Young family surrounded by moving boxes.

Moving Checklist: Your Go-To Guide For Planning Ahead

January 22, 2024 10-minute read

Author: Victoria Araj

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Regardless of whether you’re moving to another state or just across the street, moving can be stressful. To manage any moving day anxiety, you’ll need a strong game plan and a comprehensive moving checklist to effortlessly navigate each step of the moving process.

Let’s take a look at a few of the major tasks you’ll need to handle before the big day arrives. We’ll craft a timeline that details when you should tackle each task so you aren’t left scrambling the day before moving.

2 Months Before Your Moving Date

You still have plenty of time to get your high-level chores in order with 2 months to go before your move. At this point, you should focus on the big-picture tasks versus the smaller ones.

Decide how you want to move, what you want to get rid of and what you want to bring to your new home.

Say Goodbye To Extra Stuff

The key to a low-stress move is to travel as lightly as possible. Two months before your moving date, think about what you need and want to bring with you. There’s nothing worse than moving stuff that ends up sitting in a storage unitbecause you didn’t need it.

If you’ve ever cleared out a closet, you know the task is easier said than done. Knuckle down, make some hard choices and commit to decluttering your home.

You don’t have to throw everything away. You can donate clothing, furniture, books and appliances to your local thrift store to make your move lighter. You can earn a quick buck with a garage sale or sell your items through online marketplaces.

Make Lists And Organize

Now that you’ve removed the chaff, start organizing the items you want to bring with you. Create a list of everything you need to pack and organize it by room.

Sorting out everything you plan on moving by room increases the chances of the right box ending up in the right room, making unpacking quick and easy.

The more organized your labeling system is, the less you’ll need to worry about lugging a heavy box of dishes from the basement back up to the kitchen because it wasn’t labeled properly.

Decide How You Want To Move

Decide whether you want to use professional movers, get help from friends and relatives or do it yourself. If there’s a line item in your budget to hire professionals, start collecting quotes from local companies and reading through online reviews.

Be sure to get separate quotes from movers: one that quotes what they’ll charge to pack your stuff and the other with the price to pick up and move your packed belongings. The quotes will likely be very different.

Moving costs can get pricey – but that doesn’t mean a successful move is out of reach. If professional moving servicesaren’t in your budget, just know that many people opt for alternatives to movers.

If you want to save some money and handle the move yourself, reserve your moving truck or van now. Recruit friends or relatives and ask them to block off their calendars to help on the big day.

Moving is a big job. Show everyone helping you a little appreciation with free food and drinks throughout the day.

Start The School Enrollment Process

If you’re moving with a school-aged child, you may need to enroll them in a new school or day care. Start this process as early as possible. Depending on the type of school you’re interested in, you may encounter a lengthy waitlist, especially in a family-friendly city or state.

You may also need to:

  • Fill out lengthy enrollment forms
  • Register a child for extracurricular activities
  • Request reference letters from a child’s current school
  • Submit immunization records

Whether you’re sending your child to a private or public school, take care of the paperwork early to avoid worrying about it while you’re preparing to move.

Get Updated Pet Records

Your new homeowners association (HOA) or landlord might need your pet’s records. You certainly don’t want to discover your dog or parakeet isn’t welcome after you’ve moved in. Call your veterinarian and request a copy of your pet’s medical records as soon as possible.

Inventory Your Valuables

No matter how many precautions you take, accidents happen, and this is where homeowners insurance can benefit you. Your insurance company will need to know about the valuables you own.

Inventory your valuables – jewelry, artwork, heirlooms, antiques – as early as possible to streamline the insurance process and ensure everything that needs coverage is covered.

Take photos of everything and store your list and pictures in a cloud-based storage system. You should also decide whether to purchase an additional insurance rider for very expensive items.

If you’re using a moving company, ask your movers about their policy on valuable items. Also, ask them what kind of insurance you’ll need to protect these items if any get damaged or lost during the move.

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1 Month Before Your Moving Date

As your move gets closer, it’s time to start packing and moving on to other steps to help ensure a less stressfultransition to your new home.

Schedule Utility Stop And Start Dates

Now is the time to notify your utility companies and service providers about your impending change of address. Schedule a service stop date at your current address and a start date for your new home. You’ll need to contact:

  • Electricity and gas providers
  • Water and sewage treatment providers
  • Internet, phone and cable providers
  • Health care providers (doctors, dentists, etc.)
  • Insurance providers (home, auto, life, etc.)
  • Banks and credit card companies that mail statements to your home
  • Your child’s school
  • Subscription providers (magazines, meal delivery services, etc.)
  • Home alarm system providers

And make sure the post office knows you’re moving. Just fill out this USPS change-of-address form.

Collect Packing Supplies

A move requires plenty of packing materials. We’re talking sturdy boxes, bubble wrap and rolls and rolls of packing tape. If your mover doesn’t offer these materials and isn’t packing everything for you, order packing supplies about a month before moving.

You may be able to slash the cost of packing materials with a call or visit to your local grocery and liquor store. Ask them if they have any empty boxes. You can also post on Nextdoor or a similar community platform to ask if anyone has spare moving boxes. Bookstores are another excellent source for sturdy boxes, especially for heavier items.

Make Travel Arrangements

If you’re making a long-distance move, book your hotel and transportation now if you haven’t already. If you’re relocating for a job, ask your new employer whether they offer any moving benefits.

If you’re driving, schedule car repairs or an oil change before you head out. The last thing you’ll want to do with a trailer full of valuable family heirlooms is sit in a car with engine failure on the side of the road.

Start Packing Early

If packing a month ahead of your move seems too early, it’s not. Packing early can help reduce your workload as you get closer to your moving date.

Don’t box up any items you may need or want in the weeks leading up to the move. Start by packing up out-of-season clothing and holiday decorations instead.

Label all boxes as you pack to avoid any surprises or missing items.

2 Weeks Before Your Moving Date

It’s time to get serious about packing 2 weeks before your move. Go through each room in your house and pack everything but essentials, like medications or documents you’ll need to access quickly.

Label each box by room and store them in a cool, dry area. Below are some additional tips.

Keep The Essentials Handy

Be sure to leave out some key items that may come in handy on moving day, including:

  • A rolling dolly
  • Assorted screwdrivers and wrenches
  • A utility knife
  • Packing tape
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Permanent markers
  • Measuring tape

Return Items You Borrowed

You don’t want to worry about returning rented items on the day of your move. Go through your home and collect everything that needs to be returned. Schedule a day to take back library books, Tupperware, furniture, appliances and other items you’ve borrowed.

Prepare Outdoor Items

Drain all garden hoses and wipe down lawn furniture before you box it up. Properly dispose of gasoline from your lawn mower, trimmers and other landscaping equipment. Consider selling any items that are old or have seen better days.

Check In With Your Movers

Talk to the friends who agreed to help you out or the moving company to make sure they’re still available. If either backs out, you’ll need a plan B. You don’t want to end up with no help on the big day.

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1 Week Before Your Moving Date

Now is the time to finalize your move and finish up last-minute tasks. You should be packing up the last of your household items and taping the boxes shut.

Below are a few other last-minute to-dos:

Create An ‘Essentials Bag’ For Moving Day

Create an “essentials bag” for each of your family members for the day of the move. The items you should add to your bag can include:

  • 2 – 3 sets of clothing
  • Toiletries (toothbrush, deodorant, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc.)
  • Phone and computer chargers
  • Medications
  • Snacks
  • Books, toys and games
  • Computer, tablet
  • Headphones
  • Important documents (driver’s license, moving company contract)

Keep this bag separate from your moving supplies so it doesn’t get mixed in with your boxes. If you’re moving with kids, make sure their favorite blanket or stuffed animal is safe inside their special bag. A comfort blanket may help calm any anxieties as they embark on their new lives in a new home.

Clean Out The Refrigerator

If your fridge is moving with you, make sure you empty and defrost it at least 24 hours before the day of your move. Remove all leftovers and wipe down the inside if you’re leaving the fridge behind.

Consider visiting a local food bank or shelter and donating any nonperishable food items you’re not bringing along.

Deep Clean Your Space

If you’re renting the property after you move out, do a room-to-room deep clean of your space before you move. As soon as you finish cleaning out a room, close it off to keep it from getting dirty again. Make a note to perform any necessary repairs to get your security deposit back.

It may be worth hiring a company that specializes in deep cleaning homes. Although a move-out clean may not be cheap, hiring a cleaner can save you time and energy the final week before your move.

2 – 3 Days Before Moving

If you’ve stayed on track with the moving checklist, the last few days before moving should feel manageable. Cross these remaining tasks off your to-do list before closing the door of your old home and opening the door to your new one.

Grab Cash To Tip The Movers

It’s customary to tip professional movers. If you don’t have cash on you, run to an ATM and grab some cash to tip your movers. Most people tip each mover $4 – $5 per hour. Of course, you can tip a little more, especially if the movers unloaded a lot of heavy boxes or furniture.

Contact A Locksmith

Contact a locksmith a few days before the move if your lease stipulates you must change your locks before moving out. You may also want to change the locks for your new home if the previous owners didn’t.

Get The Kids Ready For An Early Day

Start getting your kids into the habit of waking up early a few days before the move to avoid the headache of dragging your kids out of bed while packing up your moving van. Use disposable bowls, plates and cutlery for your final breakfast so you don’t create another mess to clean up before you leave.

Moving Day

You’ve been preparing for weeks. And now, moving day is finally here! It’s time to complete the outstanding items on your moving checklist.

Verify The Movers

Make sure the moving truck matches the company you were expecting to see on moving day. One way to do that is by verifying that the USDOT number, usually on the side of the moving truck, matches the one on the moving company’s contract.

Take a Final Walk-through

Take a walk around the inside and outside of the home to confirm:

  • No personal belongings were left behind
  • All the lights are off
  • All doors and windows are locked

Return your keys if you have a rental or lease agreement with a landlord. If your home has been purchased, follow the instructions you agreed to with your real estate agent for the key transfer to the new owner.

Cross-Check Inventory

You’ll need to take care of a few things before the movers leave. First, inspect your fragile items to ensure they’re still in good condition. Next, verify the mover’s inventory list with all delivered items to ensure nothing is missing. Then you’ll sign their copy of the inventory list and keep a copy for your records.

What To Do Once You’ve Made The Move

Congrats are in order! You effortlessly navigated moving because you were organized and had a comprehensive checklist for moving day to guide you. But what comes next?

While everyone will have their unique way to unpack and make the new house a functioning home, we’ve collected a few tips to help you after you've moved in:

  • Clean before you unpack
  • Organize closets
  • Set up utilities and services
  • File any insurance claims if items are missing or damaged
  • Update driver’s license and voter registration
  • Locate health care providers
  • Help pets adjust to new surroundings

One of the last to-dos we recommend is setting aside time to greet your neighbors. You’ll likely see them frequently, so it’s good to know who they are from the start.

Moving Day FAQs

If you have more questions about preparing for moving day, we have more answers.

When is moving out considered a last-minute move?

If your first contact with a moving company happens 3 weeks or even closer to your scheduled moving date, it may be considered a last-minute move. Last-minute moves can happen for a variety of reasons. Maybe you’re moving for work or selling quickly for a personal reason. Take advantage of any lead time you have and reach out to movers as soon as you can.

What if I am not finished packing when the movers arrive?

If you know you won’t be fully packed in time for your move, the best thing to do is to tell your movers ASAP. Your movers may offer to send an employee to help you finish packing, reschedule your move or recommend other options.

How much money should I give the movers as a tip?

A general guideline is to tip movers 15% – 20% of the total cost of their services. You can adjust the amount based on effort, hard labor and the complexity of the move. It’s also considered best practice to tip movers individually.

The Bottom Line: Find A Home And Plan For Your Moving Day

A detailed moving checklist can help make your moving day less stressful. Start 2 months in advance to give yourself plenty of time to get everything in order. Pack early, clean early and commit to the timeline of your moving checklist.

If you’re starting to look for a new home, there’s no need to shop for one alone. We can answer your questions and get you closer to your big moving day. Initiate the mortgage approval process online to get started today.

Victoria Araj

Victoria Araj is a Section Editor for Rocket Mortgage and held roles in mortgage banking, public relations and more in her 15+ years with the company. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in political science from Michigan State University, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Michigan.