NYC Moving: The Ins and Outs of Keeping It Sane

The average New Yorker moves every 3 – 4 years, according to the 2011 NYC Vacancy Survey and almost a third of us made an inter-city move in the past five years. This, in part, explains why on any given Saturday in New York City, the residential side streets are clogged with double-parked moving vans. For many, hiring a moving company might be the best way to go, but for those of us with a little extra grit and a limited bank account, a DIY move has a whole lot of appeal. Moving yourself can be daunting, but it can also save you upwards of $500 and test the bonds of your closest friendships, your skill behind the wheel of a truck and, well, your lower back. Here’s your definitive guide to a DIY move in NYC.

(Are you ready to DIY move? This guy has his doubts… Source: Tracy Rosen via Flickr Creative Commons)

Are You Ready for a DIY Move?

To get things started, take this quick quiz:

  1. Is anything in your house worth enough money to be insured?
  2. Do you get scared thinking about the prospect of entering the weight room at the gym?
  3. If you texted your friends for some help would they respond “Got a new phone 2 years ago – who is this?”
  4. When you come home do you have to choose between the frighteningly rickety elevator and the 10 flights of stairs?

If you answered yes to any of those questions a moving service might be the way to go. These guys are professionals with muscle, blankets, bubble wrap and big trucks on hand. But they also charge a substantial amount of money. If you have a few friends and a decent path from your doorstep to the curb, moving yourself can be a fun and cheap alternative.

(Pick a van. Source: Jay Gorman via Flickr Creative Commons)

#1: Find a Truck

The only real necessity in a move is a vehicle large enough to hold your biggest single piece of furniture. U-Haul has been serving NYC for over 60 years, offering many different size trucks at fair prices. When you rent from U-Haul, they detail their vehicles by what they can hold. The 10-foot truck can do a studio/1-bedroom. The 15-foot truck can handle a full 1-bedroom apartment and then some. A smaller truck makes more sense in inter-city moves because it can be driven more safely and there is even a chance of parking it.

Pro Tip: U-Haul rents its trucks for up to 24 hours at no extra fee, so opt for the smallest option that you think will work and allow for the possibility of taking two trips to move everything.

#2: Recruit Friends

The key to a successful self-move is manpower. You need at least three people to move a couch or dresser – two to lift either end and one person to guide them and hold doors open. Make sure that one person is always available to stay with the truck if it is illegally parked. The more people you have, the more opportunity there is to stay fresh and make the move fun.

Pro tip: Labelling makes you feel extra organized. Source: Bee Collins via Flickr Creative Commons)

#3: Make a Game Plan

Moving day should be all about getting things into the truck and then back out. Your friends might have signed up with enthusiasm, but if they have to spend hours putting your stuff into boxes, they will be worn out before they are really needed. So, plan ahead and be all boxed up and ready to go when moving day rolls around.

The days before moving day should be packing day. Swing by your local liquor store and bug them for as many boxes as you can carry. Load your boxes with a mix of soft things like clothes and fragile things like lamps or light things like board games and heavy things like books. Ideally your boxes will all be secure and not too heavy. Label them if you have anything that is very fragile or just very important to you.

(Rent truck, then coffee. Source: Thomas Hawke via Flickr Creative Commons)

DIY Moving Check List

It’s moving day and here’s how your day, in an ideal world, should transpire:

  • Wake up early to pick up your truck.
  • Text your friends to make sure they will be onsite when you get back with the truck.
  • Find a spot on the block that won’t completely disrupt traffic (have someone stay with the truck).
  • Start moving!
  • Load up your biggest pieces of furniture (Think back to your Game Boy days and put to use your Tetris spatial logic skills).
  • Fit the boxes in between the big items, making sure that everything is secure and won’t implode at the first pothole.
  • With everything secure, load into the truck with your helpers and reverse the process into your new apartment.
  • Finally, with everything safely in your new space take your friends out for some hard-earned beer and pizza.

Moving in NYC doesn’t have to be stressful and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Whether you swing from one apartment to the next like Spider-Man on Adderall or haven’t had to put anything in a box since “Cats” was on Broadway, moving is inevitable in this town. Follow the rules of this guide and you’ll be well on your way to a successful and affordable, DIY move in NYC.