Because, let’s face it, moving is stressful. And expensive. And did we mention stressful? It’s no wonder most people eventually decide to ditch the DIY approach and hire professionals. But that doesn’t mean the stress goes away. There are plenty of things that could go wrong.
To make the day go as smoothly as possible, you need to know how your movers work best—which includes when you should be there, when you can pitch in, and when you need to get the heck out of the way.
We quizzed some movers on their biggest pet peeves when it comes time for moving day. Here are seven things you need to know.
1. Don’t be afraid to do your homework—in person
“Our industry has a horrible reputation, and we’ve earned it,” says Aaron Steed, “There are good guys and there are bad guys, and it’s really hard to tell at the time of estimate.”
Every company is going to put its best face forward during the estimate process, but when it comes to finding out which companies will move your stuff and make you feel comfortable in the process, Steed recommends stopping by the office. In person.
“Some moving companies are the real deal, and then there are a lot of others where you just have a guy running it out of his apartment,” he says. With other companies, “the trucks have graffiti all over them and the guys look like they just got out of 10 years of solitary.”
Price is only part of the equation. Take some time to consider which movers have your best interest in mind and which are solely looking for a one-time paycheck.
2. Prep the move beforehand
Before you get out the bubble wrap, figure out what needs to happen for the day to go smoothly. Do you need to reserve your building’s elevator? Will the truck be parking on a busy street? If so, save a spot ahead of time. If you’re moving in or out of an apartment complex, make sure you know the rules—designated moving hours can cause major complications.
Don’t forget to inform your movers ahead of time if they’ll be transporting a particularly large or heavy item such as a washer, dryer, or piano. It might require extra help, and time spent looking for a third pair of hands is money wasted, says Mike Dahlman.
3. Get your packing done before moving day
If you’ve elected to do your own packing, make sure it’s finished. That doesn’t mean boxes untaped and scattered throughout the house. That means boxes filled, taped up, and ready to go by the time your movers show up. Ideally, everything will be located in a central room, which speeds up the process and keeps your possessions safe.
Even better: Stack your boxes against the wall, giving your movers “the freedom to move (around) and bring things in,” Dahlman says. “We don’t want to impede the entrance. The guys need to move quickly and easily.”
And yes, you really need to finish taping up your boxes beforehand.
“People don’t like taping their boxes, but if a mover does it, it adds a significant amount of time and money to moving day,” Steed says.
4. Label everything
You don’t need to write down the specific contents of every box, but noting where in your new home it should go is essential.
“It’s easier if the movers know where to put it as opposed to trying to delineate where it goes on move day, when we’re charging our hourly rate,” Steed says.
Also, make sure to keep your movers in the loop. If they don’t know what “Humbert’s room” means, it’s the same as if you hadn’t labeled it at all. And now’s the time to decide what area is your “great room” and which is the “den.”
“We can’t have the movers standing around during negotiations,” Steed says.
5. Tell us what’s valuable
Try as they might, movers aren’t psychics. They don’t know that the blue vase cost you $2,500, or that your grandma gave you that crystal decanter, or the retail value of your crushed velvet couch. Let them know beforehand what items they should keep a careful eye on.
“The best way to deal with damage is to avoid it—by communicating about things that are fragile and meaningful,” Dahlman says.
6. Get out of the way!
You might think you’re helping when you hop in the truck to sort items or help lift the piano, but you’re not. Really. Stop.
“We’re professionals and it’s a skill. We have a plan on how things can be done best,” Dahlman says. “Have respect for that.”
That means getting out of the way and letting them work. You’re better served directing the movers to the right rooms or reassembling furniture in your new home. (Movers prefer that you disassemble and reassemble your own stuff, so if you’ve been hoping they’ll take on the task of putting your Ikea bed back together—you might want to think again.)
Not only can an eager homeowner slow down efforts, but he or she can also be an insurance liability.
“It jeopardizes work safety and our insurance,” Steed says. “We can’t let customers on our truck or carry things with customers.”
7. Tip the movers (and maybe buy lunch)
Yes, you need to tip your movers—between $20 and $50 is standard, according to Steed, but more is always welcome.
“We’re in the service business, and what we do is incredibly hard,” he says.
Want even better service? Try tipping at the beginning of the day, something Steed says is “pretty intelligent.”
If it’s a long day of moving, consider buying lunch as well.
“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” Steed says.