Be sure to leave time to give proper notice on your rental or sell your existing house. For a rental, check your rental agreement: Most agreements require that you inform your landlord 30 days before you vacate the premises (or, at least, that you continue to pay rent for 30 days after you give notice, whether or not you live there).
If you own a house, realize that it may take several weeks to prepare it for sale (between taking care of deferred maintenance, repainting, and making it look good for the sale). And after that, it could, depending on your local market, take several weeks or months to sell. Consider the current market in your area and contact a real estate agent for an analysis of how much comparable properties have sold for and on what timetable.
If you're moving for a job, negotiate with your employer about having it pick up the costs. If your employer isn't willing to foot the bill for the entire move, perhaps it will reimburse you for part of it. Meanwhile, look into the tax implications of having your employer finance your move.
Take a look around at your furniture and household items. What will you bring? What will you leave? How will you get rid of what you're leaving? Some good ideas: Hold a yard sale, donate to charity, or sell your stuff online.
You have several options: Hire a professional moving service, hire some movers for help by the hour, or do it all yourself. With a service, you'll need to call several to get estimates and compare benefits. Find out whether they pack and what they do and don't move. Get appraisals on your more valuable items. If you're doing it yourself, you'll need to rent a truck and ask (or hire) people to help you load it.
If you're moving because of a job or work, your moving expenses may be tax-deductible, so keep your receipts. For information, see IRS Publication 521, Moving Expenses, available at www.irs.gov.
What goes in the car with you? What goes in the moving truck? It's a good idea to keep your important documents and records in your personal possession. You'll also want food, water, a change of clothes, toilet paper, towels, plastic bags for trash, and some toys and games for the kids.
If your move is a long-distance one, prepare ahead of time. Have your car serviced, get maps, and consider buying travel insurance.
How will your pets and plants travel to the new location? Do you have enough food for the trip? And don't forget to plan a safe place for them to stay while the house is being packed up and furniture moved -- many animals escape during this time.
Call your current utility providers and arrange to have your service cut off on the day after you move. (You'll want that electricity while you're loading the truck, and you'll want to be able to leave garbage and recycling to be picked up.) At the same time, give your providers your new address, where they will send your final bill. Utilities may include gas, electric, cable, phone, Internet, water, and garbage. You'll also want to contact utility providers in your new location and arrange for service to begin at your new home.
To get free, sturdy boxes, try liquor stores, book stores, and the free section of Craigslist. Stock up on packing tape, twine, newspaper (and other packing materials), and thick markers to label your boxes. Label each box with its basic contents and location in the new place. Example: "Kitchen: Plates and Bowls." Also be sure to pack all of your important legal documents in one secure place, where you will neither forget them nor lose them.
These should contain everything you'll need for the first few days. Doing this advance organizing will prevent you from searching high and low every time you need a pair of scissors for unpacking. Other key items to include are bedding, towels, toiletries, extension cords, light bulbs, tools, clock, pens and paper, a few basic dishes, and food and diapers for infants and toddlers.
Again, two options: full-service or do it yourself. You might want to hire a cleaning service that specializes in moves. Or, if you do it yourself, consider getting a bunch of friends to pitch in. Then, invite them over to check out the new house!