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First steps toward living easily and comfortably in a new condominium; Planning plays a part in any move to a condo

Moving into a new condominium can be a happy experience or a real drag, depending on you. You can plan your move, keep the wasted effort to a minimum, and generally do a workmanlike job of it. Or, you can pack at the last minute and then suddenly discover that your grandfather's rolltop desk will not fit through the hallway in your new place unless you cut it in half.

The choice is yours. You can figure it out now or figure it out later.

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The first choice you will have to make is whether to move yourself, with a little help from your friends, or have the moving done commercially. I say commercially on purpose because not all commercial movers are professional movers.

The do-it-yourselfer soon learns who his true friends are. They are the ones who wind up actually helping out on moving day. Take them to dinner when the big day is over. Pretend you don't notice the inevitable nicks and scratches on the furniture.

And finally, expect them to ask you to help them out when they decide to move.

With commercial movers, start by getting estimates from those movers who have been recommended by friends and associates. The Yellow Pages of the phone book will help you, too, but it's far better to get a reference from someone who has actually been there.

Be sure to ask about the charges for driving time. Many, if not all, licensed movers charge twice the hourly rate for driving time on the premise that, when they are done with your job, they have to drive back to home base. In other words, double driving.

This may not be necessarily so, depending on their scheduling of the day's work.

Remember, they are allowed to charge double driving time, but they are not requiredm to. If you forget to ask, I guarantee the fine print you signed when the load was picked up will contain this charge. Don't be surprised. Ask when you call the company and then ask the driver as well.

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If you rent a truck or van to move, don't settle for an old clunker to save a few dollars. If the thing is unable to climb the hill in front of either your old home or your new condo, the day will be ruined.

If you can't help it, remember that the gear ratio on most vehicles will favor climbing hills in reverse if the vehicle can't climb them in the normal way. Be sure to have a rear guard guiding your way, however, since few of us are really truck drivers.

Do as much packing as you can in advance, and move your delicate items and valuables yourself in your personal car. Only you will treat your prize possessions the way they deserve. Everything else should be individually wrapped in paper and stowed carefully and neatly in full, covered cardboard boxes, with nothing sticking out the top.

This will facilitate stacking for loading, stacking in the truck, and stacking once the destination is reached. Why pay $40 an hour to the movers to do what you can do yourself? Packing and unpacking, specifically.

A piano, of course, should be moved by a piano mover.

Be sure you have all the necessary keys with you. Test them to be sure they work beforem the big day arrives.

Measure the dimensions of the most restrictive passage and don't arrive with any thing that isn't going to fit through. Be sure the gas, lights, and water are already turned on.

If you do the job right, it can be a very moving experience.

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