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I've moved several times for my job, and in every case, the company has paid for packing and moving. Very nice! But I always feel awkward, wondering what to do while the movers are packing my stuff. Especially in a small apartment, where it's hard not to be in the way and there's really no place to go.

If I just sit there while the movers are packing me, I feel like I'm being disrespectful. I'm able bodied, so why should I sit around while other people are doing the work? On the other hand, if I try to help, I feel like I'm in the way, and the movers don't want me to "do it wrong". In fact, at least one moving company told me that if I pack anything myself, they aren't responsible for it. Other times I've left and gone somewhere else, but sometimes the movers have questions, or need me to sign stuff. And I may not have a car available to go somewhere else, if I had to move it to give the movers easy access. I spent my last move sitting in my car in the parking lot, baking in 100' heat.

What would the movers prefer?

And a secondary question, what prep work should I do before the packers come in? I've gotten completely different answers to this question. Of course, I will have my electronic and computer equipment unhooked, with all the cables disconnected, tied up and ready to go. But what else? On my first move, my mover told me to take down everything, including the pictures off the walls, dishes taken out of cabinets, even books off the shelves. I had piles of stuff sitting on the floor but the cabinets and shelves were empty. On my last move, the movers thought I was crazy because I'd taken down all this stuff, and it was just in the way. They would have preferred that I leave it in place.

I may be moving again before too long (hopefully, if I get a new job), and it would be nice to do it "right" this time.

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Hi Karen,

There are some really great questions.

First off, thanks for caring. There are a number of people that treat their movers like a bunch of pack mules, so it's nice to see someone that actually gives a hoot.

Now, on to the questions.

The first thing to understand is that different companies expect different things, so there may not be a RIGHT answer. I can give you my opinion, but if the company you are working with is good, you can probably call them and ask what they expect. If you can, ask to speak to the crew chief for your move.

Here are my thoughts though:

What you can do before the move?

There are some things which are pretty much mandatory

1) Unhook your computer, and as many of your other electronic pieces as you can. Mark the cables if you can, so that you can put things back together later

2) If you are moving a washer, a fridge, or any other appliance that connects to a water supply, figure out whether YOU are unhooking it, or the moving company is. If you live in an apartment, they may have a maintenance person who could do it. The reason this matters is that no moving company wants to be responsible for your plumbing, and there are sometimes unpleasant events that occur involving leaking valves etc.

3) If you are moving a fridge, or expect the company to move the contents of your pantry, do every thing you can to clear unneeded food out. I can't tell you how many times my guys have had to stand around waiting for someone to clean out a freezer on the day of the move. Similarly, I've had to pack pantries that are full of opened boxes of powered sugar, bottles of olive oil and so on. We can't move that stuff, since it tends to get all over the place. Ick!

4) If you have a lot of knick knacks, do what you can to process them ahead of time. Here's an example. The coffee table has a lovely little glass vase, holding some artificial flowers, and a bunch of polished glass beads. Empty the beads into a ziploc bag. Put the flowers with all the other artificial flowers you have) into a pile somewhere. Put the vase with similar glassware. Three days ago I packed a lady's china hutch. Buried deep in one of the drawers was a miniature tea set. I was able to improvise a way to pack it, but it would have been nice if she could have done something with it (or at least told us about it) ahead of time.

5) Create your "Emergency Box". Take a box and put everything in it that you will need when you get to your new home. Toilet Paper, Paper Towels, Telephone etc. Mark this box with a RED marker so you can find it easily.

6) If there are things the movers won't be taking (either you are throwing it out, or taking it yourself), put it all in one place. You can pick a room and just put it all the corner. Hang a piece of paper that says "Don't Move" near it, and make sure the movers know about it.

7) If there are large pieces that you don't plan to move, mark them clearly to avoid confusion.

8) If the movers will be packing your belongings, (kitchen and breakables), be sure that there is a large, flat, CLEAN, work surface they can use for packing. A kitchen table or island is great for this.

9) Take your valuables, and put them in your car. The movers don't need to see this stuff.

10) If you have a lot of pictures, you can go ahead and take them down and put them in one place, but it's probably not necessary. I personally prefer them to be left on the walls, because we pack them at the end, and it keeps them out of the way. You could just leave this until the crew gets there, and just ask if they would want that done.

Things you don't need to do

Get all of the dishes out of the cabinets.

First this is not practical in many kitchens. When you have a team packing, they need space to work. If the place is covered in dishes, that can be a problem.

Second, this is not safe. The more stuff you have laying around, the better the chance that something is going to get broken.

Third, this would seem to indicate a lazy bum doing your packing.

Note that if the moving crew is contracted to UNPACK your dishes (which is pretty rare), they will not put things in your cabinets. That is where the greatest number of accidents occur, so you'll probably have to unpack yourself.

What should you do during the move

I know exactly what you mean about feeling lazy etc during the move. But don't worry about it. What the movers are really looking for is a clean, safe environment to work in, and clear instructions about what you expect. There is no reason you should have to carry stuff out to the truck, and doing so can actually cause severe problems.

Here's a real-life example. Two of my guys picked up a massively heavy armoire, and were it bringing down from the second floor. This is as hard as moving gets. Suddenly, it started tipping over to the left for no apparent reason. The guys use all of their strength to correct for the problem, and it happened again. They set the piece down, and found that the customer was 'helping' them by lifting up on one side. Fortunately they were able to avoid injury and damage, but the situation could have ended up with holes in the wall, a broken piece of furniture, and a mover on permanent disability.

You also have to look at it from the company's perspective. The last thing the owner needs is a phone call telling her that "Mrs Jones was inside our truck, and slipped. I think she's hurt!".

During the move, you can do the following things to help your movers...

1) Tell them how strong and handsome they are (heh heh). That stuff never gets old! Seriously though, just treat them like human beings, they work really hard and appreciate praise.

2) Be available if the movers need information, or if they need to make you aware of any existing problems. I don't know about other companies, but my guys notify the customer about ANYTHING (scratches, loose screws etc) that they find.

3) Have some Gatorade or at least water available. Movers go through a lot of liquids. If the move is large, you may want to be really nice and buy some subway sandwiches for them.

4) If the movers are going long distance, and using inventory stickers, you may be able to help them record the inventory. This is a tedious business that most mover don't enjoy, and is perfectly safe.

I hope that helps...

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This probably should be added as an FAQ.

Very informative and a nice summation.
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Thanks DBA -
I keep hoping somebody will ask some other questions, but it's pretty slow on this board (I get so lonely! :-)

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Luckily I don't move very often and have no plans to, but I keep this board on my faves and read it as it pops up.

I figure I might learn something helpful :)
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