Preparing for Your Next Move: What You Need To Know

Moving in your younger years probably meant simply recruiting a pickup truck-owning friend with the promise of pizza and beer. Now past age 50, moving takes on a bit more complexity. It requires forethought and planning to reduce the chance of a stressful experience. In this post, we'll cover four phases for making a move:

  • Planning
  • Downsizing (if necessary)
  • Other pre-moving day preparations
  • Moving day

Planning the Move

Everybody's moving situation differs. Yours might be:

  • Moving locally or across the country
  • Moving directly from your former home into your new home or ping-ponging between the old place and the new residence temporarily or indefinitely
  • Downsizing, upsizing, or "samesizing"

Whatever your unique situation, a well-thought-out moving plan is essential. These tips will help in the planning phase.

Learn About the New Location

Learn about the local resources in the new geography that could be useful during your move. For example, knowing the location of the closest Target or Walmart, as well as local grocery, hardware and drug stores, will be helpful from Day One. Also, learn the local rules about moving trucks and parking to avoid unnecessary hassles once your stuff arrives.

Storage Unit Or No Storage Unit?

Consider the possibility of using a storage unit temporarily. It might be necessary if some of your belongings need to be out of the old home to better stage it for sale. Also, depending on your timeline, you may not have enough time to properly go through the downsizing process. Placing items in storage will buy time until you have the bandwidth to go through things. In either case, research storage options and pricing early in the planning cycle to avoid a last-minute rush. 

Click here to learn more about whether a storage unit is right for you!

What's the Budget?

A long-distance move can cost around $5,000, and a local move $1,000. If you're doing it yourself or handling the packing, investigate the cost of truck rental, protective padding, boxes, tape, and other supplies. Don't forget to keep track of expenses since some might be tax deductible.

Choosing a mover – DIY or Professional?

The older we get, the less most of us want to undertake a do-it-yourself move. Perhaps you're lucky enough to know willing young relatives or friends with trucks. For most of us, though, hiring a professional mover makes sense. The challenges are to find the right mover and work effectively with that company.

  • Research moving companies - An internet search will yield many options. Read their reviews to narrow down the list.
  • Get each mover's state or federal registration number – Also, request proof of insurance. A lack of this information raises a red flag regarding the mover's reliability.
  • Get written quotes from three or more companies - Insist on onsite or video inspection of your belongings to ensure an accurate estimate. Estimates differ as to whether they are binding or not. Educate yourself about the differences to avoid surprises.
  • Know your Bill of Lading – The BOL is your contract with the mover. Take time to read this over and ask questions before signing. Have it close at hand during the move and store it safely after the move.


In many cases of moving after 50 years old, going to a residence with less square footage is common. Unfortunately, this implies that all your "stuff" won't fit in the new place. Therefore, you will need to initiate a downsizing project. Below are guidelines for making this process less daunting.

Plan Your Attack

There are four options for dealing with your stuff:

  • Keeping
  • Donating
  • Selling
  • Trashing

First of all, however, figure out the amount of downsizing needed. Knowing the exact measurements of your new place will help determine if large items like furniture will fit. Also, think about the lifestyle you desire in your new home. Do you feel like you are overloaded with stuff in your current home? If so, this may be an opportunity to streamline your living space to create a more peaceful and inviting environment.

Downsize Over Time

If you anticipate moving in the future, consider modest downsizing sprints over time. For example, one tactic would be every five years to pretend you're moving and go through things with that thought in mind.

Tag Items for Expiration

We often neglect to get rid of stuff due to a "you never know" attitude. Unfortunately, this leads to a "you never throw" reality. One antidote to this vicious cycle is to tag items with an "expiration date." When you pick up an item, affix a strip of masking tape with a date in the future and the words "dispose after this date." Then, when you pick up the item in the future, and it's past the expiration date, get rid of it.


Let's be honest; there are some prized possessions you will never give up as long as you live. You may intend to pass these down, but your relatives and friends may or may not value them the same way. Consider offering the items to your loved ones now, along with a written description of why the things are important to you. If they say yes, perhaps they can take the items right away. Otherwise, you may need to store the items until they can take possession. On the other hand, if they are not interested and you still can't let go, keep the written information with the item so people in the future know what the object meant to you before they toss it.

A Thousand Words…

Sometimes, we keep an item simply for the sake of good memories. One way to preserve the memory is to take a picture of the item before disposal. That way, you'll have a visual record of the cherished item.


Downsizing furniture can be a headache due to size. There are several tactics to handle these larger items.

  • Offer to the buyers of your current home
  • Offer to friends and family
  • Sell at a garage sale or using online resources like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist
  • Donate to a charity like Habitat for Humanity
  • Offer for free at your curbside or through online resources like
  • Trash by either transporting the items yourself to the dump or hiring a junk-hauling company

For most things, the objective would be to have the receiving party do the hauling for free or at a low cost.

Moving Now/Sort Later

Sometimes circumstances don't allow for a proper downsizing before moving. While this adds extra moving and/or storage costs, occasionally, it is simply unavoidable.  

Other Pre-Moving Day Preparations

Keep In Touch With the Mover

Confirm dates and pricing with the mover in the weeks before the big day. Make sure to know when and how the mover expects to be paid, whether by credit card, check, or cash.

Packing…The Big Job

Packing and unpacking are the two biggest tasks you'll take on in moving. Of the two, packing is the more time-consuming. So not only do you need to carefully pack your things, but you also need a game plan for doing the job logically. Here are some packing priorities:

  •  Assuming you've completed the downsizing process, there are some remaining things that should not be packed because commercial movers often prohibit them:
    • Hazardous materials like yard chemicals, gasoline, propane tanks, and fireworks.
    • Perishables like frozen food
    • Sensitive personal items like important financial and legal documents, jewelry, and medications

If feasible, you'll need to move these items yourself or arrange for safe disposal as appropriate.

  • Label all boxes and make notes on the contents of each box. This will ensure the boxes get to the right room for unpacking. Also, the list of box contents will help you locate things much faster.
  • Avoid packing items from multiple rooms in one box. Also, packing one room at a time will make the process feel less chaotic.
  • Pack in the order that you'll need items. For example, pack things like books and home décor first and daily essentials like dishes, clothing, and toiletries last. Unpacking reverses this order.
  • Heavy items should go in the smallest possible boxes to avoid overloading.

Tell People Where You're Going

Now is the time to make address changes, schedule mail forwarding, and prepare to end services like refuse pickup, landscaping, and house cleaning. In addition, notify utility companies of your move to transfer service to your new residence.

Arrange for a Pet Sitter

As much as we love our pets, they can be distracting on moving day. Also, animals can experience anxiety when their familiar environment is disturbed. Find a pet sitter who can take care of pets on the big day.

Schedule Time for Cleaning

Once the home has been emptied out on moving day, don't underestimate the cleaning task that follows. Suppose you're moving out of a rental unit. In that case, the return of your damage deposit may be contingent on the quality of the cleaning job. It may make sense to hire someone to handle this task so you can focus on getting your belongings unpacked at the new residence.

The Essential Assisted Living Checklist - Click here to read the checklist

Moving Day

The big day has finally arrived when all your careful planning will pay off. Here are some ideas to make that day go as smoothly as possible.

Final Packing – Essentials

Pack all the items used day-to-day such as a few days of clothing, toiletries, and medications. Also, consider packing a box with moving day essentials like tools, paper towels, bottled water, toilet paper, hand soap, cleaning supplies, scissors, and box cutters.

Visit the ATM

Having some cash at the ready can help solve some unanticipated issues. For example, you can send someone to the store to buy essential items that otherwise slow down moving day momentum. Also, if you're using professional movers, you'll want to have cash for a tip. The customary rate is from 10-20%.

Place Protective Materials

Moving can be hard on a home's interior. Cover the floor and protect walls as necessary to minimize damage and cut down on post-move cleaning.

Make a Final Circuit of the Home

Once everything has been loaded up, take a final walk-through to ensure nothing was left behind. Don't miss storage areas, including cabinets and closets, two common areas that commonly get overlooked in the packing process.

Before Unloading

Before the unloading begins, take a quick tour of the home with the movers so they know where to put things. Identify any repairs that may be needed. If there's time, vacuum and do any other necessary cleaning before boxes and furniture clutter the space. Also, set up any protective materials to shield floors and walls.

Let's Unpack This

Careful labeling pays off now as the right things get put in the right rooms. Start by unloading boxes with essentials in the kitchen, bedrooms, and bathrooms. Other boxes can probably wait until tomorrow and beyond.

Be the Boss

Movers will constantly look to you for guidance as the unloading process progresses. Make sure you're available to answer questions to keep the overall effort flowing smoothly.

Set Up the Bed

Before any other furniture is reassembled, put your bed together. You'll make good use of it by the end of the day. The next priority would be to get the kitchen table ready. Having a place to sit down and rest with a little food and drink will help make the day a little more tolerable.

Take a Break and Celebrate

Be careful not to overdo it on moving day. If your planning was effective, you'll be able to knock off for the day with everything unloaded, essentials unpacked, and basic furniture set up. Now, take it easy, celebrate a successful moving day, and begin to enjoy your new home.

Learn more! Read our eBook, "Your Guide to Finding a New Home After 50"!

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