13 Protocols to Follow When You Ask Your Friends to Help You Move

Over beers at the Dubliner tonight, a few friends and I shared some horror stories about experiences we’ve had helping friends move. I think it’s time that the protocols for moving be put down on paper for all to see and refer to. These are from the perspective of the guy who needs help moving, but all parties are affected by these rules. Also, I apologize in advance to the anonymous friends of mine who didn’t follow these rules but have since learned their lesson (actually, probably not). [Edit: Bryce sent me some key additions to this list that I’ve added in the revised version.]

  1. You must recruit at least four people to help you move. And not one person an hour. Four all at once. You’ll get everything done so much faster as a group, and the time will go faster as well. You don’t want to sit around waiting for the third guy to show up so you can move your giant TV.
  2. You must give your movers more than two days notice. None of this recruiting the day before. There’s nothing worse than looking forward to a relaxing weekend only to be told on Friday that your friend needs help moving.
  3. You must provide transportation. You can use your friends’ cars to supplement the primary move, but the goal here is to minimize time by minimizing trips. When your friends show up, they should be greeted by a giant Uhaul truck with the back open and you already putting stuff inside. I have a friend who, in an effort to avoid the Uhaul, had us carry (a) a bed and (b) a dresser two blocks down the street. Just because it looks like a short distance on Google Maps doesn’t mean it is when you’re carrying a mattress on your back.
  4. You must provide refreshments. This is common courtesy. Whether it’s a beer after the move or popsicles during the move, give people some incentive. If you offer to take your friends out to dinner afterwards you are not allowed to change into fresh clothes while they are stuck wearing the dirty, disgusting, sweat-filled clothes they moved you in.
  5. You must pack, box, and tape everything before the movers arrive. There is nothing worse than showing up a friend’s place to find that they haven’t packed anything, even if “it’ll just take a minute.” In the event that this happens, you retain the right to throw anything and everything into garbage bags and take it out to your car. After one trip, you can help move the big stuff, and then you’re done.
  6. You must not pack insanely heavy boxes. I’ve made this mistake myself. The trick is to balance heavy things like books with light things like clothes. If you have to strain to pick up a box, it’s too heavy. If you must have such a box, you should be the one to carry it. (Note: One way to make bigger boxes much, much easier to carry is to cut handholds in the sides of the box. The key is to skew them–put the left handhold lower down on the box than the right-side handhold. No joke).
  7. You must have measured all the big stuff in advance to make sure it fits. And to make sure you know where it fits (some things may fit through your balcony, for example, but not your front door).
  8. You must ensure that there is no downtime. No one wants to sit around and wait while you call your landlord to get the key to your place.
  9. You must amend your “no shoes in the house” for one day. Face it: Your shiny new house is going to get dirty when you move. Don’t inconvenience your helpers to this extent.
  10. You–and only you–must unpack after the move. Your friends are there to help you move, not unpack. During the move, you’re also a mover. The most “unpacking” you can allow your friends to do is move heavy furniture that you can’t move by yourself to its final resting place. If you don’t have a place in mind when they’re slowly backing through your doorframe with a dresser breaking their back, they get to put it down and forget about it forever.
  11. You may not extend the moving period beyond the original timeframe. Commit to a timeframe, get the big stuff done first, and when the time is up, you’re responsible for the rest. Don’t ask people to stay beyond that time. They’ve been looking forward to that deadline for the last few hours. They helped you. Let them go.
  12. You must help your movers move at some future date. This was actually the 11th Commandment before Moses’ tablets broke. This rule is non-negotiable. If your friends took the time out of their day to help you move, you must help them move the next time they need help.
  13. You must pay professional movers next time. Don’t be the guy who enlists your friends to help you move every year. Even more than one big move is a stretch. I’d bet that most of your friends would rather buy you a drink than help you move. Offer that alternative and just hire movers next time.

16 thoughts on “13 Protocols to Follow When You Ask Your Friends to Help You Move”

  1. There are too many rules and it’d be difficult to follow ALL of them! I bet I could come up with a reason that each rule might not work:

    1. What if I don’t know 4 guys in Charleston to help me move? And what if a couple of those guys are pretty puny?

    2. What if my landlord finds out that I’m running a whore house out of the apartment and says I need to move out ASAP. I can’t give you at least two days notice.

    3. I wrecked a UHaul truck once, so I dont feel comfortable driving a big truck so no transportation!

    4. I can’t think of anything for this one. Yes, I can provide refreshments

    5. This goes back to getting kicked out for the whore house. I just wont have time to pack all the boxes before I need help moving

    6. This rule is impossible. When I pack boxes, I think, “damn this box is heavy! But it wont be that heavy for my strong muscular boyfriend, Jamey!” Little do I know that you’re a wuss and I probably have a better chance of lifting that box 😉

    7. I don’t have a tape measure

    8. I’m going to need downtime. I need rest! Even if you dont!

    9. I dont have a problem with this one either. Wear shoes. I don’t care

    10. Why can’t I ask you to help me unpack? I need help with that!!! And what if I dont know where my dresser should go? Am I to suffer the consequences and just keep the thing in the kitchen and walk downstairs every morning to get dressed??

    11. I think the time extension has nothing to do with the person moving, but more with the movers. Quit slacking!!

    12. What if my whore house schedule doesn’t allow me to help someone move when they need it?? Ever thought about that?

    13. Professional movers suck! I lived here for over a week before my stuff got here! You can’t trust those bastards!!!

  2. AMEN!!! This is the best and most true list I’ve ever seen.

    To refute Nancy’s comments….

    1. If so, defer rule 13.

    2. If that is your business, then you accept “payment” by having your John’s help move. Problem solved.

    3. UHauls are great. My comment to Jamey is to figure out what size truck you need and get the next biggest size. Manual transmission trucks are the absolute best! (no kidding)

    6. A modification to Jamey’s rule must be to buy or rent hand trucks. At LEAST two. This way you can do the heavy book boxes on the hand truck, and you’re going to need it to move the semi-heavy stuff too.

    • I’m not sure if you’re “amen”-ing my list or Nancy’s list, but they’re both good.

      I tooally agree with you about point 6. I think most Uhaul trucks come with one hand truck, but the more, the better. It makes a huge difference.

      I’m not sure we’re on the same page regarding manual transmission–that limits the drivers available to pull off such a feat.

      • The amen was the original list. Should be printed right there next to the 10 commandments. Maybe we can commission a stone carving of these to put on the south 40 at WashU.

        The manual transmission was more of my own preference than a recommendation. It’s just fun to have to shift a giant truck with a gear shift the size of my leg.

          • Jaam,

            Loved the list, and I actually think I followed most, if not all of the regulations you set out the last time I moved.

            I’ll never forget when you, Tolles, and I moved out of 7551 Byron and you broke us into teams with different job descriptions. (I was the truck packer/driver–leader of team “Tau”.) That was a well-oiled machine, and you’ve experienced multiple moves since then to help refine your moving skills. Have you ever considered a career as a moving consultant? People could hire you for an hour to come into their place, assess the situation, and set up a timeline & schedule for the move. Bam! Instant millionaire.

            Also, as a reply to Nancy–had I known you’ve been running a whore house out of your place in Charleston, I would have visited sooner. Plus, I think there are additional rules that apply to the girlfriend/boyfriend of a person who is moving–further obligations (like helping you pack and unpack boxes) that don’t apply to other friends helping you move. Also, sidenote, Jamey may be frail, thin, wirey, sickly, waifish, prone to swooning & fainting, and girly framed, but he’s actually surprisingly strong despite all that. I’d say he’s your number 2 starter in your moving rotation for heavier boxes. He’s got a good approach to lifting and he’s willing to tackle tasks that would normally be reserved for man with more bulk. Plus, he’s quick, focused, and tireless. Give the guy a chance and he’ll pay dividends.

            Finally, I must sadly report that my company has found a way to block this site again, so my comments my be more limited to weekends and evenings…sigh.

            • Trev–Thanks for the comment and the kind words about my moving ability.
              Although I felt that move went smoothly, the next time I move, I’m getting
              movers. It’s just such a big thing to ask friends to do–transporting a few
              boxes is one thing, but lugging around mattresses and TVs and couches…I
              think that’s the job for men with those back braces that look like really
              tan skin.

  3. i think you need here somewhere *how to refuse a request to help move*

    part of that instruction, i imagine, would entail an acknowledgment of said request……cough *jamey* cough.

    • Good point, good point. Sometimes you don’t have a valid excuse, and you don’t want it to be a reflection of a friendship…you simply don’t feel like carrying around furniture :).

    • Great list, but….What is the right thing to do if a friend for family is helping you move and they accidentally damage something. Let’s assume it is moderately valuable clock worth $500, and it can be repaired for say $300. Would the “right thing” change if the values described were different, or if the item was totally destroyed and irreplaceable? Let us also assume that the person that damaged it sincerely apologized. Should the owner demand (or should they even expect) some sort of restitution?

      • Good question! If it’s definitely their fault (opposed to you not packing it well) and insurance can’t cover it, I think it’s reasonable to ask the person to pay for it.

        Though this is probably yet another reason just to hire movers, as they are expected to pay for broken items.

  4. What is the right thing to do if a friend for family is helping you move and they accidentally damage something. Let’s assume it is a moderately valuable clock worth $500, and it can be repaired for say $300. Would the “right thing” change if the values described were different, or if the item was totally destroyed and irreplaceable? Let us also assume that the person that damaged it sincerely apologized. Should the owner demand (or should they even expect) some sort of restitution?


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