Having recently moved from Colorado to Tennessee, I want to share just a smattering of helpful ideas, suggestions, and haphazard nuggets of advice we gathered throughout the process.
Every move is unique in a thousand different ways, but sometimes we can have an easier go of things when we watch and learn from one another's experiences.
The Paperwork Logistics
In our family, this is my husband's area to handle. When I asked him what helped him stay organized, he named four things.
1. Label/Categorize every related email immediately; pretty soon, when there are dozens upon dozens of move-related emails coming in by the truckload, having them all in once easily-searchable folder will make locating the specific email you need SO MUCH EASIER.
2. Keep two running lists of utility companies: one for the house you are moving out of and one for the house you are moving into. Keep track of each utility company's name and service, including start and stop dates, websites, contact names/numbers, or any other pertinent information surrounding final payments or reimbursements.
3. Start another running list of places you'll need to update your address, like financial institutions, subscriptions, and favorite online retailers.
4. Speaking of which, be sure to fill out a Change of Address form with the post office at least a week before the move. (It's easy to do online!)
We had our entire house painted a fresh, clean, bright white about a month before we put it on the market, and that is when we did our initial purge-and-pack. I knew for staging purposes our space needed to be void of all personal touches, so I packed up every sentimental piece in our home like photographs with faces and tchotchkes of all sizes, knowing they wouldn't be unpacked until we eventually got wherever it was we were going.
We took errrrrrrything off the walls, filled all the nail holes, then only put a handful of key pieces back up after the paint job - a couple mirrors, a few scenic pieces of art in strategic places. For the photos, I used our plants to decorate the living room, bedroom, and office, and a bowl of colorful fruit (apples, oranges, lemons and limes) in the kitchen.
Essentially, staging requires just enough furniture and decor to provide a gentle suggestion of how a room can be used balanced with plenty of empty surfaces and open space for a potential buyer's imagination to flourish in positive, personal ways when they walk through your place.
A few more staging notes:
We went on the market at the end of February 2020, right before the pandemic became big news in the States, so we had an "old-fashioned" Open House, the kind where people physically come to the house to have a look around.
To enhance the potential buyer's sensory experience, I planted fresh flowers in our front window box and in the big planter next to our front door, and I activated essential oil diffusers throughout our home. We got lots of positive feedback about the scent, so if it's available to you, I definitely recommend taking advantage of people's sense of smell when showing your home. If you are selling during the trend of virtual open houses, obviously what people are smelling is beyond your control, so I suggest leaning into what senses you do have available - what they see and maybe even what they hear.
I used eye-catching yellow paper to print out about a dozen "Special Feature" pages that I posted in various places around the house and yard. I'd seen something similar (but admittedly more subtle) at a few Open Houses we'd attended months prior, and I knew our agent had a beautifully laminated list of our home's special features for potential buyers to review, but I wanted to kick it up just a notch to really drive some of the fun stuff home.
We also buried a statue of St. Joseph upside-down in our front yard because why not. (No yard? You can bury in a pot by your front door!)
We made a decision to use stackable, weather-proof containers for packing and moving instead of cardboard boxes.
We did supplement with some heavy-duty cardboard boxes for large items like televisions, art, and mirrors, but the majority of our stuff was wrapped in bubble wrap and nestled in a bin. Things like kitchen towels and extra bedding can also be used to wrap less-fragile items, so long as you don't use towels and/or bedding you'll need.
Other handy packing materials were gigantic clear plastic bags (especially if you have a throw pillow obsession like moi,) wardrobe boxes, bungee cords (to help hold things securely in place,) and ginormus, thick rubber bands (to help with keeping doors and drawers closed, or padding blankets in place.)
The bins we used came in different sizes that were stackable and weather-proof. It was an investment up front but so would have been cardboard, and we made some of the money back after the move by listing a slew of the bins for sale on the Nextdoor app. Within the hour, they got snapped up. We also offered all the heavy-duty large cardboard boxes for free, and they went quickly, too!
We used masking tape and a thick sharpie marker to label each bin as soon as it was filled. At the very least, we marked what room the bin needed to end up in at the new place, and sometimes I also summarized what was in the bin if it seemed like it would make a difference in prioritizing the unpacking, like in the kitchen or our offices.
This is also the stage where I began to think through (and list out - always with the list making!) what would be necessary and/or nice to have handy in our overnight bags and vehicles during the move, as well as what we would want immediate access to upon arriving in our new home. To this end, I packed clean bedding into gigantic ziploc bags and set them aside before I started using extras as packing material.
We did not use a moving company.
Initially we assumed we would, but as pandemic news ramped up, we decided the fewer hands on our stuff and in our house(s), the better. However, we would have been physically unable to move all our belongings across the country by ourselves, so we were fortunate to have generous offers from both my husband's father and my chiropractor-turned-friend, Dr. Lindsey, to make the trip with us.
We rented two 26' moving trucks, and with the help of a small but mighty contingency of friends and neighbors, we loaded them up over the course of two days.
My husband and father-in-law drove the moving trucks, Dr. Lindsey drove the F250 pick-up truck, trailing the motorcycle and scooter behind her, and I drove my trusty Honda CRV.
One moving truck was primarily for garage contents, yard/shed fodder, and major appliances like the washer and dryer, while the other truck was the contents of the house. The backseat of the F250 was earmarked for the medicine cabinet contents, the bedding we'd all need in the new house, and the bin marked, "Coffee/Tea." My car was responsible for transporting all our plants and Simon, our dog. I'd also made sure to make a fresh batch of all our cleaning supplies, and those traveled in my car with me.
It was about a 17-hour drive door to door, so we broke it up into two 8.5 hour days, stopping in Kansas City for the night in between.
The Road Trip
Here are a few things that helped make the two-day road trip from Colorado to Tennessee go smoothly during a pandemic:
1. Food prep
A few days before the trip, my husband and I spent a couple hours in the kitchen. We made a couple dozen egg and cheese burritos, some with sausage, some with bacon. We also made and froze a chicken enchilada casserole loaded with vegetables to bring to Tennessee with us in a cooler with dry ice.
I then made snack packs for each driver to reduce or even eliminate the need to stop for fast food or browse gas station snack aisles. In addition to a gallon of drinking water, each pack included a small cooler and a big box. I included protein, complex and simple carbs, and healthy fats, as well as a blend of sweet and salty.
In the cooler there were burritos, string cheese, hard boiled eggs, shredded smoked turkey, and celery sticks filled with chocolate almond butter, while the boxes contained an assortment of random goodies like fruits, chocolate, protein powder, energy bars, candy, nuts and dried meat sticks.
2. Just-in-case Bags
I equipped each vehicle with hand sanitizer, a roll of toilet paper, quarters for the highway tolls we would need to pay in Kansas, a small box of tissue, a flashlight, a lighter, a spray bottle of 99% isopropyl alcohol, and a plethora of plastic bags to use as hand barriers at the gas pumps. They also had the address of the hotel and the new house written down.
3. Reservations at the hotel
I have participated in plenty of road trips before where the plan has been to just drive until we get tired and then find a place to crash for the night. This was not that kind of road trip. I insisted we decide on our halfway point well in advance, even calling ahead to ensure they could easily accommodate our entire caravan. I wanted people to be expecting us. When we arrived at the hotel, I used my isopropyl alcohol to spray down every surface.
In addition to all the normal moving proceedings like ensuring your utilities are on when you move in, it can be helpful to think through the details of what the very first night and very first day will look like because knowing where your coffee pot is doesn't help a whole lot if you don't also have coffee and coffee mugs, ya dig?
The casserole that we froze became dinner the first night, eliminating any need to quickly figure out what restaurants were near us (or even open.) Clearly marking the kitchen bin where we could find plates, cutlery, and our cloth napkins helped us make dinner (and lunch the next day) that much simpler.
As I mentioned, I had set aside bedding during the packing phase, which was a very easy way to quickly make three beds, but had lost track of the bath towels. This created a slight scramble before bed the first night as we searched high and low for them so that everybody could shower in the morning.
You live, you learn, you pass it on.
This part is very much still in process. We're getting there but I'm trying to take my sweet time because it truly is something I do enjoy doing.
When the time is right, I'll do a full house tour blog post. It'll be fun. You're invited.
If you have a favorite tip for making a move of any size easier, I'd love to hear it - please leave a comment below to let me know.
Happy moving, friends!