How to Move Alone in Your 20s — Safely, Sanely, and on a Budget

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We’ve all seen the Verizon commercial where a guy calls his friends to help him move and they’re all bailing (faking sick, ignoring his phone call, or simply saying “no”) — and I think it’s safe to say that when young women move, we fear this exact situation. Besides worrying about who can help us physically move, we need to think about so many other things, like calling ahead to hook up cable and phone service, purging ourselves of unused/unwanted objects we don’t need, packing, organizing, and, above all, staying safe while you’re getting settled into your new place.

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Normally there are a few people who offer to help you move, but if you don’t have friends and family nearby to help lug those boxes all the way up to your new, fab third-floor apartment, I’ve got some easy solutions for young women on the move.

To make the moving process less overwhelming break it into three manageable steps:

Pre-Move

  • Start packing a few weeks before moving day.
  • Tackle one room at a time. Get rid of things, organize, pack boxes and repeat.
  • Pack in smaller boxes.
  • Don’t buy new boxes—go to local stores (clothing, grocery, electronic) and ask if you can take their boxes and packing peanuts.
  • Don’t overload boxes—set a comfortable per-box weight limit for yourself, like 25 pounds max.
  • Don’t write specific rooms on your boxes (i.e. “KITCHEN,” “LIVING ROOM,” “BEDROOM”). If you hire a mover you can never guarantee that someone won’t try to steal your stuff — think about jewelry in the box labeled “Bedroom”…you’d be surprised how many people do this. So, do yourself a favor and color code boxes. Buy colored dots at the dollar store, coordinate dots with a certain room,  when movers arrive to unpack boxes have the colored dot on the door so movers can tell which box goes where and voila—you have a secure system!

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Do you have big couches, a heavy armoire, or other large items? If you live in a city that’s not close to family or friends who could help you move these heavy items, hire a small-load local mover. If you hire a mover, remember to do some research—check their BBB ratings, visit sites like Angie’s List and MoverReviews.com, and speak with the moving company on the phone to clarify any and all questions you may have.

*Word of advice: NEVER pay in full before moving day. It’s standard to pay a deposit up front (normally half of the move cost), but don’t pay the remainder until all of your belongings have been unloaded from the truck and moved inside.  And, buy insurance on valuable items (although it’s more money up front, it saves you a world of hurt if one of your belongings is lost or damaged). Also, don’t tell movers you’re a single, young lady moving alone… it’s best to keep that tiny secret to yourself.

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Moving Day

Get up early, eat a good breakfast, have a cup of coffee, even do some yoga if you’re so inclined. Do whatever you need to do to get yourself relaxed. Moving is never easy, but it’s easier to manage if you have a positive attitude and aren’t stressed!

Take your time when you’re loading and unloading boxes, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you hire movers to move your larger items and boxes, make sure you give explicit instructions as how you want your belongings handled. Write ‘FRAGILE’ on boxes full of plates, glass, etc... and realize that it’s ok to watch as the movers load and unload your belongings.

*Tip: For mirrors, glass table tops, and other fragile belongings, use blankets and comforters (that can be washed) to wrap them in. This saves you from buying expensive packing materials!

It’s best to transport valuables yourself. If you have expensive jewelry do NOT pack it in boxes that movers, friends, etc. will be moving. Save that task for yourself. To make transporting jewelry easier place earrings and rings that aren’t in boxes in pill holders (like the Monday-Sunday ones you can find at any drug store) and hook necklaces through an empty toilet paper roll to hold them all together.  If you have anything really valuable — like an heirloom piece of jewelry — you can always open a safety deposit box at a nearby bank to store it in until you’re settled in your new place.

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Settling In

  • Change your locks.
  • Have a spare set of house keys made up.
  • Make hanging curtains, blinds, other window coverings a priority.
  • Introduce yourself to neighbors.
  • NEVER openly state that you live alone.
  • Notify individuals, credit cards & other billing companies of your change in address.
  • If you set up mail forwarding, make sure it’s working.
  • Take a day off work, open a bottle of wine, and relax.

Settling into your own place — whether it’s your first time living alone or you simply moved to a new apartment or house — is overwhelming, exciting and scary. It’s normal to want to throw yourself into unpacking right away but don’t pressure yourself to finish everything in two days.

At noted above, it’s important to get blinds or curtains up ASAP when you move into a new place — not only do blinds insure your privacy, they also prevent nosy neighbors and other passersby from keeping tabs on your daily habits, the fact that you live alone, you’re new to the area, etc. Unpack your bedroom and kitchen first then move to the living room — once you’ve finished unpacking these high traffic rooms you can move on to any spare rooms you have!

I’d also recommend taking a personal day from work, if you have those, so you can focus on unpacking. It’s amazing how much you can get done in the 10 hours you would have spent at the office! Finally, once it’s all over, give yourself a pat on the back. Reward yourself for all your hard work by inviting a few girlfriends over, opening a bottle of wine and showing off your new place!

Tara Chila, blogger for Transit Systems, Inc., writes mostly about moving, business, house & home, kids, and parenting.  Transit Systems specializes in a variety of long distance moving and shipping services including furniture shipping

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