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Hired hands: Should you hire pros for your next move?

Just as packing up your belongings will most likely lead to an honest assessment of your possessions (why are you hanging on to those soccer trophies from the fourth grade, anyway?), the process of moving requires you to take a good, hard look at yourself. No matter how stoked you are about your new home, moving can be exhausting and expensive. So being realistic about your priorities and acting accordingly will save you heartache, backaches and, hopefully, wallet aches.

Answer these five questions honestly, and you’ll find yourself on the path to a less stressful and less expensive move.

1. How much stuff do you have?

This is the big question when it comes to moving. No matter how enthusiastic you are, you can’t move the contents of a four-bedroom house all by your lonesome with nothing but a rented furniture dolly and your mom’s minivan. So let’s break it down: two or three people can realistically move a studio or one-bedroom apartment. An energetic group of friends can easily move a two-bedroom apartment. But anything beyond that will likely require a team of pros because the sheer amount of stuff found in a home much larger than that can easily overwhelm you.

During a recent four-year study of 32 middle-class families in Los Angeles, researchers

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at UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) found that an average family’s home contains 2,260 “visible possessions” (and that doesn’t include any items that are stored out of sight in drawers, boxes, cabinets, etc.).

I’m going to write that number again — just in case you missed it the first time: two thousand two hundred and sixty visible possessions. If that number scares you, consider hiring professionals.

2. What kinds of stuff do you have?

Do you have any special items that would require expert knowledge to move them safely? Big-but-delicate items such as pianos and pool tables need special attention to ensure they survive the trip. Even everyday appliances can be hard for the average layperson to handle. You might be very experienced in lifting and carrying a cardboard box full of books, but chances are you haven’t attempted to heft a refrigerator into a U-Haul trailer. If your move includes anything bigger or more unusual than a sofa, you should seriously consider bringing in the experts.

3. How far are you moving?

While your friends may be loyal and dedicated, asking them to schlep all of your earthly possessions across the country might be pushing the limits of your relationship. Large moving companies already have an infrastructure in place to get your stuff from Point A to Point B without too much hassle — and that’s even if those two points are located many states apart. While “local” is typically defined on a state-by-state basis, within a 60-mile radius is a good rule of thumb. Anything further out than that and you’re officially making a “long distance” move.

4. What resources do you have at your disposal?

One of my best moves happened pretty painlessly, thanks to my pals at the gym. I’d taken up boxing at my local Y, and I’d made friends with the people in my classes. I was considered the “adopted little sister” of a half-dozen friendly and very, very strong young men. So when it came time to move, all I had to do was provide the requisite pizza and beer, and my manual labor was taken care of!

But not everyone is so lucky — perhaps your friends have a more delicate disposition, or maybe they’re claiming to be “unavailable” during the weekend of your move (and you know that no amount of Domino’s pizza and Budweiser will get them to show up on the big day). That means you’re going to need a few hired hands, which should be easier to find than new friends.

However, if you do decide to enlist your friends’ help, Apartment Therapy has some good tips for keeping them happy during the move.

5. What’s your budget?

You’ve probably just dropped a pretty penny on the deposit for your new pad. Do you have the funds to spend on movers too? If you’re moving locally, most movers will charge by the hour — and that’s whether they’re helping you pack or haul boxes. They might also charge a fee for travel expenses, depending

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on how far you’re moving. To hire two movers and a truck, you’re probably looking at between $90 and $120 per hour, so around $1,500 total to move across town. A good way to reduce that cost significantly is to be completely packed before the movers arrive — just use them for the heavy lifting.

If you’re moving a long distance, however, the final cost will depend on the weight and cubic

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feet of your stuff. You’re probably looking at a minimum of around $5,000. But you can use this handy moving calculator from MoveSource to get a better idea before you decide.

After an honest examination of your priorities and capabilities, you should have a clearer sense of whether or not you should attempt to make the move with a few of your buddies, or if you should call in the professionals. Either way, you’ll be able to sleep in your new space soundly, knowing you made the right choice for you.