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The inevitable day has come. I’m moving. Again. Next weekend, and for the third time in as many years. This is what happens when you are a live-in home stager.
As I pack, I ruminate like Plato on the good question: Why am I doing this? Oh yeah, no mortgage or lease. I have ultimate housing flexibility, and I get to live in really cool houses for a lot less than what I would have to pay if I owned or rented them.
The deal sounds cushy until packing day hits. Then the glamour of the gig disappears like the allure of a posh night club when the house lights come on.
So, as I once again bubble wrap baubles and box books, I give myself this pep talk: “Myself,” I say, “as long as I’ve signed on to this vagabond life, I might as well embrace the process, find the Zen in packing and turn moving into a serious sport, where the goal is maximum speed and efficiency, and minimum inconvenience and cost.”
I stiffen my spine, find my most determined inner voice and say: “I am going to become a moving machine!”
To find the best short cuts and cost-saving tips, I call U-Haul International spokesman Dain Howell. U-Haul pretty much owns the do-it-yourself-moving market.
Howell starts by letting me know I am part of an American tradition: “Nearly 20 million Americans move between Memorial Day and Labor Day,” he says. “Almost half the nation’s moves take place in these three months.”
“Oh, I love a parade!” I say, “especially being in one!”
“That’s not how most people see it,” he says.
“Hey, attitude is everything.”
Here’s how Howell, who confided that he has moved six times in three years, so has me beat, says we can move faster, smarter and cheaper, while taking some of the heave out of upheaval:
- Start early. No matter how good you are, packing always takes longer than you think. Start two or three weeks before moving day. Pack items you use least first. I always start with china and books.
- Pack strategically. Mark the boxes you know you will need first with a star or other symbol. Put belongings you will want day one — sheets, towels, toiletries, change of clothes — in a suitcase or clothes hamper for easy access.
- Have a packing room. Chose a little-used room or corner of your house to serve as the packing station. Build boxes of assorted sizes so they’re ready to grab. Momentum is key. Keep a stash of good thick markers, packing tape, and packing materials such as bubble wrap, popcorn or unprinted newsprint there.
- Save on boxes. Get used ones. In a move to be greener, U-Haul started a Take a Box Leave a Box program, said Howell. After a move, drop off still good boxes at the nearest U-Haul; there others can pick them up and re-use them for free.
- Think heavy small, light large. Many self-movers think a large box is for big heavy stuff, but the opposite is true. Fill large boxes with light stuff, and put heavy items, like books, in small boxes. “You’d be surprised how many people fill large boxes until they weigh 100 pounds and break. And that slows things down,” said Howell.
- Don’t pack air. Many folks empty dressers and chests before they move. Don’t. This adds to packing time, and wastes usable truck space. Leave dressers full. If a chest is empty, fill it with linens, said Howell. You will also get less load shift. Likewise, don’t pack empty suitcases. Fill them.
- Trash bags are your friend. Boxes are great because they stack, but so are sturdy trash bags because they squish. Fill large trash bags with soft nonbreakables. They can be stuffed into trucks and morph into shapes that boxes can’t.
- Don’t pack hanging clothes. Keep them on hangers, put them in the back of your car flat. Then hang them back up in the new place.
- Don’t pack blankets or beach towels. Use them as pads and save on boxes. Wrap and tape blankets around artwork and lamp bases.
- Stack and pack lampshades. These often take a beating in a move. Remove each shade; stack them small to large, then put them together in one box. That will help ensure they arrive intact.
- Label on two sides. Mark every box with its contents and destination (kitchen) on more than one side. Also note if contents are fragile. Though movers likely won’t care, you’ll know to go easy on them.
- Be ready. Have everything packed before the movers arrive or before you get the truck. Disassemble furniture that will need to be taken apart. (Tape nuts and bolts securely to furniture items.) Roll area rugs up tight and tape them. The more organized you are, the less time you will spend on movers, who charge by the hour, and truck rental.
- Load in sections. If you’re loading a moving truck yourself, maximize every inch of space and keep items from shifting by loading in sections from the floor up. Load heaviest items first, in front and on the floor. Pack tightly and to the top, then move onto the next section.
Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’d better get packing.
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through marnijameson.com.