Ten Moving Disasters And How To Avoid Them

Posted by:   |  Jan 13, 2016

A search of the words “Moving Disasters” on the World Wide Web will bring up dozens of humorous images about household possessions being destroyed. Such images would not be funny to you if it were your possessions or vehicles being scattered, dropped or otherwise lost. In the interest of saving money on a move, some of my friends have ended spending far more money replacing lost or damaged goods than it would have cost to hire a reputable moving company in the first place. I have to admit that I’ve moved using the help of friends or family members on at least one occasion. However, that move was only because I didn’t really understand how much pre-planning I should have done prior to the move. Here are some of the experiences which I or in some cases, my friends had which could be classified as moving disasters.

Failure to Plan

Some of the most notable disasters which my friends and I have experienced can only be blamed on our own inexperience and rush to get the move accomplished. Instead of visiting with the mover for the kind of helpful advice which most of them are happy to provide, we tried to fit in packing in inadequate boxes. We were careless about labeling, and sometimes found that items that were needed to complete the packing or the move itself were packed away already. Many movers offer detailed checklists that are set within a time frame. All the items on each list may not apply, but starting with a detailed plan is the best way to begin thinking about checklist items which should be edited or expanded.

Read the “Rights and Responsibilities”

By law, moving companies must provide information about your rights and responsibilities. If it is not offered, ask for it. Just carrying it around in a handbag or pocket won’t help you to understand what you should know. Assuming something to be so, doesn’t make it so. The regulations and rights are spelled out in the written material. That information is what applies to any questions or, heaven forbid, conflicts.

Being “too busy” when preparing for a move is no excuse for ignoring the specific requirements of the company. Using a checklist, which good movers usually offer will help to make the move go more smoothly.


One of the responsibilities of the homeowner is to determine if there are parking restrictions which would affect the loading or unloading of the moving van. A mover that is familiar with the locale may be able to help with this information. Learning whether there are zoning or community code restrictions can usually be handled by checking governmental websites for the city or country. A visit to City Hall may be necessary to identify and pay for waivers or permits.

No Available Moving Trucks

A move during the summer months, June-August, requires a great deal of advance planning. Reserving a truck should be done as far in advance as possible. Movers get busy and trucks or vans can be in short supply. Families with school-age children try to avoid starting them in a new school in the middle of the year. A move when roads are slick and the weather is dismal is not a pleasant experience, but if the householder waits until a month or six weeks prior to the target date to hire the mover, there may be additional stress involved in finding a quality mover or the necessary equipment for a DIY move.

I am told that moving in the spring or fall—less busy times—is more likely to ensure that adequate equipment and professional personnel is available. Another tip is to schedule your move during the first two weeks of the month. You won’t be in competition with renters who don’t want to pay another month’s rent, so they move at the end of the month. By scheduling your move carefully, you may even be able to save some money, by accessing off-season rates.

Where Are The Truck Keys?

I remember one rather disorganized move where several of us were packing my elderly grandmother’s possessions for a move across the state. We had rented the largest possible DIY truck and were prepared to spend the day packing the truck. The first thing that was done in front of the group of helpers was to place the rental truck keys on a key hook on the wall. The team was told “Don’t touch the keys”. All day long the team members, some of whom could barely get around, being Grandma’s friends trudged in and out of the three-story home where she had been living since the Depression. Finally, the last item was placed in the truck. There were items such as canning jars in boxes, old magazines, clothing that dated to her youth and similar items. It was questionable whether the pull-down door of the truck would be able to clear the final items loaded on the truck, but finally the last item was pushed into the truck. The plan was to lock the rear door on the truck and go out to eat.

Of course, you can guess what happened—the driver went into the empty house to get the keys and they had been packed into the truck. There was no option but to unload approximately a third of the large moving van before the keys were found. There was a bright spot though, During the course of the unloading, a lot of the items were “accidentally” dropped and many canning jars did not survive the repacking.

Unexpected Extras

A last minute discovery that there are enough extra items to fill an additional truck may increase the costs of moving significantly. Maybe you had arranged to give away a nice couch to a relative or friend and at the last minute they decided that it didn’t match their decor. If you have to add items onto the mover’s list, or make a second trip, it can be very expensive. Movers usually have a fairly detailed list of the items included in the cost of the move. Last minute extras can drive the costs up quickly.


When moving into an apartment or condo that has multiple levels, don’t assume that the regular elevator will be usable for furniture or appliances. Arrangements should be made in advance to ensure that a freight elevator will be available to transport items from the ground floor to upper levels. Another thing to check in advance is whether there is a parking garage which can be accessed by the moving truck. At least one friend was charged an extra fee, because the large moving truck she had hired to do the job could not park in the street and was too tall for the parking garage. This limited access to the freight elevator.

Missing Kids and Pets

I made the mistake of turning my back on my toddler and his beloved cat during one especially tumultuous move. Sean saw his bed being loaded onto the truck and followed it up the ramp, carrying the cat. Somehow, we didn’t notice him until something else had been placed in front of the bed. He decided to explore a little further into the interior of the truck and was able to get into some spaces which were too small for the rest of us. The cat led the way in, around and under various items. It took bribery to get them out of their hiding places, as well as some lost time in loading.

If at all possible, it is best to make advance arrangements for a responsible adult off-site to take over entertainment of a mobile child during the move. This also prevents the risk of injury to the child.


I find that arranging for far more moving boxes than I think I will need is better than spending time on moving day to go get more boxes. Boxes in various sizes are the best solution for storing, transporting and protecting items during the move. The one time I had not prepared in advance for a supply of boxes, I ran out while there were still many small items to be packed. A second trip at a later time was not an option. I ended up grabbing pillow cases, large tubs and some poorly constructed boxes to finish the packing.

These items were not well labeled, as they were a mix of items and I was in a hurry by that time. When it came time to unpack, much more time was spent sorting out the items and deciding where they should be placed, while at the same time directing placement of the correctly labeled boxes.

Another disaster in my own experience was during a rush job of last minute packing. The last dozen boxes or so were not labeled. When I arrived and started the task of unpacking, I couldn’t remember what was in the unlabeled boxes. I ended up with a dozen boxes sitting open and in the way, while looking for items to put into their correct place.

A Professional Mover

I can’t count the number of times that friends have reported a disaster with the amateur movers who are selected to do the job. While friends may be willing to work for a pizza and a six-pack of beer, it’s risky. I’ve known at least one helpful friend who as seriously injured while trying to fit a 60-inch couch through a 55-inch doorway. I choose the best professional movers I can find and rely on them to do the hard work of moving.

Sometimes, the cost of the move is the reason for depending upon unknown people or untrained friends. Just one accident or injury, though, can cause untold expense, as well as the risk of a friendship. There is also the risk of damage to household items, which can be costly.

If cost is a factor, talk to the mover about how to structure the elements of the move in order to make it as economical as possible, without sacrificing quality. For example, taking care of fragile items yourself, rather than adding them to the more general household items can help to reduce costs.

Final thoughts

Take time to vet the moving companies and pick the best. Have a written cost estimate with firm details about dates, times, included items, and extras. Insurance for valuable items is necessary. Plan ahead for the move and you are less likely to experience a disaster. It is hard to imagine a successful move which was over-planned.

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