it ourselves. We also could have researched and compared the price of shipping our car across the country with movers and then flying to Charleston as opposed to the cost of driving across the country ourselves.
4. We Thought Doing Everything Ourselves Would Save Us Money
We definitely thought doing everything ourselves would save us money and it definitely didn’t. Since we were moving across the country and not down the street, we really needed professional movers. Even if we had been moving just across town I think professional movers still would have been the right call. We ended up spending so much last minute money at FedEx shipping endless boxes, buying more and more packing suplies (when the movers could have provided these items & packed valuables for us as an included fee), buying the Thule, and buying a bigger storage unit then we allotted money for because we did no pre-planning. We also had some items that we would have sold if we’d had time and known they wouldn’t have fit in our storage unit (even after getting a larger one). Instead, we lost money by not having the time or chance to sell these furniture items. As I mentioned above, we put stuff in storage in California and then had a driver we found on Craig’s List drive everything over to a Charleston storage unit months later. This driver was not at all cheap. Our storage unit in Los Angeles also cost more than our Charleston storage unit. All of this could have been avoided if we didn’t try to DIY our move.
What we could have done differently: We should have used professional movers. Professional movers are expensive but it would have been worth it because it would have been less time and labor intensive and, in our case, would have saved us money. Many movers will also breakdown your furniture and professionally pack up valuables and breakables… worth it!
5. We Didn’t Give Ourselves Enough Time to Pack
My oh my did we underestimate the amount of time it would take to pack. Edwin and I were both pretty reckless with this and we ended up staying up all night the night before we left town. In the days leading up to our move, I flew to Nantucket for my bestie’s surprise engagement and Edwin went on a horseback riding camping trip for his bestie’s 30th birthday. We both got home very late on a Monday night and we had to drive out of town by noon two days later on Wednesday in order to stay on our timeline. Our timeline wasn’t negotiable because Edwin had a flight from Charleston to Europe for work later in the week. Areas to pack that you think will only take a small amount of time always take an hour longer than predicted. Everything is more time consuming than you think! We also caused ourselves a great deal of stress by not giving ourselves the time we needed.
What we could have done differently: We both should have started packing before our trips and taken packing more seriously. Both of our trips came about with pretty short notice so that added to our packing stress. However, if given the chance to do it all over again, we both would have still gone on our trips – both trips were full of memories we’ll have with us for life! However, we would have both been realistic about allotting time to start packing beforehand. I read that a studio/one bedroom apartment takes two days to pack. A two-bedroom takes three days. A three-bedroom takes four days and so on. If you are bubble wrapping lots of breakables, then add on an extra day. Edwin and I were both dividing our apartments up with our roommates too so that added on extra time and thought.
6. We Forgot to Take Inventory and Create a Labeling System
Edwin and I differed a bit on taking inventory… I did take inventory and Edwin didn’t really, ha. However, the inventory I took was weak to say the least. All I did was write in sharpie on the outside of my boxes what was inside. However, my writing was pretty vague with “books + desk odds and ends” being an example. I at least have an idea of what’s inside each both but it’s a very general idea. Neither of us created a real inventory/labeling system.
What we could have done differently: We should have been organized about this and created a spreadsheet of what was in each box we moved. We should have labeled boxes numerically and then in our spreadsheet written in the details. For example, “Box 5” could say “silverware and ceramic serving trays.” When it would come time to unpack, all we would have to do would be to reference our spreadsheet to be able to locate our kitchen boxes and our exact kitchen items. This would have also helped us keep track of each box because it makes it super obviously if a box gets lost. We did have two boxes lost by FedEx and it was impossible to track down exactly what was lost and so disappointing. Creating an inventory and labeling system would have made packing and unpacking so much easier!
Moving Mistakes We Didn’t Make
1. We Didn’t Skimp on the Bubble Wrap
I was so meticulous about packing up every single item that was breakable or fragile with tons of bubble wrap. I probably had more moving boxes to store and ship because my bubble wrap took up so much room. The two lamps I had FedEx wrap (because I was exhausted) turned up broken when they arrived in Charleston. Lesson learned.
2. We Forwarded Our Mail
We both forwarded our mail. It is incredibly easy to go onto the USPS website and forward your mail. It takes 5 minutes and is a step that a lot of people forget about in the chaos of moving.
3. We Transferred Our Utilities
When Edwin and I moved out of our old apartments, we each had new people moving into our rooms with our old roommates. Somehow, in all the busyness, we did each transfer our utilities into the names of the new tenants of our old apartments. This is quite annoying but necessary because you don’t want to pay for utilities for a place you don’t live.
4. We Packed Temporary Bags/Moving Essentials Bags
Edwin and I drove across the country with a fully packed car and roof Thule but it was impossible to access anything in our car because it was so packed. So, we each packed a temporary bag to live out of with all our moving/life essentials like clothes, toiletries, chargers etc. We used these bags during our cross-country trip and were prepared to use them for our first few days in Charleston as it took a bit to unpack everything and took a bit for the packages we shipped to arrive from California.
I hope this post was helpful for anyone who has an upcoming move! xx
Photograph by Jessi Burrone