Use a removal service
This should be the only tip. Everyone should use a removal service for moving. In fact, most people who move house any other way will inevitably vow to get help next time.
But we’re geeks, and geeks like to do things themselves wherever possible, so we need other tips.
Boxes and vans
You’ll see plenty of tips suggesting you beg, borrow or steal boxes from libraries, supermarkets or the back of a liquor store. For me at least, that’s a false economy when it comes to time and convenience. Given the cost (under $50 for a two bedroom apartment in my last move), you are far better off getting a house moving pack with a variety of different box sizes from a specialist packing company. (It’s usually much cheaper than buying from a retail store.) Aside from the benefit of knowing the boxes aren’t as likely to fall apart in transit, you’ll have much more standardization of the size of boxes you use. When you’re performing the Tetris-like activity of packing a van in the most efficient manner, that consistency makes things much easier.
Ask most geeks what they want to protect at all costs in a move and it usually comes down to their children, their laptop and their TV. There are plenty of packaging options for the first two, but the latter may be more tricky. The best solution I’ve found (above and beyond using the original packaging if you kept it) is the screen stored vertically in as stable a fashion as possible (e.g. on its display stand) bubble wrap and taped to cover the screen, take one or more duvets folded over the entire TV, and then place the set against the front end of the van with a mattress laid diagonally to form a protective wall between the TV and the boxes. If you’re of an age to remember nuclear paranoia, think lean-to fallout shelter.
Big box, little box
While most of the boxes you use will be assigned to specific purposes (crockery, books, etc), keep back a few big ones and three of the smallest ones. The big ones are to keep until the bitter end when you reach the “Ah, screw it stage” and just sweep up what’s left on the floor: if you can keep this to “one room/one box” you’ll reduce time looking for things at the other end. And yes, OK, you can have a “miscellaneous” box, but ONLY ONE.
As for the three smallest boxes, the first is for small things that, when you need them, you’ll really not want to hunt for (in my case, a mobile broadband dongle, a card reader for online banking and a games console memory card): this travels on your lap and is the first thing in the new house. The second box holds all the screws and doweling from flat-pack furniture, in a separate envelope or seal-able sandwich bag for each item. The third box serves no purpose other than to hold scissors, labels and packing tape during the packing process, with the items returned to this box the moment you aren’t using them so you know exactly where they are. Put those suckers on the floor and you can kiss them goodbye.
When you come to put your books back on the shelves in your new home (assuming you want to keep them in a specific order), leave a gap wide enough for about four to six books at the end of each shelf until you are done. While this means shifting books about at the end, it limits the hassle when you suddenly find a pile of books in another box (explaining why you seem to have got through life without any novels by authors with names beginning N through R): that way it should only involve sliding books on a couple of shelves rather than go through the shelf-floor-shelf rigmarole across your entire collection. For similar reasons, even once you’re done it’s worth leaving space for a book or two on each shelf to guard against future acquisitions. (That said, once you’ve lugged a sizable collection from home to home, you’ll likely find a Kindle becomes a much more attractive proposition.)
CDs and DVDs
The good news with these is that they are (box sets and collectible packaging aside) of a uniform size, meaning its much easier to pack them away in order. The trick here is to start packing from the end of your collection (whether than be titles beginning with Zs, 2010 releases or yellow cases). That’s because the last-in, first-out principle means this will make it much easier to put them back on shelves in the correct order at the other end.
[Picture Source: XKCD]