Moving this fall? Prep your new home with this checklist

Get organized — before and after your move — with this new home checklist.

Key tips to remember

  • Organize stuff into four piles: donate, recycle, trash and pack
  • Pick a moving company and work out a detailed plan
  • Start packing early, and label boxes and rooms
  • Set up service disconnects and reconnects ahead of time
  • Save all your moving-related receipts and records
DIY

From packing lists and packing boxes to moving-truck rental, full-service moving companies and beyond, whether you plan to buy a new home, rent one or build one, you’re going to need some help with moving. A moving checklist, much like a home-inspection checklist, is a great way to organize your thoughts, ideally at least two months before you expect to move. This way, you’re much less likely to overlook or forget important preparatory steps that can help make the whole process go a lot more smoothly and predictably.

Proceed with a purge

Begin by getting yourself in the mood to avoid storage units and simply get rid of stuff. As the ever-wise George Carlin inimitably declared, a home is really just a place for your stuff, and before long, if you accumulate enough of it, that stuff can become oppressive. Knowing which stuff to get rid of is as easy as creating four categories from which to organize all you own. Let’s call them donate, recycle, trash and pack. Stuff in three of these four categories won’t be accompanying you to your new home, so try to focus on them first. 

Realize that with less stuff, you’re likely to have fewer moving-related headaches, and then start piling things up accordingly. Prioritize donations and get imaginative; there’s probably someone out there who has a use for a lot of what you might otherwise cast aside. As for broken or nonfunctional items that can be reduced to the sum of their parts, make a recycling pile. After you’ve made the rounds throughout your current home to assemble your donation and recycling piles, you’re ready to start trashing stuff. A garage sale is another option, but it’s often more trouble than it’s worth. If you have plenty of items to trash, you might even consider renting a portable dumpster.

Two months before moving

  • Ask for a few moving-company recommendations and then review their Better Business Bureau profiles. Follow up by getting at least three separate estimates, which should include in-home visits. Know your USDOT rights and responsibilities, so you fully understand who is responsible for what long before something is damaged. After booking your moving company, make your family’s necessary travel plans accordingly.
  • Put together a plan for obtaining and storing adequate packing materials, whether you’re buying or finding used boxes, bags, shipping tape, bubble wrap, blankets and markers.
  • Learn all you need to know about your employer’s moving policy, and request sufficient time off for the move, ideally including a few days on each side of the big day.
  • Isolate, appraise and insure your valuables, like heirlooms and jewelry, for a safe move. Ask about the extent of your policy’s coverage while you’re in between homes.
  • Find a veterinarian near your new home, transfer records and make appointments.
  • Create dedicated folders for school, medical, dental and club-membership records.
  • Research your new community’s schools, doctors, hospitals, banks and childcare.
  • Get your vehicles tuned up, and enlist an extra driver to move a car if necessary.
  • Dedicate another file folder to all moving expenses because many are tax-deductible.
  • Enroll the kids in new schools and pass along their records.
  • Set appointments for any necessary repairs at your old or new home.
  • Change your address with the IRS and USPS.

One month before moving

  • Consider where heavy items should go in the new home, and draw a map to help the movers know where to take things when they arrive so nothing is moved twice. Write anything else that the movers will need to know on these maps, like addresses, phone numbers, and any specific instructions for moving fragile or unwieldy items.
  • Take a complete inventory of your stuff and compare it with your moving company’s list as you reconfirm the details for the big move and determine insurance coverage with the mover. Make sure they also have both of your addresses on file.
  • Give your new address to family, friends, employers, schools, doctors, banks, insurers, credit-card companies, financial accounts and any publications to which you subscribe.
  • Call service providers, including utilities, internet, landscapers, etc., to let them know when you’re moving. Call to set up services at your new address by your moving date.
  • Order any new appliances, furniture, window treatments or other things you plan to need in your new home and arrange to have them delivered by the time everything arrives.
  • Plan child- and pet-care for moving day, and make sure kids and pets are vaccinated.
  • Schedule one last doctor, dental and veterinary checkup for family members and pets.
  • Pack up each room, and label boxes according to the room they should be left in.
  • Get a final house cleaning scheduled for both homes.

Two weeks before moving

  • Make another pass through your home to be sure nothing is left unpacked. Don’t forget your basement, attic, closets, sheds or other places where things can be overlooked.
  • If you haven’t already, make sure all your important documents are secure, like passports, wills and financial statements. Make electronic copies with your smartphone.
  • Transfer any family prescriptions to a pharmacy near your new home, and make sure you have enough important medications to last through the initial period of transition.
  • If you’re moving somewhere that has an elevator, notify the building that movers will need access to it on moving day. If there’s a freight elevator, even better.
  • Return library books, pick up dry-cleaning items, and round up anything you’ve lent out locally.
  • If you’re moving plants, plan the best way to safely move them to your new home.

One week before moving

  • Talk to your mover once more to finalize payment and confirm the date and details of your move. Now’s the time to discuss the particulars of moving large or delicate items, like your favorite pinball machine. Set aside some cash you can use to tip your movers.
  • Shut down and pack up your computer and all related gear, cables and accessories. Plan on moving them carefully in one of your vehicles and not the moving truck or van.
  • Pack an overnight bag, like what you’d take on a weekend trip, with toiletries, clothes and any other essentials you might need, like snacks, a book and a phone charger.
  • Put all your house accessories, like keys, alarm codes, appliance warranties, helpful notes for the new owners or garage-door openers, in a folder on the kitchen counter.
  • Come up with some creative ways to use up the food left in your kitchen. Donate the rest to a local food pantry, and you won’t have to worry about moving them.
  • Get rid of hazardous materials, like chemicals, aerosols, oil, paint, propane and insect killer, as directed, unless you think any of it would be useful to you or the new owners.
  • Ensure that any pending deliveries, incidental or regular, have been redirected.
  • Find a local hotel near your new home, just in case the movers get lost or have trouble.
  • Speak to your real estate agent to confirm move-in and move-out days and times, and go over any final details that may arise.

The week of your move

  • Pack a moving-day box of essentials and keep it in your car. It should include phone chargers, tools, flashlights, paper towels and spray cleaner, painkillers, a first-aid kit, trash bags, scissors, duct tape, lightbulbs, paper plates, napkins and utensils.
  • If it’s not too far away, go to your new home and label the rooms so the movers will know where to take your already-labeled boxes on the corresponding maps you drew.
  • Do any last-minute cleaning and mowing at your old place.
  • Double-check your inventory list along with the bill of lading, if you have one.
  • Don’t forget to pack all your pet supplies, like food, water and litter.
  • If your home will be empty for a while, let the cops know.
  • Get rid of your last bags of trash and recyclables.

On moving day

  • If you opted not to hire a moving company and are going it alone, make sure you have gloves, a dolly or two, a set of forearm moving straps, friends, food and beer.
  • Grab the keys to your new home from your real estate attorney, and then walk through with your agent and make sure everything included in the purchase agreement is there and that nothing has magically disappeared.
  • If anything is missing or damaged at the new place, document it carefully.
  • Call the locksmith to change locks, and take and document an electric-meter reading.
  • Find the circuit breaker, shut-off valves, and smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors.
  • Make sure you have fire extinguishers that are filled and ready for use.
  • Call the security-system company to set up your billing and new access codes.
  • Install a safe at the new place for important and essential documents.
  • Order pizzas and relax with family and friends who helped. Break out that beer.

After moving

  • Explore your new town and get to know where everything is. Bring the kids along, get them library cards, and sign them up for sports, theater, scouting or other activities.
  • Register your vehicles at the DMV with your new address, and get a new license to reflect it. While you’re at it, figure out where to vote and complete a new registration.
  • Fix anything you notice in need of repair work around the new home.
  • Start unpacking, hang some pictures, and think about your project priorities.
  • If you have any rooms that still need painting, keep them empty.

Organizing records and expenses

Again, whether you dig digital documentation or prefer paper, manila folders and your grandpa’s metal filing cabinet, staying well-organized throughout the moving process is highly recommended. This means keeping track of all your moving-related maps, instructions, agreements, receipts, estimates, coverage forms and legal documents, preferably in one place where you can easily pinpoint them all. Organize by type of document alphabetically under “moving,” or come up with your own system. If it’s related to your move, especially if you need to track expenses for reimbursement from an employer or elsewhere, it should be in here.

Referrals and lockout plans

Even if you tried to look into it ahead of the move, by the time you’re settling into the new place and gradually unpacking, you may not have had the chance to line up your next doctor, pharmacy, landscaper, veterinarian, childcare center, hairstylist or gym. While you can certainly stumble upon professionals from time to time, a good referral or recommendation from a trusted source can make all the difference. If you haven’t tried the Better Business Bureau yet, as we mentioned before, it’s always the best place to start. Another option is to ask your neighbors, Realtors, and any new friends you may have made through your employer or other connections. Of course, you can also look at online reviews of local businesses too, though they are typically less reliable than direct referrals and recommendations. 

While you’re at it, check out your new city’s official website, which is likely full of information you may have been wondering about. Finally, establish a lockout plan so you’re not stuck when it happens. Whether it’s a fake rock that contains a strategically placed extra key, or a friendly neighbor with whom you entrust that extra key, not having to call the locksmith is always a plus.

We hope our new-home checklist has been helpful. Once your move is complete, you might be interested in learning how to turn your house into an energy-efficient home and may also want to read about various approaches to building a smart home. You’re also still in time to take advantage of our fall home maintenance checklist and to prepare your home for winter. Meanwhile, consider these outdoor home decorating tips and backyard deck ideas to make the outside of your home as attractive as the inside. You might not believe this, but the scary season is already creeping up on us, and we spotted some pumpkin candies at the grocery store. Get a jump on your neighborhood ghouls with these Halloween decorating tips.


The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.
 

Related stories