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Prepare for moving day with these 6 tips

Marko Geber/Getty Images

Is there a move in your future? It may signal a fresh start is in store, or you might be dreading the experience. Perhaps you're somewhere in between. In any case, you're in the company of about 36 million Americans who relocate each year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

We can't help you pack, but we can offer ways to lighten the load – both physical and emotional.

Decide how to move

Consider hiring movers if you're going a long distance, you have a lot to move, or you're crunched for time. Most pros have the experience and equipment to move you quickly. Pack on your own or have them pack everything for you – a convenience that will cost a lot. Moving yourself is a solid option – and economical too – if you want to control the process and your furniture and belongings are manageable. All you need is a truck and some strong friends willing to help. But beware the hidden costs, such as insurance for a rental truck, gas, and the rental/purchase of moving equipment, like dollies or furniture covers. And don't take advantage of those friends!

Discard, donate, recycle

Whether you're moving yourself or paying someone, be sure you sort through your things beforehand. It's tempting to pack everything now with a promise to discard later, but you could end up storing boxes full of who-knows-what until you move again. Make the effort now to eliminate what you aren't using.

Get organized

If the thought of moving overwhelms you, prepare a calendar with realistic deadlines in advance. That way you shouldn't feel as though every moving task needs to get done at the same time. Number boxes and keep a list of what's inside each one. It will save the hassle of searching through all the kitchen boxes for your coffee maker at the other end of your move.
Or you might label boxes by room for your next home to retain control of the chaos that comes with unpacking.

Take photos

If you're renting, take photos when you move in. They can be used to show the landlord in order to get your deposit back whenever you move again. Take photos of the back of your electronics setup before dismantling them and packing to refresh your memory when reconfiguring them at your new place.

Pack properly

  • Moving containers are portable storage units you fill with your stuff and unpack when you move into the new place. They are transported by the company you rent them from. You may be able to store the container outside your apartment or home for several days as you pack, depending on rules of the leasing company or homeowner's association.
  • Pack those final items and essentials in a clear bin for easy identification when you first arrive at your new place. Think select cookware, utensils, phone chargers, pet food, box cutter, toilet paper, all-purpose cleaner, spare light bulbs, etc.
  • Pack an overnight bag with personal essentials and a fresh change of clothes so you're ready to go the first morning in your new place.
  • You can avoid needing to pack all your clothes by protecting glass items with them. Dishes and picture frames fit nicely in shirts. Drinking glasses can go in clean socks. Pack plates vertically in boxes to minimize breakage.
  • Put screws and mounting hardware in clear baggies and tape on the back of corresponding TVs, stereo equipment and such.
  • Vacuum seal out-of-season clothing to save space in boxes. Same goes for bedding.
    Remove light bulbs from lamps and wrap them individually in sandwich bags to limit cleanup if they break in transit.
  • If you're using a mover, identify meaningful items with sentimental value and pack them yourself.
  • There are several items you should never leave for movers: credit cards, fine jewelry, prescriptions, passports, birth certificates and other personal/financial documents.
  • If you're moving yourself, consider "paying" friends who help by giving them first dibs on anything you plan to sell or donate.
  • Moving supplies are available that aim to preserve the environment. If you would rather avoid all the cardboard and packing paper, search online for reusable bins.
  • Ship the goods. In some circumstances, shipping a few boxes across country on a train or bus may be cheaper than renting a trailer. This may work best if you don't own much furniture and your move is temporary – for school, internships or short-term employment.

Don’t forget: timing and taxes

It may seem obvious, but be sure to switch your utilities to the new address. You can schedule it as soon as a closing date is established. If you can time your move, avoid peak months and you may save money on everything from movers and packing supplies, to housing deposits and set-up charges for cable, satellite dish, trash services, and more. In other words, don't move in the summer if possible. Lastly, If you are moving for job-related reasons and more than 50 miles farther than your previous employer, you may qualify for an income tax deduction. Save your receipts; only those whose move is not paid by an employer qualify. Consult your tax advisor for more information.