Is It Downsizing Time?







This is it - the truck is here, and you're at your new home!  If the truck doesn't belong to you (and time with it is money), you're under the gun to get it unloaded as quickly as possible.  Let's hope it's not raining - and let's get busy...

General tips for unloading:

  • If you're not there:  Is it already done?  Too late to worry! - go on to Unpacking...  If you arrive during the process, better ask the movers to take a break while you assess the situation.  There may be some things you need them to re-place inside the house, and the sooner that happens, the better.
  • If you're around:  Choose the best access point for the new house and get the truck backed up close to it.  Make sure the pathway won't be slippery.
  • Get up and running:  You will have turned the electricity on first thing in the new house, naturally...  Turn the hot water heater on right away!  And put toilet paper in the bathroom and towels at the sinks.  Also, make certain your children and animals can't escape into the street during the chaos of the unloading process.
  • What if it's raining?:  In this case, your choice of entry point may be influenced by how much overhang there is.  Hope you brought a nice big tarp with you, or a rug you don't care that much about...  You'll need to protect your entrance flooring from slippery wetness, wear and tear, and muddy feet.  (I'm talking about a canvas tarp - something somewhat absorbent - not those woven plastic things.)  And, break out the extra towels, because you'll need to wipe things off regularly - furniture and people especially.  You also might want to rig a way to protect cardboard boxes from the bulk of the moisture - like covering the top of each stack, as it comes between truck and house, with a small tarp or a large towel.  (The movers aren't going to care about getting your boxes wet, but some contents can be damaged by moisture that works it's way inside.)
  • Note any damaged or missing items:  If you've paid for professional help, take careful note of any damage to your belongings.  If you have your camera handy, take photos of it.  Point it out to the movers.  Keep a written record of it.  And ask the movers for an indemnity form you can fill out while they're still there - so they can be made to sign it.  
    It might be that the only way you'll know that something is missing is if you had an inventory list.  Checking things off on the list as they go into the truck, and then as they come out, lends credence to your claim that something has "disappeared".
    By the way, always pay movers with a credit card if possible.  That way you can stop payment if they refuse to debit damages from your bill.

  • Get ready for the unpacking before you begin:  Right away is the time to choose a place to gather up the packing materials as they're freed up.  See Getting rid of the detritus for tips...
  • Be wise about your physical condition:  You have to do what you have to do...  But it's very easy to forget, in the stress of the moment, to take care of yourself - so stop to "check in" with yourself often.  Are you drinking enough water?  Do you need a snack?  Are you putting too much strain on your back?  Moving out has already taken a toll, so it's doubly important to watch yourself (and others) now so you continue to have the strength to follow through with your plans for your new situation.  (Take some ginseng?)

Good things to have on hand:

  • Various tools:  Box cutters - because you'll definitely need to unpack at least the first-day things; you may well need to or want to start unpacking some other things right away, too; and you'll want to break down boxes as you go, to save space.  Basic tools...  Because the knots you tied in strapping things down may not want to come undone.  It's also possible that not everything will be in working order in your new house.  Or you may have to take a door off it's hinges to get a big piece of furniture into a room.  And if you took furniture apart for the move, you may want to put it back together right away.
  • Food and drink, and things to go it with:  Everybody will need fresh water to drink (did you taste the water at your new abode?)... so they'll also need something to drink out of.  Perhaps a supply of disposable dishware would come in handy the first day or so.  You'll also need food so no one will starve - actually, so you can keep your energy up for the work you still have to do.  (Hope you got the number of the local pizza delivery service!)
  • Ramp and dolly(ies):  As with loading, a wide ramp is a big asset in unloading.  If you have more than one person carrying stuff inside, I hope you can have more than one dolly going - it will save a lot of time and personal effort.

  • Miscellaneous:  The broom again - sweep the truck periodically of grit carried on from shoes.  A first aid kit (let's hope you won't need it - but if you do, where is it?!).  A camera - to record damage to your belongings, if you've hired movers; to record unexpected problems with the new house, if you might be able to have them repaired by the seller or landlord; and to record the momentous day!

Tips on unloading a big truck:

  • Be rested up for it:  If it's at all conceivable, attack unloading day with a good store of energy.  (I've even gotten to the new house the day before the movers so as to sleep there overnight.)  Even if others are doing the actual unloading, you'll have lots to do (running from room to room):  directing traffic, resolving surprise dilemmas, restacking hastily stacked boxes, shifting furniture, etc. (not to mention any kid/pet supervision).  And eat a good breakfast, for heaven's sake!
  • Use the wheel chocks again:  Don't rock and roll without them.
  • Careful with the door!:  Don't just open the door to the truck wide...  Even with careful tying, the load may have shifted to the rear and some things on top may have jiggled toward the back - things might even be leaning against the door, ready to fall.  At least two people should be there to open the door so that there are arms ready to catch and push any "escapees".
  • Where to begin:  Obviously, you're going to begin at the rear of the truck, and at the top of any stack.  But as things may be interlocked together to some extent (especially if some things have settled downward and shifted about), you'll need to be careful in how you go about extricating the various items.  Be on the lookout for entanglements, and be prepared for a possible avalanche of cascading belongings.  Forewarned is forearmed (you'll wish you had four arms at times!).
  • Assign a director:  If you can spare someone to "babysit" the truck and its emerging contents, there's plenty that person can do to ensure that things go smoothly...  Look out for problem areas in the truck as above.  Read the box labels and match up items with the rooms they go in, and which spots in those rooms (it's all there on your house plan, right?) - thereby directing the unloaders so they don't have to stop and consider so much.  Prevent the movers from torquing furniture on its fragile legs.  And make sure everyone is taking on food and water as needed.
  • Assign a distributor:  It's also a time-saver to have someone who stays in the truck and hands out stuff to those who carry it inside.  If you all keep getting up into the truck to grab things, you'll have traffic jams and you'll wear yourselves out unnecessarily.  The person inside should ideally try to arrange it so that each dolly load is of like items (going to the same place) - this saves another round of handling inside the house.  He should also have a good strong back!
  • When it's empty:  Sweep the truck out one last time.  Make sure you've rounded up all the rented/borrowed items to be returned with the truck:  straps, pads, dolly, ramp, etc.  Whew!

Specifically about the furniture:

  • Get it placed early on:  You can stack boxes on top of most furniture if need be, but you can't stack most furniture on top of boxes...  So concentrate on getting your big pieces of furniture into place in your house as soon as possible.  (Corners are generally good places to stack boxes, and the two walls will ensure that the stacks can be taller without toppling.)
  • Don't check it over too soon:  If you can be reimbursed for damages, give each piece of furniture the once-over after it's placed inside.  It's possible to harm something at the very last minute as it's set down, or anywhere else along the line.  (Checking it over really should include unwrapping it from any protective covering - otherwise how would you know it hadn't come off, been harmed, and been re-wrapped?)

About miscellaneous other items: 

  • Lighting:  Be on the lookout for the lamps if your new home doesn't have plentiful ceiling fixtures, because you'll need the light!
  • Places for your comfort:  You'll also need places to sit down - and possibly a table to sit at and write on (and eat from).  And, of course, you'll need a place to lie down to rest and sleep.  (Ask the movers to assemble your beds for you.  If you wait to do it yourself, you'll likely be very sorry... and utterly bushed.)
  • Rugs:  If you have really big rugs that heavy furniture needs to go on top of, it's probably best to spread them out as soon as possible - unless you have to worry about dirty feet tramping all over them.  At least get the brawny help to move heavy rugs into the right room or vicinity.  You can save the smaller rugs for later.
  • Foodstuffs:  You'll have to deal with any perishables right away, of course.  But the non-perishables can wait - a long time, if necessary (you can always buy new packaged food for awhile and get to those boxes later on).  Just keep them out of excessive heat and cold.
  • What needs to be stored where?:  Other things also need to be kept away from heat and cold, like record albums and tapes, candles, and probably photo albums.  And it's extremely important not to store books, photos, prints, computer paper, linens, fabric, etc. anywhere moist or leak-prone.
  • Draperies:  Hanging draperies ought to be a fairly high priority so that wrinkles don't set in them.  (Use a steamer to smooth them out after they're hung.)
  • Large appliances:  Remember that you aren't supposed to plug in a refrigerator or freezer right away after tipping it (and though it should stand upright in the truck, it probably will have to be tipped on the dolly to and from) - wait overnight.  Some movers will help you install the washer and dryer after they're placed.  You'll probably want them sooner than you think...





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