Credit: Bull-Doser at English Wikipedia

I’m sure there are plenty of people out there like me who have last-minute job transfers or changes to their lives that dictate they move across the country in a short amount of time. Or maybe you just found a new rental across town and you only have a weekend to move. This article discusses how to plan and execute your move so that you can be 100% packed and driving away in three days or less.

Timeline and Communication

When do you need to move out? Look at when you need to arrive at your new location and backwards plan to determine when you need to leave. Consider where you will live when you arrive, and how long it will take you to travel.

If there are only two days for you to pack, then unless you live alone, you’ll need to change your plans. Two and a half days is the minimum amount of time I recommend allotting to pack up and move out.

Tell your landlord. You might break your lease by leaving before your original lease expires. Ask him or her when they can complete your close-out inspection. In four out of the five homes I’ve rented, the landlord completed the inspection after I left. Only one insisted that I be present.

Contact your utility companies and notify them of when you’re leaving. Coordinate with each of them where to send your next bill, and confirm your contact information. Your water, gas and electric companies will also need a shut-off time and date. Plan for at least 24 hours after you leave the home because plans can always fall apart. Some cable companies offer a discount for signing up with them and others offer discounts for transferring your service, so talk to a representative before you cancel your service.

Finally, pick a time for actually loading your belongings into your truck or trailer. This should be approximately 12-24 hours before rolling away. Then invite any friends you have in the area to help you load boxes. This will expedite loading 10 fold.

Estimate How Big of a Truck You Will Need

U-Haul, Budget, and Penske all have online room calculators that will estimate how big of a truck or trailer you’ll need based on how many rooms are in your home and a few other factors. I’ve found them to be very accurate and useful, so don’t deliberately overestimate more than 10%.

Consider how you will move your vehicles. My last few moves included by wife, myself and two sedans. Because we had two cars, two drivers, and couldn’t tow a trailer, we rented a small box truck and car trailer. The rental truck pulled the trailer with my car on it.

If you own a truck or a large SUV, research how much weight you can tow and compare that to the size of trailer that you’ll require. The service representatives at U-Haul are typically very helpful and work from a checklist, so they won’t let you forget something important like the proper sized trailer hitch.

U-Haul stores also sell moving boxes, tape, shipping blankets, and dollies. I do not recommend buying any tape or labels from them. I’ll talk about packing supplies a later. However, if you are not confident you can move some heavier pieces of furniture, a renting a dolly might be for you. Shipping blankets typically are not in great condition, and you can achieve the same results with normal blankets, sheets and towels you already have.

Finally, reserve the truck or trailer. You won’t need it until you pack up your house, so save some money by not starting your rental until day two.

Find Boxes

Most people don’t have cardboard boxes laying around. The loading dock of grocery stores, furniture stores, and liquor stores are great places to look. Always ask if you can take the boxes. In my experience, they are usually very helpful and have plenty of boxes on hand. Liquor store boxes are designed to carry bottles, so they are great for glassware and any small fragile items.

Craigslist is also a good place to look. I consistently see people posting that they have moving boxes to give away. I did that the last time we moved. Instead of throwing them in the recycling bin, we were able to pass them on to someone else who was moving.

Buy Supplies

Before you can close your boxes you’ll need some supplies. Shipping tape, masking tape, markers, and twine. Use masking tape and markers to mark each box with which room each box belongs. The best place to buy these items is a dollar store or Walmart.

Twine or cord are necessary to secure items inside of your moving truck. You can also use it to secure cardboard or blankets around wooden furniture to prevent the furniture from being scraped or otherwise damaged while moving.

Packing paper is necessary to pad fragile items. However bubble wrap and brown packing paper can add up when you buy them. I recommend using newspaper. Go to a gas station or grocery store early in the morning, and ask for the previous day’s newspaper. Sometimes it will already be gone, but usually you can grab them free of charge.

Start Packing as Soon as Possible

After you coordination with your landlord, utility companies, and U-Haul, start packing as soon as possible. If you don’t have any boxes, then plan where boxes will go, and estimate how many boxes you’ll need. Think about what furniture you can disassemble like your bed.

Plan out the flow of packing. Your entry room or living room will become your box staging area—the final location the boxes and furniture will live before being packed into your rental truck. Which rooms do you traffic the least? Those should be packed up first. The kitchen should be one of the last rooms packed.

When it gets down to packing, the first thing you need to pack is an overnight bag. Pack clothing for three to five days, toiletries, cell phone charger, and anything you’ll need for a three day stay anywhere.

Set aside important items that need to be carried with you. I’ll pack my laptop, legal documents and tax documents. Then I’ll put those items and my television in my car. This way you’ll always know exactly where they are and not have to worry about a ‘box falling off the back of the truck.’

Pack one room at a time. Start with your living room, then move to the room that the least traffic. I start at the room furthest away from the garage. I’ll pack everything out of that room, label the boxes, and stack them in the living room. I break down the furniture as far as I can and move that into the living room.  

Clothing is always a difficult thing to pack because they don’t fit well into boxes. If clothes are on hangers, I’ll leave them on the hangers and double bag them with trash bags. If they fit into a dresser, I leave them in the dresser during the move.

As you pack, ensure that you leave out cleaning supplies, dirty laundry, and food to get you through the third day. Cleaning out the pantry and refrigerator is always difficult. If you bring any of your pantry food with you on the move, ensure it is separate from items you care about: i.e. when packing the truck, don’t place food items on top of your mattress.

My wife and I can usually pack most of our family’s possessions in one day and one night. Usually by mid-day on the second day we’re ready to pick up and load the truck. Its hard work, but if you keep your deadline in mind, it’s easy to accomplish.

Pack the Truck

Once your house is packed up, you’re ready to move everything into the truck. Call your friends, order some pizza for everyone, and let the loading party begin!  

Set aside towels, blankets, bedsheets, couch cushions and pillows. These items will be used later to pad, protect, and cushion your belongings.

Always pack your truck or trailer from cab to bumper. Start with the largest items like your couch and dressers. If you think the fitting will be close, use a tape measure to be certain how you want these items to fit. Never load a piece of furniture how it’s not designed to be stored. Do not load the couch or dresser on its side. Most furniture is designed to be loaded with weight in only one way. Confirming it is loaded with the proper side facing up will ensure it doesn’t collapse in transit.

Once the biggest items are stored, load the largest and heaviest boxes as low as possible. As you stack the boxes to the ceiling, use the twine to brace the boxes forward. Most trucks and trailers have rows of anchors along the interior sidewalls.

A final consideration for packing the truck is to think about driving. Pad any unused space with pillows and cushions. Brace anything you can with anything available. If it looks like a box will falls from where you put it, it will fall, break and spill a staining fluid over everything underneath it.

If you find that you have a plethora of space once you’re complete with packing, then you overestimated the volume of your possessions and probably could have used a smaller truck or trailer. Make note of that for the next time you move.

Close Out the House and Drive Away

Closing out the house will take several hours. Final cleaning of bathrooms and the kitchen may be a quick process when you live there, but to move you, you’ll need to clean behind and under everything that is now packed up.

Erase all black marks on your mop boards and try to scrub over any rubbings your may have left on walls and doors. Keep in mind that any damages you did to the rental will be charged against your security deposit.

Either turn the heat and cooling off (in a temperate environment) or adjust the heat and cooling appropriately to prevent pipes from freezing in the cold winter and mold from growing in the humid summer.

Do a final check of all rooms for items left behind. Depending on the relationship you have with your landlord, you may want to take final pictures of all rooms. As you leave, ensure the doors are locked, then check around the outside of the house.

And you’re off! You’re ready to drive away! Don’t forget to turn in your house keys. After a day or two, make sure to follow up with your landlord to ensure he or she received the keys, and to follow up on the final inspection. Enjoy the trip, and good luck in your new beginning!