moving man with boxNobody likes to move but with a little planning and preparation you can make your next move as painless as possible. Here are some tips to get organized.

Plan Ahead

If you’re moving during a busy time of year—half of all moves happen in late spring and summer—book your moving company or your truck ahead of time. College towns see huge activity in early May and late August. Call them at least three or four months ahead of time. Otherwise, you risk having to use the cheapest company or paying your friends down the street in pizza to help move your possessions.

Get an Estimate

A moving company should provide you with an estimate. The estimate is based on the size of your home, the furniture you’ll be moving, and how far you’re moving. Ask at least three companies for estimates, and ask plenty of questions to avoid hidden fees.

Protect Your Valuables

A lot of moving companies won’t handle expensive or potentially dangerous items such as jewelry, weapons, alcohol, or gas grills. Plus, you would probably rather transport your personal documents, family heirlooms, and priceless items yourself rather than abandoning them in the back of a moving van. Leave room in your car or your suitcase for these items and make sure they’re insured if at all possible.

Clean BEFORE You Pack

Purge your home of accumulated junk. Go through the closets, the kitchen cabinets, the bathrooms, and the entertainment center looking for duplicates, unused items, broken and irreparably damaged items, clothes that don’t fit or that you haven’t worn in a year, outgrown toys, and other unnecessary items. Then make a pitch pile to toss in the trash and a donate pile to take to a local charity. If your home needs an especially thorough cleaning, consider getting a dumpster. Donate the rest of the items to a secondhand store or shelter. As a bonus, these donations are tax-deductible.

Keep Records

If you’re moving for your job, the cost of your move is tax-deductible, but you must keep thorough moving taxesrecords of mileage, storage, gas, truck rental, and insurance. Otherwise, you’re likely to be subject to an audit. If your business is paying to relocate you, they will also want to see thorough financial records.

Pack Smartly

Don’t plan to put an entire bookshelf’s worth of books in a single box unless you have hired a bodybuilder to help you move. Many moving companies sell boxes with recommended contents and weights. Use those as a guide. If you’re packing-challenged, buy pizza in exchange for the help and advice of a friend or family member who can help you get organized. Strategic packing will prevent broken belongings, sprained backs, and chaos during the unpacking process.

Don’t Forget the Plants

Whether you only have one or two small potted plants or a whole indoor greenhouse, make sure you’ve arranged for your plants to survive the move. The lighting and climate in a moving van isn’t exactly hospitable to most plants, so make sure you have a plan to help your plants reach your destination safely.

Don’t Forget the Pets

A cat, dog, or moving dogguinea pig can’t exactly live in the back of a moving truck for days either. If your pet isn’t used to traveling long distances in a car or an airplane, make sure you have a motion sickness medication or sedatives on hand, just in case. Keep your pet’s papers and registrations with you at all times, particularly if you’re planning to cross state lines.

This article was contributed by Chase Roberts, home & garden connoisseur who’s experienced his fair share of stressful moves.

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