Home Ec

Home Ec: Moving Day Tips + Ways to Save

by Grace Bonney

Tomorrow, Julia and I are back in Brooklyn, packing up what’s left of our apartment and heading out on Friday to start our full-time life in the Catskills. It’s both exciting and sad to say goodbye to a space we loved so much, but it feels like the right time to try something new. I’ve long been someone who enjoyed switching apartments and getting to decorate a new space, but the packing part has always (always) been the worst. So I decided to dedicate this week’s Home Ec post to our task this week: tips for moving and saving while you do it.

Whether you’re moving yourself or hiring someone to help, moving costs can add up quickly. From boxes and packing materials to repairing the things left behind in your old space, those little expenses turn into big ones, so today I’m sharing tips for turning any move into a less stressful and costly experience. From tips on filling nail holes for free (hint: Dove!) to prepping a “next day” kit, these ideas will hopefully save you a few dollars and any headaches that may come with lifting heavy boxes. I’d love to hear what moving tips and tricks you swear by (which room do you unpack first?). So please feel free to share them below. Don’t have a tip? Maybe we could learn from anyone’s moving horror — or success! — stories. I’ll share my favorite moving disaster in the comment section below, too. Yikes, it was a rough day. xo, grace


This post and the Home Ec section are brought to you by Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day. Visit the Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Home-Grown Inspiration section featuring 20 DIYs, including seven from Design*Sponge!

Reduce: There's no better time to pare things down than before a move. Consider a stoop sale or listing some more valuable items on an online auction site to help raise funds for your move or setting up your new home. Most cities have charities that would love to have your gently used clothing, electronics or household goods, so consider passing those on to those in need if you don't think you'll use them in your new home. Think about where it will go in your new space - if you can't imagine how you'll use it there, it's time to sell, donate or toss. [Photo from Paula's home]
Monday Move: If you can control your move date, select a date during the week. Moving rates are typically cheaper during the week and during off-peak times (like early afternoon) when moving companies know they can easily find parking and avoid rush-hour traffic. [Photo from Sisse's home]
Thinking Beyond the Box: Boxes are a great way to pack things, but they aren't the only way - and they can be expensive. Try visiting your local grocery or liquor store to see if they have any extra boxes they're throwing out that you can take off their hands. But also remember to use suitcases, tote bags, laundry bags and - my favorite - IKEA bags! That way, you're using things you already need to move and cutting down on packing costs. [Photo from Morgane's home]
Shirts and Towels Instead of Bubble Wrap: Bubble wrap costs so much more than I always expect, so I've pretty much given it up in exchange for packing all of our ceramics, glassware and dishes in towels, sheets and t-shirts. It's not as neat as freshly cut sheets of bubble wrap, but it's free, does the job and it doubles up on something you already needed to pack anyway. Just be sure that anything fragile has a layer of shirt/towel/sheet on the bottom and top to protect it from any rough landings. [Photo from Sarah's home]
Color Code: It can be tough to read your own writing after a long day of labeling boxes, so consider using inexpensive colored tape to mark boxes instead. You won't miss a hot pink strip of tape from a distance. [Photo from Alethea's home]
Take a Picture: If you're moving electronic equipment like TVs or computers, take a picture of the way the cords are arranged and plugged in to save time when you reassemble. You can also take a photo of the way artwork is arranged if you want to replicate a certain gallery wall layout or take a picture of which drawer/cabinet front goes where if you're reassembling a larger piece of furniture. [Photo from Susan and Will's NYC apt]
Before you Leave: If you have nail holes to fill on standard white rental walls, a bar of white soap rubbed over holes will cover them in a snap. You can cover dings and nicks in wood floors or molding with a wax crayon, too. [Photo from Gabriel and Olivier's home]
Save Some Time: I used to always pack my clothes in boxes until I saw someone pack them with the hangers still on. I don't know why I'd never thought about that, but leaving clothes on the hangers means you can quickly get them unpacked, on the rack and airing out faster. If you want to save money on boxes (garment boxes can be expensive because of the built-in rods), slip a non-scented trash bag over your clothes and tie it at the bottom to keep them safe from dirt and moving mess. Then stack them neatly in your car or truck for transport. [Photo from Andrew and Gemma's home]
Save Some Money: Throwing a moving party is a great way to save money on expensive movers. Ask if your friends or family would be willing to help you load or unload your car in exchange for an inexpensive meal. A few takeout pizzas and soda (or something healthier, if you have more willpower than I do) is a lot cheaper than most moving services. [Photo from Marianne's Suitcase DIY]
Plan For Tomorrow: Packing an overnight bag is the easiest way to avoid the "Where did I pack that?" blues the next day. Pack your clothes for the first night and first day, toiletries, toilet paper, trash bags, chargers for phones and other electronics and anything else you might need to get through the first day of travel and unpacking. [Photo from DIY Pet Bed - Please do not pack or move any living animal in a suitcase!]
Keep a List: If you have the time and energy to make a detailed list of everything you're packing, that goes a long way to ensure you have everything you need. But if you're like me and the idea of a detailed Excel sheet is just not happening, make a "must-have" list of where you've packed your most treasured and important pieces. Mark those boxes with a LARGE NUMBER and make sure you've got them all before you pack up and turn over your keys. [Photo from Ashley's DIY]

Suggested For You


  • My boyfriend and I just bought a house so we are going through the initial steps of moving an apartment that we’ve lived in for about 6 years, so this post couldn’t be more opportune. One thing that I plan on doing for the few Ikea items that we have is to print out the assembly instructions for these pieces before the move, so that we can put these beds together without having to set up our printer/office first. Most of Ikea’s assembly instructions can be found (for download) on their website, which is great.

  • I’ve moved a bunch of times in various cities up and down the east coast and have found that Home Depot has the best and the CHEAPEST boxes of any place! Also – when you label, just do 2 sides and do it small so that once you unpack, you can save the boxes for the next move! We keep ours tied together in our basement, ready for our next adventure.

  • We moved several times when I was a kid and something that always stuck with me was my mom would make our beds first thing. As an adult I have continued this and it makes sense. It is more than the “next day” kit. The last thing you will want to do at the end of the day when you’re tired is make the bed. Nothing better than being able to just climb into bed after moving and unpacking all day.

  • Instead of getting boxes from the grocery store try stores like Gap and Old Navy. They were a life saver when we moved, I went back numerous times and you don’t have to worry about the boxes having any food remaining in them. I found out which day they received deliveries and then they met me in the back with their already collapsed boxes.

  • Moving up on Friday AND coming back for the Cherry Bombe Jubilee on Sunday? Now that’s a busy few days!

    Good luck with wrapping everything up. And know that you ALWAYS need 2-3 more boxes after you think it’s all packed up. You know, for those crazy odds & ends that suddenly appear in the corners.

  • Pack up one room at a time – and don’t move on until it is DONE.

    No weird odds and ends left in the room that you have to go back and figure out what to do with.

  • On covering holes with soap – I think the previous owners of our house did this, because when we painted there were parts of the wall that deflected paint! We had to buy a special primer just for these areas. So, maybe not the best idea in the long run, in my opinion.

  • This may sound harsh but my biggest advice for moving is to not let anyone help you who isn’t going to actually be effective.

    It’s stressful enough to keep track of everything while moving, let alone having to manage a bunch of people asking a million “where should this go” or “what should I do with this” type questions.

    When my husband and I bought our house, it seemed like our entire families wanted to “help” us move but instead we asked my sister’s boyfriend to help my husband move the heavy items I couldn’t lift and that was it. We didn’t have the time or patience to have my sister and our moms putzing around looking for things to do because they couldn’t lift heavy items or didn’t know enough about our stuff to know where to put it.

    So in the end it was 3 people, 1 moving truck, and 2 days start to finish.

  • I’m a HUGE fan of the list of whats in each box, but for a cross city move its probably not essential. (If the boxes are leaving your possession, you really should go through the trouble. One person packs, the other writes ). But even if you don’t list whats IN boxes, number them. That way you know if you’re missing one.

    If your stuff needs to stay in storage, line walls with boxes, numbers facing out. This way, you know how to find what you need just in case you need to get it out early.

    Liquor boxes are perfect- they are free and hold just enough that they’re always carryable, (they even have handles!!) even with books in them.

    Don’t just photograph your cables… photograph the state of your screens before they leave your possession. The same on all high ticket items: tables, etc.

    If you don’t have a dishwasher, don’t pack w newspaper. It means having to rewash EVERYTHING.

    Plan a day to clean, if you can, once everything is gone. And then, literally go over every single surface with water and white vinegar in spray bottle, and a rag. I use a rag on a swiffer to get walls and fans etc, under fridges. I’ve never encountered a landlord that could keep a deposit when they hit a place with a fresh scent of vinegar.

    Don’t move bookcases cross country. They fall apart during the move due to vibration.

  • BoxUp was a lifesaver for our recent move! No more schlepping/making/breaking down cardboard boxes, and no waste- plus, having to return the crates helps you motivate and unpack!

  • When we moved house a couple years ago, I got almost all of my boxes from Barnes & Noble. They worked well, and they were free! I also made a detailed list of what was in each box, which I numbered, too. As the one packing & unpacking (almost) all of our belongings, my husband and kids would ask where certain things were. The list helped a lot. Good luck with the move!

  • As a renter I’m aware that contracts don’t always get renewed so I’ve taken to keeping any bubble wrap and storing it in our loft space, same with any decent cardboard boxes. I’m rubbish at doing the proper list of each item in numbered boxes so I write on the packing tape in permanent marker which room it is to go in and a simple list of what’s in each box. Good luck with the move. X

  • last time we moved, we had a 2 yr. old & I was only 5 days away from my due date for our son – thank goodness he was 6 days late! That gave me 11 days to get my house in order before he was born. I had made a floor plan for where things were to go in the new house & packed boxes & labeled them accordingly. And, yes, get your bedroom & kitchen set up first! Everything else can wait. (As an aside, we haven’t moved again in almost 22 yrs.!)

  • Yes, reusable plastic crates are the way to go! We rented these from our moving company last time and it was SO much more effective (and Eco-friendly) than boxes. Plus my dishes and breakable a felt super secure.

  • If you’re moving with a hatchback, I always lay my duvet as a last step over everything once packed in. That way if I make a stop, I know all my valuables are not out in the open for everyone to see. :)

  • A timely article! The movers are coming on Friday to transport my worldly belongings from Ottawa, Ontario to Lunenburg, NS. I am doing the two day drive with my dog and cat. Oh, yes and the horse is coming later in April. Of course I had great plans about how organized this move was going to be and it hasn’t been too bad as I started early. However, trying to juggle the last details before the truck arrives at the same moment the software project I am working is due (the date slipped of course) has been – well — a bit stressful. Oh, and they have zillions of inches of snow on the ground in my new province (where is the snow shovel? — oh I remember — I gave it to my neighbours thinking I would get one next Fall). Oh, and did I mention that I just packed the toaster with the horse blankets? Does anyone know who the patron saint of moving might be? I think it is time I said a little prayer! :)

  • I laughed out loud at image 10 – “Please do not pack or move any living animal in a suitcase!” These tips are super useful – thanks, and have fun with the move! :)

  • Whenever I move, I buy a large package of the cheapest paper towels I can find. Paper towels are the best packing material because they are inexpensive, clean, and soft–nothing has been broken since I started using them.

  • If having the moving company do some of the packing, make certain the packers are not also the movers. Packing requires a certain expertise that the heavy lifters don’t have. Our recent move from Calif to Virginia, we found the damage occurred in the packing, brass lamps boxed together without wrapping the metal for example.

  • Great post! I’ve moved often and learned two important lessons not already posted;
    1. Pack your cleaning supplies where you can get to them first. Your new place may likely not be clean enough to unpack into.
    2. If someone else is helping you move/unpack, label boxes clearly re: what room they go into, ie “blue room upstairs, top of steps” you may be the only one who knows which room is the guest rm.
    Best of luck on your move, Grace and Julia!

  • I’ve moved 31 times. Practice makes perfect. Great advice from everyone above.
    Moving can be so stressful, my best advice is to stay calm and breathe when making the many decisions you have to make during the whole process. Whether you have a huge moving truck filled to the brim or an army duffel bag to move, keep in mind that it’s likely that wherever you move you will make it beautiful because it’s in your nature to do that to any place you live.
    Oh, and lists. So many things to do and buy and research in a new house, lists will save you.

  • Don’t pack your pets but also don’t forget how traumatic their lives are from the moment you pack the first box. They need to hear your reassuring voice often as you pack and breaks should be a time for extra pats and attention. The children know you are moving to a new house and may be excited by the prospect. The pets fear abandonment and this is especially true if you have a rescue pet that has already been abandoned or left behind in the past.

  • I skip the bubble wrap and use newspaper, old phone books, and old (non private) papers. Then just recycle them when you’re done. Another tip is to move your kitties last if you are doing a short distance move across town, and to plug in a pheromone diffuser before they arrive so it feels less foreign. My kitty adjusted quickly having her little box all set up and her normal beds and couches around her.

  • What a timely post! I’m gearing up to move cross country (again) in a few weeks.

    Some tips I’ve learned from multiple long distance moves:
    -I found that investing in identical boxes saves the nightmare of packing everything into a small pod or truck. Lowes and Home Depot have boxes that aren’t too expensive, and they all pack together neatly, like a little lego set! While food and liquor boxes are cheaper, sometimes the tetris game isn’t worth the hassle.
    -Packing paper! You can buy it in big roles. It is so much cheaper than bubble wrap and doesn’t leave your dishes dirty like newspaper might. I also use the sheet and towel trick :)
    -Books can be shipped media mail, which can save room in your pod for other treasures.

    I always unpack the bathroom first, and I try to remember to buy a clean shower liner and pack that in an easy to find place so I can take a shower after a long day of hauling.

    Good luck with your move Grace!

  • After watching a professional moving/packing company pack up our apartment a few years back (on company dime, of course), I got a few pointers for future moves. The biggest one was watching them round up all of the sheets, blankets, towels, pillows and any other soft textiles and using them to line and top all the boxes of breakables. Just did a move last year using this technique and nothing broke! And it saved us $$$ on packing materials.
    FreeCycle is also a great resource for boxes and packing materials. There is one in each major city.

  • I just moved this past weekend. It’s never fun, but I agree with the recommendation to pack a suitcase (“next-day” box) with everything you’ll need immediately–sheets, towels, shower curtain, two days of work clothes, pajamas etc. I also would echo the recs on packing with kitchen towels and t-shirts, and avoid newspaper at all costs because everything gets grubby with ink.

    This time I rented moving boxes from Jugglebox and it was GENIUS. They rent big plastic bins with folding tops, and they drop them off a week before your move and pick them up a week after your move. SO convenient that you don’t need to source boxes, get them home, assemble them, get rid of them afterward, none of that–plus it’s green, you can avoid throwing out tons of cardboard.

  • Color code your moving boxes and rooms. When we moved this past July I bought various colors of painters tape and applied a strip to the top and two sides of each box. The day before we moved I applied a coordinating piece of tape to white paper then used clear tape to tape it to each door or o the wall above the door.

    I used tape on the back side of dressers, chest of drawers, etc.

    Everyone knew immediately which room to put the boxes or furniture in.

    The mover’s thought it a brilliant idea and commented about how much time it saved.

    Oh – I got all of my moving boxes for free on Craigslist. After we moved I gave them away on Craigslist. Win, win.

  • Have a ‘Set up’ Box, clearly marked in RED or with a large print out saying “SET UP”. In ours we always have kettle, tea bags, scissors, all nuts and bolts all in sandwich bags with labels of where each lot is for. Screwdrivers, drill stuff, also, f you are moving yourself you can have the checklist in here.

    A thorough checklist set up when you are moving out makes it so much easier to move in. Label each box what room you want it in in the next house. Then under that the contents of the box and a number of the box. Then on the check list have numbers of boxes 1 to …however many, the room it goes to in the new house and contents. Makes it so easy to stand at the door and say ‘Ok top room or basement back room etc. We had 240 boxes last move and no idea of the new house so labelled ‘girls room’ boys room, main bed room etc.

    NEVER pack anything you do not need. Unpacking is very time consuming so purge, sell anything that you do not want to unpack, sell give away all unwanted ‘stuff’. It is so disheartening to open boxes of ‘stuff’ at the other end :-( scores of them….

    Look on free ads lists for free boxes and paper. We always give ours away free after the move.

    Keep some back if you have kids as it makes great tunnels, houses, cardboard play fun while you are unpacking!

    If you are travelling far and have quality framed pictures it is worth getting them crated as they always get broken and if you have a table with fixed legs insist on the being crated as that too will arrive with snapped legs.

    Insure your good on the move.

    If you can afford it hire a removal company as it helps so much!

  • I love the colored tape idea!
    I second the recommendation not to use Dove for filling holes. I helped a friend move into a place where the people had used toothpaste for this purpose (thanks Pinterest) and it was so gross. Spackle is super cheap and seriously so simple to apply (you can even use some gloves and your finger if you’re feeling lazy).

  • Grace, what I meant was that at the end of your post it says you will share your moving story in the comments. But I may have misunderstood.

  • Moving… ahhhh. Our frequent moves have taught me the importance of rest and sleep, and making sure to eat well and often, especially during the moving process. Self-care can help you better face and cope with any of the mishaps that even the best packing and planning can’t always prevent.

  • Such great suggestions!

    Ditto packing the overnight bag. I also have an UNPACK FIRST box with kettle, cups, coffee and easy breakfast fixings plus towel, shampoo and other items to make the next day as normal as possible.

    Pillows also work well for packing material. I use mine in and around lampshades to keep their shape as well as protected. They are also good as fillers when I have to pack heavy items like bookends in a regularly sized box.

    I switched to cleaning or packing parties when I enlist my friends’ help. Now that we are older with more responsibilities, I find it easier than to wrangle them together for the same hours on my one moving day.

    And a strong echo to let others use your cardboard boxes when you are done. I put them on the curb without breaking them down then list them on Craigslist and they are gone within a few hours.

    Good luck with your move!

  • Make sure The Last Box/The First Day kit (whatever you call it) includes light bulbs! You never know what your new home will have–particularly with fluorescent and LED bulbs commonly in use, many people take them with them when they move!

    Also if your plants are too large or fragile to move, offer them to neighbors, senior living centers, churches, etc. They may brighten someone’s day.

  • Really nice suggestions! I need to do prepare for a move next month and I am so excited! I am moving to a new place that is much better! Thanks for the post! Greets!

  • When I was moving last year I did many mistakes. I could say that it is good to make a plan and stick to it! Label your boxes and don’t take useless stuff. :)

  • I’ve moved twice so far and the most important thing to do is making a plan of your moving, so that you have a smooth preparation and your nerves are calmed down, hi hi! Greetings, Man With Van Merton Ltd.

  • Hello there! It is really exciting that you are moving to a new place! :) There often are many emotions arising when changing a house… the most important is to stick with the positive ones and everything will go smoothly! Make sure that your belongings are packed good and there should be no problems! Good luck!

  • I used your tips to move and I have to say I’m really happy with the result. I’m just passing by to say thank you. Amazing article!

  • I couldn’t agree more that reducing the number of things that you have to take with you on the move is one of the best things you can do, as the article recommends. This is something that is far easier said that done in my case, as I tend to be what you would call a pack rat, and I hate getting rid of things. I will admit, however, that when my wife was able to get me to part with some things before the last time we moved, I ended up being pleased to have less to pack.

  • Getting friends and family to help is the cheapest and, in my opinion, best way to do it. You’ve got good company while you’re packing and you save money on hiring others. I’d always offered snacks and drinks, but pizza’s a great way to pay them and show appreciation. Thanks for the tips!

  • Thanks for the tips! I thought that you had some great advice about selling some of my things to not only make some space in the house that I’m moving into, but also help me raise money for my big move. I’ve been having trouble finding a few friends to help me move this weekend, so there’s a good chance I’ll need to rent a moving truck. I’m glad that you pointed out that there are auction sites that will allow me to sell my things online. That seems like a good way to raise money so that I can afford a moving team to help me out.

  • This article is pure gold. All of the tips are helpful and I really needed a helping hand. Thanks for sharing. I’m definitely bookmarking this one and also sharing with all my friends. Move, you don’t scare me anymore! ;)

  • One tip for moving is to pack a “survival box”. This box is filled with all items that are necessities that you will need immediately upon arriving at your new home. The box should be irregularly shaped and differently colored that it is easy to locate. This can save you hours of work and frustration.

  • Color coding my boxes would be easier than writing out all the labels. All the writing and organizing can take the most time. But I still want to know where things are. Did you get colored duck tape for your move? As long as I had a key for the color code, we could still have the movers put the boxes in the right rooms at our new place.

  • I really liked your tip for leaving my clothes on hangers when packing them. Being able to hang them up right away without fumbling to put clothes on hangers seems like an easier way to unload clothes straight into my closet. I wish that I thought to do that the last time I had to move five years ago. Now that I’m moving into a bigger space, I’ll be sure to use your idea to make unloading my clothes into my new closet faster and easier. Thanks for the tips!

  • When I moved from California to Colorado, I made the huge mistake of not getting getting rid of anything. Maybe it was because we had such a short notice of when we were moving and so we just threw everything into the truck. However, I definitely wish that we had reduced how much stuff that we had. I realized that when I started to unpack everything and felt like I really didn’t have to take everything. We certainly could have left behind and donated some clothing and electronics.

  • I thought that the moving tips on the second slide will be really helpful to know to make moving less stressful. Choosing a moving date that falls on a week day for a cheaper rate seems like a great tip. I’ll try to request a week day during the afternoon to make sure that moving into my new home will still fit my budget.

  • I have moved a few dozen times and if it is an in-town move, I always pack in my trunk, all my bedding, freshly washed for my bed; as well as a change of clothes and fresh pjs and toiletries. When I arrive, I set up the bed first then when I am too tired to unpack any more, I can have a shower and crawl into a clean bed. When I move out of town, I also include an air mattress, pillow and sleeping bag, so that even if my stuff doesn’t make it, I can at least get a decent night sleep in an empty house. Oh – and always a couple bottles of wine, to go with the pizza that I will be ordering.

  • These are great and very helpful tips! My sister is going move next month and I’m definitely recommending your advises to her. I’m sure she’ll appreciate the ideas and and will deal with all her moving issues. Thank you for gathering all this nice info in one place. Greets!