It’s moving season—actually, it seems like a moving epidemic. Houses are selling so quickly that their owners barely have time to pack up properly and often aren’t ready with a new place to land. Although the timing of a sale is unpredictable and the market is nuts, there’s still a lot within your control to help make a move run smoothly.

Preparing as far in advance as possible is so important. As soon as you’re feeling even slightly moved to move, start looking around your house and editing. This goes double or triple if you will be downsizing. Grab your notetaking device of choice and start in one room and work your way through the home. What needs to go? Be rigorous. People often pay to have things packed and moved that they don’t even really like, need or want just because they got rushed into moving quickly by a buyer with cash and a demanding schedule.

If you think you have a lot of valuables to sell, start researching sooner rather than later. Alas, the market continues to be flooded with what used to be considered essential entertaining items. If you think your china, Depression Glass collection, Tiffany crystal or silverware has high value, you will probably be disappointed. Soup tureens, deviled egg platters and napkin rings are almost impossible to unload. If your items were last appraised in the 1970s, it’s very likely the value has dramatically lessened. Having enjoyed the items has to be the value at this point, so consider yourself extra lucky if you are able to sell anything.

Antiques and antiquities are also difficult to sell, although now that we are coming out of Covid restrictions in-person auctions will start happening again. Large furniture and things like pianos are tough to find homes for, so the earlier you start looking, the better.

With small antiques and antiquities like dishes and vases, condition is crucial. In 2020, most items needed to be in mint condition in order to sell. Without buyers being able to see items in person, the chance of a sale falling through due to an items’ condition once received were very good, so auction houses avoided almost anything chipped, cracked or otherwise imperfect.

Next, I suggest interviewing at least three moving companies and also ask anyone you know about their moving experience. Sometimes knowing who not to hire is just as important as a glowing recommendation. Try one national, one local and one out of town (like East Bay) moving company. If you are not sure where you will land and need storage, a moving company with its own storage facility is a good bet.

Moving companies carry insurance and are trained to pack well, so unless your art and other things are extremely valuable, you should be able to trust your mover to handle all of the packing. That said, be sure to inquire during the interview about their insurance and get specifics.

Try to use up all your food and condiments before you pack and certainly don’t have a bunch of food boxed up if you are months away from moving into a new place. At best, you are paying to have (relatively) very low cost items packed and stored. At worst (if you are storing your things in someone’s garage or basement) you are risking a nasty mouse and rat invasion. Even soaps and shampoos or other scented items can attract pests, so use up all that stuff or take it with you to your temporary digs.

Keep an inventory of everything you’ve had packed and label the boxes as specifically as possible. Just labeling a box “Kitchen” won’t be helpful when you are attempting to methodically unpack.

With artwork, I like to take a photo of the piece and tape it to the exterior of the packing material. That way you don’t have to open each one up to find the one you are looking for, which is especially helpful because art is packed with extra care (and therefore, expense) and it is difficult to repack it well.

Photographs are great for insurance purposes too, so the more photos and the more detail you have, the better. A good mover will also point out any existing damage, like a chipped dish or scratched table, before they pack to let you know they were not responsible and may ask you to sign an inventory sheet showing any damaged items.

The best time to hire an organizer is either at the very beginning to declutter and help with an inventory or when unpacking the in the new home to find just the right places and the ideal storage for everything. Otherwise, you can confidently rely on a good moving company and a helpful realtor to get you through the process.