How to Pack Up and Move Cross Country

Picking up and moving somewhere new can be one of the most rewarding things you’ll do for yourself in life. But ask anyone who has done it and you’re sure to hear some horror stories about the process. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Remember moving into your dorm for the first time? Or your first apartment in college? Or your first place once you received that very expensive and very bland piece of paper from your institution of higher learning?

We all move – and we will all move numerous times in our lifetimes – and recently, I made a move that took me from Kansas City to New York City. (And for those doing the math, from door to door it was 1,238 miles.) I did a lot of research before the move, and with our age group having an open attitude towards transience, I wanted to share what I have learned from moving across the country.

First, you must decide if the move is right. It is a tough question and only you can answer it. Some of you may already be asking yourself if the time to make a move like this is now. I, along with Primer’s founder when he made the move to Los Angeles from Washington, DC, had many personal questions to answer before diving into a cross-country move.

So, here are a few key questions to ask yourself:

Can I afford it?

Moving itself is an expensive venture. On my latest move, I happened to be on the phone when I swiped my credit card to pay for my first of many tanks of gas for the moving truck and I do recall using some choice words. I had factored in the cost, but it doesn’t make it easier. There are a lot of options with moving. Do I pack and move it myself? Pay for moving and movers? Rent a truck or van or ship all my items? All key questions and with the internet, the answers are pretty easy to come by.

What about my couch?

You know that old college couch that still has soda stains? Time for it to go! Luckily I didn’t have that anymore, but I did have a nice couch and a recliner that I had to make a choice about. But with the space I was moving into and the furniture we already had, I decided to sell nearly all my furniture. Is it worth moving an item across country when you can buy a new one just as easy? You will spend a little money in the process, but selling goods via sites like CraigsList makes it terribly efficient. (I even sold my car that way too!)

Where the hell will I live?

Finding a place to live is a headache, no matter where you’re moving to and from. It is vitally important to study the neighborhoods you are interested in. Search for crime rates and tax rates (I failed to do the latter in my last place) so you can factor that into your search choices. Make a list of all the things you need and want in your new place, like a dishwasher, gym on site, pets, etc. then, if possible, take a trip and get to know the areas.

Those are the basics. But once you get through those and you really think now is the time, then get your ass in gear and make it happen.

Moving is tough. It’s mentally and emotionally stressful, but these tips worked for me on my move from Kansas City to the Big Apple.

Be ruthless with possessions

While I’m not a minimalist, moving anywhere is a great opportunity to clear out possessions. I knew coming to my apartment here in New York City I would have considerably less space, but how much did not become apparent until all my boxes had filled up my living room and kitchen. My advice is to go through all your possessions, multiple times. If you decide to keep something, great! And if you decide to not keep something, take a photo of it so you can still remember it. But be ruthless … they are just possessions.

Make a list

And check it twice! Seriously … I’m talking a two-month planning list of things you need to do. For instance, change addresses, send that to the Post Office, reserve truck or movers, pack, deal with banking issues, get moving help, utilities, etc. A lot goes into living and moving, and having a list helps keep you organized during a rather stressful time.

Here is a start of the address change list:

  • Credit Cards
  • Voter registration
  • DMV
  • IRS
  • Banks
  • Student Loans (and other loans)
  • Magazines
  • Membership Organizations

This list also should include the things you need to do once you get to your new location. What are they you ask? Glad you did!

  • DMV, including a new license and registering any vehicles
    • Some states like California give you only 2 weeks to do this before assessing a penalty
  • Voting
  • Health and auto insurance
  • Organ Donor
  • Open new banking accounts
  • Sending a change of address to necessary contacts

Enjoy it

You have enough to worry about if you’re driving the truck yourself (like I did), so it is just good sense to enjoy the journey. I actually took photos and video of my journey and shared it with everyone once I arrived. My first day, I stopped at a fun café in a tiny town in Indiana and enjoyed a great home-cooked meal. I also stayed with friends in Columbus, Ohio, and on my last night we went to this fantastic German sausage restaurant and ate sauerkraut for the first time in my life. Not great, but an experience!

Take time

This is your farewell to this place and while you may visit, these relationships are going to change. Therefore, make sure you take the time to say good-bye to people. Do drinks. Have dinners. (Then you can “con” people into helping you make the move!)

Network

Why move in this day-and-age of the Internet and Twitter and Facebook without building a network in your new city first? Luckily, I had some pretty good friends in New York City before I came and over the last six months I worked really hard to find people, set up phone calls and networking meetings. I did this so that by the time I unpacked my network would be prepared to spring into action.

I know these sound simple, but trust me, they work. I am a testament to the fact that these items work in making the move a safe and efficient one. Above all, if you ever find yourself in this situation, enjoy it!

Richard Dedor is a writer, speaker and personal coach dedicated to helping each person achieve their dreams. He ran for political office at age 18 and recently published his first book, Anything is Possible. You can find him at his blog Believe in Possible and on Twitter @RichardDedor.

  • ricardo

    Great article. I’m planning a move in the next year, and this actually brought up a few things I hadnt thought about.

  • http://richarddedor.com/blog Richard

    Ricardo –
    Glad my experiences could help you out! Good luck with your move! If you come up with anything I missed in your journey, post it back so others can learn!

  • http://www.agoodmover.com Houston Movers

    very helpful this should be made as a note before deciding.

  • Scott

    This is extremely helpful. I’ll be moving from Massachusetts to Georgia in the next couple months and have been stressing over it.

  • http://richarddedor.com/blog Richard

    Scott,
    Glad my experience could help your future move! Good luck!
    -Richard

  • http://blog.pistolgripcg.com MIKE

    I’ve made 2 big moves: Florida to Southern California for my first post-college job 2 years ago, and then SoCal to Seattle last year for a promotion. Wish you had written this back then.

    Fortunately I have another big move coming up: Seattle to Washington, D.C. Thanks, this will save a lot of the headache of making sure I remembered to cover all bases.

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  • Gabriel

    San Jose to Boston: best decision I have ever made. I of course had my doubts; that it would not work out. Sometimes, if the door opens up, it is merely a matter of saying “yes,” to the opportunity. Great article, by the way.

  • http://richarddedor.com/ Richard

    @Gabriel –
    Congrats on the move! I’m curious … what made you make the move?

    And thanks for the compliment!

  • http://www.squidoo.com/cheap-ways-to-move-across-the-country David Johnson

    Wow this is an awesome article!  I have moved across the country a couple of times and you are right…its expensive.  I always recommend that people have a garage sale before they move to raise some money and downsize the load.  The change of address part is great…very helpful!