Moving Horror Stories

Nancy Mann Jackson

Moving to a new home can be both exciting and stressful, especially if you haven’t moved in quite some time. As you start the process, it can be helpful to learn a few moving tricks and tips. But, even when you plan and prepare carefully, there still are plenty of opportunities for unexpected mishaps when moving day finally arrives.

Before you start the actual move, you’ll need to spend several weeks (or longer) planning your move—including the necessary decluttering and packing. (And where are you going to find enough moving boxes?)

While every move is different, there are several major areas that offer the potential for things to go wrong:

  • packing mistakes
  • issues with your landlord or seller
  • problems with your moving company

Here’s a look at five moving horror stories you don’t want to have on moving day, along with tips on how to avoid them.

Furniture Fluke

When she was moving to New York City for a job, in her 20s, my friend spent a large chunk of her savings on a new oversized sofa and matching loveseat. She couldn’t wait to get them into her new apartment. On moving day, she called in tears: The movers tried and tried, but the sofa and loveseat would not fit up the narrow winding staircase in her historic Brooklyn building. After hours of trying, she had to leave the pricey furniture on the curb and spend more money to purchase a futon that would fit in her apartment.

How to avoid this: If you’re planning to purchase new furniture for your new place, be sure to measure doorways, staircases, and other passageways you’ll have to move the furniture through and make sure your purchases will fit.

Better yet, hold off on buying new items for your new home until after you’ve moved in. Sometimes a space feels larger before you’ve moved all your things in, and it’s easy to choose a rug, bookcase, or other items that are simply too overpowering for the room.

Just Junk

It’s not uncommon to move into a new place and find a forgotten item or two left by the previous occupants. But it’s completely unexpected to walk into your new home and find that it’s is still almost full of someone else’s belongings. Another acquaintance arrived to move into a new home and found the garage was piled with junk left behind by the previous owner. Because the previous owner had already moved out of state and was unwilling to handle the clean-out, my friend was forced to hire help to load up and haul off all the junk. It was an unexpected, and very unwelcome, extra expense.

How to avoid this: Before you close on a new home—or sign the lease on a new rental home—insist on taking a walk-through. During your walk-through, you can check to make sure everything is in good order and all the belongings of the previous occupants have been removed. This way, you can be sure the home is ready for you to move right in.

Mover Miscalculation

A good moving company can simplify your move, but a moving company with challenges can make your move even more stressful or outright miserable. For example, when moving companies aren’t able to fit everything in their trucks, they may leave their customers scrambling to find a way to move the remaining items on their own. My friends recently moved from Atlanta to Detroit, and although they’d contracted with a moving company to move everything in their home, on moving day, the movers said they couldn’t fit everything and left several large pieces of furniture and boxes behind. That meant my friend, who had never hauled a trailer, was required to rent a U-Haul trailer at the last minute, load it, and drive it almost 11 hours to the new house.

How to avoid this: Be selective when hiring professional movers to handle your move. Start by asking friends and neighbors which moving companies they recommend (and which ones they don’t). When you start calling movers, don’t make a choice based only on price. Ask for a company representative to visit your home or send them a video showing each room so they can better estimate how many trucks or what size truck will be needed to fit all your stuff.

Driver Delay

Some moving companies add as many customers’ belongings as possible to the same truck, which may mean you could end up waiting for days (or even weeks) to receive your belongings at your new location. Once when I relocated several states away, my employer paid the moving company. To get a better rate, my employer didn’t require immediate delivery of my belongings. Because my things didn’t fill the truck, it stopped to pick up and deliver several other people’s belongings on the way. That meant I arrived at my new home with only a suitcase—and lived out of that suitcase for more than a week before my furniture and other belongings arrived.

The point of moving day is to actually get your belongings moved into your new place so you can start settling into your new home. If your movers don’t get your stuff to you on time, or if they leave a big chunk of it at the old place, you won’t be able to accomplish your goal of getting moved.

How to avoid this: It’s a statement that bears repeating: Be selective when hiring professional movers to handle your move. Once you’ve made a decision, be sure the details about scheduling are included in your contract so you will have recourse if your belongings don’t show up on time. (Keep in mind, if you’re making a cross country move, that you may have to agree to a window of time for delivery rather than a specific day.)

Do your part to help ensure that your movers will do a good job: Understand the costs of moving, and be prepared to pay them. Also, tip your movers for a job well done.

Real-Time Realities

After closing on their new home, one family traveled several hundred miles back to their other home to pack, clean, and travel back again with all their belongings. When they arrived, they realized they’d misplaced the keys to the new home and couldn’t get into it. Instead of being able to unload the moving truck and start getting settled, they were stuck waiting until extended family members arrived with an extra set of keys.

Keys aren’t the only important items that are easy to misplace on moving day. In my last move, we misplaced the screws that we needed to reattach the mirror on my dresser. It’s also easy to misplace chargers for computers and phones. If it will take you several days or weeks to unpack everything, it’s important to remember to pack items you’ll need in the interim in a special, well-labeled place that you can access easily.

How to avoid this: As you’re dealing with the stress of moving and trying to manage the logistics, physical effort, and emotions that may be involved, it’s easy to neglect small (but important) details. To avoid overlooking something that could derail your moving day, keep a running list of the items and tasks you must remember. In the days and weeks leading up to your move, write down every important item or task that comes to mind and be sure to go through the list on moving day.

Rather than experiencing your own moving horror story…

  • take the time to plan ahead carefully
  • make sure you’re using reputable moving services
  • relax when you can

The stress will be over soon.

Moving to a new home—whether it’s only across town or across the country—can be filled with challenges. If you’ve endured your own “moving horror story,” please share your experience with us in the comments below.

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