Ultimate Moving Checklist 2020

Moving Checklist | Tips to Help You Move Like a Pro

Moving is hard. I know this because I have moved more times than your average person. This Moving Checklist is being shared with you after many, many, many, years of trial and error. Whether you are moving into your first apartment, or moving the family home, this checklist covers both moving out and moving into your new home.

My first experience with moving was on my twentieth birthday. I had lived in the same house for all of my formative years, but following my parent’s divorce, the family home was sold and the furniture was divided. Not quite ready to move out on my own, I was an active – albeit fairly useless – participant in the packing, loading, moving, unpacking process that seemed to take years to complete.

I still remember spending my 20th birthday waiting for the cleaning company to pick up my mom’s Persian rug so that it could be cleaned and delivered to her in the new home. Everything else in the house had already been removed, including the appliances and the television sets, so I spent a good chunk of my birthday alone, in an empty house, with no furniture, and no food. And keep in mind that my 20th birthday took place during the time before smartphones and wifi, so you can only imagine the pain of it all!

Since then, I have moved many times. Many, many times. Each time that I have moved, I have learned a lesson that I put into place during the next move. So, over the years, I have compiled a significant list of tips to help ease the packing, moving, and unpacking process for everyone else.

During Move #1 – I learned that if you don’t properly label what’s inside your boxes, it can be almost impossible to find that ONE item that you desperately need the next day – like the coffee maker.

During Move #2 – I learned that it was far faster and easier to simply put a garbage bag around my clothes (on the hangers), tie it all up, and move them in a bunch than trying to fold, pack, then rehang every article of clothing that I own.

During Move #3 – I learned that people can be (insert expletive) when – as the sun was setting – we discovered that the former occupant had removed every single lightbulb in the entire house. Every. Single. Lightbulb.

During Move #4 – I learned that you should never put important things inside something that is not as important. It took me YEARS to finally find my passport tucked inside an old photo album.

During Move #5 – I learned – the hard way – to take your most precious valuables with you in your own car and not to trust them to the movers.

During Move #6 – I learned to keep cleaning supplies handy because not everyone cares about the condition of the property when they move out. In fact, some people are just plain gross.

During Move #7 – I learned that having a first aid kit handy on move day is very handy.

During Move #8 – I think you get the picture by now!

Moving can be VERY stressful, and there’s always that nagging feeling that you forgot something. After handling more than a dozen moves in my lifetime, I’ve learned some hard lessons about moving dos and don’ts. To that end, I have created what I believe to be The Ultimate Moving Checklist.

The Ultimate Moving Checklist: A Preview of What’s Included

Downloadable Moving Checklist

There are so many possible types of moves, that it’s impossible to cover every different scenario. Long-distance moves will have different needs than short hauls. Apartment and condo moves will have different needs than houses. Renter will have different needs than home buyers. And so on. 

However, it is our hope that this moving planner will cover the essentials for nearly every time of the move.

Getting Ready

Before you can really get started, one of the obvious “need-to-knows” is when and where you are moving.

That will help you determine some of the key elements of getting a move organized, including your budget, if you’re hiring movers, or doing it yourself (with the help of friends and family).

Plus, a clear understanding of WHAT you are moving will help you figure out if this is even something you can tackle on your own. For example, if you’re trying to move a piano or hot tub, you may want to consider hiring professionals who know how to handle bulky or overweight items.

When setting your move date, keep in mind that mid-week moves tend to be cheaper for moving companies than weekend moves. If you can do so, aim to move in the middle of the week but book the remainder of the week off so that you have those days and the weekend to get your new home organized.

Pick move date Set the big day so you have something to work toward
Set a moving budget Packing materials, moving costs, insurance, etc.
Create a moving file All moving-related documents in one place!
Hire movers/rent truck Depending on what your moving budget allows
Purchase moving insurance Optional, but can provide peace of mind
Arrange child and/or pet care Keep them safe and out of the way during the move
Book time off for the move Some companies offer time off for moving
Announce move date Let friends, family, & co-workers know you’re moving
Schedule helpers Even if you have movers, helpers can be handy
Clubs & Memberships Transfer (or resign if not active in your new neighborhood)
Confirm moving requirements For loading and unloading your moving truck
Book elevator for move day If moving into/out of an apartment or condo
Confirm parking for moving truck You may need a permit for moving day
Determine load-in points What will fit, and how to get it into the house
Return library books & rentals You don’t want to move these things with you
Retrieve loaned items Pick up what you loaned to others
Medical records Gather important documents in a safe place
Fill Prescriptions You don’t want to run out mid-move
Plan your route Especially if you’re moving long-distance
Take a photo inventory Take pictures of your belongings in case things get lost
Back up computers Just in case…
Cook meals Use what’s in the fridge and freezer instead of moving it
Donate non-perishables Donate canned & dry goods to the local Food Bank
Take pictures of your electronics As an easy reference for what cord went where
Research the new neighborhood Find stores, restaurants, services, etc. near the new you
Moving day playlist Music helps to motivate!

QUICK TIP: Make sure you understand HOW you will load your larger items into your new home, especially if they won’t fit through the front entrance.  Measure twice, Move once!!!

Get Your Packing Supplies in Order

Nobody – including friends, family, or professional movers – wants to move a home that has not been properly packed. To make sure your move goes smoothly, one critical step in the moving checklist is to make sure you have the right supplies to get the job done.

Some of the items on this moving planner can be store-bought (such as packing tape and markers), some of these items can be reused (from the local liquor store), and some of these items can be things you already have at home (socks, scarves, and towels make for excellent packing material).

Packing boxes New or used from local stores
Bubble wrap For your most fragile items
Packing paper Kraft or newspaper will do for most items
Packing tape To properly seal boxes
Garment bags Heavy Duty trash bags will often do
Plastic baggies For all loose screws, batteries, etc.
Thick felt markers For labeling boxes with room & contents
Moving labels Optional, but very handy
Plastic wrap For wrapping up loose items
Egg cartons Perfect for packing jewelry
Rubber bands Useful in hundreds of ways

QUICK TIP: Consider searching on Craigslist for free, used moving boxes. Flatten and put your moving boxes back up on Craigslist when you’re done your move. 

Packing Up Your Home

How furiously you need to pack depends on how long you have before you move but try not to leave it to the last minute and end up panic-packing, as you will regret that after the move.

Our move planning checklist assumes that you have a reasonable amount of time to pack, but if you have to pack in a hurry… just accelerate your progress through the list.

Even if your current home is on the market, you can still pack. Just stack boxes neatly in one corner of the room but try to keep them out of the line of sight from the front door.

And keep in mind that not everything needs to be “packed”. For most local moves, you can leave the clothing in the dresser drawers. This will also help reduce wasted space inside the moving truck.

However, you should pack up any small, loose, or valuable items that could get lost if the dresser drawer is tipped over during the move.

Create an inventory list To track each box and its contents
Number your boxes You’ll know how many you have if one goes missing
Set up a packing supplies station Keep all your supplies in one place
Create donate pile(s) Moving is a great opportunity to purge, purge, purge
Pack other belongings Gym locker? Safety deposit box? Etc.
Create “Unpack First” Boxes One for each key room – Kitchen, Bathroom, Bedrooms
Create “I Will Move This” area Put things you will bring by yourself in this space
Separate hazardous items Some things need special handling
Pack off-season items Get these packed up an out of the way
Pack collectibles & knick-knacks You’ll be fine without these for a few weeks
Pack guest room(s) Unless you are expecting company before the move
Pack storage room(s) And purge as much as possible while doing so
Pack cold cellar/pantry Keep a few essentials, if you must
Pack china cabinet You won’t be needing those fancy plates right now
Pack family photos Photo albums & framed photos can all be packed early
Pack books & movies You can live without these while you’re moving
Pack any “Collections” Be it comic books or stamps, pack ‘em now!
Pack decor accents Organize these by color or category, not room
Pack linen closet Use these items as padding while you’re packing
Pack yard/shed Keep a couple of essentials to do yard cleanup
Pack files & records Put these in the “I Will Move This” area
Pack dishes Dishes should be packed vertically (like vinyl albums)
Pack a suitcase Enough to get each person through the first few days
Balance the weight Light items in larger boxes, heavy items in smaller boxes
Wrap hanging clothes Keep on the hangers and cover with garment/trash bag
Pack room-by-room Tackle what’s left, one room at a time
Defrost the freezerNobody wants to move a block of ice
Washer & DryerIf moving them, disconnect and drain the washer
Disassemble beds the night before Sleep on just the box spring and mattress for one night
Keep older towels and sheets out These can be used to wrap and protect furniture

QUICK TIP: Label boxes on the top and 2 sides, so that you can easily see what’s in the box while you’re carrying it or if it’s buried in a pile of boxes.

Create a Move Day Essentials Box

A Move Day Essentials Box helps you put all of the critical things you may need in one handy place so that you’re not frantically searching through all of the boxes to find the one that has the toilet paper.

We discovered this trick after moving into a new house to discover, as the sun began to set, that the former owners had unscrewed and removed every single light bulb in the entire house. That’s why it’s become part of this moving checklist.

Toilet paper Cleaning spray
Pain medication Dish soap
Light bulbs Hand / body soap
Paper towels Toothbrush & toothpaste
Band-Aids Deodorant
Hand sanitizer Phone charger
Basic tool kit Cash (for tipping, coffee, etc.)
Bottled water Batteries (a few of each type)
Snacks Pet food (if you have a pet)
Box cutters / utility knife Lighter or matches

QUICK TIP: Put the Moving Essentials box in the front seat of your car or the truck cab so that you know EXACTLY where it is at all times. 

Changing Your Address Before You Move

Whether you are moving around the corner, across town, across the country, or around the world; you need to let key people know your new address. This includes moving your utilities, updating your credit cards, etc.

It can also include having to find a new doctor, dentist, or school and making sure you transfer all appropriate records.

And you want to do this enough in advance so that you don’t miss any important mail or don’t forget to set up new utility accounts before you move in.

As a catch-all, you should also submit a US change of address request or a Canadian change of address request at the Post Office as part of your moving checklist to catch anything you might have missed.

Utilities To set up/close/move your accounts
Change of address cardsA handy way to let people know that you’ve moved
Subscriptions Magazines, catalogs, newspapers you want to receive
Recurring orders Any auto-fill orders should be updated
Online stores Add your new address to your favorite checkouts
Post Office Put in a change of address request to forward your mail
DMV By law, you need to update this after you move
Insurance Update your Life, home, auto, etc. insurance companies
Government / Tax Contact the various service agencies to update
Family & friends Keep those close to you aware of your new location
Employer Let your HR department know your new address
School(s) Even if you are staying in the same school district
Banks & financial institutions And order new checks with your new address
Doctors & Dentists If you are changing doctors, get a medical transcript
Sports & club memberships To stay informed
Current house / landlord Provide a forwarding address for mail that slips through
Voter registration Protect your right to vote!

QUICK TIP: Make a running list of all mail that comes in over a 30 – 60 day period. This will help you remember the important places that will need your new address.  After the fact, your “forwarded” mail from the old address will let you know who you might have forgotten. 

Moving Day!!!

The BIG day has officially arrived, and it’s time to move into your new home. If you’ve handled the earlier stages of this moving checklist, today should still be incredibly exhausting but – hopefully – far less stressful.

Make sure to do a quick walk-through before they close up the truck, looking for large or heavy items that will be difficult to move without the truck around.

You can (and should) do a more thorough walk-through before giving up the keys.

Set an alarm Get up early to handle last-minute stuff
Remind friends/family/helpers Text everyone who volunteered to help to remind them
Protect your floors Put down mats (movers will do this for you)
Help but don’t hinder Hired movers? Help guide but don’t get in their way
Valuable / important items Keep these in the car or the rental truck cab
“I Will Move This” items Use your helpers to put these into personal vehicles
Fill the shelf If your box truck has a ledge, fill it with boxes
Load heaviest items Appliances should go in the front of the box truck
Load mattresses & box springs Strap mattresses to the left side of the truck
Open furniture Desks & tables in the middle with heavy boxes under
Sofas/couches Load on the opposite side of your mattresses
Heavy boxes Load in the center of the back of the truck
Small boxes, etc. Place smaller items behind and around your other items
Strap it all down Use straps and moving pads to keep things from shifting
Take pictures of your new home Before you move in, create a record of how it looked
Take food/beverage breaks Between the move-out and the move in
Protect your new floors Put down mats (movers will do this for you)
Assign a guide To direct what goes where in your new home
Keep paths clear Do not put boxes in high traffic areas
Double-check placement Make sure large items are in the right room/area
Tip your movers $4-$5/hour per mover, if they did an awesome job
Order food/beverages To thank your helpers
Check your connections Make sure your utilities, Internet, etc. are working
Set up beds So that there is a place to sleep after a long, hard day
Unpack the coffee maker You’re going to need this!
Unpack main bathroom essentials Get shower & toiletries ready so you can feel human
Change the locks You never know who has keys to your new home
Make copies of your keys Do this IMMEDIATELY before you lose your only set

QUICK TIP: Take your existing locks (and the keys) to the local hardware or home improvement store and they can change the locks for FAR less than it would cost to hire a locksmith.

Last Check of Your Old Home

Once the move-out is complete, it is always a good idea to do one more, final walk-through of your old home as part of your moving checklist and look in every nook and cranny.

This will help make sure that you didn’t leave anything behind, plus give you a chance to do a final and thorough cleaning before the new owners take possession.

Depending on your move distance and when you are giving up possession of your old place, you can do this immediately after the moving truck has been fully packed or you can come back to the old house after the move is over.

Check all closets Don’t leave things hanging
Check all cupboards Use a step ladder to check the top shelf
Check storage room Make sure it was thoroughly emptied
Check the furnace room Check around the furnace for dropped items
Check the shed Make sure you grab your yard tools
Check the fridge & freezer Unless you moved them with you
Check the oven Make sure you didn’t forget something in there
Check under the stairs You’d be amazed what can hide beneath the stairs
Check in the attic If you have a storage attic, check it again
Sweep & clean Don’t leave garbage or dirty surfaces behind
Do a full walk through One last look, and a chance to say goodbye!
Close & lock all windowsAnd close the blinds or drapes (if they are left behind)
Take pictures For proof that you left the place clean and tidy
Leave a goodbye gift A small token to welcome the new family
Change security codesConsider something simple (1-2-3-4-5-6)
Leave all openersShed keys, inside locks, garage door openers, etc.
Lock the doors So that nobody can do damage after you’re gone
Return / leave the keys Make sure to get your key deposit back (if applicable)
Contact utilitiesConfirm that you have moved & final reading is done

QUICK TIP: Keep one or two open but unpacked “last minute boxes” so that you can easily pack up anything you find during your final check. 

Some Final Moving Tips

Even if you have possession of both properties for a period of overlap time, try to avoid the “I will deal with that later” mentality, as that can create what is known as “The move that never ends!”

Also, if you are moving for work, make sure that you keep your receipts for Tax Time!

Last, but not least, flatten boxes as you unpack them and collect them in one place. You can post them on Craigslist or a local classified site for free pickup by another mover. It helps you dispose of them, keeps them out of landfills, and helps another mover save some money. A win-win-win!!

Your Moving Checklist is COMPLETE!

And that’s it… you are officially moved. Now comes the fun(????) part. Unpacking!!!!

Hopefully, this moving checklist helped you avoid some common moving pitfalls that I have experienced in the past. If so, we’re glad we could help. If not, we’re sorry. Really, really sorry!

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DOWNLOAD THE FREE PRINTABLE PDF MOVING CHECKLIST – And take The Ultimate Moving Checklist with you!

13 thoughts on “Moving Checklist | Tips to Help You Move Like a Pro”

  1. It was a good tip when you told us to make sure we pick a move date in advance and set a budget for it before we start hiring movers to help us out. I will be moving to our new home in Houston soon, and since I have a heavy oven with me in my condo unit, I need help transporting it to my new place. I’ll be sure to keep this in mind while I look for professional oven movers in Houston to hire for help soon.

  2. Thank you for sharing the list! As we can see, there’s a lot of things that need to be done during a move. I’ve saved your ideas, if you don’t mind. My mama is preparing for a move and I’m trying to help her as much as I can. Hired a worthy man and van recently, let’s see what they can do. Take care 🙂

  3. Great checklist to keep you organized for your move! It’s definitely not about just shoving everything into boxes, you also have to think about transferring your utilities over to your new home and forwarding your mail. It’s also super important to make sure you get a reliable moving company that knows what they’re doing. it saves so much headache!

  4. Very helpful and informative. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. This idea would make you think about what to do next, although I am all in favor of hiring professional movers!

  5. 5 stars
    Thanks to the author for sharing such a great post. The article was very well written and the checklist is really great for people like me who are looking for more information.

  6. Moving is always a hassle 😉 But it is definitely worth the effort. Recently, I helped to move my friend to a suburb of New York City from downtown. He had his own checklist to make sure he didn’t forget anything, as well as many different tips that helped a lot, some of which I think he may gave gotten from you! 🙂 My friend was madly happy to move, because the proximity of nature and the lack of noise made his life better and calmer.

  7. We really like this article. As a moving company providing a furniture removal services, we can tell that you know what you’re talking about!

  8. Hello! Thank you for the excellent blog post, our customers need to read this and I’ll point them to it. I wish there was more straightforward information about moving out there like this. Thanks again!


  9. Robertsons Removals

    This kind of job really needs appreciation and yes thanks for sharing this with us. Your blogs are always great and I love reading them. I am about to move to my new place and this checklist will be very helpful for me… thanks!

  10. This article is incredibly helpful. I am familiar with the rigorous task moving can be, I recently moved this past summer and wish I had this article as a resource at that time. A couple buddies and I had to move our piano ourselves and in order to bring it into our basement it would not fit down the stair so we had to take it around the house by our lake and it was frankly terrifying. Moving our upright is the one thing I would say with 100% certainty I will never do again. If you’re going to do the moving work yourself, you’ll definitely want to look into a piano moving service in your area. Its worth paying someone else do for you. Thanks for writing this article, I’m sure anyone in the middle of this process will greatly appreciate it!

  11. Thank you for sharing this. This is so helpful and informative. It will really made sorting and packing stuff a whole lot easier. Saving this for future reference.

    1. I’m so glad you found our Moving Checklist helpful! Hopefully it makes your next move super easy! (Well, as easy as moving can possibly be…)

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