- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 10, 2004

Roughly 15 percent of Americans will move from one dwelling to another this summer, according to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.

I was offered the privilege of helping one family in that 15 percent move last weekend. Joining the moving crew revealed to me some simple steps to make moving day a bit more palatable — especially if you’re moving from one house to another in the same area.

Watching this project from a safe distance (usually with a box in my hands) provided some ideas on how to make the process work a bit smoother.

This particular move involved about a dozen men and women swooping down upon a mutual friend’s house and his family to help make a huge job a small job. Bottom line: We had all their belongings from their three-bedroom rental into their purchased home of about the same size in roughly three hours.

Coming fresh off this move reminded me of some tips I’ve heard over the years (and some I thought of while pushing packages) on how to make moving a pleasant experience, not a nightmare.

Plan the move

Sit down with your moving partners, spouse, roommates, etc., and figure what it’s going to take to move. Plan what truck rental company you’ll use (make the reservation early) and don’t forget the residual tools you’ll need (boxes, blankets, dollies, hand trucks, etc.) for hauling a house load of stuff from one location to the next. Planning all your needs will keep you from realizing you’ve forgotten something very important once the volunteer work crew already is assembled.

Have lots ofVolunteers

Begin early soliciting help from your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and fellow worshippers. Get a commitment, if at all possible. This isn’t a cookout for a football game — you’re moving, don’t forget it.

Offer food — and lots of it, for breakfast and lunch. (Be sure to budget for this, as well.) The more hands you have, the more quickly you’ll get through the move.

Like I said, we had this family of five’s stuff packed into a truck, several vans and personal vehicles, transported about five miles, unloaded and placed into their new home all in about three hours. By lunch, we were out of their hair and eating fast food.

There was more work to be done, for sure, with cleaning up the rental property and then unpacking and setting up the new house, but the majority of the work was done and the family could go on organizing their new home.

More than a truck

The truck is only one part of the equipment you’ll need to make the move happen quickly and effortlessly. Look at the list below as a minimum:

• Rental truck (big one).

• Hand truck, dollies.

• Blankets (at least 10).

• Boxes (you can never have too many).

• Small piece of plywood for a ramp (if necessary).

• Trash bags (for last-minute tosses).

• Duct tape (three rolls, at least).

Let me mention the boxes again. There’s a lot of stuff that easily can be tossed into the back of a truck, i.e., children’s toys, small stereo, grocery bags of food, but placing them in boxes that can be stacked works much better. You can’t stack items symmetrically into the back of a truck if they’re the shape of a toddler’s plastic slide — but put that in a big box, and the load can be stacked to the very top of the truck.

Color coding

As you pack up boxes, use colored stickers on the boxes’ top and sides to identify where the boxes go. Red for living room, blue for master bedroom, green for Billy’s room, white for garage, etc. That’s step one. Then make a color-coded chart for the entrance of the house with arrows pointing the way to each of these rooms.

This way, the volunteers know exactly where to go to drop off their load of boxes. At each room, tack a color-coded piece of paper on the door so the movers know they’ve reached their destination.

Next time, I’ll deal with controlling the flow of stuff, what not to pack and a few more tips on organizing the move.

M. Anthony Carr has covered real estate for more than 15 years. He can be reached via e-mail (manthonycarr@erols.com).

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