The Ultimate Guide to Moving Season in Boston

Deep breaths. It's going to be okay. From where to move, to who to hire for your move, and how to move, this walkthrough has got you covered.

moving boxes empty house

Photo via Getty Images/Morsa Images

What is there to say about moving in Boston that can’t be more eloquently said by any picture of a moving truck that’s been Storrowed? We try. We fail. Our cars don’t fit on our roads.

Last year (and, okay, every year before) maybe you woke up the day before the big move in a sweaty panic, looking around at your completely unpacked fourth floor walk-up and over at the neat pile of unfolded moving boxes. But this year can be different. Take our hand, read this guide, and end your moving day with an afternoon ice cream instead of a 1 a.m. breakdown.

From what to do with your furniture, to which moving company to hire, to how to shop the streets during Allston Christmas, read on for all of the packing and relocating hacks you need to get through this moving season.

When to Move

If you can make it happen, winter is the best (re: less traffic, lower rent) time to sign a new lease. But alas, many of us are stuck on the nightmarish carousel that is the September 1 lease cycle. In those cases, you can still escape some of the chaos by moving slightly before or after—some moving companies offer temporary storage—the first. Plus, doing so can save you some significant cash: According to Azuraye Wycoff and Charles Conigliaro of Small Haul, “If you can move before or after August 31 or September 1 that will cut your costs nearly in half.”

Who to Hire for Your Move

Larry O’Toole, the founder and owner of Gentle Giant Movers, has a saying: “The last move you do yourself is the one you do with your ex-friends.” That is, the move where all the beer, pizza, and Dunkin’ Donuts in the world couldn’t make up for lugging your solid oak furniture up four flights of stairs. Or, the one where they broke your great-grandmother’s valuable antique because they are dehydrated friends, and not professional movers. When the day comes to call up a moving company, here is your deep dive into the best moving companies in Boston.

Where to Live

Though our small city spans roughly 50 square miles, its winding roads and occasionally cobbled alleys delineate the state’s capital into 23 distinct neighborhoods. While they all boast their own charms and annoyances, not all are created equal. These are some of the most accommodating neighborhoods, according to real estate brokerage Redfin. (Or, for a more holistic approach, check out our neighborhood guides to many Boston area locales.)

If You Love to Walk: Chinatown-Leather District takes the cake for the most walkable neighborhood, closely followed by North End, Bay Village, Beacon Hill, and Downtown Boston.

If You Don’t Hate the T: There’s some overlap between the best neighborhoods for walking around and hopping on the MBTA. Downtown, Chinatown, Bay Village, and North End top the list, while new additions such as West End, South End, and Lower Roxbury also make the top 10.

If You Don’t Mind Some Helmet Hair: An average of nearly 40,000 trips are made by bike each day in Boston, according to Redfin. The best places to make those two-wheeled treks? Hyde Square, Lower Roxbury, Allston, and South End all earn admirable Bike Scores in the 90s.

How to Assess Free Furniture

How do you spot a bed bug-ridden couch, tell if a chair will fall out from under you, or appraise an antique you find on the sidewalk? The discarded items that line Boston’s streets might turn out to be more treasure than trash if you know what to look for—check out our expert tips for doing so here.

Where to Buy Furniture

If you opt for buying fresh furnishings for your new home, or you’re looking to pad your Allston Christmas presents with some store-bought pieces, there are plenty of shops around the city to do so. From high-end Italian designs at Montage to eclectic treasures at SoWa Vintage Market, here are 22 stores to buy furniture in Boston.

Where to Sell or Donate Furniture

Whether you’re downsizing to a smaller apartment and need to purge some extra clutter, or you want to regift some of your free furniture take-homes, there’s a plethora of options to turn to before chucking them in the dumpster. We’re all familiar with the hit-or-miss minefield that is Craiglist and the drop-and-go ease of Goodwill, but here are some less obvious spots to sell or donate your ware.

OfferUp: This app calls itself “the biggest mobile marketplace for local buyers and sellers.” Take a quick photo of the item, post a brief description, price it as you please, then field offers through the app.

Nextdoor: This network helps users connect with fellow residents of their own neighborhood, which, when it comes to selling and transporting furniture, is incredibly convenient.

MIT Furniture Exchange: Though the Cambridge-based discount furniture warehouse is only open to MIT, Harvard, BU, Emerson, and Suffolk ID-holders, they accept donations from anyone. Staff-approved donations can be dropped off at the FX or even picked up for free, and the proceeds help the MIT Women’s League fund scholarships.

ReStore: This Habitat for Humanity brick-and-mortar in West Roxbury accepts gently used furniture. Profits from the sale of donated items go back into the nonprofit, to help build housing for families in need.

Boomerangs: In support of AIDS Action Committee, Boomerangs also welcomes and resells certain types of furniture. If you have a clean piece in good condition, fill out their online form to request a free pick-up.

Advice from the Experts

Don’t: Wait until the last minute to book a mover. “You should be booking out 4-6 weeks ahead during [the September season],” O’Toole of Gentle Giant advises.

Do: Be flexible. If you do put off locking down a mover, with a little flexibility some moving companies can find “a creative way to accommodate somebody” says O’Toole.

Don’t: Use cheap moving boxes. “It’s important to use sturdy, professional boxes that are the same size, closed, and labeled,” cautions O’Toole.

Do: Pack strategically. “If you rent a U-Haul, there is a method to packing the truck. Think of it as putting in the rocks first, then the pebbles, then sand, then water. Keep the fragile stuff for the end, or bring it in the cab,” say Wycoff.

Don’t: Leave anything unlabeled. “If you have things not being moved out, put a ‘not moving’ label on them that’s easily seen,” suggests O’Toole.

Do: Point out the fragile stuff. “If you have something that is precious to you, make sure the movers know,” says O’Toole. “We’ll be careful with everything, but if you say ‘Hey, this has nitroglycerin in it,’ we’re going to be extra careful.” And in general, put all the fragile items together in one pile.

Don’t: Always trust what you read online. “Talk to people that have used a company,” says O’Toole. “And if you have time, drive out to the address and watch their dispatch in the morning, and you’ll know all about them. It’s not 100 percent reliable, but I think it’s the best indication.”

Do: Disassemble your Snefjord. “Ikea furniture is very difficult to move because it has no structural integrity. It’s not really designed to be moved after its been assembled. For furniture that you had to put together yourself, if you disassemble it and package it carefully, that will really help with your move,” says O’Toole. “When I move that stuff I treat if it were a priceless antique, because it’s just as fragile.”