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Moving to a new city is stressful.

In fact, 1/8 of Americans find moving more stressful than jail. No joke.

I just moved from Atlanta to Virginia, and here’s what I’ve learned the hard way.

Best schedule for moving to a new city:

  • Day 1:
    Pick up your rental equipment (moving van, tow dolly, trailer etc.)
    Get a pizza (or whatever comfort food lowers your stress most)
    Pack up everything (plan at least 6 hours for this)
  • Day 2:
    Load everything into the moving vehicle.
    Drive to your new home.
    If traveling far and you get drowsy, stop, sleep, and continue tomorrow.
    If you arrive, unpack the vehicle.
  • Day 3:
    Finish all unpacking of the vehicle. If further unpacking of boxes is required inside, set the stage for it as far as you can. If you have the energy to finish completely, go for it!
    Return the moving vehicle and all equipment.
    Treat yourself to a massage. You’ll be sore.

If you follow this schedule, you’ll be way less stressed than I was.

I tried to compress the whole process; I procrastinated; I paid the price in early gray hairs.

Pick up the moving van the day before you move out. NOT the same day.

I needed to tow my car, and despite having reserving a tow dolly 6 weeks in advance, I was informed the day before my move that the U-Haul location I selected didn’t have one. I had to travel 20 minutes away to get one, and 10 more minutes to get back to my apartment.

Not only did I waste 30 minutes, I had to fill out 2 contracts, perform 2 equipment inspections, and wait twice for U-Haul employees to do their jobs. It took me 2 whole hours just to get my equipment and return. It should’ve taken 1 hour tops. That frustrated me.

Most rental companies by default give you 4 days to use the vehicle. Getting it one day early can only help you in the rare event something goes awry.

Finish packing completely before before your move-out date.

I thought having 75% of the stuff packed up before the move was fine. I could just take care of the last 25% the same day. Wrong. That’s stressful as fuck, and not fun at all. I had 2 jobs instead of 1 (pack + load), so I felt rushed and did a shittier job at both.

It’s way way easier when your tasks are chunked out into bite-size pieces. The whole process of moving is inherently daunting when taken all at once. So if you have the ability to just pack first, do it. Then when it comes to moving day, your only task is loading the van. It makes things less stressful and less complex.

Be organized when packing, and precise with your labels.

Pack your entire kitchen into boxes, and label them “kitchen”. Repeat for your bathroom. Repeat for your bedroom. Compartmentalize the moving process, and keep like goods with like goods. This makes it way easier to unpack. You won’t be searching for crap for 12 minutes just to finish setting up your spice rack or whatever. Investing time up-front to stay organized helps a ton when you’re finally moving in.

If you’re driving late and get drowsy, get a hotel.

I thought I’d be out by 11 AM for sure. Nope. I left the apartment at 4:00 PM.

It’s a solid 8-9 hour drive to VA from GA. So best case I’d be getting in at midnight, but with rest stops and food etc, I would’ve realistically gotten in at 2 AM.

When midnight came around and I started feeling drowsy, I didn’t keep driving.

Instead I pulled off the highway and got a hotel. I did a quick search for hotels nearby with good reviews, and found one that included breakfast for $105 per night – very reasonable.

I slept super well in a comfortable bed, ate a full breakfast, grabbed coffee to go, and finished the last 2 hours feeling refreshed and awake. It can be disastrous to drive drowsy, particularly with a fully-loaded 10-foot truck towing your vehicle behind it. So I’d highly recommend if you’re driving late to just get some sleep.

A free alternative to hotels…

Rest stops are strategically located every 20-50 miles on most major highways. You can pull off into one and sleep for free in your own car. If you’re security-conscious, park close to the building where security cameras can see you, and ensure your vehicle is well-lit from street lights.

Tips for towing a vehicle behind you…

This was my first time. Honestly, it scared me shitless to know I had a $14,000 investment hanging by straps behind me whizzing over bumps at 60 miles an hour. But I quickly got the hang of it. It wasn’t too bad in the end.

Follow the instructions to the letter.

Read the instruction manual, read the instructions on the tow dolly, and watch videos on YouTube that detail exactly how to set it up. Do things step by step, and make sure your end-result looks exactly like the people’s on YouTube.

Pick up the fucking ramps.

Don’t drive 20 feet with the ramps down and scratch the shit out of them.

Stay in the right-hand lane, and hug the right side of the road.

Other drivers are idiots. You know this too well. Don’t give them any excuse to bump into you; drive on the right-hand side always and let erratic people pass you.

Drive 10% below the speed limit until you’re comfortable.

This helped me a lot. I was nervous as all hell driving this thing. I decided to just go slowly until I had the hang of it. By the time I reached Virginia, I was back to my normal above-the-speed-limit self.