The Not Quite Definitive Guide to Long-Distance Moving

I absolutely love getting mail from readers, and have been fortunate to get both emails AND mail mail. Like letters. In envelopes. From other countries, even (you know who you are – thank you!!).

Recently I got an email from someone who may be moving soon to a different state, and wanted to know about 1) how to pack kitchen things, 2) cost effective moving methods, and 3) what to do with her valuable items, like a big menorah, since they would be flying to their new location and shipping their stuff. Also, she wanted to know 4) what’s good to sell in the old location and buy new in their new city.

Between my mother and I, we’ve moved about a dozen and a half times, plus I crowdsourced a little bit, so while I’m not going to say this is a definitive guide to long-distance moving, I hope it’s a good start. And I hope that some of you who’ve had experience in this area will chime in in the comments (which I also love, by the way, the comments. Love them) with your expertise.

A quick disclaimer: I view cost-effectiveness through two different lenses. One is the traditional definition of something actually costing less. The other way I view it from a time-is-money perspective. If it costs less but will take more time and effort than I can reasonably expend, then I’ll go with the option which takes less time but costs more money.

Boxes boxes boxes


For packing material, it is absolutely cheaper to find boxes from people in your area who have recently moved, or going to a grocery store or bookstore and asking if they have any boxes. My mom has done this many times. I’ve found diaper and wipes boxes to be excellent for packing books and other heavyish items. Costco-sized food boxes also work well. Extra suitcases can be used for clothes, and Rubbermaid containers can be used for anything. A neat trick I learned in this last move was to take a piece of Saran wrap and wrap that around the bin before taping it closed. That prevents any sticky residue from the tape sticking onto the bin. Neat, right?

I have absolutely resorted to going to Home Depot (or a similar-type store. I have no allegiance to a specific one, just whatever is closer to my home) to just buy moving boxes instead of scavenging for them. They will also have the tall garment boxes which come with a metal bar so you can simply move the contents of your closest right into the box, and then right into your new closest. That is a nice convenience.

There is also the option of hiring a moving company to pack for you, and those guys will bring the boxes and the packing paper, but that is by far a more expensive option.

Packing Packing Packing

Now you have the boxes, so let’s talk about how to put stuff in them. Packing paper is very handy, and I don’t think it’s all that expensive to get at a Home Depot-ish store. If you don’t want to use packing paper, newspaper will do, but the ink will rub off, so bear that in mind. My mom sometimes has used towels or sheets instead of packing paper

Here is an excellent video on how to pack those fragile items:

And, yeah, label those boxes. Not only what room they should go in, but roughly what’s in them. It is so helpful when it comes to unpacking. And keep some towels and linens very accessible, because you will want those right away.

Insure, Insure, Insure

As for the valuables, my mother suggested that if you have enough time before you move, it’s a good idea to get your heirlooms appraised. And then you can insure your shipment by value as opposed to by weight. That way if anything happened, G-d forbid, you would be covered (well, financially. Obviously the emotional aspect is another thing altogether).

If you can take your valuables with you on the place in a carry-on, that would probably be best. I wouldn’t recommend packing any valuables in your checked luggage because things do get banged around a lot in baggage. Also, luggage does get lost. So shipping it is probably safer than having it in a checked bag.

Garage Sales!

Anything that is very heavy, like solid wood furniture or appliances, and doesn’t have any emotional value should be left behind. Mattresses and bed frames aren’t so heavy, so you can take those. If you don’t have time or energy or patience for a garage sale, you could always take your unwanted items to Goodwill and get a tax-deductible receipt.

Also, if you have time to weed through things you no longer use or need, that would be ideal. I have been shlepping a bunch of junk along with me for at least my last three moves because I never took the time to go through it. And that is a pain! So don’t be like me. Go through your stuff and toss, donate or sell those items you haven’t used recently.

Or be like me and put them all in a box and tell yourself you’ll go through it later. I won’t judge.


~ ~ ~

Okay, I hope that was helpful! And anyone who has tips to add, please, please chime in in the comment section down here (as opposed to on Facebook, which is where a lot of the conversation happens, which is great, but let’s try to consolidate the advice on this one, thanks!).

12 thoughts on “The Not Quite Definitive Guide to Long-Distance Moving

  1. Four years after my move I am still missing some things I just know that I packed…. Here are some additions to the excellent advice above:

    -Another place to purchase moving supplies is U-Haul and they will buy back any unused items. They also have “moving kits” with supplies, edge protectors for paintings and mirrors,
    -If you are packing yourself I suggest you have duplicates of the following so each person has access to them: box-cutters, rolls of packing tape, Sharpies, scissors.
    -Don’t skimp on packing material. White wrapping paper is worth the money. Buy more than you think you will need.
    -Double & triple wrap dishes and photos.
    -Put screws, attachment devices, shelf brackets [i.e. little things that can get lost] in a ziplock bag and TAPE THE BAG to the piece of furniture it belongs to.
    -Label computer cords before you disconnect. Take a photo of how it is connected on the back of your computer and on the device. Ziplocks work for computer cords and attachments, too.
    -Number your boxes. Know how many you have going into the truck and count how many are delivered. If you are really good, copy the numbers on a sheet of paper and make a list where each goes.
    -Extra points for color-coding your boxes with colored dots or colored tape.
    -Note that TSA will not permit carving knives onboard the plane if you plan to carry your silver service in carry-ons. (Yes, I tried this, and had to check in the knives. The dinner and butter knives were ok… according to my TSA agents. Check and double check if you’re toting valuable silver.)
    -Goodwill stores may not take furniture and beds. Check with your local organization.
    -Craigslist is a great place to offer freebies.

    Finally, SMILE. Even if bad things happen, they’ll make good stories some day.

    1. I like the idea of numbering boxes. Will try that next time!
      When we got married – and when we bought Pesach dishes – we just saved the original boxes. Comes in very, very useful for moving, as well as for switching the kitchen before and after Pesach.

  2. We’re heading to move #9 in 8.5 years, and I’m still sweating thinking about the stress of it! Thanks for posting this — I hope to follow some of the advice here.

    One thing I am planning to do this time different than in the past is to take pictures of our bookshelves and closets content so that it’s easier to organize them when it comes time to unpack them. I find that I spend so much time focusing on packing up and don’t save energy for the unpacking…which is just as big of a job, if not bigger, sometimes!

  3. I numbered my boxes, and kept a separate numbered list of what was in each box. Because it was a list, I could be more specific than trying to write the contents on the outside of the box.

    When the movers were bringing in the boxes, they would yell out the box number and I stood there with the list and directed them exactly where to put each one.

  4. Your article is pretty amazing and very helpful. Let me share 1 simple helpful tip for everyone: Try using trash bags for your clothes: Keep them on their hangers and put a hole in the bottom of the bag. Turn the bag upside down and pull the hangers through. Then tie a knot on the bottom.

    ~ Ruislip Man And Van Ltd.

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