Five Steps to Make Moving Less Stressful

Whether it's across the street, county, state, country, or world, moving is a major life decision.

Your world outlook, attitude towards life, happiness, energy, and perspective are all driven by where you lay your head every night. Where you call home can determine whether you're living your best life... or just barely living.

In the early stages of making the decision to move, you need to ask yourself some tough questions about why you're moving... who you're moving for... and what it will cost. Not just the cost in terms of dollars and cents, but the mental cost of the hassle and stress, as well as what you'll leave behind.

To limit the role of your emotions in the process, it helps to do a by-the-numbers analysis of what you (and your spouse, partner, or whomever else is involved) are looking for in a new place to live (see our spreadsheet template here for more). And you may find that you're happier staying where you are than bothering with the stress of a move.

But if moving is the answer, the next step is to check out the top contenders... Visit where you think you might want to live and pretend you're already living there.

Once you've done all that and decided to move, what's next?

According to a 2020 OnePoll survey, 64% of Americans called moving the single most stressful life event (beating even divorce and death).

So today, I (Kim Iskyan) want to share some of my top tips to make your next move as stress- and surprise-free as possible...

Step No. 1: Think about what you'll need – and want – at your new place.

If you're going into a much smaller space, it's time to do a serious Marie Kondo – that is, go through your things and get rid of clothes, knickknacks, remembrances, and anything that doesn't "spark joy" – as you prepare to move.

Then, consider what does – and doesn't – make sense to bring along. For example, if you're going to the tropics, perhaps you should park Grandma's desk and other family heirlooms that won't stand up to humidity in a climate-controlled storage room or else pass them to the next generation. Similarly, consider getting rid of some of your cold-weather gear if you're going someplace warm. The market for puffy down-filled ski jackets is a lot stronger in Anchorage than in Singapore.

Not sure whether to take all your stuff, because you don't know if you're moving "for good?" One idea: Think that every move is your last. If you move with only half a household – leaving behind in storage safekeeping your favorite easy chair and your stamp collection, for example, because you're not sure if you'll stay – chances are that be dooming your destination to feel like something temporary. Give it a chance to feel like home – bring it all.

Step No. 2: Call the movers.

When you're looking at moving companies, focus on those that operate in the geography that you require: If you're crossing oceans, don't call your local 2 Guys and a Van. You want a moving company that ships stuff to where you're going all the time... you don't want to be a moving company's learning curve. The best movers should want to take a walk-through of your house (or, in the COVID-19 era, a digital walk-through) before giving you a quote. Some issues to bear in mind...

Do you pack and unpack... or do they? If you pack, and unpack, your own stuff it will cost less... and will take a lot longer. Whatever your preference, and budget, be sure that the moving company will take away the boxes and packing paper when it's all done.

If you have a lot of hanging clothing and don't want to be stuck with the mother of all iron piles upon arrival, be sure to ask for garment boxes. If you have particularly fragile items, ask how they'll be packed... and for some items you might need custom-made crates to be made. Be sure that you arrange this well before the day that the movers arrive.

Find out beforehand what you can, and can't, take with you. For example, if you're crossing a border, packing alcohol might be prohibited – or you may need to pay a tax. If the mover won't pack liquids, you'll need to plan accordingly. Make sure the price you're quoted is all-in for customs clearing, taxes, import duties, and any other fees.

No matter how much you plan, though, you might still be hit for storage fees at the destination, and something called demurrage – which is when your shipment isn't discharged quickly enough. So be sure to budget for something to go wrong along the way – because something will.

Get insurance. Your things could get lost at sea, arrive crushed, broken, wet, or any combination of these problems. The moving company might offer insurance, but also check out your tried-and-true insurance company – the one you're already using – to see if they have a better deal.

Step No. 3: Plan for the other side.

Before the movers come, put aside everything you'll need at your destination – before you see your household goods again. In a world of continued global supply-chain challenges, it might take a lot longer for your things to arrive on the other side – so plan and pack accordingly. Think of the season it will be when your things arrive, what you'll be doing in the meantime, and the clothing or household items you'll need sooner rather than later.

And once you're at your destination, do you have a place to move into? If not, consider what you'll need to do with your household goods while you're looking for a place to live. Storage of your container, or boxes, will likely be expensive – and you won't have any choice to pay for it, unless you'll want to accept your shipment at the Airbnb you're staying at (bad idea) while you're searching for a permanent place to lay your head.

Step No. 4: Prepare for the big day.

If you're having a gang of guys from the moving company pack up your stuff for you, be sure to give them a thorough tour of the house the morning they start, to explain what's what and to flag any unusual or tricky items. Beforehand, label the rooms of your house – and be sure that the movers know how they should label boxes for the destination (if something in the attic at the old abode needs to go to the study in the new house, make sure the movers know to label items accordingly). And remember that movers will tend to pack everything they see – including, unless you put them in a safe room, your car keys, the Salvation Army bag, the stuff you're going to keep with you, and the garbage.

While your stuff is being packed – and you're battling the anxiety of complete strangers handling your worldly belongings, before they're hoisted into a truck – be sure you're available to answer the movers' questions about what to pack, what goes where, or anything else. Direct any concerns or questions you have about the process (or complaints about how your things are being handled) to the leader of the moving team. If you have a multiple-day move, tip well (at least $20/mover... it adds up, but it's worth it) at the end of the first day, so that they'll want to do a good job the next day. (And if you're doing a friends-and-family move... be sure your moving team is well fed!)

Step No. 5: Relax.

Once your stuff is en route – whether it's across an ocean, up the seaboard, or across the state – take a breath. If you'll be living out of a suitcase for a while, get used to a more minimalist lifestyle. Don't expect to hear much from the moving company – you'll probably have to ask them for updates about where your things are, and when you can expect them to arrive.

And on the other side, get ready for the big day – when your things arrive, and it feels like Christmas – to rediscover your packed items.

And after it's all over... enjoy your new home!

Best regards,

Kim Iskyan
March 17, 2022