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Happy almost-Fall! After a month's "sabbatical" (i.e. moving and still unpacking with all the hassle that entails), I'm all fired up to inform readers what went wrong with my move and advice to avoid similar pain if you or someone you know contemplates a future passage. Let's begin with packing tips, thanks to Real Simple magazine and more gray hairs in my 73-year-old head.

Purge, purge, purge. If you're like my family, even when we think we've thinned out significantly pre-moving van, in reality waaay too many possessions/stuff end up at the new house. Before packing the first box, do a merciless elimination of ANY item that you don't want or can't use at your new place. Because Hubby and I downsized to almost half of our previous living space, we ended up storing over 100 boxes of "good goods" and furniture to boot in order to have a gigantic moving sale in a few weeks. "One man's 'trash'" you know. (Of course, it goes without saying to begin packing as early as possible; not only did we gather clean, sturdy boxes and a fortune in packing tape, we actually rented a storage unit to hold the boxes when time for house showings.)

Make "moving" files. With a number of manila envelopes at the ready, I labeled each for safekeeping: moving company; new utilities (which you'll schedule at least a couple of weeks before the big move, as well as notifying current utilities for cut-off.); insurance; house contracts; and so forth. This method provides a secure way to keep these important papers available in one place.

Hire early. Painters, movers, and the like are busier than ever these days with the coronavirus. We have a sellers' market in our area, mostly because of the Easter tornadoes which means these services are being booked right and left so don't wait to schedule.

Be sure to pack necessities with you in a suitcase right before the move: a change of clothes, toothbrush/paste, medications, kids' favorite toy, and any other provisions to take with you the next day or two.

Now that you've acquired what you need, it's time to start packing. And, yes, there's a method to this madness:

Use the right size boxes. I've learned over several moves (and crushed toes), to place books and other heavy items in small boxes, but clothing, pillows, and other lighter articles in larger ones. Along this same line, be sure to place lighter pieces on top and, for heaven's sake, don't leave empty spaces within. (Regrettably, I sometimes over pack in order to eliminate these spots.) Towels are great, for instance, to enclose small breakables that fit in the nooks and crannies.

Items per room packed only in those designated boxes. Otherwise, you'll be running from one part of the home to another. Even with my own good intentions, I found one of my mother's tablecloths in a box filled with office supplies and, no, I did not use the linen cloth in which to wrap! Please also label each box with the room into which it goes and list a few of the items enclosed to ensure the movers take the right box to the right room. In the past I've always marked the correct rooms (although we discovered several boxes of kitchen dishes in the basement, even though clearly labeled in several places on each box).

The next part of this particular hint has to do with more list-making, which I've always done myself 'til this last move. Number every box and catalogue contents; keep a copy for yourself and one for the movers in the event a claim is necessary. And always, always ensure you've purchased enough insurance to replace furnishings rather than repairing especially following an appraisal by a certified appraiser. After all, Great Granny Mildred's 1863 antique dresser may not be able to be actually replaced, but you've at least insured it for the great deal of money it would be worth in today's market.

Lastly, I advise if funds are available to pay extra for the movers to pack or crate your fine china, glassware, pictures/paintings, mirrors and other big breakables. By them doing so, they're responsible for damage, whereas if you did the packing, you won't have a leg to stand on if anything unpleasant occurs.

(More moving hints next week)

Contact Ellen Phillips at ephillips@consumerwatch.com.

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