5 Tips When Moving for the First Time 

Peter Chambers

Mar 31, 2023

moving for the first time with a moving truck driving on the street

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It may sound like the simple act of going from one home to another. However, it’s one of life’s most stressful experiences, ranking even above divorce on the list of the most tension-inducing human activities. You’re right to be a bit nervous if you’re moving for the first time. 

First, take a deep breath. Millions of people have survived this process before you. You will get through this — but the right approach can significantly smooth the process. 

What you need is a combination guide and checklist to help you tackle this chore like a pro. Are you ready to get started? Here are five tips when moving for the first time. 

1. Plan Your Attack 

Real estate agents are fond of the repetitive saying, “location, location, location.” Make “organization, organization, organization” your mantra when moving for the first time. Your checklists are your guardian angels, guiding you through the valley of the shadow of misplaced favorite toys and critical access codes. 

Make Lists 

What are some of the lists you will need to make? Here’s a “checklist of lists” you should compile when planning your attack:

  • Contact list: What’s the emergency contact number if your leased moving truck breaks down?  How can you reach your new utility companies if your power isn’t on when you arrive? What’s the best way to contact your realtor or new landlord in a pinch? Who’s the point of contact at your new job? Organize these and other critical numbers in your phone, such as your bank and credit cards, veterinarian and pediatrician. Consider leaving a written list with someone or uploading it to the cloud — just in case. 
  • Deadlines: When you have 20 things happening at once, it’s easy to get off track. What date and time do the movers arrive? When is your move-out inspection? When must you report to your new job? How long do you have to return the truck? 
  • Must-have items: Part of your packing protocol is to list valuable items you can’t afford to lose, including those with sentimental value, like your child’s favorite toy. Before you pull away in that truck, ensure you know the safe location of each — preferably in your vehicle. 
  • Things to do: You’ll have plenty of time to explore once settled. However, you’ll have to take care of business first. When must you enroll your kids in their new school, and what records do you need? How long do you have to register your vehicle if moving out of state? 

Gather Supplies 

Moving goes much more smoothly if you have the right supplies. Here’s a brief list of what you’ll need to gather: 

  • Boxes
  • Cushioning: You can use towels, bedsheets and old newspapers or magazines as padding to save money and avoid unnecessary plastic.
  • Labeling materials 
  • Strapping tape and dispensers
  • Cargo straps or rope
  • Furniture pads: You can often rent these items with your moving truck, but inventory how many you need. You can also lease covers and dollies.
  • Furniture covers
  • Dollies
  • Magic markers
  • Wrapping plastic: For electronics like televisions.
  • Toolset: For unassembling furniture. 
  • Garbage bags
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Work gloves: If you get through the moving process without needing a manicure afterward, you are a folk hero of legend. 

2. Talk to the Troops 

It doesn’t matter how taxing the job is — it goes more smoothly with help. You have three troops to rally: 

  • Those moving with you.
  • Your core support squad. 
  • Your peripheral help. 

Your biggest chore with those making the same move is getting everyone on the same page. What is everyone responsible for, job-wise? 

Who pays for what — will you split everything evenly, or will one person pay for deposits while the other covers the cost of the moving truck? When will each person finish packing, and how will they travel to their new home? For example, family members with disabilities who can’t take a long trek in one sitting may have to start early and meet you at the destination. 

Your core support squad are those folks you can count on to help you pack or watch the kids and pets while you do so. If your in-laws have been clamoring for “grandparent time,” now’s the perfect opportunity. Take advantage of any help offered. 

Your peripheral help consists of those who help you lift your couch in exchange for a beer. You can also hire professional movers — depending on your budget and comfort level with strangers handling your stuff. 

3. Start Packing Early 

A good rule of thumb is that it’s never too early to start packing. For example, if you know your job plans to relocate across the country in six months, now is the time to sort through those boxes in your basement or attic to unload what you don’t need. 

Be ruthless when cleaning out your closet and cabinets. Start with those items you rarely use. Evaluate whether they’re worth the price of transporting to your new home — each extra pound in that truck sucks gas mileage.

How to Pack Effectively: 4 Tips 

Certain packing tips can make the difference between a seamless loading and unloading process and a backbreaking experience. You already know the nifty trick of using blankets as cushioning. These extra tips from someone who has moved a lot will help you manage the rest:

  • Label on all sides: Reading a box in your arms is impossible. 
  • Tape furniture hardware to the furniture: Put nuts and screws in a baggy and secure them to the items where they belong. 
  • Make Russian dolls: Got a storage ottoman? That’s one less big box you have to buy or forage.
  • Consider a moving container: Unlike a truck that provides only a few short hours, you load these pods over several weeks as you pack. It’s a back-saver. 

The ultimate packing tip? Go lightly. It’s tempting to overload boxes, especially when moving for the first time. You haven’t yet learned why hours of such labor are called “backbreaking.” 

It doesn’t matter if you’re the next Incredible Hulk. Your muscle endurance will wear thin. Go several pounds lighter than you can comfortably manage to avoid strain. Herniated disks can plague you for life, coming back to haunt you each time you move wrong in the future. Lift with your legs and don’t bite off more than you can chew — call for help if need be.

4. Give Yourself Extra Time 

You leave Pennsylvania on Wednesday, arrive in Arizona early Sunday and report to your new job bright and early on Monday morning. Such a schedule is doable — if you truly have no other options or are a glutton for punishment.

You have two problems here. One is that moving is grueling. There’s a reason people name it the most stressful life experience — you will probably feel like that truck you rented ran you over by the time you finish. You will need a break. Hey, you’re human — not only is time off okay, but it’s also recommended. 

Furthermore, people moving for the first time are particularly prone to the planning fallacy. What’s that? It’s the idea that everything will go according to plan or close to it. Take it from someone who has moved more times than they can count — if something can go wrong, it will. Your truck will break down, or you’ll have to turn around. Either way, you’re delayed. 

5. Reward Everyone — Including Yourself 

If you’re the lucky soul with friends to spare helping you move for the first time, please treat them well. Be especially extra if you don’t plan on seeing them again for months, possibly years. At a minimum, beer and pizza are the expected compensation for helping you load your big screen without a scratch. 

You arrived at your destination at last, your sanity somewhat intact. Congratulations — you survived moving for the first time. Hopefully, you followed tip number four and gave yourself a buffer before reality strikes again.

If the move drained your coffers, an extra day off and a hot bubble bath are welcome. If you have a few bucks left, there is no better time for a spa day. Do you have little ones in tow? Be sure to reward them, too, with an extended trip to the park or a guilt-free night of video gaming until they pass out in front of the telly. 

Tips When Moving for the First Time 

Moving for the first time makes life’s most stressful transition even trickier. However, you are a rockstar who prepares themselves for battle. 

Use the above tips to smooth your transition when moving for the first time. You’ll arrive at your destination somewhat relaxed and much more ready for life’s next adventure. 

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