Moving on Up

I have moved nineteen times in the past 10 years (and I will be moving again next month).

I believe that makes me a moving expert.

Some people think that moving is very expensive. It can be! But it doesn’t have to be, and lucky you, you have the world’s foremost leading moving expert writing to you about how to move without spending all your money.

Here are some tricks:

  1. Do not ever, ever, ever pay for moving boxes. You are killing trees and you are wasting money. Instead (start this a few weeks early)- go to the groceries in your area, preferably early in the morning. Ask them for apple boxes (they are the best because they are super sturdy and they have lids). Bat your eyelashes. Keep asking. Ask when their shipments come in. Collect the boxes. Alternatively, if you have access to paper boxes that are used in an office or a copy center- get those! Those are even better! Also, sometimes people post about moving boxes on the free section of Craigslist- that is a good source for many boxes at once. It is a little running around, but it is worth it. Jerry Seinfeld understands.
  2. This is my mom’s advice: Go to the gym. Make friends with men (or women) who like picking up heavy things for fun. See how this could benefit everyone?
  3. This is my advice: Try to maintain a friendship with someone who owns a truck. Bake them cookies in exchange for an afternoon with their truck. Excellent deal.
  4. Help a friend move and have them promise to help you move. Well worth it.
  5. Don’t leave behind the stupid things you think you don’t want to pack, like your trash cans or your clothes hangers or your shower curtain. I promise that wherever you are moving to will not have those things and you will have to go buy more. Worse than moving a trash can is spending money on a new one when you JUST HAD a perfectly good one of your own.
  6. Clean out your closets before you move. Especially if you are shipping things. Yard sales or selling online can be an added source of cash that can help you get rid of the unwanted items clogging up your house.
  7. Speaking of shipping- if you live near an Amtrak station and are moving near another Amtrak station…Amtrak is the best shipping deal in the entire world. The prices are variable so you have to check their website for pricing, but when I moved from the west coast to the east coast I shipped 17 boxes that weighed about 30 lbs each and a bike for $350 and it took 4 days. You just have to pick them up yourself at the end station.
  8. If you are shipping a bike, go to your local bike store and ask them for any spare bike boxes they might have. New ones are about $20, spare ones are free. Watch a video on how to pack a bike for shipping-  bike shops will charge anywhere from $75 to $200 to pack a bike for you, but you can do the whole process for free in about a half hour (make sure you have the right tools on hand). I have not yet figured out how to safely put the bike back together on my own, but that is what bike shops and/or savvy friends who will help with your bike in exchange for beer are for.
  9. Trying to buy used furniture? Craigslist is good but requires a lot of coordination. Yard sales (early in the morning=better haul) can be awesome for getting a whole lot of stuff in one day (and one time I got a free bottle of wine at a yard sale. It was in wine country….don’t ask). Goodwill and other used furniture places can be good too. I also have had amazing luck with online estate sale auctions (although the websites are often sketchalicious)- for my last move I bought 2 dressers, a shelf, two nightstands and a mirror for less than $90.  I also have recently had great luck with the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which is essentially a discount home improvement store that also carries used furniture. They take donations and all proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity. I just bought a beautiful hardwood hutch and hardwood shelf for $85 total. And I supported one of my favorite charities. Nice.
  10. It is easier to clean a place before you move all your things in. Just saying.
  11. When you move out, ask your landlords if they are going to have a cleaning service come in or if you can do it instead. Sometimes landlords will pay for a professional cleaning service out of your safety deposit (this will be in your lease)- see if you can do it yourself and make sure you get a walkthrough with the landlord so you both agree your cleaning was up to snuff.
  12. When you move in, take pictures of any damage that is on the house already (with a timestamp) and then email it to your landlord so that you are both on the same page. When you are moving in it seems so obvious that the damage is already there (or it might not even appear to be damage), but when you move out the landlord may try to charge you for it. Once my landlord tried to charge me $200 because the residents before me had nailed a shelf to the wall. I didn’t think it was considered “damage” because it was there when I got there- but apparently the landlord forgot who the culprit was. Save yourself the annoyance and take pictures of the rooms when you get there.
  13. Think about long-term vs. temporary when you are decorating a rental. New art for the walls that you take with you when you go= good. New chandelier for the rental house because you think the old one is ugly= umm…seriously? (I once had roommates who did that. Not my kind of people).
  14. If you know you are moving, plan early. Start looking for boxes a few weeks ahead. Start sorting and packing with time to spare. Moving sucks but packing at 3 am the night before an all day move sucks even worse.
  15. Don’t forget to eat. You have no food in the house and you have no plates and no silverware so it is easy to forget and then no one is happy. I have a wonderful memory of buying one of those huge self serve frozen yogurts after moving into a house in Atlanta in August. No froyo has ever tasted as good since.
  16. Instead of worrying about breaking down or recycling your boxes, why don’t you post on the free section of Craiglist that you have moving boxes available and pay it forward a bit?

Good luck with your move, my little grasshopper!



  1. Great post Kate! I’d add to the wisdom by saying that when you are cleaning out your kitchen, don’t throw away all those partially used spices (as long as they are still good). They are small containers, but normally quite expensive to replace if you have to start from scratch.


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