When I moved out of my apartment in Wisconsin, it was only my second time using professional movers — and I was an awkward mess. I sat at my kitchen table while they gathered everything, drinking a cup of tea and not knowing what I could do to help. And then at my new place in Illinois, I set up a stool in the corner and slowly let them box me in with furniture. Basically, I just felt weird.

Having movers in and out of your home can be a strange process all its own, without the lingering questions of how exactly to act. But fear no more! I’ve put together a guide for how to act like a real, normal person when movers are shifting your life from one home to another.

Especially in this era of the pandemic, you likely have a lot of requirements you’ll need to address with your movers — like letting them know they should be wearing masks and designating a bathroom just for them. For things like pandemic precautions, your moving company will have its own set of rules to follow (for both the movers and for you) that should be communicated before the movers arrive.

For everything else, inform the movers when they get there. They should do a walk-through and ask any questions they have, and then you can communicate which bathroom they should use, which items stay and which items go, and where you and your family will be.

Preparation is a must. That means letting the movers know beforehand if you need them to pack for you and arranging everything in a mover-friendly manner so they can get in and out quickly.

“A worst-case scenario is putting sticky notes that are prone to fall off over all these different pieces,” says Piet Gauchat, president of Olympia Moving. “Yellow notes mean something and pink means something else. We see that a lot. It’s tough.”

A better way to handle it is to sequester everything that shouldn’t be touched (like passports and keys) into one room or corner. That way you can tell the movers not to take anything out of the bedroom or from a certain space.

Oh no! You and your movers are not getting along. Don’t worry — there’s an easy path to resolution. If you’re comfortable with the supervisor on the job, you can talk to them about whatever issue you’re having. If not, call the moving company’s office; they’ll be able to tackle any issues on the back-end.

“I know it makes people anxious to confront a mover who’s handling all their possessions,” Gauchat says. “The office can move behind the scenes and make an adjustment with the movers.”

Turns out I did one thing right on my way out of my Wisconsin apartment: I stayed in one room. Gauchat says that’s best when you’re moving out — and during the pandemic, the crew may sequester you in one space to minimize contact. Stay in a consistent place and be available.

At your destination, it’s a little different. Just stand at the entrance to the home and tell the movers where to go.

“The more you try to help, the more you’re getting in the way,” Gauchat says. “We just need someone to point fingers and say, ‘That goes there.’”

You don’t need to offer your movers a three-course meal, but Gauchat says something to drink (especially sports drinks) is always welcome. Food is nice to offer if you have it, but your movers likely have a plan already built in for their meal.

Unless your move is a multi-day job with multiple crews, tip your movers at the end of the move. Gauchat says a normal amount is $20 to $50 per crew member per day. And though it’s “appreciated, not expected,” he says, I believe you should always tip.

Jennifer Billock


Jennifer Billock is an award-winning writer, bestselling author, and editor. She is currently dreaming of an around-the-world trip with her Boston terrier.

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