A Guide to Moving During the Coronavirus

A Guide to Moving During the Coronavirus
stack of 14 cardboard boxes of varying sizes on a gray wood floor with white wall as backdrop

Guest Post by Sidney Richardson

Planning on moving during the coronavirus? Looking for a guide to moving during the coronavirus? The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed and complicated life across the globe, so you may be wondering if moving to a new place is even possible – or safe. The good news is that it is possible, but moving during a pandemic is not without serious risks.

Regardless of your reason for making a move, you should be aware of the safety factors in play and all of your options. Read on to see our tips to help make your potential move as safe as possible.

Should I Move During COVID-19?

black backdrop with square blocks, with each block having on letter in the order to spell out pandemic

If you’re thinking about moving to a new home during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a lot to consider. If you or another member of your household has a higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 symptoms, you may want to think about postponing your move until vaccines have been widely distributed and regulations are lifted. According to Mayo Clinic, you could be at a higher risk of developing dangerous symptoms if you have underlying health conditions such as heart or lung disease, cancer, obesity, or if you are over the age of 85.

If you have flexibility with your move date, you might also want to consider postponing, even if you aren’t at a higher risk of serious symptoms. Even if you take every precaution, moving during the COVID-19 pandemic may be a potential risk to your health and the health of others.

If your move is unavoidable, however, there are ways to minimize contact with others and make the process of moving into a new home as safe as possible. It would be best if you made an extensive plan for how you’re going to pack, clean, and work with a moving company to minimize risks during the process. Moving is still very possible during this time; you’ll need to take extra precautions to keep yourself and others safe.

How To Prepare To Move During The Coronavirus

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Moving can be stressful even when there isn’t a global pandemic to take into consideration, so be sure to tackle your move with a well-thought-out plan of action. As with any move, some things inevitably may not go according to your plan, but you should still try to think ahead to avoid multiple trips to stores and any unnecessary contact with people outside your household.

Clean As You Pack 

A study by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that COVID-19 can survive on cardboard for 24 hours, on stainless steel for 48 hours, and on plastics for up to 72 hours. With that said, you should be sure to sanitize your items and boxes as you pack both for the safety of movers and yourself.

Disinfecting your belongings and surfaces as you’re packing is an efficient way to prepare all of your stuff for a move safely. To make sure everything is properly disinfected, you may want to follow the CDC guidelines for properly sanitizing your home. Be sure to use gloves while you’re cleaning, ideally a disposable pair to prevent the spread of germs. You can also use a reusable pair of gloves if you are wearing them solely for COVID-19 disinfecting.

To make sure you’re using a product that will actually kill the virus if it is present, you can use the EPA’s List N Tool, which keeps a record of all store-bought products that you can use specifically against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).

Buy Cleaning And Packing Materials In One Trip

Avoiding unnecessary contact with others is the best way you can minimize the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19 during your move. Try to make just one trip to the store to buy all the cleaning and packing materials you’ll need, and don’t be afraid to buy extra if you run out. It may be difficult to stock up on cleaning supplies since some retailers still have limits in place on how much you can purchase at once, but you should be able to get all the packing materials you’ll need in one trip.

Many home improvement stores sell boxes and packing materials and may even be willing to ship them to you to avoid in-person contact. The Home Depot, U-Haul, Staples, and Penske are a few places offering those services at this time.

Look for boxes of all sizes, protective tape, and padding materials to ensure none of your belongings will be damaged. You should also avoid using recycled or free boxes when packing your things. Reusing boxes from your own home is fine, but you shouldn’t pick up any free boxes from outside your household. Since COVID-19 can live on cardboard for 24 hours, you could risk infection. 

Research Pandemic Procedures At Local Donation Centers

Moving is usually a great time to donate all the things you no longer use or need in your house. Due to the pandemic, however, many donation centers were forced to close for a period of time. Luckily though, most donation centers, including Goodwill and Salvation Army, are now open and accepting donations again.

Before you stop in to drop off your items, make sure to contact your local donation center and ask about their COVID-19 procedures. There may be a specific protocol you’ll need to follow when leaving your items in order to keep the process safe and contactless.

Keep Hand Sanitizer And Soap Available

According to the CDC, handwashing is one of the most effective ways to keep yourself and others from getting sick. Germs can spread easily if you touch a contaminated surface or object and especially fast if you touch your eyes, mouth, or nose with unwashed hands. Be sure to wash your hands before and after touching anything that others will also be touching. If you aren’t near soap and water, you can use hand sanitizer, as long as it is alcohol-based and ideally contains more than 60% alcohol.

Make sure you have disinfectant materials, soap, and hand sanitizer available during the entire duration of your move. Even if you’ve cleaned and sanitized everything movers may be touching, keep hand sanitizer available for use to be safe. Minimizing the amount of potentially contaminated surfaces is a must if anyone outside your household will be helping you move.

Even if you’re tackling the move yourself, you should still keep sanitizer available. When moving to a new place, you don’t know what kind of germs you may encounter during the process, so it’s best to stay prepared.

Finish Packing 24 Hours In Advance

Sanitizing all your things before moving is smart to reduce the risk of contaminated surfaces that you and anyone helping you may be touching. If you want to make sure your move is absolutely as safe as possible, however, you should finish packing everything 24 hours or more in advance of your actual move date. Remember, COVID-19 can thrive on surfaces such as cardboard for 24 hours – and up to 72 hours on some plastics. By disinfecting and then allowing your belongings to sit, you can hopefully make sure you’re not exposing any of your items to any more germs than necessary before being touched by someone else.

How To Work Safely With A Moving Company

two men in blue uniforms moving carrying moving boxes away from a truck

While it’s very common to DIY your move, there are some situations where you may need the help of professional movers. If your new home is a significant distance away or you have very heavy furniture, like a piano, you may need to hire movers. More hands touching your furniture and boxes comes with increased risk, but if you sanitize everything and make sure the company follows strict COVID-19 safety guidelines as well, you can make the process a little safer.

It’s possible to cut out some of the usual in-person interaction with your moving company of choice, too. Many companies allow you to get a free online quote for the price of your move as well as digitally set up initial contact with you. Before your move, you may want to look into what digital resources are available to you as well as what COVID-19 safety regulations your moving company of choice has in place.

After confirming your appointment, make sure to discuss best practices with the company to ensure everyone is on the same page. Asking about their refund policy may be wise, too, in case of emergency cancellation or postponement.

What Are Moving Companies Doing To Protect Customers? 

two men in blue uniforms wearing a mask, carrying a TV

Many people are understandably hesitant to work with a moving company during this time, especially if they have family members at a higher risk for experiencing dangerous COVID-19 symptoms. In response, most moving companies are following local and federal government pandemic guidelines as well as taking extra precautions for their customers. Safety protocols vary state by state, but in general, you can expect your moving company to take the following precautions:

  • Practicing social distancing with customers and team members
  • Non-contact methods of greeting and transaction
  • Wearing masks, gloves, and additional protection gear
  • Sanitizing trucks and equipment
  • Using hand sanitizer between loading trips

If you have additional safety concerns or requests, you should contact your mover to discuss these terms with them before the date of the move.

Tips For A Germ-Free Move-In

three photos: person with yellow gloves cleaning, stack of boxes, and folded up boxes stacked on top of each other

Once all of your things have successfully made it to your new home, it’s time to start actually moving in. Like every other step of the process, there are still some precautions to be taken – but at this point, you’ll be in the home stretch!

Whether movers or friends help you relocate your furniture and belongings or not, it’s a good idea to disinfect your new home and sanitize everything again as you move in, just to be safe. Here are a few tips on how to do that.

Disinfect Your New Home Before Settling In

Pandemic or not, it’s always a good idea to clean your new space before moving your belongings inside. Any new place comes with the potential of germs, and you really have no way of knowing how clean everything has been left for you until you take a look at it.

If your home is newly built, there may be lingering dirt and dust left over from construction that you’ll have to clean up. If someone owned your home before you, there could be dirt or grime in any corner of the house. It’s a good idea to clean and disinfect every room thoroughly, preferably with a cleaner approved to fight COVID-19 as we mentioned earlier. A good place to start cleaning is the bathroom since there’s a good chance it will be the first thing in your home you’ll find yourself using. Make sure to scrub every surface as you’re disinfecting the house, including windowsills, light fixtures, and even the walls.

Let Items Sit For A Few Days

Once you’ve finished cleaning (and if you have the time to do so) you should consider allowing your belongings to sit in their boxes for a few days before fully unpacking. Since COVID-19 can live on some surfaces for 24 – 72 hours, waiting it out after disinfecting can help you avoid touching any contaminated surfaces. This is especially true if you worked with movers or anyone outside your household who handled your belongings.

Properly Dispose Of Packing Materials 

Once you’ve finally disinfected and unpacked everything, you’ll probably notice that you have some boxes lying around – a lot of them. If you’re moving anything again in the near future and will need boxes, it’s OK to keep and reuse the ones you used for your move. Be sure to disinfect any boxes or packing materials that you plan on reusing before storing them.

If you have no use for any of your leftover boxes and packing materials, you can take them to a local recycling center. Once again, you may want to wipe down your boxes and other materials before dropping them off just to make sure you aren’t passing along anything contaminated. Remember, too, not to pick up any other used cardboard boxes or touch any unnecessary items while at the recycling center.

FAQ: Moving During The Coronavirus

three photos: words cancelled in a vertical line, a female putting her hand on a males forehead, a hallways of storage units

What If I Want To Cancel My Move?

If you have to move for a new job or some other unavoidable circumstance, it may not be possible to cancel your move – but if you have the opportunity and would rather postpone or call off your move, contact your moving company (if you’re using one) right away.

All moving providers are different and policies may vary, but many moving contracts are non-binding, meaning you can cancel your move without penalty as long as you call it off far enough in advance. If you had to make a down payment or deposit, make sure to ask your provider if it will be refunded when you cancel.

Someone In My Household Feels Sick. How Will That Affect My Move?

If you’re working with a moving company or anyone outside your household, notify them right away if anyone in your family feels sick. Safety should be your top priority when attempting to move during this time. As soon as you or a family member become suspicious of infection or starts experiencing symptoms, contact your health care provider about getting tested for COVID-19. In the event of a positive test result, you’ll need to contact your moving company about postponing the move until the sick party has recovered and tested negative.

If you or a sick household member tests negative for COVID-19, your moving company will likely proceed with the move. Note that it is possible to test negative for the coronavirus while actually being infected if your test is taken during a very early stage of your infection. To be safe, make sure to take extra precautions while packing and moving to assure everything is disinfected and you’re remaining socially distant, even if you or a family member did not test positive. 

What If I Need To Work With A Storage Company? 

Like moving companies, storage facilities are open and should be following COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions. If you plan on using a storage company at this time, be aware that they may have a visitor maximum capacity in place as well as limited hours of operation. Before visiting, make sure the storage service you’re working with is following proper sanitization practices and enforcing proper social distancing for both your safety and the safety of other customers and employees.

The Bottom Line

Moving during COVID-19 is not impossible, but you should take extra precautions to keep yourself and others safe if you decide to go through with it. Properly disinfecting during your move is more important now than ever.

For more information on COVID-19 and how it might impact you and your home buying process, we encourage you to research how the pandemic is affecting the housing market and check out our COVID-19 Resource Guide.

Sidney Richardson is an intern writer covering homeownership, mortgage and lifestyle topics. She is a senior at Oakland University pursuing a degree in journalism and advertising.

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