woman writing out moving checklist surrounded by moving boxes

The Most Awesome Moving Checklist

Lauren Nowacki13-Minute Read
November 10, 2020

Purchasing a new house can make things pretty crazy for a few months. You’ll embark on a search for a new home, negotiate a sale, close on your mortgage and experience the feeling of accomplishment as those new house keys fall into your hands.

When all that’s over, you’ll be ready for the final step in your adventure. It’ll be time to move in.

Through it all, you’ll likely feel a range of emotions – from excitement and optimism to anxiety and overwhelm. But if you prepare for your moving day ahead of time, you can pack up those negative emotions, focus on the task at hand and embrace all the good feelings that come with such a big life moment.

Not sure where to start when it comes to planning your move? Our ultimate moving checklist is here to save the day – moving day, that is.

Step 1: Plan And Prepare For Your Move

The early stages of the moving process are all about creating a plan and preparing for the big day. That includes choosing how you’ll move and how much you plan on spending. Depending on your moving timeline, this is typically done 6 – 8 weeks out.

Make A Budget

Many people budget for a down payment and closing costs, but often forget the other expenses that come with purchasing a home. And those costs can pile up faster than your moving boxes.

Creating a budget specifically for the costs of moving ahead of the big day will help you plan your finances, save any extra money you may need and keep you from overspending. It will also help you make the first – and biggest – decision about moving day: whether to do it yourself or to hire a full-service moving company.

Among various expenses, your moving budget should include:

  • Cost to rent a moving truck or hire movers
  • Gas to and from your new home
  • Moving supplies, including boxes, tape and protective materials
  • Cost to insure items or replace lost or damaged items
  • Tips, food or other incentives for those helping with the move
  • Storage unit
  • Travel for you, your family and your pets, if moving out of state

If you’re not sure how much to budget for each line item, research the average price for each one to determine how much you can expect to pay. This may include getting quotes from several moving companies, doing online research and asking loved ones who have moved recently. If you’re moving for a job that’s willing to cover some of your relocation expenses, make sure to include that in your budget as well.

Create A Binder or Electronic File

Whether you choose to DIY or hire movers, there will be many details to track, and it’ll be easier to do that with strong organization from the get-go. Make sure to include these items in your file:

  • To-do list
  • Moving day itinerary
  • Movers’ contact information
  • Packing list
  • Floor plans
  • Receipts
  • Contracts
  • Estimates
  • This guide

You may not yet have all of the information – like dates, times and which moving company you’re using – so just add to your spreadsheet as you go.

If you aren’t sure where to start when it comes to creating your file, start with an initial brain dump. Find a peaceful place to sit down with some coffee and your computer and let all your ideas, worries and to-dos flow. List everything you can think of, from all of the tasks you need to complete to the things you don’t want to forget. Once you’re done, review your list and begin to move items into different categories.

Request Time Off From Work

Once you have a move-in date, check your vacation time and consider taking a few days off work to knock off items on your to-do list. Since many people move during the weekend, you may be able to get more flexibility and lower prices from moving companies if you move during the week. If you have vacation days, consider moving on a weekday.  

Plan For School-Aged Children

If you have school-aged children, you may need to include a few extra steps of planning. Once you know where your child will be attending school, contact the office or go on the school’s website to learn what documents you’ll need for enrollment. These may include:

  • Your child’s medical records
  • Birth certificate
  • Proof of guardianship or custody
  • Proof of residency
  • School transcripts
  • Copies of any testing
  • Specialized learning plans

If your child plays a sport and you’re moving before the school year, find out when tryouts are so they don’t miss their chance to make the team.

Along with schooling, you’ll want to make sure you find new services, like pediatricians or piano teachers, to avoid unnecessary disruptions in your child’s life. It may be helpful to learn more about local events, clubs and other activities to help them meet new friends once you arrive in your new city.

Choose A Moving Company

If you decide to use a moving company, you’ll need to do some research to ensure you’re selecting the best company within your budget. To find and narrow down your options, make sure you do the following:

  • Gather referrals from friends, family and neighbors
  • Review each company’s website and social media to learn more about them
  • Read online reviews from trusted, third-party review sites
  • Request moving estimates and available dates
  • Make sure the movers are licensed and insured

If you have any priceless or special items, like pianos, expensive artwork or heirloom furniture, you may want to consider specialty moving services.

Plan A Successful DIY Move

If you’re going the DIY route, ask friends and family for moving help weeks before so they have time to clear their schedules, take the day off work or find a babysitter. If you wait until the last minute, you may not be able to find anyone available to help.

Consider adding some incentives, like free pizza and beverages. You could even get them a small thank you gift to show your appreciation.

Ask around for trucks or vans that you can borrow from loved ones or go the rental route. There are several places you can rent trucks, including U-Haul, Budget Truck Rental and even Home Depot.

If you want someone else to do the driving, look into moving pods. These portable containers are delivered to your driveway, then picked up once loaded and delivered to your new destination. 

Plan On Moving You And Your Family

If you’re moving out of your current home before the new home is ready for you to move in, you’ll need a place to stay. Check with family and friends first, then opt for a hotel or Airbnb. If you need to book a room somewhere, make those arrangements as soon as possible so you aren’t stranded on the day of your move.

Moving out of state? You’ll need to plan travel arrangements now. That may include booking flights or hotel stays along your road trip to your new house.

Step 2: Begin The Packing Process

With a moving plan in place, you can start to tackle packing. This will include going through all of your items and deciding what’s going to the new home and what’s staying in the past. You’ll likely be packing up until a few days before your move – even the day of, maybe. That’s totally normal. However, you’ll want to start this process about 4 weeks out if you can.

Order Packing Supplies

You’ll likely be categorizing your stuff and preparing to pack, but you can’t start putting things in boxes until you order the right packing supplies. Here are some items that should be on your shopping list:

  • Moving boxes
  • Packing tape
  • Bubble wrap or newspaper
  • Stretch wrap
  • Moving blankets

Once you know what you need, see what you can get for free. If you know anyone who recently moved, they may have several supplies to lend or give away. You can also visit your local library, thrift shop, used bookstore or liquor store. These places are often looking to get rid of their used boxes.

Declutter And Plan For Your New Home

If there was ever a more opportune time to get rid of junk and declutter your home, it’s when you’re going through everything in your home and packing it into boxes. Taking less to your new home can help you save time and money and allow you a fresher start.

Think about your new home and how you want to decorate it, then decide which items will fit into that aesthetic and which ones won’t.

Give Away Items With Sentimental Value

When it comes to getting rid of sentimental items, consider handling these differently. Before tossing, donating or selling these items, see if any loved ones would like them. You’d be surprised at what’s sentimental to others, too. Choose the items for each person yourself or invite them over to select what they want from a pile.

Plan A Garage Sale Or Sell Online

Once you separate the items you’d like to get rid of and give away the sentimental pieces, make some money off your stuff. Host a garage sale, sell the items through an online marketplace or take them to a consignment shop.


For items you can’t sell or give to loved ones, find a local church, charity, shelter or thrift store to donate them. Some places will even pick them up from your home if you call and schedule a donation pick up ahead of time. Not only will your donation do some good, but it can also provide tax benefits for you.

Pack, Label and Inventory

When packing, make sure you pack heavier items in smaller boxes, which are sturdier and can hold more weight. Save bigger boxes for linens, pillows and towels. If you need to disassemble something, take a picture of it before you take it down so you can reference what it should look like as you rebuild. Once dismantled, put all small pieces and hardware in one bag and tape them to a larger piece.

There are several strategies for labeling your boxes. You could go the old school route and just write the room on each box with a Sharpie, or you can get more creative and save more time.

Before closing and sealing each box, take a picture of its contents, and tape the picture to the outside of the box. That way, you’ll be able to find items without having to open and dig through several boxes. To designate which room each box goes to, create a color system. Assign each room a color and use colored labels to mark boxes for each room. The color system will be helpful when doing inventory, too, because you can highlight each item on your list in its assigned color.

As you make progress, make a list of everything that was packed along with the box it’s in and its intended destination. As you put things into your moving vehicles, check the items off your list and mark whether they went into the moving truck or someone’s car. As the items are moved from the vehicle to the new home, check the item off the list a second time. This will help ensure all of your items are moved.

Pack Essentials Separately

Even the simplest moves will involve stacks of boxes you may not get through for a week or so. Figure out what you’ll need on moving day and during the first week after your move. This list should include clothing, personal items and essentials like toilet paper, bottled water and cash. Pack these in a separate bag so they’re easily accessible.

Step 3: Handle A Few Logistics

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to moving, and your car and utilities often get overlooked. By handling these logistics now, you won’t be stressed or surprised by unexpected expenses later. You should try to get this done within a few weeks before your move.

Make Arrangements For The Car

If you’re moving to an area with a different climate, consider how your car will fare in this new weather. If it’s cold for most of the year, should you keep your convertible or motorcycle? If you’re moving to a snowy area, will your vehicle need snow tires, and is it otherwise equipped to handle an icy terrain?

Moving your car could be another piece of the puzzle. If you’re not driving it to your new destination, you’ll need to arrange to have it shipped.

If your new home is located in a bustling metropolitan area with excellent public transportation, you may not even need a car. On the flip side, if you’re moving from the city to the suburbs and you don’t have a car, you’ll need to purchase one, along with car insurance.

Contact Service Providers

Notify your utility providers that you’re moving and provide a moving date so they know when to end your service and send your final bill. If you fail to do so, you could end up paying for electricity, gas or even cable that you didn’t use. Additionally, you’ll want to call your new providers and set up all of these services before your arrival so they’ll be ready to use as soon as you move in. It may also be easier for companies to set up certain services, like cable, without furniture in the way.

You’ll also want to contact the post office to fill out a change of address form and notify credit card companies, banks, subscription services, etc. about your new address. This will ensure you’re getting all important correspondence, like updates, bills and renewal forms.

Step 4: Ensure A Stress-Free Day

These tasks should be completed within a week of moving day so you can feel more at ease when the big day comes around.

Confirm Your Moving Day Itinerary

Make sure everyone involved in helping you move is on the same page. Contact them ahead of moving day to confirm the date and time they need to arrive. Discuss the schedule for the day and answer any questions they may have. Explain your packing and labeling system, if you have one, and assign each person their task for the day. Give each person your contact information, including your address and cell phone number.

Clear Out Food

Try to make as many meals as you can with the food left in your fridge and pantry. If there are items you want to take to the new home, pack them up or put them aside – you’ll need to put refrigerated food in a cooler on moving day. Donate the remaining items to a local food bank or shelter to avoid food waste.

Get Your Keys

Before you even close on your home, make sure you can get into the home to conduct a final walk-through. You’ll want to inspect the home after the previous owners more out to make sure there is no damage from the move and that everything that was supposed to be left per the contract (appliances, for example) are still there.

Once you have the keys to your home, it may be wise to arrange to have a locksmith come soon after closing to change the locks. You never know if the owners made copies for themselves or never collected copies from loved ones or neighbors.

Step 5: Move Into Your New Home

With much of the big work on your moving checklist behind you, you can enjoy your moving day and all the feels that accompany it. Of course, there are still a few tasks to complete, but you can do them with confidence that everything else is taken care of. Just make sure you take the time to appreciate your now-former home and the work you’ve done to purchase and move into your new one.

Find A Place For Children And Pets

If you have pets or small children who can’t help with the move, consider hiring a babysitter for the day. Not only will it help reduce stress for you, but also for them.

Have Cash On Hand For Tips

Movers count on cash tips for good service. According to Moving.com, $10 per mover is appropriate for a half-day of work and $20 per mover for a full day of work. You may want to increase that amount if you had particularly heavy furniture, steep, winding or many stairs or layouts and doorways that required strategic maneuvering. If friends and family are helping instead, consider gift cards or cash if it seems appropriate.

No matter who assists, make sure you have snacks and water available, especially on a hot day.

Do A Final Sweep

Once everything is out of the home and you’re ready to close the door to your former home for the last time, take the time to walk through each room and do one final sweep. Check to make sure there’s nothing left behind, including messes or damage.

A final walkthrough will also allow you to properly say good-bye to the place you’ve lived and built memories in for the past few months or years. Spend a moment in each room and soak it all in. Once you feel ready, exit the home and hand over the keys to the landlord or real estate agent who will hand them to the new residents.

Summary: Moving Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint

As you can see, moving to a new home isn’t like the movies, where you pack a few boxes into a moving truck, wave good-bye to your neighbors and arrive at your destination with the sun shining its rays directly onto your new home. It requires much more work and strategy. By completing those to-do items over a longer period of time, it can be much easier to take on moving day with ease.

If you’re not quite to moving day yet, save this post and check out our tips for buying a home to get you there faster. Our top-rated, verified Rocket HomesSM agents can also help.

Additional Resources

Rocket HomesSM is here for all of your home buying and homeownership needs. If you need more tips and how-to information as you prepare to move into your new home, check out some of our other helpful guides.

If you’re moving to a smaller home or want to live a more minimalist lifestyle after your move, check out our tips for downsizing.

Once the moving truck is gone, you’ll want to start settling in. Check out our checklists of what to do first when you move in and what to do the first month in your new home.

Get the right home loan for you.

Lauren Nowacki

Lauren Nowacki is a staff writer specializing in personal finance, homeownership and the mortgage industry. She has a B.A. in Communications and has worked as a writer and editor for various publications in Philadelphia, Chicago and Metro Detroit.