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If canceling your move isn’t in the cards, this moving expert offers best practices to ensure a safe, smooth, and sanitary moving day.

By Maggie Seaver
April 22, 2020
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How to Move Safely During the Pandemic: moving boxes
Credit: Getty Images

What are you supposed to do when your plans to move coincide with a pandemic? Sheltering in place, avoiding contact with commonly touched surfaces, and keeping your distance from strangers aren’t exactly conducive to a typical moving day. In an easy, cut-and-dried world the answer might be: Cancel the movers and postpone that move. But it’s not always so simple.

“Due to no federal mandate for eviction and rent freezes, moving during the pandemic is still very much a reality for thousands of people across the country,” says Mike Glanz, moving industry expert and founder of HireAHelper.com. In fact, Glanz adds that because of this, moving companies are considered by most states and counties to be essential services. “First, make a concerted effort not to relocate during this time; then explore a DIY move,” says Glanz. 

But bottom line, if you absolutely have to move right now, it’s OK to do so. (No, you are not a terrible citizen—in some exceptional cases, the show must go on, so long as it goes on responsibly.) As with any essential errand done during the pandemic—like grocery shopping or ordering takeout—it’s in everyone’s best interest to take extra precautions while moving. This is to protect you, your family, and your home (new and old), as well as anyone you may come in contact with throughout the process. To help you navigate a nonnegotiable move during the current health crisis, Glanz offers his sagest advice below.

The big one: Do not move if anyone in your household is or was recently sick.

First and foremost, postpone if anyone in your household is sick or exhibits symptoms of COVID-19. You must think of yourselves, of course, but also remember that any hired movers would be exposed as well. “Please know that all moving company crews are on the front lines right now. If you’re ill or have been exposed to someone who was, it’s important to discuss options with your landlord, bank, or real-estate agent first.” Glanz says. (Customers who find a moving crew through HireAHelper won’t be charged for same-day cancelations due to coronavirus, and customers canceled on by movers for similar reasons will get help finding replacements ASAP.)

Know your leasing rights.

“It’s important to understand you may have extended leasing rights during this time, as moving should ultimately remain a last resort for all Americans,” Glanz says. “If you feel forced to move right now, find out what your rights are and communicate this to your landlord.” 

As Glanz also points out, The National Apartment Association has made a comprehensive, state-by-state list of regulatory info available during this time, which includes a mortgage relief program from the Federal Housing Finance Agency, federal FAQ on the CARES Act, and best practices for people currently leasing.

Don’t forget that legislation on leasing rights during COVID-19 varies by state. For info on your locale, visit HireAHelper’s full, up-to-date list of states who’ve paused evictions as of April.

A DIY move is probably the safest option.

It’s no secret that hiring professional movers, though pricey, can help alleviate the time and strain of moving. However, if there’s any way you can make your move without hiring outside help, Glanz urges you to do so. “Of the three ways to move—DIY, hiring labor-only, or hiring a full-service moving company—DIY is the safest method. The fewer people you interact with, the less opportunity there is for the virus to spread.”

Rent a portable moving container.

To make your move easier without the extra hands or contact, try renting a portable moving container, which will get delivered to your old place and picked up without any social contact. “It drastically reduces safety risks and ensures no one will touch your items,” Glanz says.

See if you can spread it out.

This option isn’t on the table for everyone, but Glanz floats the option of spreading your move across a few days. “If possible, spread out your move days instead of moving all at once, as this may mitigate the need for other people to come and help you move.”

Need pro movers? Do your due diligence.

Glanz acknowledges not everyone can swing a DIY move. If you do outsource, make sure your team of movers is as dedicated to safety and cleanliness as you are. “Personally make certain your local moving company has implemented reasonable safety standards before committing to their services,” he says. It would be near an insult to imply any local business didn’t have its own sanitation efforts in place right now—we’re all trying to stay healthy—but it never hurts to check that your standards align with theirs.

Overcommunicate.

Stay in touch with any hired movers all the way up until moving day. This might seem over the top, but Glanz reassures it’s not to micromanage them. It’s to stay informed about any health updates of everyone involved, as we all know how quickly things are changing from one day to the next.

Nix the in-person walk-through.

Social distancing protocol in mind, Glanz does not recommend conducting an in-person evaluation of your home. However, he does say that many movers are actually offering virtual home evaluations, along with relying on professional estimates from sites like HireAHelper.

Renting a moving truck? Clean it.

“If you rent a vehicle, it should be maintained and well disinfected before you get it, but still wear new, disposable gloves every time you operate it,” Glanz recommends. “Wear disposable gloves and disinfect commonly touched surfaces. (Use the CDC guide for cleaning and disinfecting non-emergency vehicles for transportation).”

Use new cardboard boxes.

This might be one of the only times we’ll agree with advice not to recycle something used. Whether you’re moving yourself or hiring movers, Glanz recommends either buying new boxes or using ones you already have at home. Whatever you do, “don’t go out and find used boxes,” he says.

Keep your stuff to yourselves as much as possible.

We get it, It’s hard to keep track of every little thing you come into contact with (especially if there are kids in the mix). But be disciplined about these obvious ones: “Don’t share pens, phones, or tablets with your movers,” Glanz says. Pro movers should also know the drill, and won’t be offended if you reach for your own pen. Also see if they offer a text, phone, or email payment release (HireAHelper does, including electronic tips!), to cut down on contact with checks, cash, shared screens, or cards—underratedly some of the germiest items around.

Keep hygiene top of mind—for you and them.

“Make sure everyone wears a cloth face mask during the entire move, and do not touch your face,” Glanz says, adding that it’s nice to have either hand sanitizer or a faucet with hot water and soap available to all. Another tip (smart for anytime), is to open as many possible windows and doors for proper air ventilation.

Wipe down your old home and new place, too. “Deep clean your place before you unpack, especially if you used movers,” he says. In alignment with CDC guidelines, clean and disinfect commonly touched items and surfaces: workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails, and doorknobs.

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Designate moving-day surfaces.

“For moving day, pick only one or two main surfaces to use that you kept disinfected and return to,” Glanz suggests. “Reducing the number of counters and surfaces you interact with can greatly reduce the risk of potential spread.”

Don’t feel awkward—this is a weird time for everyone.

You’re packing, you’re lifting, dust is flying—someone sneezes or wipes their nose. It might set you on edge, but try to keep calm; your anxiety will make the whole experience harder on everyone.

Glanz cites a recent HireAHelper survey that found that nearly half of movers (47 percent) admitted moving customers right now felt awkward, as people become more distant and apprehensive. “Don’t let it be!” Glanz says. “Communicate your expectations of keeping six feet [apart] ahead of time, and know your movers are not expecting handshakes or direct consultation during the move.” Be friendly, but clear, efficient and appreciative, and never act like your movers are the dirty ones (they’re essential workers trying to fight this thing, too!).