the domestic tales of four sisters

The Dos & Don’ts of Moving


Happy 2016 readers! I was asleep by 10PM on NYE. Can you tell I’m nearing 28 and have 2 kids?

With the arrival of 2016 came a very long, very necessary “to-do” list for our family. Why you ask? Well, and I type this with extreme excitement, our moving company arrives NEXT WEEK. Back to the east coast we go! Onto the next adventure the Marine Corps has for us!

Even though I have much to do and only a little time to do it I realized that now would be as good of a time as any to start my “moving series.” No guarantees I will have the series complete before our move, but we will start today!

Because we live in a world where nearly every word that leaves our mouth must be disclaimer’d (especially for me) I will now throw this out for you …

I’m not a professional mover. Though as the spouse of a Marine I’m pretty dang close to it. These are tips and tricks that I have formulated over our moves that will help you if applied. Not every family is the same, so I have made these as generic as possible. Take it, leave it, whatever you choose to do I’m not your mama. Do as you please. Please note, however, that this is geared towards those of you who use a moving company and are military. It was in my wedding vows that if my husband ever made me do a DITY that I would divorce him and take all the money. Just kidding. But he knows that word is a fightin’ word … so we don’t even mention it. If you do DITY moves and are a civilian family, you can still glean some advice I think!

What better way to start the series than with a big ole Dos & Don’ts list? No better way I tell you. NONE.

DO: Have an organized plan and agenda.

Let me tell you something, I don’t care if you’re the least organized human in our whole hemisphere. I don’t care if you make the people on that terrifying show Hoarders look like they have their lives together. I don’t care if you believe road maps are of the devil and you’re uncertain what a calendar even looks like.


You hear me? No playing around with this one. If your plan and agenda is merely just a post it note – good! Your agenda needs to cover every single phase of the move. All the who, what, when, where, and whys?

Will things go wrong? You bet. Will you get frazzled? Yep. Do these two things excuse you from having an agenda or plan to execute your move with authority and confidence? HECK NO.

Here’s what happens when you don’t plan things accordingly.

You die. 

The end.

Just kidding … kind of. Without a plan or agenda you spend more money than you need to, increase your stress level, create a chaotic environment, have zero leadership and no point man, and add stress to your moving company and your family.

At least two weeks before your movers arrive you need to solidify your agenda. Everything from when your movers arrive to when your family leaves. What hotels you plan on staying at to what your budget is for your travels. This all seems very generic because it varies on your family however there is a simple way to determine your agenda and plan –

Go through every single phase of your move and write down your responsibilities – make sure you have a time and plan to execute each responsibility listed. After that point begin planning your trip. Will your kids be able to survive a while in the car? What are some great travel activities? How many hotels do you plan on staying at? What are pet friendly hotels? What is the best route to take? Are the car seats installed correctly and securely? What are some healthy road snacks? How much should I pack? Are there ways for us to save money? Every phase of this move from start to finish should be planned. Period.

But, Kelsea, what happens when something inevitably goes wrong? Ahh … leading us right into the second do …

DO: Expect things to go wrong.

Here’s how I look at this … Without a plan or agenda there’s ample potential for a lot to go wrong. And it probably will. With an organized plan only a few things will go wrong and you’re in the right headspace to come up with a solution.

Anticipate things won’t always go according to your plan or idea. And be flexible enough to handle it. If someone else can help you – let them. Whether it be a flat tire or an overbooked hotel, anticipating that these things could happen will help you process it better. Just remember that when they do if everyone is still breathing and the world isn’t coming to an end – you’re miles away from absolute failure.

DO: Have a plan for the kids

This one may ruffle a few feathers, so bear with me. I believe kiddos don’t often get the grace they deserve for just being kids. When people become frustrated at a whiny infant in a grocery store or hyper kids who want to run up and down the aisles. But as parents we must admit the fact that there are some places where kids don’t belong because they’re … well … kids. In a home that is being packed up and full of movers and moving boxes and furniture … Kiddos don’t belong there. Or at least in the heart of it.

Not only is this environment a little unsafe for the little ones, they also can be a significant distraction and impedance to the overall success of the day. If you cannot secure child care for the days of packing and loading, make sure you have a plan to keep the kiddos corralled and out of harms way. This is obviously easy for infants and for older kids. It’s those pesky toddlers and preschoolers …

Here’s what I like to do. I start the packers in the bedrooms. After the boxes are packed and labeled accordingly I either move them into the kids’ closet or out of the room entirely. You could also ask them to move them into the hallway as they pack each individual box. This is usually done in about 30-45 minutes and leaves that room free to become “kid central.” It’s about this point that Daddy & the kids return from grabbing doughnuts and coffee for the packers anyway so they go right into the room filled with every source of entertainment I could muster. When it is lunch time they get a chance to run all over and shake the crazies out.

DO: Feed & tip your packers and movers.

My dad and brother both worked for a moving company while in college. So trust my advice here. We are talking about men and women who are handling every item in your house. They’re removing a significant amount of stress from your life. And yes, they are compensated, but it doesn’t mean you can cheat them on a display of your gratitude. I’ve also been told that if you treat them nicely they’re more likely to work with you.

I found this to be true on our last move. You know that rule “we don’t unload items on the weekends?” Not necessarily true. After taking care of our driver both in the food and tip department he asked me what day I would like our items delivered. I told him “Monday would be fine” and sure enough if he didn’t say, “I’m going to try and get the stuff there Sunday. Sound okay?” And there I stood on Sunday morning, a whole day early, as things were unloaded.

Now I’m not saying you’ll get a weekend delivery like we did, but the driver and packers/loaders will be much more willing to work with you if they feel and see that they are respected and appreciated. So do it!

Here’s a general idea that I’ve adopted:

Breakfast: Plan 2 doughnuts and 2 cups of coffee for each moving company employee. Dunkin Donuts is your best friend as they have the big ole cartons of hot coffee and all the cream and sugar you could want. They also throw in the cups for you as well. Plan to do this on packing, loading, and delivery days.

Lunch: Plan 2-3 pieces of pizza and 2 cups of soda or bottles of water for each moving company employee. Look for pizza delivery places that have specials and go with them. Purchase the soda with the pizza place as well – it will arrive cold and eliminate the need for ice. DO make sure you have paper plates and paper cups and a trash can ready. The bonus to providing lunch for them also means they don’t leave the premises which ensures they’re returning to work much sooner and the packing day will come quickly to a close. YAY!

Tipping: Your packers should all be tipped $15/day. (If your driver is helping to pack he/she should also be tipped $15.)

Loaders should be tipped $20/day.

Unloaders should be tipped $20/day.

Driver should be tipped $45-50 at the end of the move.

It seems like a lot of money, but it is worth it and a great way to say thank you! If the specific company you were assigned are truly disastrous and terrible people don’t tip them and contact their company immediately.

DO: Have your home organized prior to the moving company arriving.

No big messes. No laundry undone. No piles of toys all over. No dishes in the sink or in the dishwasher. No messy countertops or your items you don’t want packed placed all over the house. The day before your moving company arrives to begin packing is spent cleaning up your house to look like your mother in law is about to visit, packing your traveling items, and loading up your cars. Yes, it means you’ll be living out of a suitcase for 2 days longer, but it’s not the worst thing to happen. All items that you DO NOT want packed need to be placed in your tub. When the moving company arrives you are going to walk them through the house and tell them where to start and that they DO NOT pack the items in the tubs. I recommend loading and packing your cars before they arrive at all, but this is personal preference.

DO: Keep track of spending.

In the world of DLA and excess spending money for a move it is VERY easy to overspend. Very easy. One quick shortcut we have? We “camp out” in our houses and drive longer each day of our journey. Our kids do fairly well in the car so we can stretch them a bit. We usually don’t stay in a hotel after the house is packed up and when we are waiting on our items to be delivered. We have air mattresses with the pumps built in and we have a great time hanging out as a family. If I had it my way we wouldn’t be stopping anywhere on our journey back this time. But my Dad is traveling with us and has threatened not to help us move if I make him drive it straight … So we are stopping off at our cousin’s house. If you have family or friends along the journey don’t be afraid to ask them if you could stay a night at their house. Even if it’s 30-40 minutes off the path, it’s still a great way to save and to see family members you don’t often see due to this military life. I also am pretty sure my children will come unglued and stab us in the face with a sharpened lego if we made them sit in the car for 5 straight travel days.

DLA/per diem/mileage refunds are very, very accurate to how much you are expected to spend. There is very little overage – if at all. If you use all of those travel days to travel anticipate that you will consume a great portion of that amount. It goes without mentioning – overall you need to be safe. If you hate driving at night or you’re exhausted … stop. Sleep. Will it cost you extra money, yes! But an extra $100 isn’t worth an accident.

DO: Trust cash.

My husband and I have a running joke about our bank. There’s been a few times where we go and visit family or he travels for training and the bank account is locked due to “fraud.” While we are actually the ones spending money and our cards have not been stolen, the bank only sees a bevy of charges in other states and goes into a panic mode of sorts. Before each move you have to call your bank to change your address anyway, so it is wise to mention during that phone call that you will be traveling for your move and for them to make a note on the account. In the event that you STILL get a locked account, this is where this “do” comes into play.

Take out $500-600 OR get a prepaid card. This is your spending money for gas, food, etc. It is the best way to keep track of how much you are spending and encourages you to stay in budget. This also prevents your bank account locking due to “fraud” and won’t leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere Kansas with zero funds.

There are other reasons why I want you to trust cash over credit, but we will get to that in the “don’ts” portion.

DON’T: Leave your home in disrepair.

Clean. Fill nail holes. Arrange carpet cleaning (or do it yourself). Make it spotless.

Why? Two words … Security Deposit.

It’s a quick way to make money. My husband and I went to Lowe’s yesterday and spent $56 to secure our house for move out. For a $56 investment we will get our security deposit back. (I should note, we took care of our house WHILE we lived in it, which also guarantees a deposit return.) Don’t hand your keys back to the landlord or housing with the house looking like crap. That DOES reflect badly on you and DOES encourage the landlord to not leave a great review for you to future landlords you may have.

This is coming from a landlord … by the way. Sorry! If you move out of my property and it looks like a crack den, I won’t be giving a great reference on you. Even if you did pay all of your rent on time.

DON’T: Take shortcuts.

On anything. Clean the home thoroughly, organize entirely, and plan appropriately. If you are time efficient and allot a time for every single thing on your list of “to dos” you will have zero reason or need to take shortcuts for your move. Don’t leave loose ends.

DON’T: “Wing it” on ANYTHING.

Listen to me, and I say this from a place of love, if you “wing it” on anything with a move you are setting yourself up for disaster. If you have children you ABSOLUTELY should NOT wing it. Those little suckers will sense your free spirit and crush it with moodiness, fits, and complete and total chaos. I pride myself on laidback kids, but even laidback kids who go with the flow are off their game when it comes to their lives being packed up and moving all over God’s country. Remember the plan we discussed up above? I won’t repeat myself. Just go back up there and read it again.

And then sign your name below that you promise not to “wing it.” I’ll haunt you in your sleep.


I don’t care how bad of a day you are having. I don’t care how hot/cold/tired/PMS-y/upset/grumpy/sick you are. I don’t care. And neither does the person that you’re chewing out. This little art is no longer being taught today, and it drives me crazy. My bad days DO NOT justify my bad behavior. My husband does not deserve a verbal berating over not correctly labeling a box because my coffee hasn’t kicked in. A moving company employee does not deserve to be spoken down to like a child because I think he isn’t worth my respect.

There are a million other parts to a successful move and you are one small part of it. And you, leader of the move, set the tone. If you’re a jerk you can expect everyone around you to be absolutely miserable and things to go less than smooth.

Go into this with a spirit of kindness and a place of peace. And don’t ruin anyone else’s day. That’s not cool bro. For real.

DON’T: Rely on credit cards.

I learned this lesson the hard way with our second move. We decided to just use a credit card instead of requesting advanced DLA. That credit card still isn’t paid off.

True story.

Request advanced DLA, rely on cash, and don’t touch your credit card unless you plan on getting to your destination and immediately paying off your credit card. Credit cards encourage spending and it’s just really not at all necessary if you have the cash readily available.

DON’T: Move junk.

You know what’s a great excuse to clean that attic and basement and garage out? MOVING. DO NOT MOVE JUNK. I just spend 2 hours with my husband yesterday going through our garage and getting rid of all of the crap that we simply do not use. There’s no point.

I listed a whole bunch of baby gear and toys on Craigslist – for FREE – to get rid of them quickly. The rest of the stuff unworthy of sale or donation or keeping were thrown in a large pile and next weekend a junk hauling company will be arriving to pick it all up.

DO NOT MOVE JUNK. It’s not worth it.

DON’T: Have a bad attitude.

You aren’t the center of the universe. Having to move does not make you a victim. Complaining wastes time. Put on a smile, pull up your big kid pants, and move. Let’s do this.

That’s all she wrote, folks.

Now I’m off … To organize something or touchup paint. Really anything on my to-do list.

Next time you hear from me I’ll be on the othersiiiiiideeeeeee.

Eastern Standard Time, homies.


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