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How to Make Your Move Simpler, Greener and More Sane

By Amy Zimmer | August 19, 2014 7:59pm | Updated on August 22, 2014 4:34pm
 Experts share tips on how to pack and unpack smarter and with less waste.
Moving tips
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MANHATTAN — It's hard to avoid the stress and costs that come with moving.

But a host of young companies — from those renting out reusable boxes to those offering services of personal assistants — are trying to make packing and unpacking simpler, greener and a little bit saner.

In what's traditionally the busiest time of year for the rental market, these companies can help streamline your move, even if they can't do much about high apartment prices: Manhattan median rents were $3,205 a month in July, Brooklyn rents reached $2,852 and northwest Queens hit $2,646 a month, according to a recent Douglas Elliman report.

Here are some moving survival tips:

1. Take it one step at a time.

Make a list of tasks, broken down by specific actions, and tackle them one-by-one, said Brooke Stone, whose company GYST helps with all steps of a move, from handling change of address forms to executing your housewarming party (cost: $65-85/hour).

Instead of writing, for example, "find movers," write, "call these three moving companies." Or instead of "get packing stuff," write, "buy boxes and tape from UPS store," she advised.

"It's just impossible to do more than one thing thoroughly and well at once," Stone said. "Trying to do so makes you frustrated, stressed out and even more overwhelmed."

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2. Use your move as an opportunity to purge and organize.

There's no reason to pay movers to haul unnecessary items from point A to point B, so weed through what you no longer need, said Rebeca Mosher, whose company, the Space Composer coordinates pickups for tax-deductible donations and electronics recycling and also schedules paper shredding jobs (cost: $130 to $280 per hour).

It can also be a good time to take stock and put things into storage rather than clutter up your new space, noted Kristoph Matthews, founder of the urban valet storage company Boxbee, which picks up your stuff packed in the company's sturdy bins and delivers it to a Long Island City storage facility. Clients can opt for the boxes delivered back to them at any time.

Boxbee users take pictures and tag their things for the company's computerized inventory system, which can be quickly accessed when you need your camping gear or your winter skis, he explained.

"We're finding people aren't just using one word, but going into detail in categorizing and organizing their lives," Matthews said. "It kind of replaces your closet, in a sense. [People] don't need to worry about choosing an apartment based on closet space."

3. Don't do it alone.

Make the move more enjoyable by having people around, Stone advised.

"Even if you don't want to hire help, enroll a friend or two," she said. "Anything that makes the process more fun will also make it less overwhelming. Go 'Sex and the City' style and order pizzas and drink beer and try on all your clothes to make sure you still want them before you throw them in a box."

4. Reduce waste by using plastic boxes instead of cardboard.

Using a service that delivers plastic bins to pack a couple weeks before your move and picks them up a couple weeks after is environmentally responsible, Stone said.

It also has other benefits, like forcing you to unpack quickly, instead of taking weeks or even months, and it saves time since you don't have to go on box-buying or search missions, she added.

"There’s no need to hunt for possibly infested, dirty and damaged moving boxes or stand in line to buy moving supplies and then bringing them back home," said Lily Tran, who left the finance industry to earn a master's degree in sustainability management at Columbia before starting reusable crate service BoxUP this year. (Cost: starting at $69 for one week's use of 15 boxes to $179 for one week's use of 70 boxes).

The crates are sturdier than cardboard, so there's less risk of damaged items, Tran noted, and though the company doesn't move the boxes for you, the crates, with handles, are easy to carry and stack, making for a smoother job when you hire movers, often reducing labor costs, Tran said.

Boxbee has also become popular for eco-minded movers, with some clients skipping the storage facility and having the company move the boxed contents straight from an old apartment to a new one. (Cost: $9.50 to move an average-sized box or $22 for a wardrobe-sized box plus a $15 dollar fee that covers the entire delivery. The company does not, however, deliver furniture.)

5. Be strategic about unpacking.

Label boxes by room and by contents, and pack a "first night" box or suitcase with essential items for about a week, including a clean set of sheets, pillows and clothes, toiletries, chargers and important work-related files.

"The unpacking process might take a bit longer than you expect and that suitcase will save you for the first few days of your move," Mosher said, adding, "Don’t unpack randomly; think about the priority areas that you need to unpack first and foremost and mark a few boxes as 'open immediately.'"