Recently Matt and I packed up our entire lives, stuffed it all into a moving truck, and moved out of state. While moving doesn’t have a lot to do with “DIY Natural,” I have a lot to say about moving now that we’re through the hard part. I’m dying to share some tips on do-it-yourself moving that might additionally help you save some cash if you ever have to relocate.

6 Tips For DIY moving:

1. Have a moving sale

There are always unforeseen expenses involved when relocating. We decided to have a moving sale to make a few extra bucks. We knew the little bit of extra cash wouldn’t go far, but each penny would help. Went through everything in our house at least 4 times to find things we could sell/give away/throw away, and ended up pricing LOTS of stuff we previously thought we couldn’t live without. We used a few rules to help us determine which items needed to go: 1.) Have we used it enough to justify owning it? 2.) Can we rent a similar item if we really need to? 3.) Is it too heavy or bulky to easily move? 4.) Has it remained in a box since the last time we moved?

We didn’t make the moving sale a big ordeal, but instead invited a few friends & family to come wander through the house and shop the ticketed items. This way we didn’t have to move everything into one area, and we didn’t have to worry about strangers walking all throughout the house. The leftovers got carted off to GoodWill and we felt liberated to own less after all was said and done.


The most wonderful part of having a moving sale—less stuff to pack!!!

2. Find boxes and packing materials for free

Matt and I must have looked homeless as we scavenged for boxes in dumpsters at the recycling center near our house. (I’ll never forget the picture of Matt’s legs sticking up in the air as the rest of his body was inside the dumpster reaching for the “perfect box” I spotted.) Have you ever seen the price of boxes? There was no way I was paying for cardboard. I hit up a few friends who had recently moved, and kept my eye out after Christmas for good used boxes everywhere I went. If none of these works for you, check Craigslist or Freecycle.org for someone in your area who is getting rid of boxes.

Packing material can also be expensive if you think your only option is bubble wrap. Creatively wrap fragile items with things you already have. Kitchen towels, clothing, old bath towels, newspaper, or any other soft material will work well. My mom gave me a huge roll of butcher paper she had in her basement to use when I ran out of newspaper. It worked like a charm, and we burned it in the fireplace at our new home as we unpacked.

3. Pack yourself

Instead of calling a moving company to pack up all your precious belongings, invite a few friends or family members over to start chipping away at the packing. You can always use it as bonding time before you move, and people are happy to help ease the difficulty of a move. (After all, most of us have been through the hassle of moving at some point.) If you start early, you can pack a little bit each day for a few weeks to make it a less daunting task. Just start with the things you know you won’t use in the coming weeks, such as  out-of-season clothing, decor, and odd kitchen items.

Doing your own packing is also a good idea because you will most likely take better care when packing your precious belongings than a mover who has no sentimental attachment to the items. Another bonus…you can pack like things together so you can find items in your boxes more easily during unpacking.

4. Label boxes well

My overlabeling habits may have taken some extra time, but it sure saved us tons of time and money in the end. Careful labeling will prevent you from having to rummage through every box in a room just to find one small item. Having well-labeled boxes also means that you will be able to find random things in only a few minutes to avoid purchasing things you may desperately need after arriving at your destination. Think toilet paper, food, underwear, etc.


Matt made fun of me when I was compulsively labeling boxes (with a label on the top and at least 3 sides) before we moved. I had to explain that when boxes are stacked, you want to be able to see what they contain without first pulling 6 other boxes off the top. Not only did I label boxes with the room of the house they should be placed in when coming off the truck, but also with a list of general contents. Detailed labeling is especially important when items in a box are unrelated. I had to laugh when a box came off the truck that was labeled, “couch pillow, paper shredder, Matt’s slippers, Bible.”

5. Rent a moving truck

If you or someone you know is brave enough to drive a moving truck, this will definitely save you some money. Keep in mind that U-Haul is not the only company out there that offers moving truck rentals. Do a little research and get price quotes from a few companies. We went with a company that had nice equipment and very reasonable prices. We also did the math and found out it would be a little cheaper to rent a car dolly to haul one of our vehicles rather than put the extra 700 miles on it and pay for gas.

6. Strategically pack the moving truck

To save headaches later, pack the truck keeping in mind the order things need to come off the truck. We knew anything going into our storage unit by our new house would be the last to come off the truck, so it was packed into the truck first. We also knew we would be arriving at the new place late in the day, and would need beds, linens, food, and cleaning supplies to come off the truck first. These items were the last to be put on the truck so we had easy access to them when unloading late at night.

Also, it pays to have someone in the truck who will handle your belongings gently and pack the truck like it’s a Tetris game. The benefits are twofold… nothing ends up broken, scratched, or crushed, and you can fit more into the truck. Thanks to Matt’s truck-packing expertise, we didn’t have a SINGLE thing break after bouncing around in the back of a 26-foot moving truck for 13 hours! This saved us from having to replace items that were ruined in transit, meaning we didn’t have to spend extra moolah.

Who Needs Moving Companies?

Now that we have been in our new house for almost two weeks, I’m finally finding time to sit down for a minute to reflect on the move and everything that led up to it. There were several times during the packing stage that I wanted to stop dead in my tracks and call a moving company. However, this was not within our budget, and I’m a little bit of a control freak who wants things done a certain way (my way). Before moving, I had a few meltdowns during which Matt had to coax me back to reality…to realize our lives would inevitably be in disarray for a while, and every detail of moving did not need to be perfectly arranged. (I still disagree.) Now that we are moved, I am convinced that my systematic packing, compulsive labeling, list-making, and attention to detail totally saved our behinds in this move. Who needs moving companies when you have an arsenal of Sharpies, a tape gun, and some generous loved ones to help get the job done???

Have you moved recently? What money-saving DIY moving tips do you have for others?


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Comments

  1. Marissa Solomon says

    Great article! My husband and I did a lot of this when we moved. I just wanted to add that another phenomenal free resource is the boxes that printer paper comes in. Anyone working in a larger office or, like myself, in a school, usually has reams of paper arrive in these very sturdy boxes. These are perfect for packing heavier items like books, as they hold about 50 pounds of paper. They don’t fold down, so I was only able to carry home 3 or 4 boxes and tops a day, but it saved us money and the planet’s resources as well!

  2. Lauren says

    Check with your local grocery store for boxes too–when we moved across town the commissary gave us plenty of empty fruit boxes with some of the “padding” still in them, and they were perfect for smaller things like dishes! Appliance stores also may be able to give you larger boxes left over from the day’s deliveries.

  3. Shannon says

    I was in the military for many years, so moving became second nature. Lucky for my family, we didn’t have to pay for it! But we learned a lot about moving from the pros. The most important thing I learned was to number our boxes. List ALL items in the box in a notebook according to the box number. This saves a lot of writing on boxes and makes it super easy to find exactly what you need. If there is a mishap and a box is lost, you must be able to list ALL contents if you want them to be replaced! Broken items rarely happened because the pros wrapped our breakables like their life depended on it, i.e. they have to pay for it if it gets broken and they do not want their insurance to go up. The second most important thing I learned was to wrap, wrap, wrap all furniture in blankets. Don’t pack your blankets, use them. We have moved 16 times, the only dings we got on furniture that was not wrapped.
    On our most recent move (DIY style) we found free boxes at liquor stores(perfect for dishes/glasses) and our local Wal-mart(not our favorite store, but well worth this visit :-)). Wal-mart filled an entire shopping cart with boxes in the sizes I requested. I had to call and request the boxes when the evening shift came in at 9pm and pick up the following morning by 8am. We got all we needed in less than 24 hours, and 2 phone calls!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      What a great tip about the free boxes from WalMart…next time I won’t have to collect boxes for 3 months! We don’t shop at WalMart, but I don’t have a problem getting free boxes from them. :) I also love the idea of numbering boxes and keeping a notebook listing their contents. Everyone in the family could reference the notebook when looking for things. Thanks Shannon!

  4. Kristie says

    I had to laugh when reading the compulsive “organize and label” efforts you used. I do the same thing!! I even went so far as to print out different color labels for different rooms or levels. I’ve noticed this makes a difference when there are a lot of different (and quite generous) people helping unload. I’ve moved so many times I lost count, but through trial and error learned that the labeling is KEY, and the detailed list separate from the boxes is definitely a life saver. Also, another packing material — grocery bags. We had a dog for many many years, and family would recycle their grocery bags to us for use as poo-bags. We ended up with so many, they ended up becoming protective wrapping for breakables. They work like a charm, and can be recycled or repurposed once again after the move. Not to mention, if at any time we needed an emergency poo-bag, one reach into any box would procure said bag. :)

  5. Mrs.G says

    Being conscious that we would resell our boxes after our move, I went with the numbered boxes/ contents notebook plan. For us, it was the perfect combination of information and anonymity.

  6. says

    We moved us, and our hardware-heavy business, just over a year ago. We did ALMOST all the moving ourselves.

    Except ….

    The day we moved all the furniture/heavy stuff we hired day laborers at the DC end, and teen homeschooled farmboys at the other end (I homeschooled, and had homeschooling friends already in the area we moved to). That one day of hiring labor made a HUGE difference, increasing our speed and efficiency. And I didn’t have to carry any of the heaviest stuff.

  7. Tiana says

    Your tips hit the nail on the head! When we arrived at our new home, we didn’t have a bunch of friends to help unload so we did hire a group of guys to come to the house for 2 hours and take all the furniture and boxes out of the Penske moving truck and place them in the appropriate room or area. This was a huge help, and allowed us to return the rental truck on time and not have to pay the extra day-rate for the truck. Not to mention it saved us the time and the backaches of doing it all ourselves instead of with all the friends that helped us load.

  8. Heather says

    My moves have been too large to drive the trucks ourselves (think 52 linear feet, or two trucks). We’ve used ABF U-Pack several times, they bring the truck, you pack it, they pick it back up again and drive it to the destination. The gas and drivers are included in the price.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      That sounds like an awesome option for folks with large moves! (I would have loved to have someone else drive the huge truck through the winding mountain roads so I didn’t have to suffer from heart palpitations while Matt drove!) ;)

      • says

        Hey now, I drove that thing like a professional truck driver. I even attached random things to my belt so I fit in better at the truck stops. ;)

  9. Nicki says

    My suggestion will require some upfront capital, but I actually ended up making money on this.

    Two years ago I made a 1200 mile move and was flabbergasted by the prices of a moving truck rental – so I started looking on CL, and again, blown away by the prices of a used trailer. I then compared the prices on CL in the new city that I was moving to …and found there was no discounting for used. I ended up buying a new one! Two weeks later I listed my unloaded trailer for slightly higher than I paid to allow for some negotiating. I ended up getting a TON of hits and sold it for $50 more than I paid, cash in hand before I even had to pay for the purchase I made two weeks earlier (credit card – $2200)! (this includes taxes, license, spare wheel, etc).
    This may not be the best solution for everyone out there..but something to consider.
    We also keep our “good” boxes – store them in the rafters of the garage or out of the way in the basement if space permits, flatted, and ready for the next move.

  10. Tara says

    My husband does a lot of E-Bay sales, and we found that the priority mail boxes that we’ve gotten FREE from the post office worked GREAT, and most of them were still in nice enough shape to be used for their intended purpose once we arrived in our new home. These boxes don’t get huge, but the larger ones worked great for heavier items like our stoneware dishes, and books and movies that we wanted to pack in a more organized fashion.

    My husband and I have actually been hired to do a few moves through his family business (an auction house/uhaul dealer). We’ve always been about half the rate of other moving companies, so if you do want help (especially with larger items) check with local businesses that deal with a lot of furniture. They may not be able to offer the insurance of moving companies, but I’ve heard horror stories about trying to claim any losses through professional companies anyway. :)

  11. J Taverna says

    Great ideas! I start saving my news papers a few weeks before the packing starts. I also number all of boxes and keep inventory sheets that tells me what is in each number. I go to the liquor store and ask them to save their boxes for me. Their boxes are sturdy and the perfect size to carry and to stack. I had over 100 of these boxes my last move, and with my inventory sheet, it was easy to find everything.

  12. says

    Great DIY moving tips! I will definitely share these – I’ve read some of the other comments as well and thought I’d share this government website in case anyone decides to hire professional, licensed movers. We recommend it to our clients: ProtectYourMove.gov

    Happy Moving!