Moving is seldom something we choose to do on a whim — let alone on a tight deadline. If you’ve ever gone through the process, it’s easy to understand why most people would rather avoid a last-minute move. 

However, life loves throwing us curveballs — both good and not so good. Unexpected home damage or personal setbacks, relocating for a new job, an abrupt breakup, or even a house that sells more quickly than planned can leave us scrambling with the challenges of a last-minute move. Or maybe you’re just human, like me, and have been too swamped and stressed with the day-to-day to do any prep. 

Regardless of the why, if you’re moving out-of-state or just across town, and whether you’re hiring movers or sticking to self-moving, don’t be surprised if your last-minute move has you feeling majorly overwhelmed. Take it from someone who’s moved over 20 times and conquered a handful of my own last-minute moves. I feel your pain. But believe me, panic doesn’t help!

First, slow down and take some deep breaths. Now, take a look at these last-minute moving tips I’ve put together from all my experience — all designed to help you pull this off without too much stress so you can (quickly) get back to enjoying life in your new place. 

woman making a moving checklist

1. Make a packing and moving checklist

Just because this is last-minute doesn’t mean all the basics should go out the window. In fact, a moving checklist is even more essential when you’re time-challenged. Your moving checklist is a prioritized list of everything you need to get done — plus deadlines — so you can free up brain space and stay on track. As you power through your move, work your way through the list, and check off items as you complete them. (If you’re like me, few things feel better than crossing off those to-do’s). Our detailed moving checklist is full of ideas on what to include — just pick out the essentials and adapt it for your own reduced timeline.  Consider making a separate packing list to avoid forgetting important items. Remember, the key to success is to keep it rigid but realistic. 

2. Set up your new place with necessary utilities

Before we get too deep into these tips, take a minute to make sure all the essential utilities are set up at your new spot. (This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to overlook in the chaos of a last-minute move.) Think: electric, gas, water, internet — anything you’re going to need turned on when you walk through the door of your new place. While you’re at it, it’s probably a good idea to schedule the shutoff of existing services at your current place, too. 

PODS packing supplies for a last minute move

3. Consider pre-packaged packing supplies 

Quick moves demand quick setups. During my last move, when I looked around at all the stuff I’d accumulated over the years, my head started spinning. Since I was short on time, I decided to skip the usual mental gymnastics of trying to figure out how many of what size boxes I’d need to pack it all. Instead, I snatched up a pre-bundled moving kit. These pre-packaged packing supplies were a lifesaver — and a timesaver. The kit contained everything I needed to kickstart my packing process, from a selection of different size boxes to rolls of packing tape and bubble cushioning, and even a thick marker. (I also grabbed a few extra small boxes for good measure.) You can always go back for more boxes as needed, but the moving kit is a great, no-stress place to start. 

In addition to snagging one or two moving kits to start, it’s wise to make sure you’ve got plenty   of large trash bags on hand, preferably heavy duty. These are necessary for the unexpected amount of trash that results from moving, but they also work great for quick-packing items like clothes, shoes, or linens.

Need packing supplies quick? Get moving kits and all the other supplies you need with fast, free shipping now.

4. Get rid of things you no longer want or need 

Trust me, I know from painful experience that it can be hard to actually get rid of the things we no longer need. In this way, a last-minute move can be a blessing in disguise — and a kick in the butt. Before you start packing, designate an area for the things you won’t be taking with you. Then, put on your Marie Kondo hat and don’t be afraid to get ruthless to speed up your downsizing. After all, the fewer things you keep, the fewer things you have to pack — and pay to move. Donate, trash, sell, or give away anything you’re not keeping. 

Want more tips on last-minute moves? Find out how this busy mom kicked it into gear when her home went from listing to closing in just 24 days. 

5. Focus on getting it all packed 

When you’re packing on a deadline, fight the urge to get precious with the process. While you always want to avoid blindly tossing items into bags and boxes, now is not the time to painstakingly sort everything, go into detailed box labeling, or roll up every item in your closet. You’ll have more time to unpack than pack — repeat this mantra over and over if it helps get the job done. (We’ve listed some of our favorite pack-it-up-quick hacks a little further down.)

6. Separate out your essentials 

There’s nothing worse than realizing that you accidentally packed something you need and you have no idea where it is. Trust me, I’ve done it multiple times, usually when I’m packing in a hurry. Now, I make sure to separate out everything I know I’ll need or want to have access to throughout the move as well as the first few days in my new place. That way, I’m not tearing through boxes like a madwoman looking for a needle — a prescription, alarm clock, cell phone charger, kitchen knives, coffee maker — in my haystack of boxes. 

I’ve also learned that packing a personal “essentials bag” helps lessen the immediate stress or need to start unpacking right away. Think of it like a travel bag that has everything you need to function normally (like toiletries, electronics, and clothes) while the rest of your stuff is in boxes. 

PODS container

7. Hire moving help that fits your needs

We’re willing to bet that you already know you can rent a truck or hire professional movers to get your things from your old place to your new place. But did you know you have a number of other options that may be a better fit for last-minute moves? Depending on the season, it can be hard to get full-service movers lined up on a tight timetable, and if you’ve got shifting dates, their rigid schedules may not work for you. Depending on your budget and schedule, doing a little research into other moving options could save you a lot of stress. 

For example, opting to use a portable moving and storage container service like PODS can add flexibility and reduce the pressure of a last-minute move. With PODS,  a container will be delivered to your home, allowing you to get started packing and loading on your own schedule. This helps you get things out of the way while you continue to pack, reducing the chaos inside your home. When you’re ready, PODS will pick up your loaded container and either deliver it directly to your new home or keep it in a secure storage facility. This can be ideal if you need to be out of your current home ASAP,  but might not have a new place lined up just yet. You can also hire professional packers and loaders by the hour for just the help you need — whether you’re using a portable container or rental truck.    

8. Don’t forget to leave your old place clean

After all is packed and done, the last thing you’re going to feel like doing is cleaning. Cleaning as you go may seem like a brilliant idea, allowing you to kill two birds with one stone, but don’t fall for it — rooms are bound to get messy again in the chaos. Wait until you’ve completely moved out to clean the space. Most likely you’ll only need to do a cursory cleaning — remove all trash, clean the floors, wipe down countertops, et cetera. Still, even a light cleaning can feel like a monumental task after the hustle of a last-minute move. So, if you can afford it, treat yourself and hire a cleaning service and give yourself a much-deserved break. 

clothes packed for moving in bags and hangers

How to pack for a last-minute move

Not all packing tips are created equal. While some tips can be used for all types of moves, here are a few tried and true hacks specifically suited to help you get packed quickly during a last-minute move. 

• Tackle one room at a time. Start with the spaces and items you use the least

• Use the clothes and linens you already have at home to wrap your fragile items

• Skip the urge to pack perfectly organized boxes. Don’t be afraid to fill boxes with a mish-mash of items.

• Stick to labeling your boxes by room and only use detailed labeling for special items you know you’ll want to find right away.

• Use suitcases and heavy-duty trash bags to pack your clothes and shoes.

• Keep your clothes on hangers, covered by trash bags.

• Consider swapping out boxes for stackable, reusable plastic bins.

We’re not going to sugarcoat it; a last-minute move can be stressful. The added pressure of packing and organizing against a clock can be intense, but these tips can help lighten your load. Plus, once you’ve successfully conquered moving at hyperspeed, every other move will probably feel that much easier — at least that’s the goal. But for now, you’d better get moving — the clock is ticking! 

Alex Keight is a writer who has lived — and moved — all over the country and the world. She is an expert at packing, whether it’s for a long-distance move or a short weekend trip. When she’s not writing or on the move, Alex spends her time giving her cat booty pats, cooking up dishes in the kitchen, and buying way more books than she knows she’ll ever actually get to reading.

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  1. It’s great that you mention creating a moving checklist. My brother needs to move within a month for his new job. It would probably help him to hire a moving company to help him create a list of everything he needs and complete it.

  2. Wonderful! I had been stressing about packing up within a time frame. After sleepless nights , I woke up to Google how to pack up fast. After reading this I’m ready to go !!!! Great great great !!!!!!

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