The past year has been one of immense change and adjustment. One of the more dramatic shifts has been in the number of residential moves. The moving industry, which usually has its high season from early summer through September, has been booked to capacity. This past 12 months has been a pivotal time for everyone from empty nesters—who may have been sitting on the fence for a decade, uncertain whether or not to sell—to renters and buyers fleeing from the confines of cities for the more open spaces of the suburbs and beyond.

Whether you’ve been in your home for 5 or 40 years, you will face several dilemmas prior to a move. Here are a few issues I hear about from my clients, colleagues, and friends:

  • To store or not to store
  • To pack yourself or to hire professional movers to do the job
  • To rent a dumpster or to hire a trash removal/cleanout service

Let’s “unpack” each of these topics!


After 15+ years in the business of managing moves and emptying homes, my usual mantra has been “do not store.” In almost every situation, this warning has been proven correct time and again. Why? 

  • Your grandchildren will not want your furniture when they one day graduate college and have an apartment or a small home of their own. They will want to furnish according to their own tastes and needs. And the math does not make sense:  Imagine $100 (or more) per month for a storage facility over the course of 5 to 20 years. A gift of bonds or T-bills would be a better investment and more appreciated.
  • Wood and fabric tend to dry out over time. Dusting, polishing and laundering, believe it or not, keep your possessions in good condition. Think of your belongings as if they were your skin—soap, water and moisturizer are some of the minimum care requirements. Leaving your beloved things to age in a dark storage facility will guarantee they will lack appeal when someone finally pulls them out into the sunlight.
  • Cartons tend to dry out and crumble. So do the contents.
  • Most belongings do not appreciate with age and your memories of them are best kept in your mind’s eye and in your heart.

There are always exceptions. Here are a few reasons to choose storage:

  • You are renovating your new home and cannot move in right away. However, you plan to do so within a few months to a year. You want to keep your furniture and art. By all means store them. But do try to store them in a climate-controlled facility or, better yet, one that is also humidity controlled for any fine art and furniture that you may own.
  • You are being transferred out of the country for a period of time and your employer will pay for storage until you return.

However, even this latter scenario brings to mind a former client who was transferred to the Pacific Rim. After their three-year stint, they decided to remain in Asia. Their employer had covered the cost of their two storage units which held various household contents: wedding gifts, papers, photos, gym equipment, and so on. It had all been professionally packed. I was hired to empty the units and to find a few specific items. I was also asked to see if anything in the storage units was worth selling.

I found the needed items, which fit into two small book boxes. These were shipped to a relative state-side. The rest was no longer wanted and had no saleable value. I was able to donate most of it. 

Another client had sold their home and were planning to build a new home in the same area. Everything was professionally packed and stored. Almost six years later, when they were at long last ensconced in their new home, they realized that almost everything that had been in storage was outdated. Their children had outgrown all the baby furniture and clothing. The parents’ personal style had evolved. As usual, very little of what was in storage ever made it into the closets or onto the walls of the new home.  

Here are some tips for when storage makes sense: 

Use a moving company that has the ability to store your belongings. You do not want them delivered to a self-storage facility for a variety of reasons. Suffice it to say that as long as the mover has your possessions, any and all liability for damage will rest with the mover. (Caveat: See the next section on packing.) 

Remember that items in storage should be insured. If they are valuable enough to store, they are important enough to insure. Speak to your insurance broker about the best way to proceed with insurance. If your final destination is in another city or state, it is still best to store with the moving company that packed your possessions. It does not matter that the storage facility is in your location of origin, because the delivery does not need to occur until you are ready to move into your new residence. The fewer times cartons and boxes are loaded and unloaded, the better.


Clients often have the urge to pack themselves. It is not practical, nor is it efficient or cost effective if your household contents are valuable. If you have a lot of possessions, it could even potentially create a hazardous situation. Consider the following:

  • Moving boxes are not inexpensive. Unless you are buying mover-quality cartons, chances are the boxes will not hold up well.
  • Packing is an art form that the movers are trained to do well. For example, they can fill book boxes like a jigsaw puzzle so that they do not collapse when piled one on top of the other in the moving truck. 
  • China-packs, a mover’s specialty carton, are used for breakable items. They are stronger than most other boxes and somewhat taller. If you have ever watched skilled movers pack, you will know that dishes should be wrapped and put into these cartons on their sides, versus flat.
  • Packed boxes take up a lot of floor space and are easy to bump into. The corners can bruise and cut legs. If you have small children or pets in the house, they will be inclined to play hide and seek with the boxes—this can lead to injuries to the cartons, the children, and your valuable possessions alike!
  • Movers can pack a three-bedroom household in a matter of a few days, versus weeks of DIY packing.
  • And here is the best reason not to pack yourself: INSURANCE. If you pack and if something breaks along the way, you will not be covered and the moving company cannot be held responsible. There is no way to prove that you did not pack a broken item. Movers are very good at marking damaged items before packing them so as not to be held responsible. They are, therefore, responsible for any damage that may occur in transit.

A tip about moving insurance: Homeowners and tenants have household insurance. It is advisable to check with your insurance broker to see if your policy has an endorsement that will cover you during the course of your move. If your policy does not have such an endorsement, you will need to buy insurance for the move. Moving companies can sell you insurance; always inquire what the costs are. 


Every move involves getting rid of things: broken plates, old paint cans, carpet remnants, the old crib in the attic, an old mattress, athletic and gym equipment, and so on. The first thought that most people have is, “Let’s get a dumpster delivered.” Please, avoid this impulse.

Here is why:

  • Renting a dumpster incurs a drop off fee, a pickup fee, and a tippage fee. This adds up to more than hiring a trash removal/cleanout company to do the job in a day and leave. 
  • Dumpsters are heavy and frequently make large dents in the driveway or lawn.
  • Neighbors seem to think that they can toss their own trash into your dumpster. Sometimes, neighbors might even be tempted to poke around in your dumpster looking for “treasure.”
  • You’re liable to get a backache. The labor to toss into the dumpster is your own or someone’s that you hire. This could become a worker’s comp situation and private households rarely have worker’s comp for staff and hired handymen. The trash removal company’s costs include labor, and you pay only by volume. Most trash removal companies will also leave your home broom clean. 

There is a litany of decisions to be made during a move, including what to do with records, books, other media, photos, perfectly good clothing, and perfectly good household items that are no longer needed or used but are still loved. For help with those decisions, you must await my next blog.

Until then, I would like to leave you with this thought:

A residential move can be considered a type of self- inflicted trauma. I like to think of it as the beginning of a new adventure. Yes, it is a long climb up the mountain. As long as you avoid the crevasses and pitfalls, the view from the top is terrific.

Need help and advice?
Just give me a call!

Best wishes,