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In the five years that I’ve lived in Toronto, I have moved apartments three times. At that rate, you’d expect me to be a bona fide box-packing, U-Haul-hiring, futon-lugging expert, but you’d be wrong.

I’m guilty of committing the deadly sins of an inexperienced mover — I’ve watched two grown men heave my sad, second hand Kijiji IKEA couch up three flights of a narrow stairwell; I’ve moved a mere week before Christmas in the freezing cold; I’ve raided sidewalks and recycling piles for packing boxes; I’ve coerced my parents, my siblings, my boyfriend, and even his parents into hauling my stuff around on the promise of free Dominos pizza. For my next move, I hope to have my act together enough so I’m not using hand-me-down wine boxes as packing essentials.

At some point, every new mover hits a bump in the road, whether you hired a sketchy moving company or have a lack of bubble-wrap know-how. The moving experts at MoveSnap, Canada’s digital moving concierge service, have a few moving tips for newbies like myself on how to overcome the most likely moving challenges you’ll run into.

1. Your ‘bargain’ boxes and moving company are costing you too much money

Once you’re past the phase of bribing your friends and family with free food, it’s time to seek out a professional moving company.

Your instincts might tell you to call and ask for an estimate from the first place you find on Google, but as Rachael Rishworth, partner success manager at MoveSnap, tells it, finding a reputable mover deserves a thorough investigation — there are just too many scams out there waiting to take advantage of vulnerable people. Doing lots of research beforehand, whether it be reading online reviews or contacting the Better Business Bureau, should weed out lackluster movers, she explains. It should also be a priority to meet the moving company staff in-person prior to hiring them for a fair quote and to gauge their professionalism.

Photo: Christin Hume / Unsplash

“Have the person from the moving company actually come into your home,” explains Rishworth. “Come have them talk to you, tell you approximately how much they’re going to charge for your move. You can get a really good feel for what the company is like, how that estimator interacts with you, how they treat your home.”

As part of their services, MoveSnap helps to vet and refer new homeowners to trustworthy movers. After an initial consultation to assess the needs of each client they work with, the concierge team at MoveSnap also provides research, planning and organization support to new homeowners during and after their move.

First-time buyers on a budget might be tempted to opt for an inexpensive mover to save, but being cautious is cheaper — a scam-artist or careless mover who damages your belongings will cost you more in the long run. The same applies to moving supplies. Refrain from raiding your neighbour’s bins, and instead invest in quality moving boxes designed for the task. If you’re environmentally conscious, Rishworth recommends renting reusable boxes and making use of old linens and t-shirts to protect fragile items.

2. You packed your deodorant, vitamins and the dog’s food… and which box they’re in is anyone’s guess

Every new mover has been there — you packed that one thing that you really need, and in a sea of boxes, you have no idea where it is. Worse yet, you bring an item with you to your new place, only to realize that it will not fit. I for one recently had to part with an upholstered tub chair that I loved very much, but it simply would not fit in my tiny apartment’s living room.

When it comes time to pack, Rishworth says to start with the non-essentials and work your way down to everyday items.

Photo: Erda Estremera / Unsplash

“Start with off season clothing, out of season sporting goods, anything that you haven’t really touched in the last four to six weeks, or what you know you aren’t going to touch in the next four to six weeks,” she says.

Whatever is left, throw in an overnight bag, or pack in a personal box that you keep seperate from the main move pile. In this box, store a change of clothes, toiletries, pet food and other belongings that you use day to day. For those moving long-distance, Rishworth says that it’s ideal to pack enough for the first few weeks, as individuals traveling farther tend to arrive at their destination before their stuff does.

“That way, no matter what, on that first night, even the first few days, you know that everything you need ASAP is in that box and you’re not searching for [those items],” she says.

To make your house feel like home right away, be sure to put sentimental belongings in your personal box too — your favourite pillow or your children’s story books can help to ease the transition to a new space.

Prior to the move, it’s helpful to take measurements of your new home to ensure that your furniture will fit – not just in the space itself, but through doorways and up stairs. For larger items, unscrew legs, take off tabletops, and remove any movable parts to shrink them in size. In the worst case scenario, you may need to break up with some items by selling them, giving them away, or putting them in storage.

3. You’ve arrived at your destination, and have nowhere to park

Nothing leaves a lasting impression on the neighbours like backing up a 26-foot truck into the cul-de-sac unannounced.

On moving day, get your ducks in a row to avoid a logistical calamity; alert neighbours of your plans; hire a baby or pet sitter to keep little ones out of the way; find a safe parking spot to load and unload; or apply for a special parking permit if necessary.

Photo: TheMuuj / flickr

If you’re looking to avoid seven trips back and forth from your old home to your new one, be honest with your movers about how much stuff you have.

“If you’re working with a moving company and they come in-person and you’re honest about what you have, show them that basement filled with clutter and you tell them about the attic,” says Rishworth, “Then your moving company, if you’re hiring a professional, should be able to know exactly how many trucks they’re going to need and how many men. That’s a good indicator of a good company.”

If you’re going the DIY route, try to gauge how many trips in your rental truck or van you’ll need to take to transport your things. MoveSnap and other companies do offer online calculators that can estimate the size of truck you’ll need based on the number of bedrooms you have.

Rishworth says to also brush up on your real estate lingo to ensure you know exactly when you’re entitled to the keys. You might be legally able to collect the keys on Monday, but it could be Monday at 9pm — time is money. Many sellers might be afraid to ask for early access or to stay another night in their old rental, but Rishworth explains that it can be a huge help, even if it means killing time by taking photos and surveying the new property.

And don’t forget to tip your movers, kids.

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