How We Moved Long-Distance in 14 Days

In May, 2016, my husband and I accepted a job managing a storage facility in suburban Philadelphia. The owners asked us if we could start in two weeks. We lived almost 900 miles away in southern Illinois at the time. We said yes.

We had it easier than some people planning a long-distance move. Our housing was included in our job, so no need to hunt down a place to live. But otherwise, we took a new job, then planned and executed a long-distance move in 14 days, while training our replacement at the old job.

Here’s how we did it:

First things first. We contacted our local family members and our current boss to give them the news. Once that was done, we posted on social media that we were intending to move and when.

This accomplished two things: we didn’t have to call all our friends individually, taking up precious time and it let friends know that we were going to be busy, so they wouldn’t be offended when we weren’t able to answer the vote right that minute.

We didn’t think about it at the time, but it also gave friends the heads up that we might be giving away stuff we didn’t want to take with us. Spoiler alert: we gave away a lot of stuff.

Next, we did some research and made some quick decisions. Did we want to use professional movers? Did we want to fly to Philadelphia and have our stuff shipped? If we were driving, what route did we want to take.

We gave ourselves one afternoon to do the research and make a decision. Deadlines were very important to getting things done in a timely manner. Ultimately, we decided to rent a truck, hire a friend to drive it, and drive our car ourselves rather than trying to tow our car behind the big rental truck. That also gave us a little more wiggle room for how much we could take with us.

Then, it was a whirlwind of appointments and packing. We made an appointment with the vet to get our cat’s medical records, make sure her microchip was up to date, and get the best advice on taking a cat for a 14 -hour drive.

The best advice was don’t, but that wasn’t an option.

Instead we bought a medium dog cage that would fit in the backseat of the car and tried to make her as comfortable as possible with a bed, food and water and a disposable litter box.

We made appointments with our doctors to get our medical records and had goodbye lunches and parties with friends.

And in between all that, we packed. It felt like every free second of the day was spent packing.

Organize as you pack

We started with the game room. As most gamers will attest, that was a big project.

This is a fraction of our game collection and the first thing we packed.

We’re boardgamers, roleplayers, and miniature gamers. We have a lot of game stuff. But because we had a spare bedroom that was dedicated to our gaming stuff, it also meant that we had a staging area.

Every box that got packed was labeled and then stacked in the game room. It was out of sight, so that on the rare occasions when we took a minute to relax it wasn’t a constant reminder of the work to be done. That also meant we could organize it as we packed, making it much easier to unpack and it wasn’t in our way as we packed the rest of the house.

Labeling each box with what it contained and what room it belonged in made a huge difference in unpacking. Easiest way to do it? Different colored markers for each room and then a brief description of the contents.

Purge as you pack

We also did a quick evaluation of everything as we packed it. Did we love it? Was it worth the truck space it would take to it with us? How well will it hold up to the journey?

Anything that didn’t make the cut, we donated or gave to friends.

And the best advice I can give to someone planning a long-distance move is to be even more cut throat than we were. And if you know what the home you are moving to looks like, take the time to decide where things are going, especially furniture.

We learned that lesson the hard way. We had a beautiful pit group that took up a large amount of space in our moving truck. We got it to our new home and found that in the narrower living room of our new space, the pit group simply didn’t fit. We transported it 900 miles to give it away on Craigslist.

Create a list

We made lists of everything and still forgot things. When you are in the midst of a move, you think you will remember things, but the stress of everything that is going on will make you forget.

How do I know? The television remote.

When we were packing, we made sure to take a break every evening, for mental and physical relief. So we watched television. That meant one of the last things we packed was our television and the remote. We packed the remote into a laptop bag, certain that we would remember where we put it.

Then we drove for 15 hours, started a new job and began unpacking our house. We emptied every box and couldn’t find the remote. We called our replacements at our previous job to see if we’d left it there. We called the truck company to see if we’d forgotten a box.

After a couple weeks, we gave up. We decided we’d lost it in the move and ordered a universal remote as a replacement.

Two years later, we were preparing to go on vacation and dug out the laptop bag to pack for the trip. Lo and behold, there was the remote, right where we put it for safe keeping.

Your lists should include things like remembering to forward your mail, turning off utilities (and turning on the new ones), contacting doctors and other professionals you use regularly, and whatever else is important to your family.

Our move cost us less than $4,000 total. We have tips on how to move inexpensively here.

We finished packing with two days to spare. Think you could do it? Tell me how in the comments.

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Lucinda Gunnin

Lucinda Gunnin

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Lucinda Gunnin is a commercial property manager and author in the suburbs of Philadelphia. She’s a news junky, sushi addict, and geek extraordinaire.