When Paul Tucker accepted a new position as digital director at PODS, that meant he and his wife would be relocating 1,200 miles from San Antonio, Texas to Tampa Bay. After four previous long-distance moves, they were no strangers to the process of pulling up roots and getting settled in an unfamiliar city. But this would be the first time they’d be moving with containers, giving them an up close and personal experience with the way PODS really works. 

This turned out to be the couple’s easiest move yet, as they were able to set their own pace and have a blast along the way by taking advantage of the flexibility of moving containers. Paul also picked up some great ideas he wants to share with others who may be planning a major relocation. Read on for Paul’s tips for moving with containers:     

PODS portable storage container in driveway

1. Forget the way you’ve moved before

Paul’s first piece of advice? When you’re moving with containers, rethink the way you move, because your planning and decisions don’t have to be limited by the constraints that come with using traditional movers or a rental truck. For Paul and his wife, Lisa, this realization came over dinner at a Mexican restaurant in San Antonio shortly before their move: 

“We got to brainstorming and we said, ‘You know what? Why don’t we do something a little different?’ Once we sat down and really thought about what we could do with four containers and how we could stage our furniture to be more strategic about our move, it really opened up a lot of possibilities.”

Their old scenario with traditional movers went like this: 

“The movers come in, they pack you up, and they put everything in a truck and you move to your new city. And you better have a place to live where you can put all your stuff. So what we typically do is we go to a new city, rent a home to get a lay of the land, and we have to dump all of our stuff in the rental. Then when we find the house we want to buy, we have to do the whole move all over again.”

Besides being a year-long process, the problem with this approach is you have to move twice, Paul says, and typically you have to pay for that second move out of pocket, because employer relocation packages will only cover one move. 

Their new scenario using moving containers was much more customized: 

With their son in college, they opted to have more fun with this move, maximize their freedom, and use the portable storage to take their time making decisions about buying a home and what furniture they wanted to keep. They rented a furnished AirBnB on the water in St. Pete Beach while they explored the area, eventually settling on another waterfront home that they love. The process took six months.

truck driver picking up PODS portable storage container

2. Use moving containers strategically to stage your move and keep your options open

Whether you’re using one, two, or more containers, you can use the convenient storage options to move in stages. In Paul’s case, they used four containers to move from a large house to a furnished temporary apartment, and then ultimately to a home that ended up being much smaller than the one they left in San Antonio. But they didn’t know what size home they’d end up with in the beginning, so they kept two containers holding their furniture at the PODS Storage Center to keep their options open. That way, they had more time and room to play. 

“We knew we were going to live in an AirBnb when we got here, so we decided we’d have one container that would be full of all our fun stuff — kayaks, scuba gear, beach chairs. We had that delivered first,” Paul says, adding that they used their own car and an RV to carry their clothes and other personal items they’d need at the AirBnB.

PODS portable storage container being delivered to driveway

3. Stagger deliveries of multiple moving containers

When you have more than one container, it can really help to schedule delivery on different days, a method they call “staggered deliveries” at PODS. For example, here’s how Paul managed their container deliveries:

  • When moving out in San Antonio, Paul had two containers delivered one day. When those were full, PODS picked them up and delivered the other two containers. 
  • Three of the containers were shipped to Florida. 
  • In Florida, they had one container with the “fun stuff” delivered right away, and the other two that were filled with furniture were kept in PODS storage.
  • After they bought their home in Tarpon Springs, they had one container delivered at a time. When they emptied the first one, they had PODS deliver the second container and take the empty one away. Then PODS picked up the second empty container after they were done unloading.
  • The fourth container, for their son in college, remains at a PODS storage facility in Texas.

While PODS makes it easy to reschedule deliveries and pick-ups with at least 24 hours’ notice, they advise notifying them as soon as you know your dates will be changing. More time may be needed during the busy season, which tends to be the summer months.

packing list for moving with containers
It’s important to create an inventory, like this example, that includes the container serial number and its contents. Color-coding with stickers or labels also makes loading and unloading easier.

4. Make an inventory for each container and record the serial numbers

While it always helps to create a list of what’s going where when you move, it’s absolutely essential when you use more than one moving container. This enables you to send the right container where it needs to go, to know which container you want to access while they’re in storage, and to adjust more easily when plans change due to a postponed closing or other delay. It also helps you keep your move organized. PODS advises creating an inventory that includes the:

  • Container serial number
  • Category of items to go in that container (ie. Kitchen, living room furniture, clothing, recreational, etc.) 
  • List of items going in the container

Paul’s wife also got sticky dots that they color-coded for each container. “It was really easy…we could just go around and put the stickers on everything and then the movers knew which container it went into and how to stage everything in the house,” Paul says.

Looking for more tips from people who’ve used moving containers? Check these out:
Relocating After Retirement? Smart Moving Tips From Retirees Who’ve Done It
Moving While Pregnant: 6 Tips On Making It Less Stressful
Creative Ways To Move Cross Country  

5. Hire pros to help with packing and loading

Paul’s top packing tip is simple: Hire professionals. He used PODS’ referrals to find local hourly moving help

“It worked great. PODS referred me to a great mover in my area and they came in and packed everything up and loaded everything,” he says. “Professional movers know how to pack stuff… your glassware, TVs, pictures. They know how to load and secure your belongings in the container. Don’t go cheap on that end because you will end up paying in the long run for what’s broken.

“At the end of the day, even though PODS has a level lifting system, you’re still putting something on a truck that could hit bumps and curves, which means your stuff could get jostled. We had nothing damaged at all. Nothing.”

Save effort with ground-level loading and unloading with no ramps!

While getting moving help makes a huge difference on the front end when you’re loading moving containers, Paul says most people can save money by doing more of the work themselves when they’re moving in. The fact that containers are ground level makes it a lot easier to do the unloading yourself. “The one thing about a truck and ramp that you’re always scared of is falling off,” Paul recalls from earlier moves.  

“With the container literally inches from our garage door at ground level, we would just walk in, grab stuff and either put it in the garage or go upstairs with it. That was fantastic,” Paul says. “We just paid for a few hours of help getting the heavy stuff up the stairs.”

PODS portable storage container in driveway

6. Use containers to move and downsize at your own pace

Take advantage of the added flexibility of built-in storage and easy scheduling to allow extra time at any stage of your move. For example, in addition to keeping their stuff at a PODS storage facility while they looked for a home to buy, Paul and his wife used the convenience of containers to help downsize over 70% of their furniture. When they moved into their Tarpon Springs home, they had one container delivered at a time, which made it easier to manage the process systematically. They also worked with a consignment store that picked up and sold all but one of the many fine furniture pieces they no longer needed.   

“It allowed us to take one container and start unpacking it and figure out what we wanted to sell and what we wanted to keep,” he says. “We could do that in a very staged environment, instead of with traditional movers, where you have no flexibility whatsoever. Very rigid. They’re going to dump all of that stuff in your new place, regardless of whether you’re ready or not.”

Take breaks for fun

With PODS, you can take a break from moving and do something else. Paul and his wife did exactly that.

“You can change your mind if you decide that, hey, I’m not ready for that third container yet, just keep it in storage for another few days or a month. I kind of want to rest and relax. I’m tired of this moving stuff,” Paul says. “We did that quite a bit, and went to the beach instead. You can be as aggressive or as laid back as you want to with your move.”

young adults moving out on their own

7. Help your kids leave the nest 

If you have kids who will be going to college, graduating, or getting their own place, you can designate a moving container just for them. “Our fourth container was for our son, for when he graduated college, so he’d have all the furniture he needed for an apartment. We left that container back in Texas in PODS Storage.”

Portable storage made an ideal solution, since their son didn’t know where he’d end up getting a job after graduation.

“Let’s say if he gets a job in California, we can just have that container shipped there. All of that stuff is now portable and can be shipped anywhere he needs to go,” Paul explains. “Let’s just say we had dumped that stuff in a storage facility in San Antonio, then we would probably have to fly in, help him get that stuff into some sort of moving truck and help him drive that out to wherever he was going to move to. Now we don’t have to do that.”

8. Have fun getting to know your new city 

Living in an AirBnB by the water in St. Pete Beach for their first six months in Florida was “like living the dream,” Paul says. “It was a much different lifestyle. We never lived in a resort town like that. That was fun for a while and we enjoyed doing that.”

The experience also helped the couple hone in on what they wanted in their next home. “When we started looking around the area we said our criteria is that we want to be able to walk to things like restaurants and we wanted to live by the water,” he says. “Luckily, we found a place up in Tarpon that really gave us those two worlds.”

Their new home is on the Anclote River overlooking a nature preserve, across the street from Tarpon Springs’ historic sponge docks, and two blocks from the downtown district.

“When I want to get my hair cut, I just walk downtown to the barber. My wife has her hairdresser right downtown where she can walk to. Restaurants and bars are literally a block from us.”

9. Create your own moving strategy

If you’re planning a relocation and comparing traditional movers to moving containers, Paul advises thinking about what kind of flexibility you need or want. “Are you going to immediately buy a place in your new city, where you know everything up front, and you don’t need any kind of flexibility? Then movers may be fine,” Paul says. 

But if you’re relocating to a city where you’ve never lived before, then having the flexibility of moving with containers can take the pressure off finding and buying a place immediately. 

“My biggest advice is that if you choose to do containerized moving, sit down and figure out how you want your move to go,” Paul says. “If you have multiple containers, put together a strategy on how you want to use those containers with your move, because once you start brainstorming, it’s amazing what you can come up with.

“Moving with PODS opens up possibilities to create our own moving puzzle and fit the pieces together.  Everybody’s puzzle is going to be different, and that’s what PODS allows you to do.” 

(Source for image featured at top: @podsofnwarkansas via Instagram)

Liz Taylor is a freelance writer who keeps up with moving and storage trends while managing the PODS Containing the Chaos blog.

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