The Official Break-Up Moving Checklist

On their own, breaking up and moving are both ranked on the list of life’s top stressors. Together, especially without proper planning, they add up to a special kind of terrible.

While it will likely take more time to move on versus move out, this detailed moving checklist will at least help you with all of life’s annoying details while you’re trying to focus on a divorce, separation, or just a plain-ol’-fashioned breakup.

[See the illustrated checklist here!]

Moving Checklist: How To Move Out After a Break-Up

Step 1: Assess your separation, then make a plan

The fact that you’re even reading a moving checklist tells me you’ve already decided who’s going to split — and you’re likely the one moving out.

But before you pick up the moving boxes, it helps to think through some logistics. If you’re in the tough situation of having to move after a breakup, most people opt in to one of these game plans:

  • Plan A: Get out quick!

The problem: Unless your ex is particularly understanding or has tons of space, you’ll likely need a quick place to store your stuff while you figure things out. And sometimes… you need to get out fast. You may find it best to couch it at a friend or family member’s house while you get your bearings, save up some cash, and come up with your actual plan.

  • Plan B: Temporary new place

break up spot pieceThe problem: So you need a new “non-forever” home that isn’t depressing? If the housing market is as crazy where you live as it is everywhere else, you probably need some time to shop around for your next home (especially if you’re planning on buying). You should consider:

  • A short-term rental (think AirBnb or Vrbo)
  • Month-to-month or 3-6 month apartment lease
  • Extended-stay hotel

A temporary home is also a great option when you have kids and don’t want to pull them out of school in the middle of the year, or if you’re waiting to move long-distance and want to line up a job first. (You may or may not need to store your stuff in this situation, depending on the size of your temporary pad.)

  • Plan C: Big change 

The problem: Separation got you wanting to move to the mountains and live in a remote cabin? Maybe your breakup has put things into perspective and you’re ready for a markedly big change… or heck, maybe you’d rather move nearer to a support network instead of running into your ex at the grocery store.

This plan generally involves a long-distance move and/or storage, whether it’s to another city in your state, across the country, or across the world. (As it can take longer to realistically coordinate a relocation like this, it may be worth it to opt for Plan A, listed above, and sleep in a friend’s guestroom until you’re ready to go.)

  • Plan D: Take your time

The problem: Maybe your situation isn’t bad, but the housing market is?

Sometimes you get lucky and you can keep things civil long enough to choose your ideal next home, sort through your things, and make a direct point-A-to-point-B move without having to put anything in storage. (Hey, it happened to me!) If so, make a plan that takes advantage of this time.

Extra Special Considerations for a Break-Up Move

  • Kids

The goal when you’re divorcing or breaking up with kids is to keep their lives as stable as possible. If you’re arguing a lot with your ex, it may be best to move out yourself first (Plan A above) to save your kiddos stress. You may also want to take some extra time to find an ideal kid-friendly setup or a place that’s near their school.

Of course, if there’s domestic violence or a threat of abuse, it’s best to remove yourself and your children as soon as you can. Lean on friends and family for support, and gain legal representation as soon as possible.

  • Pets

Before you discuss splitting up your pets with your ex, take some time to reflect on whether you can truly offer your pet a fulfilling life when you’re on your own. Any decision you make should be in your pet’s best interest. By the way, I’ve known couples to work out a joint-custody agreement successfully! You may also opt to leave Buddy at home with your ex until you can snag a pet-friendly setup.

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Step 2: Match your plan to its best moving option

After you know where and when you’re going next, it’s time to figure out how.

Maybe you’ve got money to burn. Maybe your breakup has left you flat on your back. Maybe you can bench press your couch in your sleep. Maybe your back goes out more than you do. Ultimately, every moving scenario is fairly different, including yours. Fortunately, there’s a moving option for whatever your budget and energy levels are.

DIY move

diy move

What it is: You’re taking the move into your own hands, from packing to unloading. This option involves renting a truck or borrowing one from a friend.

What it’s best for: Plan A, B

People who are on a budget, good old-fashioned DIYers, and/or those who need to move out quickly. (We have a checklist for that too!)

Insider tips: Moving is a lot of work, even under the best circumstances. This is the time to reach out to friends and family — especially if they’re into weightlifting. Ask them if you can borrow their truck, watch the kids on moving day, or get help with moving the heavy stuff.

Labor-only + Truck rental

Moving mattress

What it is: A hybrid between a DIY move and hiring full-service help, this solution involves renting and driving the truck yourself but hiring professionals for loading and unloading.

Who it’s best for: Plan A, B

Movers by the hour are great if you aren’t up for heavy lifting or could use a helping hand with disassembling and reassembling furniture. Need a recommendation? Make sure to check mover marketplaces with transparent reviews.

Insider tips: This option is still great for those who want to move out quickly, but it might not be as nimble as a full-on DIY move. If you hire movers, remember to mention if you have stairs or specialty items such as pianos, as packers and loaders generally charge extra for these. And don’t feel pressured to go with the fastest or cheapest option just because you’re eager to get away from your ex! Ignoring red flags isn’t great in a relationship, and it’s not great for picking moving assistance either.

moving truck prices

See real-time moving truck prices on Moving101

Portable storage moving service

college moving pod

What it is: This is when a moving company delivers one or more portable storage containers to your driveway, you load your things into the container, then the company picks up the container and delivers it to either your new home or a storage facility.

Who it’s best for: Plan B, C, D

Typically, portable storage companies like PODS or 1-800-PACK-RAT are flexible with timelines, which lets you load at your own pace. This is helpful for couples who are on decent terms and want to take some time to sort through logistics and their possessions. It’s also great for those making a big change via a long-distance move, as you don’t have to worry about driving, or necessarily even coordinating when you’ll arrive. Your stuff will just be whisked away and waiting for you, typically with monthly billing. 

And although it’s potentially pricey for a temporary new place, it can be a luxury for the heartbroken needing a short-term, temporary move that requires storage.

Insider tips: If you’re unsure where you’ll be living long-term, get two containers! One can be loaded up with the essentials and delivered to a family member’s home or a short-term rental. The other can be kept in storage until you close on a new house or find a more permanent living solution. If you need help with the heavy lifting, portable containers pair super well with hourly packing and loading assistance.

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Full-service move

full service move

What it is: Get comprehensive professional help moving from start to finish. We’re talking packing, unpacking, loading, unloading — the whole shebang! You won’t have to lift a finger, except to enter your credit card information. (Did I mention this option is usually the priciest?)

Who it’s best for: Plan C, D

If you’re able, this is best if you need support in more ways than one. It’s also a great fit for people who have a lot of stuff, are moving long-distance, or just want the peace of mind that comes with a full-service provider.

Insider tips: While this option can be the most convenient, it often takes the longest, as you’ll be moving on the company’s schedule — not your own. You may want to stay with a friend until moving day, especially if you’re planning on moving long-distance or during the busy summertime months. You might be tempted given the circumstances to book the first mover you talk to, but make sure to do your due diligence when picking out a company.

Real Talk

If you’re trying to safely remove yourself from an abusive relationship, there are professionals who are dedicated to helping people in your situation.

To get started, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE, learn where your local shelters are (just in case), then seek out moving companies near you who might be able to move domestic abusive victims for free.

Step #3: Self-care is vital while you pack and separate

Before you start throwing your things into boxes — and burning that little box of dating mementos — take a step back to get some operational things in place. It may take a little more work on the front end, but it’ll make the transition to your new place a lot easier.

  • If you bought something with your ex-partner, consider selling it back to them: If you don’t have it, you don’t have to pack it. If you want to cut your moving costs or move out in record time, clean out that closet, donate your things to a local charity, or, if you have time, host a garage sale (just don’t sell your ex’s stuff without permission). 
  • Save sentimentals for dead last: This is good advice for any move, but it goes double during a breakup. For untold amounts of reasons, dump sentimental stuff in a box and deal with it last.
  • Don’t get petty: Trust me, it’s best to take the high road. No arguing over knick-knacks! It’s not worth it.
  • Get ahead of having to pick up your mail: It can be easy in our digital age to forget about this step, but it’s better to take care of this now to avoid having to pick up your mail from your ex’s place after you move out.
  • Short on time? Hire professional movers by the hour. There’s a reason they’re the professionals; they can deal with all of the heavy stuff for only a couple hundred bucks, which is HUGE since you’re probably stressed out to the max.
  • Stock up on supplies: Proper moving supplies can mean all the difference between having your stuff arrive intact or in pieces. Forgo throwing things into a garbage bag and get some quality moving supplies, like boxes, packing tape, markers, and bubble wrap. Like free stuff? Here are some tips for getting free boxes.
@hireahelper Where to get FREE moving boxes! #packingboxes #cardboardboxes #cardboard #movingboxes #movingtips ♬ original sound – HireAHelper

Step #4: Move on

Just because your move is behind you doesn’t mean your ex is. Here are some tips for moving on after moving out:

  • Meet people near where you’re going: Get back into the social scene by starting close to home. This may be especially helpful if you’re not used to being alone, as you may be able to lean on your new neighbors for support with childcare or even handyman tasks if that’s not your thing.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff with your ex: After you’ve moved, you may realize that you left behind your favorite coffee mug or that you didn’t get reimbursed for half of the last utility bill. If it’s not a make-or-break situation, let bygones be bygones. It’s time to move on.
  • Overprioritize decorating your new space: Nothing spells a fresh start like a new place does. Put extra energy into picking out curtains, new furniture, and art for the new pad. 
  • You need a new routine: This is especially true if you have kiddos or pets. Create a sense of normalcy by establishing a new pattern. Just for funsies, throw in some things you wouldn’t have been able to enjoy when you were attached — cook with gluten, watch your guilty-pleasure Netflix show, or heck, let the dog sleep in bed with you.

More of a visual learner? Screenshot or download the official break-up moving checklist™ below!

breakup moving checklist

Click to enlarge

Illustrations by Shideh Ghandeharizadeh

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