7 simple ways to help a friend move

My friend Courtney smiled brightly and pushed open her screen door. My four-year-old daughter made her way to the toys, waiting to be played with in Courtney’s living room, while I said thank you! thank you so much! over and over again.

A few weeks ago, our family moved from our small town in western Oklahoma home to a new neighborhood in Oklahoma City. To save on moving costs, we decided (once again) to pack and move ourselves, and Courtney came to the rescue with her offer to keep my little one while I packed and planned.

We’re no strangers to the moving process; in fact, we are kind of old pros. By the time I turned eighteen, my family had moved eight times, and my husband and I have moved six times in the nearly fourteen years we’ve been married.

Throughout all of these moves, I’ve taken note of how people have provided support to our family as we navigated the always-stressful moments of moving. Since many families take advantage of school-free days of summer to make a big move, I thought I might share some of the ways we can provide the most help to friends who are moving – whether it’s across town or across the country.

1. Find boxes

Photo by Katie Tegtmeyer

Moving budgets can vary dramatically, and some people will have the luxury of hiring a moving service both to pack and move their belongings. For those who don’t have that option, it can be such a relief to have a friend who will scour Craigslist or hit up local businesses for boxes.

2. Help with packing (or not)

For me, packing is an intensely personal part of the moving process. Even though we try to purge what we don’t need, use, or want on a semi-regular basis, when it comes to choosing what items will actually make the cut to find a place in a new home, well, that’s a process I prefer to do on my own.

However, if your friend already has a good sense of what is making the move to a new home, or if they tend to pack it all and sort and purge at the new place, packing boxes could be major hands-on help.

3. Manage sold items and donations

In our last move, we had to downsize quite a bit, and we discovered there was a lot of stuff that needed new homes before moving day. In a time crunch, it can be distracting to meet with people buying items for sale, as well as finding a place to donate items to charity.

Ask your friend how you can help with the things that won’t be making the move—it can be a significant source of help. Offer to call charity pick-up services or haul bags of donation items directly to an organization yourself. Taking over the logistics of selling items could be an extraordinary act of friendship—taking pictures, listing the items on Craigslist or local swap boards, and handling the haggling and other purchase-related business.

4. Provide childcare

Moving is one of life’s most stressful events, and for families with children, keeping little ones out from underfoot is an added source of stress. It’s no less stressful for children to see all of their belongings being swallowed up by boxes.

Photo by Poi Photography

Taking your friend’s children for a few hours can be such a relief for everyone. I was amazed at how much I got done while Courtney and a few of my other friends kept our younger daughter. As most any parent can tell you, extending kindness to our children is one of the highest and most endearing forms of friendship!

5. Bring food

At the end of a long day of packing, the “what’s for dinner?” question is even more ominous than usual. And once the kitchen has been packed, families preparing to move often turn to fast food, which can get really old, really quickly.

We all know that food speaks love to our physical and emotional beings. Offer to drop off dinner for a family that’s moving, complete with disposable plates, utensils, and napkins. Or better yet, offer them an oasis from the chaos of boxes by inviting them over for dinner in the days before the big move!

6. Give practical gifts

Many of us enjoy sending off friends with sweet tokens of remembrance as they begin a new chapter in life. Those gifts are dearly appreciated, but something especially treasured are the practical gifts we’ve been given during moves.

Gift cards are a fantastic way to send well-wishes to a friend who is moving. Consider giving a gift card to a restaurant to take the cooking pressure off, until the kitchen is unpacked and functional. Gift cards or certificates to home decorating stores are a thoughtful way to send a housewarming gift before the moving van pulls away, and though it’s not quite as charming, a gift card to a store like Target can be an incredibly helpful way to help a friend set up the new household.

7. Celebrate and support

Photo by Wiertz Sebastien

Moving is a part of life associated with big feelings. Some moves originate in happy changes, but sometimes a move is associated with an unhappy or unwanted life change. Regardless whether the move is a happy or sad one, a community of support to step in and smooth out the stress is a priceless gift.

If you would like to plan a send-off for a friend who is moving, carefully consider what would best fit the circumstances. A large party full of members of the community, or a simple cook-out with a handful of close friends? Or something in-between?

Whatever the circumstance, make sure to take the time to shower your friend with positive energy and tangible support. There is no doubt your efforts will be fondly remembered.

Have you moved recently or helped a friend to move? What would you add to this list of ways to help in the midst of moving chaos?

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Megan Tietz wants you to join her on the front porch for some long talks and iced tea. She lives in the heart of Oklahoma City with her husband, two daughters, and twin sons. Catch up with her at Sorta Crunchy and join the conversation in her Facebook community.

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  1. I have moved far too often, and this list is wonderful. The only thing I might add, and it goes along with the boxes, is to offer to bring by tape or newspaper. I always have what I think is enough and invariably run out of one or the other. So whether you make a separate trip or just call your friend when you’re at the store, that might be helpful.

  2. These are great tips. We’ve moved three times in 3 years of marriage. Our second move was to an apartment complex where a few random neighbors pitched in when they saw the moving truck. They became some of our best friends the year we lived there.

    Helping with moving isn’t just for old friends; it can be a great way to make new ones if you see a truck down the street.

  3. This is a super smart idea for a post!! We, too, have moved quite a bit in our 16 yrs of marriage. Great tips and I say “yes!” to them all. I have learned to let people help out more with our moves. It is a very sentimental event for me so I tend to want to handle things myself, but I’ve learned: people want to help – let them! And be specific with tasks you dish out. Moving is hard (we just relocated recently, in fact). It is a great way to declutter one’s life though!

  4. I moved all the time growing up – but have been lucky enough to live in one place for our almost six years of marriage. But we’re talking about moving within the next year or so – which will be a whole different ball game now that we’re parents!

    And, my usual moving assistance is to take a meal, and send my husband to do the heavy lifting. 😉

  5. Really nice advice.

  6. We move every two years. The best help we’ve been given was a friend turning up at the new house with toilet paper, a kettle, milk and teabags, and paper towel and spray cleaner! All the things you need on hand before you start to unpack…
    Then she took the kids to the park for an hour, while we got their playroom sorted so they had a “home base” for the rest of the day. Total lifesaver!

    • This is the best idea ever! Would have saved me a lot of stress and chaos those first few hours unpacking! Definitely gonna remember this for the next move we (or friends make)!

      We have moved 11 times in the past 10 years and having a pickup truck saved us so much money! This last move was from LA to Tampa and we bought a trailer, loaded our truck up and drove across the country with the kids (ages 1 and 3). It saved so much money by doing it ourselves and was also the best family vacation yet! We turned it into a 10 day vacation and had a blast.

  7. We’ve learned in moving more than 10 times in less than 5 years of marriage, including halfway around the world-back- and back to the East again, that people often really do want to help, but sometimes we have to be really specific in how they can actually help us. Each moving situation is unique, but when you are trying to decide what and what not to take in a few 50lb bags across the world to you’re new life, you really don’t need to be given any extra stuff. People can have the best intentions, but even just one more book might not fit into the plans. So it is really a good idea to ask and answer what would be the most helpful.

  8. I say if you’re close enough friends, show up and help clean the new home before they move in or clean the home they are leaving after the packing is done. That is always the worst part of moving, for me at least. The last time we moved flats, we had a 3 week old. The horror! Our friends helped with everything in the new flat. My girlfriends literally put my clothes in the closet, made our bed, organized the kitchen, everything. I now ALWAYS offer to help friends who are moving!

    • I agree completely! The packing-cleaning-moving-cleaning-unpacking/organizing cycle is exhausting. Help with the cleaning on either end is such a blessing! (We’re moving soon across states, and I’ve informed my husband that we are paying a cleaning service for the new house. I can’t stomach the thought of cleaning the whole place before unpacking…)

      • Oh, that is a great idea. We have an international move coming within the year and I will definitely have to get a cleaning service in on the deal!

    • When we just moved, my friend stayed behind at the old house and vacuumed it all after the last piece of furniture left. Honestly, I was too sad to do it and it was an amazing gift!

  9. Great list. I have a co-worker who will move this month. I was trying to figure out ways to help her despite our hectic schedules. I can definitely support her with several things on this list (boxes, gift cards for dinner, etc.)

  10. Thanks for the great tips! We have friends moving the end of this month, and I think I just might put some of these tips into action.

  11. We’ve moved 5 times in 5 1/2 years of marriage, so we definitely know about moving. Child care and meals (or gift cards to restaurants) is probably what I appreciate most. Our last big move (out of state) was when my baby was just two weeks old, so yeah, it was a lot of work, but the support and help from friends was such a relief.

    Also, offering help to clean is really helpful. Usually both the home you are leaving and the home your are going to need a top to bottom cleaning and extra hands can make it go so much faster!

  12. We’ve moved 5 times in the last 9 years and I think your list is very helpful. Help watching our daughter, food and Johanna’s idea about help cleaning definitely top our list.

  13. We are moving THIS weekend! This post was very timely, and I loved the ideas. Many of our friends have helped us in these ways this week and it was really encouraging to read this and see people’s faces pop up in my mind. Thankful for these tips and for those who have already blessed us by doing them!

  14. These are great ideas! Sometimes people moving are so overwhelmed that they don’t even know how best to accept offers of help but this gives practical ways to both offer or accept help.

  15. Those are fabulous tips. All of them are super helpful, as I know from making many moves. I must say that the gift of food is huge…and not pizza. Our Boston Market meal was the best and we were able to eat off of it the next day as well. Of course homemade rocks all.
    One thing to add…stopping by to say good byes seems thoughtful. But when we were on the final days/hours we really didn’t have time to chat and it was so stressful loving on the people who came by to say a loving good bye. Bringing food and eating with the moving family really works. As well as calling to find out if there are needed supplies like packing tape that can be picked up. Letting the moving family have a say in your visit if you aren’t planning on helping is helpful. Some of us have control issues which come to the surface during a move.
    My last move was 6 months ago. It’s still fresh in my mind. I am grateful beyond words for friends who came, stayed late, and kept with it no matter my state of mind. (Especially when the movers arrived and my studio still needed to be packed!!!!!) My eyes mist at the remembrance.

  16. What good ideas, Megan! I’ll have to keep them in mind.

    My favorite moving tip? Marry a guy who missed his calling as a circus strong-man. Volunteer him to help move everyone you know. Hold the doors open while he insists on carrying couches, dressers, and all other furniture completely by himself. Make sure the actual moving-friends need to do little other than direct traffic on the day of their move. The end.

  17. MrsBecky says:

    Outside of forwarding this email on to people how do you best communicate the need for help when moving? We are planing on moving in August and im due with my third in 4 years the end of July. Help is needed but i don’t know how to ask for it!

    • Be bold and ask. If you don’t have offers of help, then consider talking about it with the people you interact with on a regular basis. When people ask, “How are you doing?” your answer can be an honest, “I am feeling pretty overwhelmed by the idea of managing the kids and a move at the same time.” It’s okay to let people know your needs, whether it’s the need for child care now or/and later, dinner after baby is born, or volunteers to “come over and hold the baby while we’re packing.”

  18. This is just what I needed to read. We are moving in a month. I would definitely say helping with Childcare and offering meals are the most helpful. Moving can be stressful – especially when you are still trying to find out exactly where you want to live. Thanks for these simple steps. I will start thinking about who I need to call to give us some extra support during this time.

  19. A few years ago, I moved for a 10 month assignment. I packed up, found a renter, and moved in 10 days. Which means, those 10 days were some of the gnarliest and most stressful days of my life. My parents and a few friends helped pack me up when all I wanted to do was spin around in circles staring at all I had to do in the little time I had. I think about that incredible help now whenever a friend is in the same boat.

    With that said, I hate to pack, I really do…BUT, I love to cook and manage little details. I’m not an organizer, but I certainly can make calls to cable companies, find the best rates on moving vans, etc.

    Raising a child isn’t the only time a “village” is required. ; )

  20. Jocelyn says:

    As someone moving RIGHT NOW I’m trying to figure out how to secretly send this post to all of my friends 😉 It’s exactly what I need. I do know now from this experience that whenever I know anyone’s moving I will be offereing meals and childcare cuz that’s what I need the most right now!

    • Well, you could always share it on Facebook. Is that subtle enough? Ha! I do hope some of your friends show up to help out!

  21. We just moved and my mom stayed with us for a week and took over the kids and housework so I could just focus on packing. It was so wonderful! We were moving across town, so we brought 2 big loads each day and unpacked them. I really didn’t want anyone around or helping because I didn’t want to be answering a hundred “where do you want this?” questions. But on furniture moving day, I was more than happy to have a handful of friends load the big stuff and then plop it down where I pointed at the new house!!! To top it off, another friend brought over some food for all our helpers!

  22. One of my closest friend recently moved out of state. My contribution? Driving to her old place (2 hours out of town) and just hanging out with her and keeping her company while she packed things. I may have done a little bit of packing but I think she really just wanted the company.

  23. Wow, this is a timely post. 3 weeks ago, we moved from our 5 year rental to our newly purchased home (across town). Thankfully, I had a sister who helped clean the new house, friends who helped watch my kiddos, a friend who cooked dinner for us the night before the Grande Exit, and lots of girlfriends who spared their hubbies on actual moving day. We are blessed!

    But the most surprising and unexpected help came in the form of my husband’s sister and and her husband. I was stumbling through the kitchen the morning after the move, desperately trying to get the coffee maker percolating and really just wishing for one of those caffeine inhalers -grin-, when I received a text from my SIL. After they’d already helped us move the day before and must have been as exhausted as we were, my SIL and her husband asked if they could bring their lawn mower and weeding supplies and cut. our. grass. At first, I literally thought she must be joking. My next thought was that she must be the best person on earth. Or maybe the most insane. 🙂 But YES. They actually came and mowed our lawn and weeded a flower bed or two. This was such a stunning gift because the new home had been vacant for a couple of weeks and we hadn’t even purchased a lawn mower yet and the grass was already high. Because of just moving in, trying to finish things up at the old place, and other obligations, it would have been *days* before we’d actually been able to think about the yard. I couldn’t (and can’t!) believe their thoughtfulness. I still can’t even think about this without crying! My hubby and I are definitely remembering the beauty of that gift and will hopefully be paying it forward one of these days! 🙂

    Great post and thank you!

  24. I am definitely a moving pro, we’ve moved 9 times in 14 years. Yeah, I can pack like a mad woman and the biggest help I’ve ever gotten was when someone offers to watch my kids. Moving is hard with little ones and een a few hours to sort and organize make a world of difference. But all of your ideas are great ones.

  25. jessica says:

    perfect, we are moving tomorrow…this is a great list to remember for next time, or when a friend is moving.

  26. Perfect timing! I am leaving Friday to help my parents move, number one thing they asked for….boxes! I will get them a gift card to as I hadn’t thought of that…

  27. We’ve had moves when lots of friends pitched in and helped, and moves when no one did. The moves when we had help were far less stressful and more enjoyable for our entire family, and I felt such peace as we left one home and went to another. Not everyone can help in every way, but feeling like people care and are willing to pitch in where they can is priceless to someone feeling the emotional and physical stressors of a move.

  28. It’s a really great thing to help a friend move. It feels so fulfilling and good. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and tips here. What was the most difficult thing to transfer?


  29. I can so relate to feeling stymied by packing for a move! I am super organized and Type A, but packing (and unpacking) just left me feeling lost – where to begin?! Thankfully, my MIL is a master packer and she helped me by simply stepping in grabbing boxes and getting things going. Sometimes you need someone WITHOUT the emotional attachment to get the ball rolling.

    Childcare is big! I was even lucky enough that I could put out an email cry for help 3 days before our move and find willing friends to watch my kids for most of the weekend.

    And dinner at someone else’s house. I thought there was no way we could take people up on that offer, but in the middle of the madness, it was a HUGE help to be forced to step away from the boxes, have someone else cook, and give us all some much needed “friend time.”

  30. This is awesome!!!! I’m going to save this….and then, next year when we move, forward it to everyone I know 🙂

  31. This is some great advice. We haven’t moved as many times as other posters, but once is enough! Another obvious but sometimes challenging thought: be supportive of friends who are moving a long distance–you may be feeling the loss of geographical closeness to friends who are moving, but they’re going to a new place and won’t have the comfort of familiarity like you. So, tough as it may be for you, be there for them!

  32. I once helped a friend move to one apt. to a somewhat smaller one, and I helped her declutter – if she hadn’t used it in the last yr, it was gone! Sounds harsh, but she really appreciated it.

  33. Courtney is really a great friend of yours. Doing a lot of help during your moving out is really overwhelming. She is really always there at your side helping you for your packing. Having this sort of friend is absolutely one of a kind. I like to have that sort of friend. You are so lucky to have Courtney as your bestfriend.

  34. What a great post! I lived in the same house all my life growing up, so I never experienced a major move. I moved into my little single-gal one-bedroom apartment but didn’t have much to transport then anyway! Same when I got married…I moved into the home my husband already owned. So I’ve never experienced the big moving-from-one-house-to-another event, and I’ve never had to take the entire contents of a house and move it to a new one. So this was eye opening for me. Even though we have helped friends move, it was difficult to know what they might need other than our time and muscles! This is so insightful. Thanks for the great ideas!!

  35. After our last move I firmly believe in #7. We moved last year about 25 minutes away from our old home. It was a happy move for us – moving to the country had been a dream of ours that we simply didn’t think would happen – but almost no one celebrated with us. It was very discouraging. We had movers and didn’t need much physical help with the move, but it would have meant the world to me if some of our friends would have shared in our joy. Their seeming lack of interest in our lives sucked a lot of the joy out of the experience.

  36. I just moved two months ago and it was so awesome! I recommend being pregnant while moving (didn’t really do much). I still packed and contributed, but acted more like management on the actual day. We had so much help from our community and felt really taken care of.
    We split it into a moving everything in day, and an unpacking day. I would only add two ideas to your list:
    1. Help clean after stuff is moved out (or clean the new place before stuff is moved in if you’re in the area)
    2. Pool money with friends and get a hotel stay for the first night (babysitting provided). That takes care of a comfortable bed to sleep in, really resting the next morning and not having to cook breakfast!

    We had a friend do that for us once and it was seriously amazing!

  37. I just did my most recent move in March, and cannot appreciate enough the tape, the food, the cleaning supplies, the packing material from all of my friends.

    My top tip is having a checklist for packing each room, donating / getting rid of items, cleaning, packing the van and shutting off utilities that can be split up and checked off, so when friends ask how they can help, you can just check your list! 🙂

  38. Hi – Having moved 3 times now I know that what I would really like from a friend is a moving in night help pack!
    Containing all the essentials – takeout, wine, corkscrew (you’ve always packed it too well!), and a good DVD.
    Usually all the organising things have been well and truly done by this point, and you are so physically tired that this will be such a treat – and so unexpected!

  39. perfect, we are moving tomorrow…this is a great list to remember for next time, or when a friend is moving.

  40. I thought I might share some of the ways we can provide the most help to friends who are moving – whether it’s across town or across the country.

  41. while I said thank you! thank you so much! over and over again.

  42. It’s always a big help if you’ve a friend to help you UNpack too! It’s pretty easy to help set up and put away dishes or clothes and doesn’t require so much of the emotional attachment or decision making of what items make the cut when initially packing.

  43. I would add:
    1. Find your friend that played the most Tetris as a kid. They will be the best person for fitting the most boxes and stuff into your car or moving van. There’s always way more stuff than you think so this person will be invaluable.
    2. We made a cross country move and someone offered to mow our yard while our home was still for sale. This saved us lots of money from not having to hire and mowing company. Plus, we could trust our friend was doing a great job at it!

  44. sue schwemin says:

    A couple of other things to add: bring a case of water bottles for the people moving the furniture-or bagels/juice quick breakfast items to grab the morning of the move. Garbage bags for last minute items are always appreciated

  45. pack your kitchen and bathrooms last and unpack them first!

  46. Also, food for the day of the move out or in is awesome! Don’t forget the paper goods!

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