"I had to break it down, to think small at first," she said. "If I thought about the whole move, I would have been completely overwhelmed." So she called the movers, set a date, and then started planning.
There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for counting down to moving day. The important thing is to make a plan, says Audrey Dickson, quotation analyst with U-Pack, a national moving company based in Fort Smith, Ark.
"We are a land of procrastinators, and unless there is a deadline, we won't do it," says Dickson, who for five years has been advising stressed-out people on how to pack for long-distance moves.
"The first thing you need to do is nail down that moving date," she says. Even if you have to change it, you'll have a lot more leeway if you book a mover in advance. Once you have the date, she suggests, create a moving checklist to get you to moving day with the least amount of hassle.
Here are expert tips for creating your own countdown to moving day, based on U-Pack's guidelines for a two-month timeframe.
8 weeks before a move:
"People in the middle of a move have a million things to do," Dickson says. "It's easy to lose track of things. So keep a file of important information -- such as contacts for your mortgage broker, your banker, and your mover -- right at your fingertips."
This is also the time to start thinking about your new space and planning where your belongings will go in your new home. Cahill created a color-coded floor plan, then labeled boxes for each room with stickers that matched the colors on the floor plan.
7 weeks before a move:
Take some time to do research about your new town, Dickson urges. This includes getting referrals from your current doctors and dentists for new medical care. Get copies of your family's medical records, and arrange for your children's school records to be transferred to their new schools.
6 weeks before a move:
Decide what belongings to keep and what to throw away. "Whether you sell it or give it away, do whatever it takes to clear out as much as you can before you start packing," says Dickson. "It will save you time and money in the long run."
This is also the time to stop shopping for anything you don't absolutely need. "The trips to Costco should stop right about now," she suggests.
5 weeks before a move:
If you haven't done it already, call your mover to have them deliver boxes and moving supplies. "You can never have enough boxes," says Itamar Kestenbaum, community manager for Moishe's Moving, located in Jersey City, N.J. "Any moving company will take back the boxes that you don't use. So always overestimate what you need."
This is a also a good time to determine how you will label your boxes for the movers, he says. "It's important to color-code or label each box, so the movers know what boxes go in what specific room. The last thing you want to do is find bedroom stuff in the kitchen."
4 weeks before a move:
Plan ahead for utilities to be disconnected at your old house and connected at your new place. Give yourself a window of a week on both ends, advises Dickson. "You don't want to be packing in the dark, so ask for electricity to be shut off a couple of days after your scheduled move. And have the power on at your new home a couple of days before."
If it's important to have your Internet connection up and running as soon as you move in, schedule an appointment with your cable company for the day after your move, or on a day when you know that you will be there. And make sure you have your router and other essential equipment in well-marked boxes.
3 weeks before a move:
"If you are moving into or out of an apartment, you have to reserve the elevator for the move," explains Kestenbaum. "Don't wait until the day before the move to book it. Make sure it will be available." He also advises people to find out what the parking situation in front of their building is. If you need to get a parking permit for the truck, now is the time to do it.
2 weeks before a move:
By now, you should be whittling down your cleaning supplies and perishables. Plan meals around what you have so that you can empty out the refrigerator.
This is also a good time to visit your bank and tie up loose ends, as well as clear out safety deposit boxes.
1 week before a move:
You should be down to your most essential items. As you put these things into boxes, make sure these are labeled "Essential" or "Unpack First." While most boxes do not need an inventory of what's inside, it will make unpacking a lot easier if you take a few minutes with a Sharpie to write the contents of these boxes on the side of the box.
Discuss with your movers what items you will need right away, whether it's beds, kitchen items or computer equipment. "These items should be loaded into the truck last so that they can be first off at your final destination," Dickson points out. If your move is across town, you can put some items in your car. But if it's cross-country, you'll need to make sure that the boxes you want first are set aside on moving day.
Finally, check every room, closet and cabinet to make sure everything is out of the house.
Because she was moving just a few towns away, Cahill could have been more casual about her timeline. After all, if boxes weren't packed, throwing the last few items in the car wouldn't have made much difference, right?
Wrong, she says. Making a plan and sticking to it was the only way to get everything done.
She didn't put anything off, including packing her closet. "I decided to live out of a suitcase for a month," she says. "A month before the move, I packed some clothes for work and some clothes for the weekend into one suitcase. Everything else went into boxes. And I was able to cross one more thing off my list."
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