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Save time and money with these tips and tricks


The US Post Office (USPS) may be cheapest for parcels weighing less than 50 pounds. Watch for size and weight restrictions imposed by foreign post offices. Check the post office website, or ask us for an estimate.

USPS is likely the cheapest way to go. They offer special low Book shipping rates and Media shipping rates.

If you can go slow, check out Fed Ex ground — not Fed Ex air — for shipments over 5 pounds. Otherwise, try USPS. Feel free to call for an estimate.

FedEx Ground is likely to have cheap shipping cost for weights over 5 pounds.

Shipments over 100 pounds — not likely shipped as one unit. May be freighted.

This is really important. Some parcel carriers (one in particular) pad their bills outrageously. Your bill may be as much as 10% too high every week!

How do you audit a bill? It’s not too difficult — just tedious.
Compare the bill against your own shipping records.
Is the number of parcels shipped correct?
Are all the weights correct?
Check the adjustments. (These are corrections to your bill.)
Be sure you understand what the terms mean. Just call and ask the carrier.
Are there any weight corrections? If so, why?
Are the Oversize Charges correct?
Are the Extra Handling charges justified?
Did you pay any of these shipping rate adjustments last week? i.e., are you being double billed?

Most carriers guarantee the time of delivery for shipments. Trace your shipments and see if any arrived late. You may be entitled to a refund.

Shipments to remote areas are frequently late. Be especially sure to check those.

Avoid Oversize Charges

To get the total length and girth of a box:

Measure the width of the package, rounding to the nearest inch. Multiply this number by 2.
Measure the height of the package, rounding to the nearest inch. Multiply this number by 2.
Add these two numbers together. This is your girth.

Avoid Volume Charges
Domestic air carriers impose a minimum charge called DIM Weight. Each parcel is assumed to weigh no less than 8.91 pounds per cubic foot. (The overseas charge is slightly higher.) For example, a 3 cubic foot box containing a comforter would be charged as though it weighed about 27 pounds — not the 6 or 7 pounds you would expect.

If you are shipping light, bulky items by air use a box no larger than you really need. We are NOT suggesting that you use insufficient padding. We are suggesting that you use no larger box than is really needed.

Storing Your Valuables

It’s best to store boxes with a little air space beneath them. Here in San Diego, boxes left resting on a concrete floor will begin to mildew within a few weeks. Set the boxes on bricks, scraps of wood or — best of all — old pallets. If the storage area happens to be sprinklered, a loose draping of a plastic tarp over the stack might be a little insurance in the rare event of a sprinkler failure.

The most important advice we can offer is never store china or crystal wrapped in old newspapers. Newspaper ink will rub off and stain china. Old fashioned crystal with etched designs is even more sensitive to staining. (The ink becomes embedded in the etched portions and is very difficult to remove.) Use unprinted newsprint, tissue paper, paper towels or foam packing pockets.

Don’t use bubble pack for very long term storage. The bubbles can go flat in a year or so — even the barrier bubble.

Pack items neatly so that you can unpack without breaking anything. During moving and storage a large portion of dish breakage occurs during unpacking. It’s easy to pull out a lump of paper or bubble wrap and find you haven’t quite gotten hold of the teacup inside. Sugar bowl covers are almost impossible to detect in a bundle of wadded paper. We recommend the use of foam packing pockets rather than bubble wrap or packing paper.

The best practical advice we can offer is to try to find storage units that avoid extremes in temperature and humidity. Attics can get hotter and dryer than is really safe for fine furniture. (The same goes for garages and most commercial storage units.) A spare room is usually a good choice. If you must use a basement let us suggest that (no matter how dry it is) you set the furniture up on cement blocks in case of a sewer backup.

Most of us feel we need to cover furniture to avoid dust and scratching during moving and storage. Use of the wrong furniture cover can cause a surprising amount of damage. There are three things to look out for in furniture covers:

  1. The cover should have NO loose fibers. Over extended periods of time, (3 years or more) loose fibers can become embedded in the finish. Don’t use soft, fuzzy flannel! NEVER use mover’s wrap (which is a batt of soft fibers backed by a paper sheet)! Even mover’s pads have fibers which can cause problems over time.
  2. The cover should be chemically unreactive. NEVER use old newspapers. They can transfer ink. NEVER use vinyl sheets. They will ooze plasticizer. NEVER use paint cloths with paint spots! — No matter how old the paint is.
  3. The cover should breathe. Don’t use plastic sheeting which can trap condensed water against the finish.

The most valuable antiques are stored in large crates with only the bottoms of the feet touching a surface. Old bed sheets may do a decent job of covering most furniture. We offer a paper pad which we feel is an excellent way to do the job.

Remodeling can present very acute moving and storage problems. The in-home workers will generate large amounts of plaster dust and saw dust. Generally the furniture will be stored near the work area. To make things even worse, the furniture may occasionally be moved by the workers.

In this case, old sheets or blankets will not do a good job. Fine plaster dust will filter right through them. The best advice we can offer is to wrap all of the furniture carefully and heavily in paper or fabric moving pads. Also, it’s a good idea to vacuum the covered furniture before unwrapping it after moving or storage.

How can we help


The most important advice we can give is don’t move stuff you don’t need! For a long move, it will cost at least $1.00 per pound to move something. (This figure includes cost of freight, plus the cost of boxes plus the cost of packing materials.) To get rid of stuff, hold a garage sale before you start to pack. If you can’t hold a sale, give the stuff to a charity. Your contribution may be tax deductible. As a last resort, just throw the stuff out. Renting a dumpster may actually make sense. But don’t pay good money to move stuff you ought to throw out.

To pack out a 3 bedroom house can easily cost in excess of $600. It’s hard work. But, with care, you can do as good a job as a professional packer.

If you elect to pack yourself, shop around for boxes. The internet is not a cheap place to buy moving boxes. Used boxes are often weak or have been exposed to moisture or crawly critters.

Be sure you get all the packing finished before the movers arrive. Movers are happy to finish the job but, of course, they will charge you for their effort.

Get price quotes from at least 3 movers and, other things being OK, go with the cheapest mover. The highest priced mover need not be the best. They may simply have a lot of work already booked. The big, brand name movers, generally, do a good job, but you may get a much better deal from a small, local mover who can offer good references. Many local movers were trained by brand name movers before going into business for themselves. We can recommend a number of local San Diego movers whom we have come to trust. And, we do not receive payment for these referrals.

Keep all your receipts for moving expenses. The moving expenses may be tax deductible — including some travel costs. Check out the IRS website for more information.

If you’re concerned about your furniture being damaged, be sure your furniture will be well padded when it is moved. Some of the truck freight and container freight deals do not supply movers pads. (Movers come equipped with stacks of thick pads. Truck rental firms will rent you as many pads as you need.) But be concerned about a scheme where no pads are offered and the carrier requires a release from damages. We can sell you all sorts of inexpensive padding materials for furniture packing — bubble pack, foam wrap, paper pads, single face corrugated — but really good furniture ought to be protected by real furniture pads.

It’s best to keep pets inside or in a secure location outside as you start to pack.

Give pets plenty of time to get used to the new home before letting them loose outside. (You don’t want them to try one of those heroic journeys back to the old place.)

It’s illegal to pack dangerous items for transport by Common Carrier (Your mover): Don’t move items such as:

  • Aerosol spray cans
    • Paint
    • Insecticides
  • Ammunition
  • Compressed flammable gases like propane or acetylene
  • Corrosives like bleach or muriatic acid
  • Explosives like Fireworks or black powder
  • Gasoline
    • Small quantities of gasoline can be highly explosive in a packed moving truck
    • Drain and blow dry any small cans of fuel.
    • Drain and blow dry the fuel tanks on all power tools
  • Used motor oil
    • While new motor oil is scarcely flammable, used motor oil can have a lot of gasoline dissolved in it. It can be a bit flammable and emit flammable vapor.
    • Drain the crankcase of all power equipment.
    • Tag the equipment to remind yourself to refill the crankcase before use.
  • Pesticides
  • Solvents

Packing the above items in a moving truck is not only illegal — it is genuinely dangerous for the movers and for their truck.

Avoid messy items. We have a list of things to avoid moving long distances. Everything below is entirely legal to move. However, we’ve seen enough problems with spillage to feel it’s not worth the risk.

  • Cans of water based paint
  • Large glass jars of:
    • Any food item
    • Cooking oil
    • Vinegar
    • Liquid cleaners
  • Open packages of:
    • Flour
    • Salt
    • Laundry detergent
    • Large containers of irritants like pepper or chili powder

Avoid restricted items. A few other items are restricted on interstate moves. Moving these across state lines may violate either state or federal laws. Check with your mover if you have questions.

  • Unregistered guns
  • Many kinds of plants
  • Some fresh fruit
  • Some types of pornography