New home checklist: The ultimate guide to moving in

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Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

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Beth Swanson

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  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Beth joined The Zebra in 2022 as an Associate Content Strategist. She is a licensed insurance agent whose goal is to make insurance content easy to r…

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Staying organized during your move

Moving into a new house is an exciting endeavor, but it’s also incredibly stressful when it’s happening. Whether you’re in charge of making sure everyone in the household is ready to go or just need to get yourself and your pet out the door, it’s understandable if you feel overwhelmed during this transition. To help make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible, we’ve compiled the ultimate new home checklist to prepare for your move. 

This guide will help you keep track of important action items for you to do before, during and after your move so you don’t forget the little things. Once you are ready to go, you can focus all of your energy on making sure your favorite piece of furniture or your beloved house plants don’t get damaged in the process.[1] Look into adding moving insurance in addition to home insurance to cover your items during and after your move. 

Feel free to jump through to each moving stage or down to the infographic for a visual walkthrough of our new home checklist and a list of essential things to buy for your new house.

Things to do before moving

Preparation is key. Make sure you give yourself ample time to accomplish these tasks before move-in day. To make sure you have enough time, download our week-by-week moving timeline below and check off tasks as you go.


Week by week moving checklist and wall sign printables

Set up utilities and internet

One of the most important things to do to make your home livable is to set up your utilities. This is best done in advance, so you don’t have to worry about whether the toilets will flush or the lights will turn on when it gets dark. Call the gas, electric and water providers in your area to set the day before your move-in date as the day of activation (or you can set it for your move-in day if you like to live on the edge). 

Although internet connection and cable may not be essential to life, they do help provide the usual comforts of home. Both of these usually require installation, so it’s good to schedule the appointment at least a month in advance in case providers are busy. Once the internet is up and running, you’ll be in your new home watching Netflix in no time. 

Recruit movers

Another thing you need to do about four to six weeks in advance is recruit movers. This is especially important if you are moving across states and need a service. Shop around to see who has the best prices, policies and safety precautions (especially if you are moving during the pandemic) before you decide on a company.

If you’re going the DIY route, make sure you’re equipped to move. Book trailers or truck rentals early to ensure availability. If you’re all right with expanding your bubble during the pandemic, recruit some friends to mask up and help you move. Just remember to express your gratitude.


Change your address

In order for important bills and documents to not get lost during your transition, you need to change your address with institutions like your bank, your employer, the USPS and the IRS. Doing this promptly also helps to keep your identity safe. Use this change of address checklist to make sure you don’t miss anyone important!


Contact your insurance company

Whether you are moving across the country or two doors down, you will need to notify your home insurance company. In addition to filing a change of address with them, you also need to check if your current policy still covers your new home or if you need to add coverage. Making sure you have an appropriate policy for accidents and disasters will help protect your new investment. 

Regardless of if you’re moving within state or out-of-state, it’s necessary to update your car insurance too. Rates for car insurance policies are determined by ZIP code, so make sure to shop around to see if there are better deals compared to your current policy.


Collect and label important documents

Loose papers and documents can easily get lost during a move. You don’t want to misplace things like your birth certificate, Social Security card, insurance policies, outstanding bills, tax documents and medical records. Collect all of your important documents, label and organize them into folders and remember to pack them in a box or bag where they will be easily accessible. This will save you from a headache later on when you need them.


Roundup packing supplies

It’s good to start rounding up packing supplies once you have a move-in date. Saving and reusing old boxes will help you save money on supplies and prevent excess waste from affecting the environment. Ask friends and family if they have extra boxes to donate to your efforts as well. 


Take inventory of valuables

No one wants to lose or misplace a valuable belonging during a move. Whether it’s big or small, take inventory of valuable personal property like jewelry, electronics, sentimental items, photo albums, expensive art or fine furniture. In your inventory, it’s helpful to note or take a picture of the condition it’s currently in. This record serves as evidence if your furniture is damaged later.


Sort through belongings

Moving often marks a good time to declutter and downsize. Go through your belongings and sort through the stuff you don’t need and the stuff you can’t live without. Decluttering means less stuff to pack and less clutter in your new home.


Sell or donate items

After deciding what stays and what goes, take the time to sell or donate your unwanted items. Donate things that are gently used and in good working condition like pots and pans, clothes, toys, furniture, tools and books to charities that accept free donations. If you want to earn some extra cash for the new house, try selling newer items in a Facebook marketplace or on a consignment app. Things like electronics, fashionable clothes and furniture often have a good chance of selling.


Start packing

Now that everything that is left over are things you are taking with you, you can start packing. A good tip is to label boxes based on the room that the items inside belong in. For example, a box of pots and pans should have a kitchen label. Once everything is labeled, group the boxes by their room categories so they get loaded in and loaded out together. This will make moving day easier because you won’t have to run around the house. 

Another packing tip is to pack heavier items in small boxes and lighter items in bigger boxes. This means that when someone bends down to pick something up, you won’t have packed a gigantic box that is too heavy to lift.


Call the cleaners (or DIY)

As you take stock of your belongings and begin packing, it’s good to think about deep cleaning both your old and new homes. For your old place, you may need to schedule a professional cleaning for the new owners if it’s required in your contract. If your contract just states that it should be “broom clean,” feel free to tackle the sweeping and vacuuming yourself before you leave.[2]

When it comes to your new abode, if you didn’t specify a professional cleaning before moving in, it’s probably safe to assume your new home will also be left broom clean. Schedule a professional cleaner to come in before you move all your furniture if you want it sanitized and spotless. 


Schedule time off

Unfortunately, the world doesn’t stop when we have a major transition in our lives. Being proactive and scheduling time off of work makes a big difference when it comes to moving. Time off is especially useful if you are moving far away or think you will need more than a weekend to move in. 


Complete any home repairs

Depending on purchase agreements with your seller and your buyer, you may need to complete home repairs for your new or old place. Make sure the sellers of your new home have repairs done before your move-in date if they were written into your contract after a home inspection. Any repairs to the roof, HVAC, foundation and water heater must be done in order for your house to be livable. You will need to do the same for the new owners of your old home if your contract requires it.  


Finish your food

Once you have a move-in date, you’ll probably want to start eating your way through your refrigerator and pantry. Moving a bunch of nonperishable food items to your new home is a hassle, but it’s also a waste to throw out excess food. Think about carefully planning meals with whatever is left in the house and only buy groceries when necessary. 

If you end up with food leftovers, give them away to family and friends or donate nonperishables to a local food bank. A day or two before you leave, remember to defrost your fridge and freezer.

Things to buy for a new house

A shopping trip for the new house can be exciting, but it can also quickly get out of hand and out of budget if you don’t stay focused. We’ve outlined the essentials below based on the major rooms in your home.


As one of the highest traffic areas in any house, a well-stocked kitchen will be a place to gather for good times and good eats.

Kitchen essentials:

  • Dinnerware
  • Flatware (forks, knives, spoons)
  • Pots and pans
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Hand towels
  • Cooking gadgets (toaster, blender, slow cooker)
  • Kettle
  • Trash can

Living Room
Your living room should be versatile enough to spend quality time with friends and family or doing your favorite activities.

Living room essentials:

  • Couch
  • Coffee table
  • Television
  • TV stand
  • Lamp
  • Decor (throw pillows, blankets, houseplants)
  • Power strip and extension cord

Decorating a new bedroom is an opportunity to be creative and showcase your personality. Feel free to turn this space into a place you will feel good spending time in.

Bedroom essentials:

  • Mattress
  • Bed frame
  • Bedding
  • Pillows
  • Night stand
  • Lamp
  • Hangers
  • Extra storage (shelves, bins, dresser)

The bathroom is a part of everyone’s daily routine. Keep it stocked with the important stuff.

Bathroom essentials:

  • Toilet paper
  • Hand soap
  • Shower curtain
  • Shower toiletries
  • Bath and hand towels
  • Toilet brush
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Trash can 

Garages are versatile spaces. Whether you use it as storage, have a little workshop or just keep your car in there, it’s handy to keep a few helpful items in there.

Garage essentials:

  • Storage bins
  • Shelves or hooks
  • Tools
  • Gardening supplies
  • Patio furniture
  • Car supplies 

Things to do when moving

Move-in day can be the most stressful and hectic. Take a deep breath and know that you have prepared as best as possible for your new home. Keep the essentials accessible and follow these tips for a smooth transition.


Remember the keys

Without your keys, you can’t actually move yourself and your stuff inside. Put your keys in a place where you will easily see them the night before you leave for your new house. Before you leave, make sure you have them on you or within easy reach.


Pack essentials within reach

After your keys, there are some essentials you should keep near you at all times during the move. Pack a go-bag with daily medication, necessary toiletries (e.g., toothbrush, toothpaste, contact solution), extra changes of comfy clothes, a water bottle and some snacks. You may also want to consider storing your keys and important documents in this bag as well. Having access to the things you need will make it easier for you on this hectic day.


Meet your movers

Since you are the one with the keys, you will need to meet your movers at your house to open up the doors. It’s ideal if you get there before them so that they aren’t waiting around, but also keep in close contact with them in case of delays. It’s no fun staying in an empty house for hours.


Identify the circuit breaker and shut-off valves

An important step toward getting to know your new home is identifying the circuit breaker and shut-off valves in case of an emergency. Get familiar with these in case you ever need to stop the flow of water or reset the power in your house.


Clean surfaces

If your new home wasn’t professionally cleaned, it’s good to clean all surfaces before unpacking. Wipe down countertops and do a quick sweep of the floor before placing furniture and organizing your things.

Things to do after moving

You did it! You have successfully moved into your new home, so follow the last steps of this checklist to start settling in.


Unpack strategically

The process of unpacking your entire life and getting it settled in a new home is a daunting task. Start by unpacking the essentials (toiletries, changes of clothes, medication, etc.), and then unpack room by room using the labeled packing scheme you used before the move. Each time you successfully unpack a room will be a mini victory, and feel free to celebrate when all the rooms have been finished!


Change your locks

If your house was previously owned, changing your locks can be a good step toward protection and peace of mind in your new home. Get this done by doing it yourself or hiring a locksmith to do it for you.


Make a spare key

Once you’ve changed your locks, it’s good to make a spare key in case of emergencies. People typically hide the spare key under a door mat, but this well-known hiding spot is not the best at preventing theft. Get creative! Hide it in your garage if it’s protected by a code, or even try hiding it in your backyard under some patio furniture or a plant pot so its location is less obvious.


Check your smoke detector and HVAC

Upon moving to a new house, it’s essential to check that your smoke detector and HVAC system are working properly. According to the National Fire Protection Association, smoke detectors prevent deaths and injuries from fires when installed and maintained properly. Test your smoke alarm and replace its batteries if necessary.[3]

It’s important to check your HVAC system right away, too. Inspect your air filters, as well as your heating and cooling units. Change dirty air filters and remove any debris that could cause problems. Additionally, moving is hard, physical work and depending on the season you’re moving in, you should be wary of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Keep the A/C on if the temperatures are high and especially if you have little ones helping out. 


Stock up on groceries

No one wants to open the doors to an empty pantry or refrigerator after a long day of unpacking. Make time for a grocery run to stock up on some quick and easy options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Fresh fruits and veggies are nice to have around as healthy snacks and sides. It’s also useful to stock up on canned goods like beans and dry goods like pasta, oats and rice. Get a spice and seasoning collection going so you can start making meals in your new kitchen. 

It’s also okay if you don’t feel like cooking right away. Frozen or microwave meals, while not always the healthiest, are convenient after moving. Just make sure you’re nourishing your body with food and water after all of your hard work.


Update your car registration

After settling into your new house, you’ll want to update your car registration with your local Department of Motor Vehicles. To do this, you will need to send in your driver’s license, vehicle information, and proof of insurance. Check your specific state’s website for other requirements. Once everything is processed, they send you your new registration and new plates (if you’ve moved from a different state). 


Start a house maintenance checklist

The key to preserving the longevity of your new home is maintaining it. Whether it’s a brand new construction or a preloved, humble abode, it’s important to keep your house in good shape. Whether it’s changing HVAC filters or rotating your ceiling fans, you won’t want to forget these maintenance tasks, so start a seasonal house maintenance checklist to keep track of them all.

If you’ve made it to the end of this moving checklist, you can relax and focus on enjoying your new home. Soon your home will be filled with memories, and you can look back at what once seemed like a stressful move and laugh. Commemorate the start of your wonderful new home life by writing down the date on the printable wall sign below.

A lot of work goes into moving to a new place, but know that preparation will make the process easier. As you make this big life transition, remember that unexpected things can happen and property can get damaged along the way. Invest in moving insurance to protect you during this process, and remember to keep your home and car insurance updated too.

  1. How to care for plants while moving. Atlas Van Lines

  2. The best time to sell a house. The Balance

  3. Smoke detector installation. NFPA