So you’re moving. And not just moving, but moving across state lines. Maybe you’re relocating for an exciting job opportunity in a brand new city, where you’ll further your career, meet new people, and build a life for yourself. On the other hand, you might be headed back to your hometown to lay low while you contemplate your next move. (Moving back in with your parents or moving in with a roommate for the first time can be tricky. Especially if you’re going through a big life event like a breakup, graduate school, or a career change.)
No matter what made you decide to move out of state, it’s no secret that this will likely be a frantic time. To-do lists become seemingly endless, decluttering takes hours, and on top of it all, you’re probably tackling big emotions about leaving your current home.
Of course, we can’t change the circumstances of your situation. But we can help make the process a little bit easier with our ultimate moving out-of-state checklist.
How do I prepare myself to move to another state?
Everyone’s different. But one of the best ways we’ve found to prepare yourself for any kind of move is by creating a master checklist with every task that needs to be completed throughout the entire process.
Why a checklist?
Simple: Because our brains crave order and routine during chaotic times. If you feel like your memory gets worse, mood swings increase, and your general mental stability tends to break during times of increased stress, you’re not alone. Studies show that we don’t think as clearly when we feel pressured or overwhelmed. (Not to mention the super-lame long-term consequences of stress.)
Moreover, decision-making is one of the most resource-intensive activities we do. The more decisions you have to make in the moment, the more tired you become, and the worse you become at making those decisions. Decision fatigue can often lead to burnout, and unfortunately, moving out of state is filled with big and small decisions daily.
Ideally, you can avoid this entire dilemma by outlining your must-do tasks well ahead of time, paring down any given day’s decisions, and focusing only on what currently needs to be completed. With a checklist, you won’t have to wonder what task to complete when or feel caught off-guard by a surprise decision. You can prepare everything beforehand, then reference it when you wake up to ensure you’re staying on track.
Sounds pretty good, right? And best of all, we’re giving it to you right here, right now, for free.
The Moving Out of State Checklist You Can’t Live Without
Below you’ll find a brief list of tasks that often need to be completed within specific time frames when moving out of state. Ultimately, this is meant to be a recommended guide. Feel free to adjust as needed and do whatever works best for you and your family!
Two Months Before Moving Out Of State
Two months before your move, you’re still working globally. (Often, people might not even know that they’ll be moving to a new state this early! So if you’ve got this much time, use it to your advantage.) Think of this stage as preparing to prepare. For the next two weeks, you should focus your activity on planning, organizing, and prepping, ticking off tasks such as:
- Preparing a Moving Binder: Organizing all the documents you’ll need in one place – a moving binder – is a great way to relieve stress and clear your brain. You’ll never have to rifle through piles of paperwork when you know exactly where everything is!
- Printing Your Checklist: Get your moving out-of-state checklist printed off and filed away in your binder for easy reference. Pair it with our comprehensive moving checklist for ultimate organization.
- Explore Your New Neighborhood: Before you start looking for a house to rent, you need to know where you want to live. Check out schools, restaurants, amenities, and more. It might feel small, but this can go a long way in improving your quality of life once you get to your new home!
- Purchase Moving Supplies: If you’re DIYing your move, get your supplies now. That can include everything from moving boxes and sturdy tape to moving blankets and heavy-duty markers for labeling.
- Book Appointments: Need to see anyone in town before you go? Book eye exams, doctor’s appointments, and wellness once-overs now. (Remember, kids need to be up-to-date on vaccines before entering new schools.)
- Set a Moving Budget: While you still have a clear head, set a budget for how much you’re willing to pay for a house, how much you’ll spend on meals, travel, and more.
How much money should you save before moving out of state?
We’ve all heard the stories of people that ship off to the opposite coast with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They may have lived to tell the tale, but that doesn’t mean that dream is feasible for everyone. Before moving out of state, it’s a good idea to save about 2-3 months worth of your expenses. That way, if you’re in a pinch, you’ll have enough to live comfortably while you get your finances back in order.
Having an extra fund set aside is also important for things like medical emergencies, replacing items damaged during the move, paying for a security deposit, and dealing with any unexpected expenses you’ve incurred along the way to your new home.
Six Weeks Before the Move
At this point, you should have picked an official date for the move. Having a date set in stone is essential at this point because you’ll need it to hire movers, turn off and turn on utilities, enlist help from friends, and more. If you have not picked a date, do so before turning your attention to any more items on the moving out of state checklist. Now it’s time to:
- Schedule Car Shipment: Not driving? Schedule a shipper to come get your car before you move out.
- Buy Plane Tickets: If you’re flying, get your tickets locked down now.
- Secure Housing: It’s important to know where you’re moving to. If you can’t rent or buy a home in the area before getting there, check out short-term rentals instead.
- Research Moving Companies: If you’re not moving yourself, it’s time to find a reputable moving out-of-state company. Be sure to read reviews, ask for referrals, and get a contract in writing before committing to anything!
- Declutter: It’s always a good idea to declutter before a move, especially if you’re going a particularly long distance. (The less stuff you have to transport, the better!) Start sorting through your possessions and getting rid of as much as possible through donation or junking.
- Schedule Favors: Give your friends and family plenty of notice if you need help with moving, child care, or anything else during the move.
- Check with Old Utility Companies: Call your current utilities to tell them your shut-off date. Find out if you have any other move-out duties.
- Schedule Hangouts: Your time will become more valuable and harried as you get closer to moving day, so make sure to set aside enough to hang with people you love. This can be a great way to take a break when needed and get your mind off the chaos of moving.
- Decide If You’ll Sell Your Car: If you’re not taking your car with you, make a plan for selling it. Is your new city walkable? Does it have reliable public transportation?
One Month Before an Out-of-State Move
You probably have most of your big decisions made about your move one month before you move out of state. Now, it’s a matter of checking items off your list to see them through. Over the next two weeks, you should:
- Rent a Storage Unit: If you need a storage unit, research unit sizes, and types and rent it out now. It may be helpful to be able to access your unit a bit early if you’re within a reasonable distance, as you can start loading it up beforehand.
- Make a Packing Plan: Packing is a daunting task at best and a nightmare at worst. Make a plan for tackling your pack job like a pro.
- Contact New Utility Companies: Once your new home is picked out, research your utility providers and give them your address and move-in date. Especially if you’re moving during the summer or winter, it can be a relief to walk inside to a comfortable temperature.
- Collate Records: Collect birth certificates, passports, Social Security cards, deeds, titles, medical records, pet documents, and more all in one place to take on your person during the move.
- Declutter Your Fridge: Start using up perishable items and freezer goods, as well as draining the pantry and eating through any emergency supplies you may have laid aside for earthquakes or other natural disasters.
- Plan Your Route: Time to figure out what route you’ll take to your new home and where you’ll stay along the way. Book hotels and AirBnBs at each stopping point, and don’t forget to schedule in a bit of fun for you and your family! Moving is a great excuse for a road trip, after all.
- Schedule a Cleaning Service: If you’ll use a professional cleaner after you move out, book them now. This can be helpful if you live in an apartment and need to get your security deposit back. Or, if you have the extra funds, it’s one less thing on your plate during this hectic time.
Two Weeks Before Moving
It’s getting close! Hopefully, you’re getting excited in anticipation for your out-of-state relocation. You should now make more specific plans about Moving Day, with tasks including:
- Update Banks and Cell Phones: Give your financial institutions, accountants, cell phone providers, and anyone else whose services you will continue to use your new address.
- Transfer Renter’s Insurance: If you’re renting, call your insurance company and transfer the insurance from your current home to your new, effective as of your move-in date.
- Set Up Trash/Recycling: Call these companies and set them up now so they can deliver bins before you arrive.
- Confirm with Moving Company: Confirm all final details with your moving company.
- Start Packing: If you haven’t yet, it’s time to start filling boxes with all of your worldly possessions. Plan to finish packing two days before the move for maximum sanity. It’s a good idea to plan out your outfits and leave out some travel toiletries so you can pack the rest of your necessities ahead of time.
One Week Before Crossing State Lines
Almost ready! Keep on track by making sure to:
- Set Up Mail Forwarding: Contact the post office and begin forwarding your mail to your new address. Typically, this is as simple as filling out a change of address card and dropping it in the mail.
- Pack a “Move in Box”: In this box, place easy snacks, one-pot meals, a pot and a wooden spoon, durable cups, plates and silverware, napkins, paper towels, a first aid kit, toiletries, and Kleenex. When you’re exhausted from moving, you’ll be grateful to have some necessities and ingredients for a home-cooked meal on hand.
- Start the Dirty Jobs: If you’re not using a cleaning service, it’s time to defrost your freezer, clean your oven, scrub the baseboards, clean behind the toilet, and so on. As mentioned, this is especially important if your security deposit is riding on a clean apartment.
- Get Cash: It’s great to have cash on hand in case of emergencies during the move. Unexpected expenses can pop up along the way, and you may not always be able to pay for something with a credit card. Plus, you might want to tip any professionals you’ve hired to help!
- Clean Your Car: If you’re driving, clean your car. If it’s getting picked up for shipment, clean your car. If you’re selling it, clean your car. Basically, clean your car. It’ll make you feel better and give you peace of mind!
- Sell Your Car: If you’ve planned to sell your car, transact now and schedule pickup for later.
- Finish Packing: Put the final tape on your boxes two days before the moving truck arrives.
The Day Before Your Big Move
As you wind down to the end of your moving out of state checklist, it’s all about those finishing touches that will make the transition a breeze. The day before, make sure that you:
- Pack Snacks: Make sure no one goes hungry on moving day or during the drive. (Is there anything worse than moving on an empty stomach?)
- Set Aside Special Items: Put out jewelry, blankies, beloved stuffies, documents, and other important or sentimental items so you can take them in your car or suitcase.
- Hand Off Your Vehicle: Time to give your keys to the lucky new owner.
- Drain Oil and Gas from Outdoor Equipment: Taking any mowers, weed whackers, or other fueled-up machines? Drain them now for safety reasons.
Moving Out Day
Congratulations! You’re nearly done with your moving out of state checklist and on your way to new adventures! Before you celebrate, though, make sure you complete these last day-of tasks for a perfectly seamless move:
- Clear a Pathway: Prop your front door open with a box or brick. Move all boxes out of the way to have a clear path from the inside to the truck outside. (This is especially important if you’re moving during the wintertime when conditions can be snowy and slippery!)
- Do a Final Check: After you’ve packed everything into the van and car, do a final walkthrough of the entire house, basement, attic, garage, and yard. Open closets and cupboards and check all the nooks and crannies.
- Give Yourself a Minute: Moving out is hard and emotionally draining. Once all is packed and ready to go, sit down and enjoy a final cup of coffee or a moment of reflection. (Maybe even a cry, if you need it.)
Moving In Day
Frequently, with out-of-state moves, you will move out of your current home and take up residence in your new one on separate days. Perhaps you stay in motels along the way or drive through the night, but whatever the case, it’s helpful to separate the two milestones on your moving out-of-state checklist. When you take those final steps into your new home, wrap up your tasks over the next few weeks by taking care to:
- Whip Out That Move-In Box: Once you arrive, crack open that move-in box you created with toiletries, ingredients for meals, and other on-hand items. All you have to do is eat some macaroni and cheese, snuggle your loved ones, and crash.
- Update Your Voter Registration: You can do this any time in the first few months of moving.
- Update Your Car Docs: You have 30 days to update plates, tags, and insurance after moving.
- Notify Government Institutions: Change your address with the IRS and other applicable government institutions, such as Social Security or the VA. Confirm mail forwarding with the post office.
And that’s it! With this checklist in hand, you’re much likelier to address all your needs on time and budget. Get ready for a seamless move! But first, one more task:
Find the Right Storage When Moving Out of State
If you need storage, it’s smart to get this out of the way well ahead of time. Finding and renting out a storage unit the week of your move is a guaranteed route to a nervous breakdown, so don’t wait until the last minute.
Instead, spend some time thinking about whether you need storage or not. Reasons to get it include moving only temporarily (such as a one-year corporate relocation) or moving to a small home for a few years and returning to your hometown later. If you decide on a storage unit, pick a reputable company and:
- Rent the unit
- Give an extra key to someone staying in town whom you trust (such as a parent or sibling)
- Move your possessions in at least two weeks ahead of time
- Check on your storage unit before leaving town
Once you complete these steps, rest assured that your storage unit will keep your stuff safe and turn your attention to the rest of your moving out-of-state checklist – and to your new life!
Editor’s Note: Originally published on June 24th, 2019; updated on July 11th, 2023.
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