It's not your imagination, moving is one of the most stressful things you'll ever deal with in your life. I have spent almost all of my savings on this last cross-country move. I take full responsibility for not being able to let go of things and hoarding too many objects. Who are these magical people who can make do with four suitcases? I had those plus a whole moving truck's worth of stuff. And the truck has yet to arrive. At this point, I am nothing more than a cautionary tale, so please, learn from my mistakes.
Before you begin, go through each and every one of your items and decide if it's a must have or a give-away. (You can thank it if you want to, like this book tells you) Do this repeatedly until you can get down to the bare minimum of what you need to survive. It's just common sense that the fewer items you move the less it will cost. Do you really want to pay to ship a half full can of hairspray? Probably not. Do you need seven pairing knives? Nope!
Now that you've completed The Great Purge Of The Stuff, you have to deal with what's left. Start by getting quotes from every moving option there is, even the ones you think will be out of your budget. Here are a few options with approximate prices and some insights into the process.
Options for hauling your stuff around the country:
Amtrak/Greyhound— For cents on the dollar (0.69 per lb for Amtrak, less than $1, but varies, for Greyhound), you can get all your boxes shipped for far less than what it would take with the other companies. However, you cannot ship any furniture. Everything needs to fit in a cardboard box, and be taped up like a mummy. They also have options for bicycles and other hard to ship items. Their big rule is no electronics. Items typically take a week or so to get where they are going and you'll need to transport them to and from the stations.
UPS/Post Office— Mailing all of your stuff to yourself is also an option. Costs obviously vary based on weight and size of boxes. You can go to UPS, FedEx or the United States Postal Service and play with the numbers for the stuff you have. I shipped my bike via UPS and it worked well because it was going from the bike shop in my old city (where they professionally packed it for a fee) to the new one (where they unpacked it, tuned it up and added some new features for another fee).
Driving your own vehicle or moving truck— This option works great if you don't mind carting your stuff half in your car and half in a trailer behind your car or driving a big truck, potentially through lots of mountain roads with crazy curves. Even if you're up for the adventure, there are some things like fuel economy, permitting, and parking to consider. This poor guy drove from Atlanta to Philly in a U-Haul, and couldn't fit on his street.
Pods/U-Pack/U-Box— This can cost anywhere from $800-$1100+, depending on how long you'll need to have items in the storage unit and your shipping destination. With pods, you load them at your leisure and then a professional mover comes to pick them up and deliver them to you. A container typically holds a studio apartment's amount of stuff, so you may need more than one. You'll also need a permit to park in on the street while you pack.
Long distance moving— Sites like <ahref="http: www.movinghelp.co="" "=""> </ahref="http:>Moving Help give you leads on local movers who are willing to cut you a deal on moving your stuff cross-country. When I moved to Kansas City from North Carolina in 2015, I was quoted $1,500 to have all my stuff packed and shipped. In actuality, I ended up paying around $900 because my stuff arrived one week later than the three weeks we initially agreed upon. If you choose this option, be sure to have a month's worth of clothes and toiletries traveling with you.
And a few more moving tips:
Keep important stuff with you — Fill your weekender bag with essentials like medication, banking info, passports, cash, etc. and don't let it out of your sight. Everything else? Box it up and don't look back.
Organize — Put like items together to make unpacking easier.
Research box types to make it easier — Get some wardrobe boxes and just move your clothes from closet to closet.
Deal with heavy stuff — Spread your heaviest items, usually books, between several boxes so you don't strain yourself.
Keep track — Tape and label everything way, way more than you think necessary. Also, be sure to get receipts for everything and contact info for the people doing the moving and shipping.
Looking for more help? Check out the Sapling Pinterest page for printables to guide you through your move.