Seven Tips for Moving in the Winter

winter movingWe recently covered the Pros & Cons of Apartment Hunting in the Winter. If you decide to go for it, there’s probably one big lingering concern: the dreaded moving process. In the winter, it takes on an extra level of frustration, anxiety, and peril. All that ice to slip on (while carrying a box of dishes). All the snow to tramp all over your new carpet. All those friends who would be happy to help some other time–say, July–but, gosh, are just too busy right now.

When the street looks like this photo, there’s no way we can make it completely painless. Just can’t. Sorry. But we can help make it a whole easier. (And if you live in a place where winters are warm and sunny, this post probably doesn’t apply to you, but this Minnesotan would love an invitation to stay with you for a few days, please and thank you.)

1. Watch the weather forecast, and be prepared. Starting a week or so before the moving date, really start paying attention to the weather forecast. Snow, sleet, and frostbite-guaranteeing cold all require their own special adaptations. If your move-in date is at all flexible, it’s best to have a back-up day, just in case the weather gets too bad. (Also, this will force you to block out two days on your calendar, so if you don’t need the second day for moving, you’ll still have it free for unpacking and/or relaxing.)

2. Ask your friends nicely and well in advance–and offer weather-appropriate bribes. You’d help them move in the winter, right? (Of course you would). So send out a nice email or make some phone calls–not too formal, not too casual, just be yourself–and ask if they’d be willing to help you move. State the exact times you’ll need help, and offer coffee, hot chocolate, pizza, or any other sustenance that will give them energy and motivation and warmth. Also, if you have extra winter gear–hats, gloves, boots, and so on–don’t pack it into boxes but leave it out until the last minute, just in case a friend needs it. If you’re in a really generous mood, get some hand-warmers and give them to your friends to keep in their gloves or pockets.

3. Make a plan and be ready for execution. You don’t want to spend any extra time out in the snow, and neither do your helpful friends. Know exactly when you have to be out of your current apartment and when you can move into the new one. Know where you’ll park your vehicle(s) on both ends of the move. Have all your boxes packed up and your apartment fully cleaned before your friends arrives, so that the move can proceed on time and efficiently. Know where items should go in your new apartment–if your frostbitten pals have just carried a couch up three flights of stairs, it’s not cool to make them wait while you ponder where they should put it.

4. The larger the vehicle, the better. It may be tempting to save money and pile all your stuff into multiple friends’ cars. And that’s fine in the summer. But in winter, it means more parking spaces to find (on both ends of the move) and more logistics to figure out and more time for everybody to be outside, trying to wedge boxes into tight spaces. If you can get everything into a pickup truck (or two, depending on how much stuff you have), that’s better. Best of all is renting a larger truck (like a U-Haul). It will make the process more efficient, and has the added benefit of being larger and heavier, giving you more traction on slippery roads.

5. Tarps. Tarps. More tarps. Borrow them, buy them, just get them. Lots of tarps. Especially if it’s snowing. Even if you have a large, fully covered truck, areas near the door will likely get lots of water on the floor–from falling snow, from boots, and so on. If there’s anything that shouldn’t get wet (cardboard boxes, fancy furniture), put a tarp under it. If you’re using a pickup truck with an uncovered bed, you’ll want a tarp on top of your stuff. And if you have to, say, carry your new couch down the block in the middle of a snowstorm … well, yeah, you’ll want a tarp for that.

6. Have a shovel and other winter tools on hand. Ice scrapers for the car. A bag of sidewalk de-icer. No, shoveling or de-icing the walk of your apartment building isn’t your responsibility. But it’ll make your move that much smoother.

7. Understand that things will get wet and dirty. No matter how hard you try, something or someone will to wind up in a snowbank. Your friends will track mud and snow into your new apartment (unless you put down lots of tarps!). Someone will lose a mitten or slip on the ice. These are things that happen in winter. Try not to let it get to you too much. Just remember: Now you’re done, and you’re all moved into a sweet new apartment!

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Author My First Apartment

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Doug Mack is a writer based in Minneapolis and the author of the travel memoir Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day: One Man, Eight Countries, One Vintage Travel Guide (Perigee Books/Penguin). He has lived in apartments large and small, historic and modern, in Minneapolis and Chicago. Visit his web site at or find him on Twitter @douglasmack.

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