Moving, like all major undertakings, is much easier when you plan ahead and spread out the process over time. Here are some general guidelines to help you do so:
3–6 Months in Advance
Start Budgeting: How early you want to start budgeting depends on how much you make, how tight your budget is, and how expensive you think your move will be. But generally speaking, the more time you have to save up money for your move, the better. (Related: How To Budget for Your Move in 3 Simple Steps)
2–3 Months in Advance
Start Hunting: How long it will take you to find a new place depends on if you’re renting or buying, what season it is, the skills of your realtor, what you’re looking for, and of course how determined (and lucky) you are. Some people find a new place in under a week, whereas for others it takes months. Best to err on the side of caution and start looking early.
6–8 Weeks in Advance
Start Planning: Decide on a concrete moving date, and start comparing the prices of different moving companies and moving-truck rentals (U-Haul, Ryder, etc.), with the cost of moving by yourself. Make sure to also factor in extra services you may need, like full-service packing, special crating (for pianos, refrigerators, etc.), vehicle-shipping, and storage.
4–6 Weeks in Advance
Take Stock and Purge: Go through your home (starting with closets, garages, basements and attics) and decide what you will bring and what you want to get rid of. See our guides on selling, donating, and throwing away your stuff for more help here.
Make a Decision: Once you’ve taken stock of your belongings, it’s time to decide how you’re going to move: by yourself, with a rental truck, or through a moving company (and which type).
If you’re using a moving company, 4–6 weeks should be far enough in advance to ensure they have slots available for you, and that they won’t gouge your wallet. However, if you’re moving between May-September (peak moving season in the US) you might want to start this process even sooner.
Lock Down a New Home: If you haven’t done so already, now is when you really need to officially have a new place to move to. You might have a little more leeway if you’re moving into a new apartment, but when purchasing a home, it typically takes 30–45 days for the loan process to finalize from the time you make a decision.
Start Telling People: Notify employers, friends and family, attorneys, accountants, banks, credit card and insurance companies, schools, magazines, newspapers, etc. of your new address. Submit a Change of Address to the post office, and get clear on what your state’s DMV will require of you.
Gather Records: Medical, dental, veterinarian, schools, etc.
Schedule Disconnects: Gas, water, electric, cable, satellite, etc.
2–3 Weeks in Advance
Start packing: If you’re going to pack yourself, now’s a good time to start. Obviously, if you’re moving out of a studio apartment, you most likely won’t need 3 weeks to pack your stuff. But if you’re leaving a 3-bedroom family home you’ve lived in for years, you’ll need all the time you can get!
Pack smart, by starting with what you use the least, and saving the essentials for last. Try to finish the bulk of your packing at least a week before you leave.
1 Week in Advance
Clean-Up: Finish packing, leaving an “essentials box” for moving day. Make sure fridges/freezers are emptied, unplugged and defrosted 24–48 hours before moving day.
Following these steps will get you adequately ready for your move. For tips and advice on what you need and what to do on the moving day itself, head here.
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