My Move wanted to find out. Our research team recently asked 1,500 consumers who had moved in the past three months questions about 75 tasks related to moving. We began with the hypothesis that stress results not only when things are difficult, time-consuming or expensive, but also when they end up being more difficult, time-consuming or expensive than expected. For example, finding a home loan may have taken more time, cost more money and been more difficult than a respondent had expected. As a result, this task would have a high composite moving stress rating.
Here are the top 10 most stressful moving tasks, as well as tips to make each task easier.
1. Packing & unpacking
It’s no surprise that packing and unpacking were the most stressful tasks. From the mild case of pack rat to full-on hoarding syndrome, Americans accumulate a lot of stuff. Minimize the stress of packing by donating as much as possible before the move. Your donation can be tax deductible, and the less stuff you pack, the less stuff you’ll have to load, unpack and find a place for in your new home.
2. Loading & unloading a moving truck without professional help
If you’re moving yourself, you need to know what you’re in for: a lot of bending, lifting and pain killers. The list of heavy objects that need loading and unloading is long: your couch, dresser, TV, bed frame, mattress, boxes of books, dining table … If you don’t hire a professional mover, make sure you get at least one friend to help carry objects that can’t be lifted alone. Buy helpful moving tools such as a dolly, hand truck and moving straps to make lifting easier on your back. Also be smart with how you load the truck. Pack items snugly so that there’s less shifting en route and to reduce the number of trips.
3. Home improvement projects for new and old homes
Whether you’re fixing your home up to put it on the real estate market or remodeling a kitchen or bathroom in your new place, remember to budget extra time and money for these tasks. The average cost of a kitchen remodel is $45,000, so we’re not talking chump change. Read reviews of contractors before hiring.
4. Searching for a new home
This task can seem especially hard when you’re new to the area. Before buying or renting, visit neighborhoods in person to get a feel for the place and people. Download a real estate app for your mobile or tablet device and use it on-the-go. If you have kids, research school rankings and private school availability. The bottom line is that the search for a new home often takes more time than anticipated. Start your search early, well before you plan to move, so you’re not in a rush to settle for a place you don’t love.
5. Compiling a home inventory
This means going through every room in your house and documenting all your important possessions: art, furniture, electronics, jewelry, china, outdoor equipment and more. Do a home inventory if you hire professional movers. It’ll act as a checklist for keeping track of what went on and came off the moving truck, as well as the pre- and post-transport condition. After the move, file away your home inventory for insurance purposes in case of fire, natural disaster or theft. Try using a pre-populated downloadable home inventory spreadsheet to save time (it contains the items; you mark how many and the condition). Too busy even for a spreadsheet? Walk through your home with your smartphone’s video camera; focus on important possessions and talk about how much they cost and when and where you purchased them.
6. Transporting belongings without professional help
AKA driving a moving truck. Remember that driving a moving truck isn’t like driving a sedan or SUV. It’s significantly larger and has a wide turning radius. You’ll need to brake earlier, make wider turns, drive slowly and watch for overpass, bridge and tunnel height limits.
7. Cleaning out closets, cupboards & pantry
No one likes to see the word “cleaning” followed by “closet,” “cupboard” or “pantry,” so it’s no surprise this task made the list. These are the areas where you put stuff so that you don’t have to look at it. Therefore we forget about it, and it piles up. Tip: The weeks before your move, make a concerted effort to cook with the grains, canned goods and condiments in your pantry and cupboards. Donate the clothing and shoes in your closet. A good rule of thumb: If you haven’t worn it in a year, donate it.
8. Shopping for household goods & furniture
Think small — from trash bins to window treatments — and large, from furniture to major appliances. We’re talking about the stuff you need the first 30 days in your new home. If you just moved, you’re rushed. You might not have time to look for discounts. According to the Zillow Mover Study, 21 percent of movers spend $10,000 or more on move-related purchases, so it behooves you to look for deals whenever possible. When it comes to expensive, long-term commitment purchases such as appliances, don’t wait until you’re in your new home to rush out and buy them. Take measurements and order appliances ahead of time, and look for deals on shipping and seasonal offers to save.
9. Cleaning new home
There’s that word “cleaning” again. If there’s room in your budget, save your time and aching back by hiring professionals to clean the mess left behind by previous occupants. (Renting? Negotiate and try to have the landlord foot the bill.) If there isn’t any budget, try to get the keys to your place before move-in day so that you can do a thorough cleaning before moving all your stuff in. Pay attention to nooks and crannies you usually bypass under normal house-cleaning conditions. Wipe down cupboards, walls, railings, light switches, door knobs, refrigerator doors and shelves, baseboards, floors and every surface in the kitchen and bathrooms.
10. Collecting & sorting important papers
Best advice to avoid this mess? Go paperless. If paperless isn’t an option, tackle the task of collecting and sorting important papers about three weeks before the move (well ahead of crunch time). Get an accordion folder and sort papers by subject — don’t just shove everything in together. Make sure it’s you and not your mover who’s in charge of these papers on moving day. Change your address with the USPS so that important mail finds its way to your new home after you’ve moved.
If moving is so stressful, why do we do it? Our research shows that, overwhelmingly, we move for positive reasons: to start a family or a new job; to live on our own, be closer to work or retire; to have a yard for a dog. When the tasks associated with the move start to seem unbearable, take a deep breath and remember why you’re moving. This alone will reduce stress.
MyMove.com offers stress-busting checklists, reminders, tools, inside tips and deals to the 40 million people who move each year in the U.S. MyMove.com’s daily moving deals and stress-busting resources save people a truckload of cash and anxiety before, during and after the move.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.