So, you’re moving during a pandemic. As if you didn’t have enough to worry about. OK, maybe you, person reading this article, don’t feel there’s much to worry about. But when I decided to move during a national health and economic crisis, it sure felt like it.
If you, like me, have no choice but to move — because of a lease ending, demonic landlords, or a toxic living scenario — then you likely are wondering what considerations you might need to take to move as safely and ethically as possible.
I’m not a doctor, but I can share some considerations I took. Doing these things made my move as easy and painless as possible. Despite some bumps along the way, I’m so glad I moved, pandemic or not.
This step sucks whether or not there’s a pandemic, to be quite honest. Since I was moving to a new city, I couldn’t get masked up and tour any houses or meet my roommates in person. It was a process conducted entirely via video chat. That said, there are some tips and tricks I learned.
1. The most important one is that if the listing seems too good to be true, it is
Scammers are out in full force on Craigslist because they know it’s easier to rip someone off right now. Never, ever send anyone money without a live video tour of the property or having a friend go tour on your behalf, if they can.
Video tours really saved me during my hunt because I was also able to gain a lot of clarity about the dimensions of the room I would be renting. This let me figure out if my bed and dresser would fit or if I would need all new stuff.
2. Ask for an interview
If you’re moving in with people you don’t know, I highly recommend asking for an interview (my roommates were the ones who proposed it) because you can find out a lot about one another and your living styles.
It’s of the utmost importance to know who will trap the cockroach your kitten is playing with while you scream bloody murder from the nearest elevated surface, isn’t it? Or, baseline case: Check if your roommates are taking the virus as seriously as you are — or at least as seriously as I hope you are.
3. Think about your current/immediate needs too
Since I’m working from home (forever?), I prioritized having a nicer living room because I will spend most of my time there. I assume many people are in the same boat, so I’d highly recommend taking that into consideration as you find a new place.
Order supplies from U-Haul — just do it
They have boxes of every size, bubble wrap, tape, and anything else you can think of in terms of moving supplies. The biggest perk for me was the delivery aspect. Straight to my house, so I don’t have to risk both exposure to and spreading of COVID.
U-Haul will also buy back any boxes you don’t use, so you can over-order and not have to worry. (That’s what I did, anyway.)
Do a mini KonMari
As you begin to pack and simultaneously begin to wonder how you accumulated so much stuff, I recommend doing an abbreviated version of Marie Kondo’s tidying up strategy. Decide what brings you joy and/or is useful for you. What you don’t need can be donated or thrown away, depending on its condition.
Sort and label by use frequency and room
I also labeled every single box with a level of specificity that people made fun of me for. But when I got to my new house, it made unpacking so much easier! I could even tell the movers to keep stuff labeled “food processor” or “cast iron” in the kitchen while taking things like “winter clothes” to my room.
It was also easiest to sort things by what I was and wasn’t using, and then by which items were related to one another. And since I knew I would be tired as hell when I arrived, I made sure not to pack things I would need immediately in boxes, opting instead to put them in a backpack I could access easily.
Also, don’t wait to pack until the day before
I basically started 2 days before I was set to leave, and I was exhausted. Starting a week before moving day would have put me at ease, but I’m a major procrastinator.
My strategy here was to relinquish my extreme need to control everything and let the movers do all the work. I found my movers in both cities via the U-Haul website. They give you an option to book movers through the site after you reserve a cargo van or truck. I chose the movers who were both well-priced and well-rated.
To make sure we stayed adequately physically distanced, I waited on my balcony as they moved all my stuff while wearing masks. I locked my cats in the bathroom because they were horrified at the prospect of two men carrying out all the things they liked to sit on or hide under. As different movers unpacked when I got to my new house, my roommates and I waited outside (also wearing masks).
I hope it goes without saying that you should tip your movers as much as you can right now. It’s not easy to be doing physical labor that exposes you to people in the middle of a pandemic. I personally tipped all my movers 100 percent. I realize that’s not financially feasible for everyone, but it was certainly a priority for me when I was saving to pay for moving expenses.
I heavily weighed two options for getting my stuff from point A to point B.
The first was getting a packing cube. These cubes fit into a space the size of a parking spot. You fill them up, and they’re shipped to your destination. I found that U-Pack was the cheapest of these services. This is certainly the more expensive option, but the ease of doing this and then renting a normal car — rather than a van or truck — to drive really appealed to me.
But in the end, I went with renting a U-Haul cargo van. It was hundreds of dollars cheaper, and I was gassed up by my friends who said I could drive the van as easily as any other car. This was (mostly) true.
U-Haul has a no-contact pickup option, where you sign in via mobile and then pick up the keys from a little slot. When I got into the truck, I went ahead and used sanitizing wipes on all the surfaces, but it felt relatively safe.
Things I learned:
- If you have cats, sedate them. You can ask your vet for gabapentin.
- You can drive through the E-ZPass tolls and U-Haul will just bill you later.
- Set aside $500 in case you get all the way to your destination and lightly tap a Mercedes when you’re trying to park the U-Haul on your street, putting a very small dent in it. Sure, it’s specific, but it’s exactly what happened to me.
- Figure out your plan of action to drop off the U-Haul with the least possible interaction with others and get back to your house. My roommate drove the U-Haul to a drop-off destination with her bike in the back and then biked back to the house.
Now you might need to quarantine away from your roommates for 2 weeks, depending on whether you took a COVID-19 test. This is obviously dependent on what you all have decided, but it’s considerate to make sure you’re not exposing your roommates, especially if they’re immunocompromised or essential workers.
After all the precautions are taken and you’re all moved in, explore your new neighborhood (in a mask and 6 to 10 feet away from all your neighbors).
Reina Sultan (she/her) is a Lebanese-American Muslim woman working on gender and conflict issues at her nine-to-five. Her work can also be found in Huffington Post, Rewire.News, Wear Your Voice Mag, and Rantt. Follow @SultanReina on Twitter for endless hot takes and photos of her extremely cute cats.