How to Move Halfway Across the Country and Not Lose Your Mind

Our awesome Customer Experience Manager, Chandra Robrock, shares her tips and tricks for staying organized (and staying sane!) during her recent cross country move.

Earlier this month, I moved from New York City to Houston in what was my longest distance move yet. It was a tough decision since I had always wanted to live in New York City. But, after being here a few years, I caught myself constantly questioning how long I’d actually want to stay. After celebrating my four year anniversary this past year, I came to the realization that I had gotten everything out of this beautiful city (and more) and that it was finally time to move back to the south, where my heart ultimately belongs.

I’ve moved several times in the past, but this past move was the first time that I moved with a lot of furniture. When I moved in the past, I either was moving with my family or I was moving into temporary housing. That said, my moves more so consisted of packing suitcases full of clothes and starting fresh in a new city (or, in one incident, moving all of my belongings via garment racks).

Along the way, I picked up some pretty helpful tips and tricks, which helped me stay organized and on top of everything during my recent move. While I definitely can’t say that the move was 100% stress free (I’m talking canceled flights, movers arriving 3 hours late due to a car accident, and the gas company canceling my turn on service request without any notice, to name a few), knowing that nothing slipped through the cracks on my end was extremely helpful.

1. Make A To-Do List for Move Out and Move In

This was one of the most helpful things that I could’ve done for my move. Well in advance of my move, I started compiling a list of all of the things that I needed to do for move out (such as shutting off utilities, reserving a rental truck, and planning a going away party), as well as the things I needed to do for move in (including purchasing renter’s insurance, switching over my drivers license, and filing a change of address via Updater). You can use an app like Wunderlist, which will actually let you collaborate with others and delegate specific tasks to your loved ones, or just use the old-school method of pen and paper. Either way, you’ll be surprised at how much this simple method will work wonders for your sanity.   

2. Start Shopping for Rental Trucks Early… and Don’t be Afraid to Negotiate!

If you’ve decided to use a moving company, that’s great. Just be sure to ask these 15 questions before choosing one. But, if you’re like me and decided that it makes the most sense for you to move your items yourself, you’ll want to start shopping around early to ensure the best price. Get quotes from every truck rental company, and leverage them against one another. When speaking to a sales rep, ask about any specials that they’re currently running, and see if you’re eligible for any discounts (most companies offer student and military discounts). In my case, my truck rental company gave me a discount because I said that I was “moving for love.” Seriously – I’m not kidding. That happened.

3. Save Money on Boxes (and Maybe Even Score Some Free Ones!)

Moving is expensive enough, so why waste money on boxes that you’ll only use once? If you’re moving from or within a metropolitan area such as New York City, you can easily score free used boxes by stepping outside of your apartment. I spotted 15 large and medium boxes that were bundled together and in mint condition sitting right outside of my building. I didn’t have to spend a dime on boxes. If you don’t live in NYC and are in need of free moving boxes, this blog post should help!

4. Label EVERY Box and Do NOT (I Repeat, Do NOT) Get Lazy

I learned this lesson the hard way during my last move. I started off so organized and even convinced myself that I would label every single box so that I would know exactly what was inside of each box when I arrived at my new home. The reality? I’d start a box, label it “Dresses,” fill it in 80% of the way with dresses and then be anxious to just close the box and be done packing that the remaining 20% of the box would have random kitchen or bedroom items.

Learn from my mistakes, and don’t follow the “if it fits, it sits” philosophy. This time around, I had between 3-6 open boxes at any given time because I was determined to keep the contents of the box true to the labeling. And guess what? Move in day was a much more pleasant experience!

5. Go on a Serious Purging Spree!

Don’t know if that table will fit in your new apartment? Haven’t worn those jeans in years? Then sell it or donate it to charity! I’ve always used Craigslist to get rid of my bigger items. Seriously, why bother hauling something halfway across the country just to toss it out on the other end? Your wallet will thank you later.

6. Forward Your Mail with the USPS at least Two Weeks Prior to Your Move

If your new address is finalized, there’s no reason to wait. In fact, it can take the USPS up to 10 business days to finish processing all mail forwarding requests, so the sooner that you file your change of address form, the less likely that you’ll miss any pieces of mail during the process.

If a long distance move is anywhere close on your horizon, learn from my mistakes! And for anyone who has moved recently, what tips and tricks did you learn along the way? Let us know in the comments below.


About the Author
Hi, I'm Chandra Robrock.

I'm the Customer Experience Manager here at Updater, where I'm responsible for ensuring movers have an awesome experience when using Updater for their move. I’m fluent in sarcasm, a die-hard college football fan and an overall Oreo enthusiast. Fun fact: I’ve moved twice in the past two years (and yes, I used Updater for my moves).

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