When the packing’s done, it’s time to move. For a DIY move, this is the hardest part. Our moving tips & tricks will help make it easier.
This post is the second of three detailing the insights we’ve learned from four moves while living together in America. Of course, we’ve both moved many more times together overseas and even more times before we finally met in-person in 2010. Between us (separately and together), we’ve moved 29 times since 1994. Suffice it to say we’re ready to settle! I’ll tell you about the tools you need to make the move easier, and we’ll compare PODS with PackRat and see how they differ from a U-Haul move.
Before we get to our moving tips and tricks, be sure to check out our How to Pack for a Move post if you haven’t already! And if you’re in the process of selling and/or buying a house, we’ve got a ton of useful information in our How to Buy and Sell a House post!
There’s really no part of a DIY move that can be considered “fun.” And of all the aspects, move-out and loading is the most tiring. It’s a grinding slog that’ll test your mettle and fortitude and push you to the brink of exhaustion. But if you were to believe the posters hanging on the walls of U-Haul or the online advertisements for PODS and PackRat, moving is a laugh-riot that people dress up for and undertake with a permanent smile.
Those ads make me want to spit nettles and scream fire.
Difficult though it may be, there are tips and tricks (and handy tools) that will make the job much more bearable than it might otherwise be. Let’s have a look.
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The Move-out and Load-in
Okay, so you’ve packed your boxes and protected your furniture. Now you need to get that stuff from inside your house outside and loaded into a PODS or PackRat container or onto a U-Haul truck. If you’re lucky enough to live in a ranch without a basement, you’re going to have a much easier time than those of us in multi-story homes. Fortunately, there are some great tools to make the job easier.
Let’s face it – we’re not getting any younger (especially you – yeah YOU…you know who you are), and our backs seem to age even faster than our eyes and hairlines. A back brace is a smart choice when lifting anything heavy. My babes has a much worse back than I do, and she’s gone through no less than 6 back braces since our Connecticut house. I keep finding them in random corners of the basement and in partially packed boxes. There’s a reason they’re all left and forgotten – compared to her current brace, they are all worthless crapola. Just take her word for it, the Sparthos back brace is the best one out there. Use it throughout your move. Your back will thank you by allowing you to get out of bed each morning. The US healthcare system will hate you for depriving them of another invalid to milk dry over the years.
We’ve been using forearm forklifts since our Connecticut days, and they really make moving most furniture and mattresses a breeze! And they’re not just for moving day – you’ll find yourself reaching for them anytime you need to move heavy furniture around the house. These are a must buy for a DIY move.
I’m ashamed to say I’ve just learned of these, and I’ve never actually used them. I noticed them when pulling up the link for the forearm forklifts shown above. Holy cow, I wish we had these! I’m going to recommend them sight-unseen, as I can see they are much easier than stretch film for securing moving blankets around most furniture.
My babes and I discovered these in a U-Haul store in Georgia, and wow! If you plan on moving bigger or heavier stuff like washers, dryers, refrigerators or really heavy pieces of furniture, you must get these! They’re like forearm forklifts on steroids. Handan and I carried our washing machine, dryer, standalone freezer and (biggest and heaviest of all) a side-by-side, full-size professional grade fridge/freezer that was in our garage. There would have been no way to carry those items with the forearm forklifts – they are just too big and heavy. But with the shoulder dolly, they were easy (well, I wouldn’t exactly call the refrigerator easy, but we did manage to carry it out of the garage, down the driveway and up the ramp of a U-Haul all by ourselves!
Pro tip: Prepare Ahead!
Don’t forget to unplug your fridges and freezers at least a full day before you move and leave the door open, so they can defrost and dry. And if you’ll be storing them before setting them up in your new house, be sure to leave the door slightly ajar so the inside doesn’t mold!
When straps of any sort just won’t cut it, or when the terrain is more suited to wheels, a hand truck will be your best friend. For our Connecticut to Georgia move I bought a fancy convertible hand truck that had all sorts of bells and whistles I never ended up using. The price for all those extras was a ton of weight. I practically needed a dolly to carry my hand truck! It also had hard rubber wheels that made rolling it a jolting and jostling affair. I lived with it and thought it was great until the last leg of this Georgia to Florida move.
I discovered that I had left that convertible hand truck in a storage unit in Freeport, and I desperately needed one for the rest of the move. In an attempt to cut costs, I bought a cheaper model from Lowe’s (same product as the cheap one from Home Depot but in a different color). It had fat pneumatic tires, and it weighed half as much as my previous one. Wow! I can’t believe I waited to long to figure out that those simple hand trucks are the best hand trucks! There’s a reason they’re the ones you see the pros using!
We used lots and lots of bungees in a range of sizes. They’re the best tool for keeping things in place. Whether you choose a moving system like PODS or rent a U-Haul truck, be sure to stock up on bungees in several lengths. Amazon carries all sorts of variety packs, or you can buy them individually from Home Depot.
Sometimes a bungee cord isn’t enough, and you need a restraint with a little more oomph. That’s where ratchet straps come in. They’re perfect for keeping larger items in place, and when loading something with a roll-up door (like a PODS container or a U-Haul truck), you’ll want to run a couple of ratchet straps across the back of all your stuff to ensure it doesn’t fall onto the door during transit and prevent it from rolling up at your destination. Later in the post, I’ll explain what you’ll need to do if that happens with a PODS container. It ain’t pretty!
For securing cargo in PODS or U-Hauls, you’ll want 8-foot straps or no more than 10-foot straps. If the straps are too long for the space, you won’t be able to ratchet them tight, as the spool that takes up the slack will fill up and no longer be able to turn.
For the last leg of this latest move-out, I had a U-Haul truck towing my Ford Edge behind on an auto carrier. The truck and car were totally full, but I still had a mattress and an office chair to pack. The only space I had left was the top of my car. But for that, I needed 14-foot ratchet straps. They did a great job! Fortunately for this haul, I had a gorgeous sunny day. For our previous haul with 26-foot U-Haul and auto transport, it was pouring rain until halfway through Alabama!
Be sure to find the right straps for the job. Too short, and you won’t be able to connect the ends. Too long, and you won’t be able to tighten the straps.
PODS/Packrat vs U-Haul TRUCKS
I’ll get into a direct comparison of PODS and PackRat in the next section, but first let’s look at the differences between a container move and a U-Haul move.
Moving with PODS or PackRat is more of a time commitment and will take more planning. That said, it is infinitely more flexible to your schedule, which is why we’ve used it for the past two moves (this move was actually a container/U-Haul hybrid). You can pack the container at your leisure and then have them pick it up and either store it near your starting point or at your destination. When you’re ready for move-in, you schedule a delivery, and then you keep the container for as long as you need it at your new house. You’ll be charged monthly rent for the storage, and though it’s not outlandish, it is more than you’d pay at self storage.
Since U-Haul only gives you a three-day rental (which can be extended for about $40/day), you need to have all your ducks in a row before you rent the truck. Your boxes all need to be packed, and you need to be ready to load the truck and skedaddle as soon as possible.
If your house or apartment isn’t ready and waiting for you on the other end of the move, you’ll need to rent self storage space and unload the U-Haul truck into the storage until you’re able to move in. For some, this may be a deal-breaker. Who wants to keep moving, right? For us, we had no choice, since we had to move out of our Jacksonville apartment in a flash, and then I had to go to Georgia to finish packing while Handan started her new position in Destin. All in all, we pulled three 6×12 trailers from Jacksonville to two 10×10 storage units in Freeport (where our new house is), and I drove a 26-foot truck and a 20-foot U-Haul truck from Georgia to two 10×20 storage units in Fort Walton Beach (an hour away from our new house). Like real estate here in Florida, storage space is going fast, too!
With PODS or PackRat, your storage needs are taken care after you pack, and the only thing you need to worry about is unloading at your destination. In addition to our 4 storage units, we also have two 16-foot PackRat containers full of our stuff and waiting for us to close on our new home.
If you’re packed and ready and your new place is ready, too, I’d recommend going with U-Haul, if you can fit all in one trip. It is by far the cheaper and easier of the two options. That said, if you have as much crap as we do, then I’d go for a container solution – it’ll cost more, but you’ll be able to fit all your stuff in multiple containers and spread out the load-out and load-in phases to fit your schedule and keep you from getting too overwhelmed all at once.
PODS vs PackRat
The big question! Which one is better? We used PODS for our move from Connecticut to Georgia, and we’re using PackRat for this move. I’ll run through some thoughts on each.
PODS is the older and more established company. Because if this, they have more facilities across the nation. It also means they have an older fleet of containers, though they do have some newer ones as well. Most of their containers (perhaps all) have a roll-up door. This actually cuts down on usable interior space, as you’ll need to leave enough room for the door/roller mechanism. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the older PODS containers – they have a wooden frame upon which aluminum panels are hung. They’re just not as new and shiny as the newer steel and aluminum containers. All PODS (i think) have a translucent fiberglass roof which allows light in. This is a huge plus.
PackRat containers are a wee bit smaller by volume than PODS, but the space is 100% usable, as the vast majority of them have swing-out doors with a rubber gasket that seals out the elements. It’s a great system, but PackRat containers have two major flaws. The first is that they’re very dark due to the non-translucent roof, and the second (and far more serious flaw) is that there aren’t many good tie-down options. They say to use the support bars on the inside for tie down, but unless you’re literally tying down with rope (and really, who does that?), you’ll never fit your bungees or ratchet straps around them without colossal effort and planning like an engineer. It’s an unwanted frustration during an already-stressful time.
For me, the lack of tie downs is the biggest drawback, and I’d rather lose space and deal with ratchet-strapping my entire load at the end behind a mattress than deal with no tie downs.
Initially, PackRat came in with a much higher quote, but since they are still the new kid on the block, they told us they’d match whatever quote PODS gave us. My babes was able to get a decent rate from PODS using a coupon, and PackRat did indeed match it (and slightly beat it)…sort of. The initial charges and delivery fees were slightly less than PODS offered, but their rent after the first month was more than PODS would have charged.
Still, we went with PackRat just because of those beautiful swing-out doors.
Both PODS and Packrat have friendly and helpful phone support, and they both have easy-to-use online features for scheduling pickups and deliveries.
Where PackRat falls short and PODS excels is in the flexibility of scheduling. With PODS, you can change your pickup or delivery date right up to the day before, and if they can accommodate the change (meaning if they have room on their schedule), they’ll do it. With PackRat, you need to make changes 72 hours in advance. When we’re in full-combat moving mode, 72 hours might as well be eleventy bajillion years. It really does me no good.
And that leads me to the final nail in PackRat’s coffin: if you want to pick whether your container is delivered of picked up in the morning or afternoon, you need to pay an additional $50. With PODS, you find out the night before the window in which your container will be delivered or picked up. This allows you to sculpt your day around that event. I like to be there for pickups and deliveries, just in case something goes wrong. You don’t have to be there, but I wouldn’t risk it.
Trust me when I say PackRat has their pickup and delivery schedule all fleshed out the night before, and not telling you unless you fork over another $50 is an absurd money grab that leaves a really bad taste in my mouth.
For our second pickup, I wanted the safety cushion of the afternoon time slot, as I felt we’d need the extra packing time. We were willing to pay the $50 for peace of mind. I called the day before to change the delivery time, but I was told the schedule was full, so he couldn’t accommodate my request ($50 only gets you so much, it seems). Through this call I did learn that I was on the morning schedule. He assured me that I’d probably be towards the end of the morning and not to worry.
I wasn’t. The driver called first thing in the morning and said he’d be arriving in 30 minutes. Our container was only half full.
I told him he couldn’t come – we weren’t ready.
He said I’d have to reschedule for Tuesday (it was Saturday).
I told him that wasn’t an option.
He grumbled something about not getting home in time for dinner, but to his credit, he did bump us to the last pickup of the day.
If we had to do it again, I’d likely go with PODS or even search for a different company. I just found one called Big Steel Box that has containers up to 40 feet long! Oh, I’m drooling just thinking about all that space! By comparison, the biggest PODS/PackRat container is only 16 feet long. But Big Steel Box doesn’t operate in this region of Florida, so we wouldn’t have been able to use them anyway.
Update after our move-in and container delivery
Okay, score a big one for PackRat. We had our two containers scheduled for delivery just after we closed on our new house. I got a call the morning of delivery from the lead driver from Pensacola confirming his departure after loading the containers and arrival about 3 hours later. Nice guy and one of the sweetest Southern drawls and manner of speech I’ve ever heard. I liked him sight unseen.
Fast forward an hour. He called back to say the other truck blew a tire just outside Pensacola and had to offload the container at a gas station. I listened in horror and prayed the container was the one full of basement junk (it wasn’t) and not the one full of our cherished furniture (it was). He said he’d deliver his container and then be back the next day with the one that was left behind.
What choice did we have?
He rolled in close to 4:00 with the first container. We were just happy to have at least one.
He then asked if it would be okay for him to roll back in after dark with the second.
“You’re going to bring it today?” I said. Handan and I couldn’t believe it. Who works so late?
“If ya’ll are okay with an 8:30 or 9:00 delivery, I can get that second container to you. Is there an access code for the gate after dark?” he said.
My babes and I looked at each other and smiled.
“What’s your beer?” I said. He told me, and I said I’d have it waiting for him.
He arrived close to 9pm with our stranded container. By the time he got back to Pensacola, it would be about a 16 hour day for him.
Who does that these days? Who goes that extra mile?
In addition to his beer of choice, we gave him a large tray of pastries to see him through his drive – more than enough for the night and plenty to share with his wife the next morning.
I know that he may just be a diamond in the rough, but our feelings towards PackRat are much softer now.
Change of Address
Don’t forget to change your address on usps.com. They’ll forward your mail for you for 6 months, but be sure to fill out that form about 2 weeks before your move, or accept that you’ll have some mail lost forever.
For our last move, I created an Excel spreadsheet with every company, bank and utility that has our address, and then I systematically went through the list and changed them all online. I kept that spreadsheet, and now I will update it with new utilities and get rid of some old ones. This spreadsheet will also be useful if your credit card numbers ever change. You can easily see which sites you’ll need to visit to ensure that none of your autopay accounts run into trouble.