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.