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Minimize the confusion: Give yourself plenty of time

Just about anyone who drives knows this one: You're cruising down a street when a squirrel decides to cross the road. The little guy sees your car coming and rushes back to the curb. Three feet short of it he changesCut the confusion his mind and makes a run for the other side. You can almost see his tiny brain at work -- he envisions himself flat as a pancake on the street -- he panics, reverses course and dashes for the safety of the curb.

That's us, folks -- most of us, anyway. When we find out we're moving, we panic at all we have to do and rush around helter-skelter, accomplishing very little.

"They forget the magnitude of all the things they have -- credit cards, prescriptions, medical records, your child's school records -- it goes beyond the physical packing and the removal of your goods," says Mayflower Vice President Cliff Saxton.

If you're planning on moving, our plan is to help you get organized. Many moving and relocation companies have timetables of things to do anywhere from six to eight weeks before moving day. They do this not only to help you organize but to minimize your stress.

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We've compiled their ideas and added a few of our own. Once you decide on a moving company, an agent will probably give you a timeline to follow; or you can get it from the company's Web site.

A six-week window
Our timeline starts six weeks from the move. If you don't have six weeks, you'll have to figure a way to compress the timeline. What's important is to get going. Don't think it really won't take this long just because you have a one-bedroom apartment. You'll be surprised at all you've accumulated and all that needs to be done.

"Proper planning is really important," says Paula Selbein of Chicago's Allied Van Lines. "Making sure all the logistics, the physical aspects, are covered. In the environment we live in these days, it's tough for people to get the time they need to move."

If your move isn't a job relocation, and you have the ability to choose when you move, avoid summer and the last week of the month -- any month.

"Summer is peak moving season," says Selbein. "Kids are out of school and parents want to minimize disruption in the school schedule."

As for the last week of the month, Selbein says they're heavily booked because people often want real estate transactions to coincide with the end of the month and leases also tend to expire at that time.

If summer is the only time you can move, Selbein suggests moving in the middle of the month.

Get three bids
When selecting a mover, Saxton of Fenton, Mo.-based Mayflower advises getting three bids.

"In the old days before deregulation (1980), the major difference was in the color of the trucks. Since then, they innovate and compete vigorously on prices and services."

Saxton also says to be wary if one bid is extremely low; you may not get all that you expect. And he advises against booking a move on the Internet. He says he got a call from a woman who arranged for a move over the Internet "sight unseen."

"She was worried because they wanted her to pay in advance," he says. "You've given them all your belongings, now you're giving them a check. For the vast majority, you pay on delivery -- cashier's check at the destination."

One of the most important things in a move is talking to the mover, says Saxton.

"It's essential that the mover knows exactly what you want -- what services you want them to provide. You also have to have comfort with the person you're dealing with."

It's also wise to make sure the mover doesn't get any surprises. If you're moving into a house on a winding, narrow road, let the mover know. If they have to unload your belongings onto a smaller truck in midstream -- you'll pay.

Reviewing the timeline will help you remember what needs to be done. Revise, add or subtract whatever fits your specific needs. Following a plan will keep you from wasting a lot of time and energy.

-- Posted: Oct. 15, 1999


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See Also
PLUS: Your moving timeline
Moving glossary
More moving stories

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