Cleaning supplies

Five Moving “Epic Fails” and How to Avoid Them

You know what’s awesome? Unpacking your boxes and realizing that not “all” of your boxes made it to your new home. Sometimes it’s obvious what’s missing—like your kid’s bike. Other times, missing items will haunt you for years—like a boot or your mom’s serving platter. Did you misplace it or was it never delivered? You may never know. *Cue Twilight Zone music.* Maybe some of my moving “epic fails” will help you prepare for your move better than I did for mine.

Epic Fail Number One: Letting the mover check off the box numbers during delivery. We discovered (after the driver left, of course) that all of my career clothes, all of Frick and Frack’s toys, and half of the hubby’s professional gear never made it.

Solution: Never let the movers check off the boxes as “delivered.” You are the one who needs to ensure all the boxes that were loaded onto the truck are unloaded at your new home. Stand by the front door with a pen and your inventory sheet, and ask the movers to call out the box numbers as they enter the house. Check off the boxes as they go. Also, politely ask ALL the movers to use one door. A single point of entry will help avoid missing a box.

Epic Fail Number Two: Failure to organize miscellaneous parts effectively. Frick and Frack’s bunk beds were delivered without a scratch, but when the time came to put them together, we discovered the screws never made it. We were left with a pile of without-a-scratch wooden planks. Super.

Solution: Whenever possible, ask the movers to keep the screws in their respective holes (secured tightly) for the move. When that isn’t possible, plastic sandwich bags and permanent markers are your friends. Before moving day, hand write “bunk bed screws” on the plastic bag and ask the mover to place the screws in the bag and tape it firmly to the bed planks. Why not have them place ALL the screws to ALL of your items in one box, you ask? What happens when they lose that box? Now you are stuck—screwless.

Epic Fail Number Three: Not knowing movers are required to handle disposal of packing materials. We asked the movers to unpack our belongings and they convinced us we were responsible for disposal of the packing material and boxes. When the time came for the trash man to take away the cardboard, they charged us forty bucks for a “bulk pickup.”

Solution: Movers are required to take the packing materials with them if they unpack your household goods. If you choose to unpack your household goods yourself, at your own pace, you run the risk of never getting the movers to help you dispose of the boxes and packaging materials. Just sayin’.

Epic Fail Number Four: Not creating a First Day Box. We arrived happily at our new duty station and the movers finished unloading around 9:00 at night. At bedtime, we were surrounded by boxes and had no idea which one contained items we needed right away.

Solution: Set aside items you know you’ll need the first night in your house—things like an air mattress, pillows, sheets, towels, a shower curtain (rings too), a few toys, etc. Before the movers pack ANYTHING, ask them for a large box and a roll of packing tape. Remember those permanent markers you set aside to mark the plastic baggies? Give them to your kids and have them create a First Day Box masterpiece—the louder and more obvious, the better. Fill the box with your must-have items and ask the movers to load that box LAST. Why? Because it will be the first thing off the truck at your new duty station. It’s a great way to have the things you need and to also be reminded of the creature comforts of home!

Epic Fail Number Five: Not properly separating our stuff and cleaning out before the movers arrive. The movers packed everything—even things we didn’t want them to pack! During one move they packed a dirty diaper. I kid you not. During another move they packed trash. UGH. In another move (because apparently I’m a little thick and didn’t get it after the first two times) they packed everything that was SUPPOSED to go in the car with us. By the time I returned from the gas station (I left the hubby in charge) all of our traveling road show stuff had disappeared into the abyss of boxes.

Solution: Before the movers arrive, pack your car! If you want stuff to stay with you, be sure it isn’t within reach because movers will pack everything in sight! Never let the movers pack valuables such as wedding rings (again, I could tell you multiple horror stories) or personal papers such as wills, car titles, and powers of attorney. It’s much safer to keep those items with you so they aren’t lost in transit. Also, be sure to unload the dishwasher before the movers come. I was once left with a load of dishes after the moving truck pulled away. *sigh*

You know what, guys? You’ve TOTALLY got this. Moving is not an unmanageable monster. It’s just…challenging. Did you know that Mamie Doud Eisenhower (wife to President Eisenhower) moved 35 times in 37 years before moving into the White House? Her husband was career Army before becoming Commander in Chief. I’m sure she had a few moving “epic fails” she could share, and she made it through just fine.


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  • Katy S. says:

    This was a great post & just in time as our cross-country move is next month 🙂

  • Rebecca says:

    I LOVE the First Day box idea! I’ve let the kids decorate the boxes that go in their room, but this is an even better idea. Thanks for a new solution.

  • Chelsie says:

    In 2 months we are moving to Hawaii from NC. All of our stuff is in storage already (they have to repack to ensure I did it right.) how to I ensure all of our stuff gets there? Has anybody had things stolen? What if something is delivered to me broken?

  • This is a great article, and very helpful! I’ve made many mistakes, and keep learning for them. Here’s the lesson I’ve learned – don’t let the movers convince you to do anything that isn’t strictly by the books! When we were missing a few items, they asked me to wait until I finished unpacking and make sure we couldn’t find them before reporting them. But when I did, and they were truly gone, it was too late, because I had signed the papers accepting the delivery. The movers totally hoodwinked me on that one – appealing to my desire to be nice and fair. I won’t make that mistake again!

  • Bethany Riley says:

    Our first PCS, I didn’t catch the vacuum cleaner in time, and it ended up in the sea of boxes. We ended up borrowing a neighbor’s, which wasn’t nearly as good as ours, and took a good deal longer to get the job done. For our next PCS and all since then, I’ve made sure to have all cleaning supplies back in the ‘No Pack’ area, inventoried and triple-checked, and we’ve never run into that dilemma since.

  • Mindy says:

    Great tips! My husband and I just moved for the first time with the Army. Our moving experience wasn’t awful, but things like my piggy bank full of dimes and nickels, and another with quarters and 50 cent pieces arriving empty, and a really nice picture my husband got for me in Japan coming up missing, definitely made me sad. Not to mention my desktop computer monitor and tower being damaged, despite being in a box labeled “electronics” and “fragile”. I was less vigilant than I would have liked to be since I was managing our two large dogs and a 4 month old baby while they were there, but the next time I will definitely pay closer attention!

  • Mindy says:

    Chelsie, there is a form you can fill out to be reimbursed for broken and/or damaged goods. You have to submit a claim, and in our case they sent someone to take photos of the damaged items. I would recommend taking pictures of certain things, but since your stuff is already packed and stored that doesn’t help you much!

  • Xanthe says:

    While Cassie has some great ideas here I would like to piggy back those. I have been a military spouse for over 12 years and moved eight times. I hope these help.

    EPIC #1—NEVER, NEVER, NEVER let anyone but yourself check off those small little boxes, and if they are calling the numbers off too fast or you didn’t get all your numbers when finished STOP EVERYONE! Go through each and every room and HIGHLIGHT them to ensure you have everything you are suppose to! If you do not, Katy & Chelsie particularly, call their office BEFORE their guys leave. Make them stay until you verbally speak to someone!

    EPIC#2—DO NOT have them reattach the bolts, etc back to where they belong. Like Cassie suggested baggies and markers are fantastic. The only thing I would suggest it to take them with you in your EPIC #4 box. You run the risk of having other peices scratched or they will simply remove them when they get to their warehouse to pack better for the truck.

    EPIC#3—They are to ALWAYS remove their debris. Even if you have to contact them a hundred times, continue to call and harrass them. Although I would suggest what I do. I keep a few of the large clothes hanging boxes, remove the hanging bar and fold all the other boxes into those few. You may end up with about 6-7 boxes like that but it takes up less room for you until them come to retreive them and makes it easier for them as well.

    EPIC#4—I would not let them take the box with them! What if, in my case and many times might I add, they go to their warehouse and store it until a different truck comes to DRIVE it to your new location? Or you are moving across country or OCONUS like HI and it takes them longer to get your belongings to you, or they get it there way too early and it goes into storage until you call for a delivery date. This last time we moved, just this past summer, our belongings went in THREE different truck when they left my house. IT CAN HAPPEN, so keep this in mind!

    EPIC#5—I will keep this breif because I have OCD, enough said right? This is really simple…completely clear out one restroom or closet and fill it with ONLY the items you are taking with you and put a BIG note on the door ‘DO NOT PACK”. They will steer clear, if they don’t have to pack it, they won’t!!!

    Cassie you are wonderful for putting these tips on here because you never know if you have advice that someone else may not have thought about. I am great with long distance moves, it’s the real close ones that I dispise. First because “I” have to do it instead of someone else, lol and second, you normally have family/friends helping with those moves and it takes longer to put things away than when the movers come. This is the direction we are headed in next month as we close on or home!

    Good luck everyone and make moving a positive experience. If you get all YOUR ducks in a row by how YOU want it not by someone else’s rules or a website, you will do fine!

  • Solution: DO IT YOURSELF. There is no way I’m trusting movers with my precious items unless I absolutely have to (oconus, for example).

  • Isabel Hodge says:

    Excellent tips for moving and some excellent responses too!! Thanks Cassie! I’ll definitely share your blog!

  • Heather F says:

    We just moved cross-country, and these are excellent tips to follow.
    *We made one bathroom the “DNP” room, and made sure to put the items we didn’t want to lose in it.
    *Our only mishap was that the “Hardware box” was packed in one of the boxes, and some of our hardware did not get put in the box before it was packed. So unfortunately, we no longer have a dining room table, just a really nice set of scrap until we can get new bolts or a new table.
    *We had a few pieces of furniture broken though, so that did not make us happy.

    Good luck to all that are moving!

  • Christy says:

    One thing we have done for years is to request female packers. They seem to take more care in wrapping and packing the boxes. Less items are lost or broken! This article had a lot of great advice, especially for those who are new to military moving.