Try Moving Yourself!
About This Book
This book was written by a former professional mover to assist the Do-It-Yourselfer who wants to save money by moving his or her own household goods, but isn’t quite sure of all that is involved in planning and carrying-out a smooth, controlled move. By sharing all the tricks of the trade, this book will step you through the entire end-to-end moving process, from planning the move, to packing and loading your goods, to unpacking your boxes and settling in to your new residence. This book with give you the confidence to perform a Do-It-Yourself move like a professional!
This book is based on a complete 4 bedroom household move using the largest size U-Haul truck and equipment. There are a few different truck rental options that you can consider, but this book will focus on the use of U-Haul equipment for illustrative purposes. The main principles outlined in this book can be adapted and applied to any size move. While the main objective to moving your own furniture is no doubt saving money, there are some other key objectives to consider, including:
· Having all your furniture arrive intact, without scratches, dents, or breaks.
· Making sure you, your family, and your helpers arrive intact, without being exhausted, feeling overwhelmed, or wishing you had never attempted the move yourself.
· Making sure there are no mishaps driving the moving vehicle, and returning it to the U-Haul Center without incident.
It is recommended that you take the time to read through the entire book several weeks before you attempt to move your household. Become familiar with the many useful ‘check lists’ provided in this book to help with the entire moving experience. If you follow the principles covered in this book, you will be on your way to a smooth, economical, and safe moving experience.
Included with this book are twelve useful ‘checklists’, with samples listed in the Appendix. These checklists, or Moving Templates, are available for use as an Excel spreadsheet and can be downloaded from the website – ‘www.TryMoving.com.’ In addition to the Moving Templates, you will find many photographs along with 15 links to You Tube videos throughout the book to help illustrate the equipment and techniques used in household moving.
This book is based on a fictitious family of 4: Dad, Mom, 2 kids, and a dog, moving about 250 miles from Buffalo, New York, to Utica, New York. Throughout the book reference is made to Dad’s duties and Mom’s duties during each Step in the moving process. Of course, you can adjust these duties to fit your particular family unit situation. The key is, the work associated with the duties will need to be accounted for.
Give yourself two or three days to read through the entire book. Then use the “End to End Moving Reference Guide” in Chapter 18 to plan and conduct your move. The End to End Guide contains references to the previous Chapters for looking up details as you go.
Once you have read this book, you will have the confidence of knowing what to do, and you will be able to do it yourself and save money. Enjoy this book, and happy moving to you and your family!
About The Author
John Elie has over 30 years of experience with countless household moves using both professional and rental trucks and trailers. He learned the moving trade as a young man working as a professional mover for Mayflower movers. He drove a Mayflower ‘straight van’ up and down the East Coast as a member of the Teamsters Union. For over thirty years, John has performed countless household moves using U-Haul and other rental trucks, combined with the knowledge he gained as a professional mover. He went on to a career as a project manager, and has now combined his background as a project manager with the skills of the moving trade to bring you this easy-to-read “how-to” book for the typical “do-it-your-selfer”. With this book, any healthy person with a valid driver’s license, some strong friends, and access to the internet, can learn the secrets to a safe and smooth household move.
A Note From the Author: Why Did I Write This Book?
For more than three decades, I have helped countless friends and family members with their household moves. I generally have two different types of experiences. The first type is when I am involved ahead of time, and I can advise the owner on the steps involved so they can plan their move. That moving experience is generally smooth and predictable.
The second type of experience is when I am asked a day or two in advance if I can “stop by on Saturday” to help load the truck. I show up on Saturday, and I am usually in a slight state of shock over what I find. Open boxes are all over, and people are frantically packing away. Closets are opened for the first time, and people realize just how much more packing they need to do. Appliances are disconnected for the first time, and suddenly people realize the refrigerator needs to be emptied before it can be moved. Bed frames need to be taken apart, and all of this is happening while a dozen or so helpers are carrying out furniture and boxes to the truck in no particular order.
When I help people properly load a truck, they are amazed at how well the furniture fits, and how much the truck can hold. When I am able to help people plan their move ahead of time, they are always surprised at just how much work needs to be completed well before the rental truck arrives on moving day. However, when they do all the planning and prep work, they appreciate how much smoother moving day goes as a result.
So after decades of sharing the fundamentals of planning and carrying out a smooth household move for my friends, I have decided to share the basic principles of planning and conducting a move through this comprehensive book. I am sharing all the ‘secrets’ of packing, loading, and unpacking from having worked as a full time Mayflower moving man. I learned the moving trade working for Mayflower during summer and winter breaks while in high school and college. I worked on loading and unloading teams, packing teams, and some dispatch work. After I graduated from college, I spent a full year “on the road” as a Mayflower moving man driving households up and down the East Coast. I drove a “straight truck”, like the one pictured below, which is a bit larger than the 26 foot U-Haul truck. I then applied the “tricks of the trade” to countless U-Haul and Budget moving experiences over the next 30 plus years. I can’t wait to share, not only the basic principles, but also the various tricks and hints that I have picked up over the years that will help ensure a smooth, successful moving experience.
And here’s the good news, anyone can learn and apply these techniques to make their rental experience a total success. So let’s get started!
How Much Can You Save By Doing It Yourself?
Moving an entire household is expensive. A full household with four bedrooms, living room, kitchen, basement, garage, can be around 7,000 to 10,000 pounds – 5 tons of stuff! A traditional moving company will generally charge using a combination of distance - or miles being moved - and weight of goods being moved. A full 10,000 pound family move over a 250 mile distance can cost upwards of $12,000 using a full service moving company that provides packing and loading/unloading service. Some people are lucky enough to have a corporate-sponsored move. But if you have to pay for it yourself, you may be considering a do-it-yourself move to save money. But because you are not a professional mover, you need some help to do it right, and to have the confidence to do it yourself. And that is where this book comes in.
So how much could you save by doing it yourself? Well, let’s assume as an example a 10,000 pound move, which would require a combination of U-Haul’s largest 26 foot truck, pulling a U-Haul trailer. Depending on what you pay for boxes, helpers, and other supplies, a do-it-yourself U-Haul move (including personal expenses) over 250 miles would cost around $3,000. (I will be showing you how to estimate your costs and will provide a cost estimating tool later in this book). So that is a big savings of up to $9,000 compared to using a full service moving company. The trade-off, however, is a lot of hard work! But relax, because I am going to take you through the entire process from beginning to end. I’ll show you the tools and techniques you will need, and I will share my tricks and tips learned over 30 years of experience.
Understanding the Entire Moving Process
Some people make the mistake of thinking a move is a one day event – pick up the truck, load it and unload it all in a single day. Don’t make that mistake! Moving day is just one day in a process that takes several weeks of advance planning. The timeline below illustrates an 8 week period prior to moving for planning, packing and preparation. There is a considerable amount of packing and other work that needs to be completed well before picking up the rental truck. In this book, I will take you through an 8 Step process - illustrated in Figure 1.0 - from planning your move to unpacking the last box in your new residence. And the planning process - the work and preparation you do weeks before the move – will be the key to a smooth and successful moving experience. During the course of reading this book, you will become familiar with the tools, skills and techniques needed to ensure a smooth and safe household move. First I will review with you the 8 Major Steps in the moving process, and then I will go into greater detail with individual Chapters devoted to each Step. By the time you complete this book, you will have the confidence to take on this large project armed with the tools and techniques of a professional mover!
Chapter 1: Overview of Eight-Step Moving Process
So let’s start at the beginning. You recently found out - or confirmed - your plans to move your family and household to a new location. Let’s say you have two or three months before you need to move out. So, where do you start? What do you do next?
Step One: Planning Process (Chapter’s 2 through 5)
The first thing you do is plan your move. During the planning process, you will determine your actual move out and move in dates. You will need a general idea of the amount of “stuff” you will be moving in order to size the rental truck you will be using. Assuming you have a valid driver’s license, access to the internet, a credit card and templates from this book, you will have what you need to plan out your move. You will be using the U-Haul web site in the planning process, combined with a cost-estimating tool and other templates provided by this book.
At the end of the Step 1 planning phase, you will:
· Have reserved your U-Haul truck and related equipment.
· Have an overall cost estimate for the entire move process.
· Have an overall end-to-end timeline for the entire move process.
· Know how many boxes to buy, and what kinds you will need.
· Have lined up your helpers for loading and unloading day. Reserved help using the U-Haul web site if needed.
· Identified the tools and supplies you will need for packing, loading and unloading.
· Have a plan to complete packing a full weekend prior to your move.
· Have a plan for loading the truck, closing up your old residence, and for driving to your new place.
· Have a plan for unloading, and returning the U-Haul truck to a local drop-off site.
· Have a plan for unpacking.
Step Two – Obtain Tools and Supplies Needed For Packing. (Chapter 6)
Once you complete the planning process outlined in Step 1, you will know how much “stuff” you are moving, and will have translated your furniture and belongings into an estimate of cubic feet. You will also have, from one of the templates provided by this book, a complete listing of all the tools and supplies you will need to pack up your household goods prior to the move. Armed with your list, Step 2 involves putting together a tool box of the tools needed for the packing phase, which will include disassembly of many furniture items prior to moving day.
The other major activity to Step 2 will be purchasing your packing materials – boxes and other supplies - and bringing them home. I like to complete this step the weekend before actually starting the packing process. Obtaining the correct packing materials and supplies is a mini-project in and of it-self. The main idea is that you will have purchased and accumulated everything you will need ahead of time before diving into the packing process.
Step 2 involves taking a trip to a U-Haul center to purchase boxes and supplies. In Chapter 2, I will explain the importance of using the ‘standard’ size boxes that you will purchase from U-Haul. But here is some very important advice: Do NOT go out to the grocery store and stock up on free left-over boxes of all different shapes and sizes. Why? Using miscellaneous sized boxes will make loading the truck a nightmare. More about that in Chapter 2 under the heading – ‘Overview of Moving Boxes.’
Step Three: Packing Your Household Goods (Chapters 7 through 10)
Having completed Step 2, you now have all the boxes stored in your home or garage, as well as all the tools and packing materials outlined in the moving checklist template provided by this book. (TAB 5 – Tools Needed To Pack and Unpack). Packing will consist of sealing all your belongings in boxes, and disassembling/preparing furniture for moving day. I like to target the weekend prior to moving day to complete the packing phase. So as part of your packing preparations, you and your family will be living among many boxes for that final week before the move. Kind of like camping in your own home. Give yourself at least four to five weeks to complete the packing phase.
You have a big house, and you will be amazed at how much “stuff” you have that needs to be placed into boxes. (As well as thrown out). TAB 2 of the moving templates, the “Furniture Inventory Checklist,” organizes the various rooms in your house by week for a five week packing timeline. During this phase, you will set up a card table to keep all you packing tools and supplies in one spot. I call that the “Command Center,” and it will stay in place until the end of move-out day. The key to the Packing phase is to pace yourself and spend a few hours at a time, spread out over several weeks. If you try to do all the packing in one day or one weekend (which is how a professional moving crew would do packing) you will drive yourself crazy.
Step Four: Final Week Before Moving – Confirm Helpers. (Chapter 11).
You don’t need to wait until Step 3 is complete to start on Step 4. The main idea is that once you know for certain the loading day for moving out, and the unloading day for moving in, you want to start lining up your helpers for each day. One big mistake I see people make on loading day is they invite as many friends and relatives as they can find, thinking more is better. It is not. As you will find out from reading Chapters 10 - 12, loading a truck with furniture is a bit like putting a puzzle together. You have to find the right puzzle piece one piece at a time to put the puzzle together properly. It wouldn’t do any good to have 12 people handing you random puzzles pieces all at the same time, it would only slow the process down.
Likewise, loading a truck is done one item at a time. You need the right item in the right order to load properly. In terms of a labor crew, in addition to Dad and Mom, you will want 2 teams of 2 strong helpers. They will work in teams of two, and will alternate bringing an item to the truck during the loading process. You may be able to use 1 or 2 more helpers, but no more. Having an army of people milling around will only add confusion and slow the entire process down.
Loading a 4 bedroom house full of furniture and boxes will likely take up to 6 hours. It is hard, hard work, even with the use of furniture dollies. My advice would be to NOT depend on friends and relatives for the 4 helpers who will be doing the bulk of the heavy lifting. Consider lining up from 2 to 4 professional movers for loading day. If you use the U-Haul web site to reserve your helpers, you will have that information as part of the Planning Phase. For any friends that you use in addition to professional movers, get commitments from your friends well in advance of loading day, and continue to confirm that they are available, and have some secondary helpers lined up as a contingency in the event of no-shows.
Lining up helpers for unloading day at the new destination can be a bit tricky. Chances are, you are new to the area and can’t depend on people you know to help you unload. Unloading the truck is just the opposite of loading in that items can come off the truck just as quickly as helpers can carry them away. Unloading will go much, much faster than the loading process. If it takes 6 hours to load a full household, you can unload that same household in 2.5 hours. And when it comes to unloading, the more helpers the merrier – to a point. You can have 8 to 10 people helping out with unloading, but the minimum (in addition to Mom and Dad), would be 4 people. And they need to be strong enough to carry heavy furniture and boxes, usually with an upstairs involved. The key is to line up commitments in advance for helpers to meet you at the new residence on unload day. If you use the U-Haul web page to reserve helpers for unloading, that step will be taken care of during the Planning Phase. We’ll review your options in more detail in Chapter 8.
Step Five: Pick up the Rental Truck & Overview of Moving Techniques;
(Chapters 12 through 14)
It is now the day before move-out day. All of your household items have been packed in boxes since the previous weekend. All furniture is broken down and ready to be moved. You have been living among boxes the past week, because everything else is packed up. This is the day you go to the U-Haul center and pick up your reserved truck and related equipment. You bring it back home and park it in the driveway so you are ready to start loading first thing the next morning. I strongly recommend that you take care of this step the day or evening prior to moving day. Most U-Haul Centers are open until 7pm, so you can head over after work and pick up your vehicle. Another option is to use a smartphone with a uhaul.com account to pick up your truck at any hour of the day using the “Truck Share 24/7” program. Visit the U-Haul web site for more information on this self-service option for truck pick up and drop off.
Step Six: Loading Day (Move Out Day – Chapter 15)
This is the big day. This is what is considered “moving day.” Let’s quickly review all the work that has already taken place prior to moving day. Your moving truck, loaded with moving pads and dollies, has been parked in your driveway overnight and ready to go. You have confirmed the moving crew that will be arriving this morning to help load the truck. The prior weekend you completed packing all household items in boxes, and “broke-down” furniture for moving. Now you are ready to load all your furniture into the truck.
Remember the folding card table that you used during the packing phase to keep all the tools, cleaning items, and packing materials in a central place? Be sure to keep that same card table set up on moving day in an area that is not in the way of the movers. A corner of a dining room or kitchen can work well. The card table, and a few folding chairs, will be your ‘headquarters’ during the move, and will ensure that your tools and cleaning supplies do not get accidentally loaded onto the truck!
Moving day primarily involves building “tiers” of furniture and boxes inside the truck, stacked one in front of the other. The basic concept to building a tier of furniture is to begin by loading very heavy furniture at the bottom, from one wall of the truck to the other, then build up toward the truck ceiling with progressively lighter items. By the time you reach ceiling height you are loading soft pillows or cushions. A properly built tier will look like it is using up every square inch of space in the truck from floor to ceiling.
The loading of the truck, and the building of the tiers, is accomplished using 5 workers. One worker, usually Dad, remains in the truck and directs 2 crews of 2 workers each to alternate bringing items onto the truck for loading. Each worker pair leaves an item on the truck, and Dad then loads the item into the tier. If the item is furniture, Dad properly wraps the item in a furniture ‘blanket’ and then loads it onto the tier.
The process of loading a full household onto the truck can take a good six hours. Start early in the morning, take several breaks, and finish up in the early afternoon. The 4 workers who carry the items out to the truck in pairs need to be strong, especially if carrying furniture up and down stairs. Consider hiring professional movers in your overall budget. If you rely on friends, consider arranging for two “shifts”, with each shift working 3 hours.
Once the truck is fully loaded, and the house is empty, you will want to take care of a few remaining items. Most couples want to leave their home in a clean state. You leave the card table, with all your tools and cleaning aids, in the house after everything else is loaded onto the truck. Now you have access to the vacuum cleaner, the floor mop, the broom, and other cleaning supplies to do that last cleaning before you lock up the house for good.
After the final cleaning, take the card table, tools and cleaning items and load them into your car, or in the back of the truck if there is room. You will want to set up the card table in the new home as your ‘headquarters’ for move-in day. Leave the house keys with the realtor, and say goodbye to your old house!
Step Seven: Unloading Day (Chapter 16)
This is move-in day to your new home. There is a lot of excitement and anticipation for moving into your new home. Depending on the distance you needed to travel, you started the drive after loading the truck, and either arrived the same evening, or perhaps broke the drive up into a second day. You planned your travel ahead of time during the Planning Phase so that you know when to have the helpers arrive at your new home to unload the truck. You have also made arrangements to have the keys to the new house for entry, and to have the utilities turned on.
So you back the truck into your driveway and set up the built-in loading ramp. Your helpers have arrived, and you are ready to unload. The first thing you want to do is set up your portable card table in the house with your tools and cleaning supplies. This will be your unloading headquarters.
For unloading, you once again use 5 key players. Dad will stay on the truck and will fold up all the furniture pads as they are removed on the truck. The two teams of two strong movers will alternate moving in the heavy furniture items. For unloading, you can add several more friends as helpers to bring items into the house.
Mom will have the very important job of traffic cop. She will direct the unloaders and tell them which room the unloaded items belong in. The boxes should be labeled with a room, but Mom will have to explain which room is which. The traffic cop role is extremely important, and Mom is usually best suited for this task because she knows where all the furniture should go. So this means that Mom cannot be looking after young-in’s and pets during the unloading process! If this becomes a problem, one alternative is to have Dad play the role of traffic cop or child supervisor, and put someone else in charge of staying on the truck during the unload process. But arranging for the traffic cop role is very, very important. Without it, you will have unloading teams stopping and constantly looking for Mom to ask “Where does this go?”
Unloading is usually much faster than the loading process. If the loading process took six hours, the unload could be finished in as little as two and a half hours, depending on the number of helpers. Boxes will be placed into rooms for unpacking later. Furniture will be placed into designated rooms, and many items like beds and dining room tables will require assembly later. The empty refrigerator can be plugged in immediately. You will want to plug in a few lamps to aid in seeing when it gets dark.
Once the truck is empty and all the items are inside the house, be sure to sweep out the truck floor, and put all the rented dollies and furniture pads back on the truck. The furniture pads should be folded, so it is a good idea to do that as you are unloading so you don’t have to fold over 100 pads after the truck is empty. I like to put the pads in piles of 10 each for ease of counting. Make sure you have accounted for all the pads, and any other rental equipment, like the appliance dolly.
During the planning phase, you arranged for the truck drop-off at a near-by U-Haul Center at your destination. You also called the day before just to confirm your drop-off. Your wife or a friend follows you in a car when you return the U-Haul truck, and you drive home together after returning all your rental equipment.
Step Eight: Unpacking Day (Chapter 17)
After unloading the truck, most people are tempted to return to the house after returning the empty U-Haul truck and begin the process of unpacking boxes and setting up furniture. Take my advice: Don’t! You are tired from a full day of unloading, there are boxes everywhere. The beds are not completely set up, and you have nothing set-up yet in your bathrooms or kitchens. So lock up your new home, put the family in the car, and go to a nice hotel. Take a warm shower, have a nice dinner, and sleep overnight away from all those boxes. The next morning, after a nice breakfast, return to your new home all refreshed and spend the day unloading boxes and setting up furniture.
As you leave the hotel for your unpacking assignment, stop off at the grocery store and pick up anything you need to stock up the refrigerator. So you show up to your house, full of boxes everywhere, and you wonder – where do I begin? Unpacking can be daunting, and it can seem to never end. Chances are, you will not unpack all your items in a single day. So unpacking is a matter of prioritizing. What are the most important items we need to have on Day 1? In general, you will want to set up your kitchen, your bath rooms, and assemble all the beds. Washers and dryers should be set-up.
Beyond that, you should pace yourself when it comes to unloading boxes. Don’t feel compelled to complete all the unpacking in a single day. As you unpack boxes, you will put any wrapping paper into large garbage bags. Empty boxes should be flattened by cutting the masking tape that holds them together. I like to keep my boxes in basement or attic storage and use them again. Your objective at the end of Day 1 of unpacking should be to have all the beds assembled, bathrooms set up, kitchen in place, appliances hooked up, and of course – the TV’s ready to go. The remaining boxes can be unpacked as time allows over several days or weekends.
And finally, Congratulations! You have completed the 8 step end-to-end moving process. Your household goods are set up in your new home, and you managed to save quite a bit of money by doing this yourselves (with a little help from your friends). Now find the wine glasses and treat yourselves to some wine and cheese as you settle in to your new home.
Now you have the “big picture” for planning and executing a do-it-yourself household move using the 8 Step process. You have the advantage of knowing that moving is a several week process that requires advanced planning and preparation. You know the sequence of events, the tools needed, and a general idea of the costs involved. Now let’s explore the 8 Step process in further detail in the following chapters. By the time you complete this book, you will have the tools and techniques to ensure a safe and productive household move. And remember, you can do it!
Adjust Your Timeline As Needed
What if you don’t have 8 full weeks prior to moving day to Plan and Pack your
household? Simply adjust the timeline to fit your particular situation. The 8 weeks of advanced planning and packing time represents the ideal situation. But if you only have 6 weeks, or 4 weeks or less, modify the planning templates to reflect the time you have to work with. You will likely have to condense the 6 week packing timeframe to something less by putting in more evening and weekend time, or getting some helpers to work with you on packing. But having a plan that reflects your condensed timeline will be the key to a successful move.