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Wednesday, December 9, 2009


In a previous installment of this blog, I discussed the process of buying a house. Well, once you’ve bought the house, now you have to move into it. You have several options.

The obvious choice is to hire movers. They can even be contracted to pack your things for you so you don’t have to worry about figuring out how to load a tape gun. The downside is that you’re hiring large men you don’t know who probably make too little money for the amount of work they’re doing, so you’re irreplaceable antique curio shelf might arrive at your new home in more pieces than a bookshelf from Ikea, but without the handy allen wrench to put it back together.

If you’re hiring movers, you want a binding estimate, not an hourly rate. A binding estimate is when someone comes to your current place, looks at all of the stuff you want to move, and gives you a sheet of paper that has the words “shall not exceed” written on it somewhere. The number at the bottom of that sheet is the number you pay. Period. Hourly rate means the movers come to your house and charge you based on how long it takes to move everything.

If you’re a lunatic, you can move everything yourself. This requires a number of understanding friends or family members who can help you. If you don’t have local family, and are a social misfit, it means you’re going to be lifting an awful lot of boxes.

There are three ways to move everything yourself.

1) You can load up your car and make fourteen thousand trips back and forth. This works if you’re moving within the same town or neighborhood. Not so much if you’re moving across the state. Rule of thumb: If it takes more than 10 minutes to drive to your new place, you need a bigger truck.

2) You can rent a truck. This is by far the most common method of self moving. Each moving company is different (Budget, for example, tends to be operated by businesslike people, while Uhaul appears to be owned and operated by a grue) but the basic process for renting a truck is pretty much always the same: First, you reserve a truck in the size that you want. Second, you arrive at the lot and find out they don’t have any of that size, so you rent a different size.

We rented a truck from a rental company that rhymes with “Aragorn.” We asked for a 16 foot truck, and they gave us a 25 foot truck. I have never driven anything that large in my life, and I knocked over at least three buildings and several old growth trees in the process of learning to back that thing up. Which brings us to an important point about renting a truck:

Insurance. Is. Not. Optional.

People will tell you that your insurance covers damages and all that other stuff. These people are idiots. Yes, your insurance does cover you in the event of an accident. But then your premiums go up, and you have to spend half your day on a phone trying to convince your insurance company that you have coverage for whatever they’re denying you coverage for. If you buy the rental agency insurance, as long as you can walk away from the scene of the accident, it’s not your problem.

So take my advice: get full coverage not only for the truck you’re renting, but also for liability. It’s only a fraction of the cost of the rental, and it makes your life so much easier if you do have a problem.

3) The third way of moving yourself is to rent something called a POD. PODS are relatively new innovations. Basically, somebody comes to your house with what looks like a moving truck. Only instead of loading up your stuff into the truck and driving away, they leave the back of the truck in your driveway. You can load it at your leisure, have it picked up and delivered whenever you want (except Sundays, because what kind of freak tries to move on a weekend) and driving it isn’t your problem.

The downside of renting a POD is the fact that you can’t really trust anything fragile to it, because you’re not driving it and the crane that lifts the pod back onto the truck isn’t the most elegant device you’ve ever seen.

Finally, if you’re made of money, you can just throw out all your old stuff and start over from scratch at the new place. This has the benefit of being extremely low hassle, but eating spaghetti-Os with your fingers directly from the can while you’re waiting for the new microwave to be delivered gets old very quickly.

You can also do a combination of these methods. For example, because my wife and I are social misfits with no family nearby that can be expected to carry heavy things down four flights of stairs; we couldn’t do a pure self move. So we hired movers (with a binding estimate) to move anything that required two people to lift (EG: our couch). Then we rented a POD to carry non-fragile, non-essential things. Finally, we rented trucks for two weekends. The first, aforementioned 25 foot truck, took all of our essential, gotta-have-it-in-the-house-now stuff. The second was a 10 foot truck rented to take care of the leftovers that weren’t gotten by the 25 foot truck.

As of the writing of this post, we’re done. It took four weeks of intensive lifting and stair climbing (my backside will never be this firm again—seriously; you could bounce a quarter off me), but it’s done.

Now for the unpacking. I predict we’ll be done somewhere around Christmas.

In the year 2014.