Top Mistakes That Will Drag Out Your Move Day [Checklist] 


Mistakes that make your move take longer than it should

 

Know what can kill your chances of having a good move? Mistakes we make when moving. 

No matter where the errors originate, no one wants their move day to take forever.

Everyone hates a move day that is painfully, unnecessarily long. Especially if you have appointments or move-in deadlines!

Sometimes issues are unforeseen, but that’s not what this advice is about.

We’ve researched the most common, time-sucking errors— from both customers and hired movers—that make your move day tedious.

THE GOOD NEWS: These mistakes are 100% preventable!

With this guide (and a free checklist) you can skillfully dodge the frequent mistakes people make when moving that drag it out, costing you more time, money, and frustration in the end.  Keep these questions handy to ask whenever you book any moving company

 


[CHECKLIST] 24 Time-Saving Questions to Ask Before & During Your Move

things-your-moving-company-should-know-to-avoid-mistakes-that-make-moves-longer

Click to download this checklist of questions to clarify your move and avoid mistakes that waste your time, money, and energy.

Time is super important when you’re moving.

So, the more info both parties have before your move, the easier it is to avoid these time-sucking slip-ups.

We also want you to have an amazing and stress-free move—even if you don’t move with us!

Click to download the free checklist above! It’s chock-full of the top 24 questions to ask so your move doesn’t take forever.


How Long Does Moving Take? Factors That Affect Your Move   

It’s super common for people to not know what to disclose to movers

Plus, some moving companies don’t have a thorough questioning process to find out what (if anything) could drag out your move time. 

Little-known factors that affect your moving time:  

  • Anything over 600 lbs.  Movers could come unprepared if they don’t know about something this hefty; some companies won’t move any item over 600 lbs. Others may need an extra hand or equipment. Either way, you don’t want to wait around to find out!
  • Gun Safes– Your move will take longer if your safe isn’t empty. Since the door is usually the heaviest part, you or the movers should remove it to fast-track the moving time. Also, check if it’s bolted to the floor because removal will require special tools—and possibly a separate contractor.
  • Armoires- Empty and dismantle this before move day. Keep screws and small parts in a zipped bag, taped to the interior. This way, no one will waste time scrambling to put it back together at your destination.  
  • China Cabinets. Not only do china cabinets take time to dismantle and reassemble, they often have glass shelves and lighting which should be removed & wrapped before transport. You may not know to do this yourself, so tell your moving company when you book. 
  • Barbeque (BBQ) grills, smokers, & pits- Let your company know what type of grill or smoker you own and approximately how large it is (our crews like to research how to dismantle them).   
  • Patio furniture or specialty tools/equipment Tell movers if you have any odd-shaped or large outdoor furniture, or equipment like a desk saw, workbench, or landscaping equipment. 
  • Musical instruments- Inform your moving company when you’re booking so you can get a crew experienced with musical instruments. On the flip side, make sure you have a crate or case for each musical instrument you own.

Moving Company Mistakes That Make Your Move Long 

Mistake #1: Not Investing in Proper Training 

As a wise moving guru once said, Anybody can move a box, but not everyone can move.

At 3 Men Movers, we personally vet and train all crew members in our proprietary program. Plus, new members get more than a year of live, hands-on training on how to wrap, box, disassemble, reassemble, load, stack, pack, and organize for a move. 

How long does it take to load or unload a moving truck? 

Will it take forever to move your 3-bedroom house? 

Can movers reassemble everything at your new location?

If your chosen moving company isn’t investing in well-trained or experienced movers, your move could take longer for all of the above. 

 

Mistake #2: Assigning the Wrong Crew for Your Needs

If your move needs some special care, you can’t afford to waste time dealing with the wrong type of crew.  
Your moving company should be able to give you a quick rundown of the crew you’re hiring, and tell you why

Say that you need someone experienced in moving survivors our of a domestic abuse situation, or you need help moving a baby grand piano. Do you really want just anyone to show up?

 

Mistake #3: Underestimating the Job 

Being confident is great. Being unprepared is not. No matter how experienced a moving company is, they should always be clear on how much you need moved and any time constraints that apply. 
The best way to do that? They shouldn’t make assumptions. They also shouldn’t give you a standard crew if your move isn’t typical
Whether you have a ton of stuff to move, have a storage stop, or need to move in by 6 PM, the moving company you hire should be able to provide the best movers to accommodate you.

 

Mistake #4: Failing to Ask the Right Questions

Moving companies have the best intentions, but sometimes your move takes longer because of what happened before a crew even arrives at your place. 
When you first book a move, there’s a lot of back-and-forth between you and the company. Certain questions may be omitted or simply forgotten during the questioning process. If you’ve never moved before, you may not even notice. 
However, if the company isn’t asking you the right questions, they’ll never truly understand what you need, which can unexpectedly add hours onto your move day.

For instance: it’s easy to fall behind schedule on your move if the crew didn’t know you had 2 armoires to disassemble, wrap, load, and reassemble!

 

Mistakes by Customers Make That Drag Out Move Day 

Mistake #1: Forgetting to Mention Stairs or Elevators 

Most people don’t realize it when they’re booking, but stairs can have a huge impact on how long it takes to move and load or unload a moving truck. 

Multiple staircases—especially in apartment buildings—can be quite time-consuming for movers hauling heavy furniture or lots of items. 

Tell your moving company how many staircases and elevators are in each location so they can plan accordingly. Also, don’t forget to mention anything heavy that you need to move between floors! 

 

Mistake #2: Underestimating How Much You Own

While you know how much stuff you own, your hired movers don’t. Even then, it’s super easy to overlook or understate what you have (especially if you haven’t started packing).  

If you underestimate your belongings, you may not have enough movers. It’s a massive waste of time (and money) if you have to wait for more movers to arrive or even reschedule because no one else is available during the peak season.

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to better explain yourself: make an inventory or take photos/video and send it to your moving company.

 

Mistake #3:  Not Calculating Time Constraints in Your Move

Many places have time restrictions on when you can move out or into a residence. Ask yourself if your move could be even slightly affected by such constraints. 

  1. Have to stop at a storage location? Let your movers know if there’s a cutoff time for moving items in. 
  2. When is the latest you can move into your new place? Is there a deadline that would be affected by a flexible start move

Remember, if you agreed to a flexible start time with your movers, there’s no guaranteed start time (just a general range). So, make sure you’ve considered your final destination’s cutoff time for moving in.

 

Mistake #4:  Being Too Helpful

Movers are there to make your day easier and hassle-free. 

The best thing you can do for your own sanity? Let them

You almost certainly own some things with sentimental value, but most movers want everything to go well just like you do.

So, if you’ve communicated clearly and have the perfect team assigned to your job, relax and don’t worry. 

Avoid These Mistakes to Move Quickly, Efficiently, & Save Money

To be clear, this is not about placing blame.

Simply put, an efficient move day can’t happen unless everyone involved is 100% clear and highly responsible.

Use these tips and the checklist to ensure both you and your movers will know exactly what to expect. This way, your move can be hassle-free and fast, and everyone can prevent stressful mistakes from happening.


Efficient Moving Advice That Will Make Your Day Successful


It’s move day, and time is money. Obviously, you need things to go as smoothly as possible. 

But remember: fortune favors the prepared

So, what’s the most efficient way to move?

Find out with this essential advice to take the stress out of moving and avoid wasting time. 

Tip #1: Communicate About Your Circumstances 

Discussing your plans with a friend is a good way to get ideas on how to move…. 

Just don’t expect your move to resemble theirs!

So how long will it take movers to load a truck efficiently? 

The structure, accessibility, and layout of each residence are different, and these attributes will definitely affect your move time.

Consider these things about your starting and ending locations:

  • Do you have a one-story 3-bedroom home?  Fewer staircases mean it could take less time to move compared to a similar home with the same number of bedrooms but two stories
  • Living in an apartment or condo? It’s important to let movers know if you have to reserve an elevator or have a time limit to move somewhere new
  • Remember: these movers have never been to your place. Let a booking agent know if there’s anything out of the ordinary. Does your home have odd features or landscapes that could make moving a little harder? Do you have a roommate or children that would be disturbed by noises?

Factor in the general amount of belongings you have—and whether it’s all properly packed—and your move could be faster or longer than average.  

 

Tip #2: Point Out Meaningful Items & Be Thorough

Many people own something with either sentimental or material value.

It could tug at your heartstrings or simply be expensive. 

Either way, tell your moving company and the crew beforehand.

That childhood trinket, professional artwork, special collector’s item, or wedding gift? Movers won’t always assume how special or fragile it is unless you point it out.  

Even if it’s a simple request to be gentle with a certain box, your moving crew wants to make sure you’re happy and comfortable with their service. 

Here’s how to be detailed and let movers know what you want

When you’re booking a move:

  • Inform the agent about anything that you want handled with special care (gun safes & ammo, delicate items, items up to or over 500 lbs., etc) 
  • Ask your booking agent to make a note of this for the crew (a responsible company should do this automatically, but request it anyway.) 
  • Be clear on what the moving company will and will not move… (To abide by state regulations and company policies, there are some things movers simply cannot disassemble or transport—like live plants or baby cribs 

Before move day:

  • If you’re packing your own things, label boxes with delicate or sensitive items (preferably with red-colored tape or marker)
  • Clear packed boxes out of the way so movers can safely and quickly walk between each room to the exit 

On move day:

  • Walk movers through every part of your home and point out anything delicate or special
  • Open closet and cabinet doors to make sure nothing is overlooked
  • Show the crew anything that may need to be double-wrapped
  • Let movers know which boxes are ready to be loaded and which boxes have delicate or heavy items
  • Check all outdoor patios, closed doors, and drawers. Leave everything open as movers are loading so nothing is missed

Remember that extra communication is keyand almost all moving mishaps are preventable! 

How can you help make your move more efficient? Voice your wishes early so movers can reasonably meet them.

 

Tip #3: Stay Attentive & Focus On The Move

Back to the point about communicating throughout your move: this works best if you stay focused on the move itself.

Now we’re definitely advocates of a smooth, stress-free move because we train movers to become true professionals in how to handle and transport your items.

Professionals don’t need hand-holding, but they may need to ask important questions that can make or break your move. 

Here are some focused tips that will make your move easier:

  • Stay accessible throughout the day without interruptions or distractions from friends and family who may be there
  • If you can’t be accessible: discuss your move with someone who will be physically present, knows what and how you want to move, and who is authorized to speak on your behalf if there’s a question or concern

If you hire a moving company to help you move, you expect (and should get) professionalism.

Make your move more efficient by occasionally checking in with the crew leader and voicing your concerns or questions. 

 

Tip #4: Call Your Moving Company 

Whenever a service person comes to your place, you should know what to expect, right? The same thing goes for moving crews who you’re relying on for a successful, well-organized move.

Sometimes, things don’t go as planned. Movers are human, too, and the unexpected could happen and directly or indirectly impact your move. 

Don’t hesitate to call the moving company. A phone call to immediately notify the company will take less time and save you the headache of enduring an awkward move if:

  • If anything goes wrong or if movers are late
  • If you have questions about added services or charges
  • If you simply feel uncomfortable (especially if a mover seems ill)….

It’s your move day, and there’s no need to waste time. 

 

Tip #5: Know All Fees (& How They’re Calculated)

Doing research on the moving company you’ve chosen will eliminate a lot of headache upfront. However, if you want to have a highly efficient move, that’s not where the buck stops.

For example, 3 Men Movers uses a transparent travel fee

This includes the transportation costs of our facility distance to your starting address, the distance from your final address back to our facility.  

Likewise, our hourly rate doesn’t start until we arrive at your first location and you sign the crew in. The clock stops when you sign the movers out at the end of the service. This way, clients have the ultimate approval over their move.

So, not only are such costs explained upfront, but there are no sneaky fees tacked on to the end of your move.

We’ve calculated the transparent travel fee in the most reasonable and relevant way for each individual client. 

Be wary that some extremely common tactics in the moving industry are to:

  • Add on charges for going up/down stairs, handling safes or pianos, etc.
  • Claim there is no travel fee—then add on fuel costs or the time it takes to get back to the facility (often in rush-hour traffic)
  • Claim that their travel fee is time-based and therefore cheaper… and it certainly looks inexpensive at first

Yes, some movers will find ways to charge you for time spent not actually moving… Unknowing clients then end up paying for the cost of movers to sit in notoriously horrible Texas traffic, or they get charged an hourly moving rate for the driving time!

No matter which moving company you hire, be aware of what you’re paying for and how charges are calculated:

  • Thoroughly read a copy of your rights (all licensed moving companies are required to furnish this for you)
  • Ask the booking agent to explain all services, charges, and fees and how they’re calculated. You need to know what factors will influence the rates you’re paying 
  • Ask if they will hold your items on the truck if add-on fees aren’t paid immediately

Ensure that you understand any time-based charges or potential extras. It will eliminate lots of misconceptions and disappointments. 

 

Tip #6: Ask About The Movers Themselves

Anybody can move a box, but not everyone can move!

If you’re interested in hiring a moving company, ask about the people who will actually be moving you:

  • Feel free to ask how long a crew has been moving
  • Ask if the crew is experienced in moving specific or delicate items
  • Voice any sensitive issues they should be aware of (e.g. domestic abuse, elderly or sick residents, medical equipment)
  • If you own animals, inform the booking agent in case a crew member has an allergy that would affect the efficiency of your move
  • Request by name any movers you’ve heard of through online reviews or from a friend

One of our Movifestos states, “We respect that your home is sacred.” 

We also back it up with onboarding crews to our expectations, criminal background checks, and ongoing professional training so their skills stay sharp. 

At 3 Men Movers, if you request a crew—perhaps you heard a friend or online reviewer singing the praises of one by name—we’ll honor it. After all, you deserve the move you want.

 

Tip #7: Be Aware of the Claims Process

Heaven forbid you’ll actually need to file a claim, but in case you do, you should know how it works first.

How to find out if a moving company’s claims process will go smoothly:

  • Does the company have carrier liability?
  • Are the movers involved in the claims process? 
  • Do moving crews have accountability or incentives for their claims rates?
  • How does your moving claims process work? 
  • Where do I start by filing a claim—should I call or email?
  • Do I need to provide a receipt or proof of value to get the maximum allowable amount in case of a claim?
  • How long does the claim process take? Are there deadlines?

Personally, at 3 Men Movers, we’re really proud of a claims rate that is consistently less than 3% of thousands of moves over the past few years.

Again, no matter what company you choose, you still need to know how their claims policy will affect you should you need to use it. 

 

Tip #8: Properly Crate or Prepare Unique Items

Musicians have to move too… And so do people with huge armoires. 

Despite how much you own and have to lug into a new place, it’s important to be as prepared as possible before your move day arrives.

Save time by preparing:

  • Box up everything and label anything fragile
  • Number boxes and have corresponding sticky notes/tape for the new rooms they’ll go into
  • Ensure nothing is protruding from boxes that would make them difficult to stack on a dolly or truck 
  • Set out extra blankets on top of items you want movers to wrap (but they’ll also bring their own)
  • If you want to speed up your move, disassemble whatever you can before movers arrive
  • Unplug appliances and take out tubing at least a day in advance (put a towel down for refrigerators)
  • Wrap and place televisions and any fragile glass in their original boxes, if possible
  • Call the moving company if you have any safes over 600 lbs 
  • Find out if safes were drilled into the floor by previous owners 
  • Empty safes before movers arrive (movers can’t transport ammunition)

Special note for musicians:

  • Crate or case musical instruments you want movers to transport (especially stringed instruments like harps and cellos)
  • Let movers know if there is an instrument inside of a case
  • If you don’t have a case but insist that movers handle it, please be prepared to sign a waiver for liability

 

Tip #9: Know Your Storage Facility 

Timing is everything when you’re moving. That’s doubled if you are moving into or out of a storage facility.

If your movers are stopping at a storage location, there are some things to communicate if you want things to go smoothly:

  • Talk to the facility manager in advance to determine if your items will fit.
  • What times will the storage location allow you to move in?
  • Are there deadlines for when a storage facility will no longer accept moves?
  • Is there 24-hour access?
  • Make sure there is a facility manager onsite when you and your movers arrive in case you run into problems or need help.

These are the most significant you should know if you’re moving items into storage (it’s certainly not everything). Understanding your facility and needs will prevent any issues with not having enough room. 

Certainly, you don’t want to spend more money or time than you have to when you’re moving! 

 


Domestic Violence Survivor’s Moving Safety Guide [DOWNLOAD]


how to move out safely when dealing with domestic violence

Moving out or threatening to leave is the most dangerous thing a domestic violence survivor can do. 

It’s also the most necessary thing a survivor can do. 

This downloadable PDF guide is designed to make it easier. 

It explains not only what you need to do in detail, but how and why. 

This guide is brought to you by our partnership with the domestic violence shelter, Fort Bend Women’s Center (FBWC). 

P.S. We will never sell your personal info.

“It is crucial that you do not tell your abuser, his family, his friends, or any mutual friends of your plans to leave.  This could sabotage your plans, or even worse, cost you your life.”

Peggy Wright, Director of Sexual Assault & Counseling Programs at Fort Bend Women’s Center

Domestic Violence Survivors’ Moving Safety Guide

Download the Free Guide

So why are we doing this?

By leveraging our vast moving assets and crews, we’re driving items donated during a move to the FBWC resale shop, PennyWise. 

This way, the Center can generate more profits and funds to support survivors who leave and try rebuilding their lives. 

FBWC provides not only shelter, but therapy, connections with legal advocates, access to medical care, training resources, and so much more. 

The help survivors receive is vital, as they most often leave with nothing for themselves and their children or pets. 

Stopping family violence is not whimsical, part-time dabbling for us. 

It’s a goal that we will do anything to reach. 

If you have an upcoming move…

Let us know during booking, and we’ll take items or furniture you don’t want (with a few restrictions) as donations. 

Not only is it one less thing you have to worry about, but you’ll feel better knowing that it ended up in a much more useful place than a landfill.  

If you’re not moving but still want to help…

There are still ways you can support FBWC and domestic violence survivors. Please consider giving in one of the following ways:


20 Important Questions to Ask Movers Before Booking


Looking to move? You’ll need to prepare some important questions to ask movers before you hire them and let strangers into your home.   

If you’re seeking a reputable brand that’s safe and efficient, there’s more to it than just scanning the rating and number of reviews, or simply taking the word of a friend, 

While you’re searching around for affordable moving quotes, it’s easy to forget all the questions you should ask. 

So, what are the important things you don’t know that you need to ask? 

By the time you’re ready to book movers, you should have 100% clarity on:

  • What services you are and are not getting
  • The professionalism, licensing, and experience of the company and crews entering your home
  • How you’ll be charged
  • When you’ll be charged
  • What you’ll be charged for
  • How much any fees and hourly rates are
  • What to expect on your move day
  • How and who to contact at the company if something goes wrong

Nobody could break this down better than our Moving Experts.

They want to share everything you’re not asking moving companies but should be.  Not only will they help you find the right moving service, but any honest and reputable company should be able to answer them all.  

Ask Moving Companies About Their Credentials & Crews 

  1. How much experience do you have with moving?
  2. Are you licensed to move with the U.S. Department of Transportation? Are you licensed with the DMV in your state? What are your licensing numbers?
  3. Do your movers and packers have training or prior experience?
  4. Did your movers and packers pass a criminal background check? Are checks done consistently?
  5. Do you regularly drug screen your movers?
  6. Do your teams know how to properly move or pack/unpack my special items?

Make sure that questions about security are the first things you ask a prospective moving company. 

Larger companies will have a lot more crews to choose from, so you should be able to get a crew that can accommodate your needs the best. 

Unfortunately, lots of people prioritize pricing over quality when looking for movers.

Sure, a quick Google search of something like “cheap movers” or “cheap moving companies” will generate plenty of results… 

While it’s good to be mindful of your spending, you won’t know what you’re really getting for that low price tag until you dig deeper. 

Moving experts, Omar, Carlos and Felicia, agree that people often don’t factor in security when finding a crew to enter their home.

“A lot of companies use day laborers,” Carlos states. “Day laborers could be anybody…”

He pauses, then says, “Do you really want anybody in your home? So, you want to make sure that the movers that are being used are background-checked, drug-screened professionals… because anybody can move a box, but not everybody can move.” 

Felicia agrees that security should be at the top of the list no matter if you live alone, if you own expensive items, or if you have a family with young children. 

“Think about it…” she starts, “someone comes to your house and they’re day laborers. They don’t have a background check. You don’t know where they’ve come from. You know, they have your address, and they can always come back.” 

You’ll absolutely need to ask this question if you have fragile, expensive, or sentimental items.  Let’s face it, not everyone can gracefully move a baby grand piano, a gun safe, alcohol, glass tables, or a rare collection.   

Legally, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the state of Texas both require movers to be licensed in order to operate.

However, most customers don’t realize that this is not regulated, so not all moving companies are actually licensed and registered with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV). Before doing business with any moving company,  ask for their USDOT number and TxDMV number and check it online

These licensing numbers should also be posted on their website and any quote emails they send you. 

If they don’t have one, forget them. There are plenty of other trustworthy and legally compliant companies out there!  

Omar says, “One thing [customers] always forget to ask… make sure that the guys are licensed professionals, that they’ve been around for a while, they know what they’re doing, they have their reputation…. Definitely want to check customer reviews, make sure it’s a good company, make sure it’s a reputable company that you’re going to be going with.”

Ask Companies About Their Moving Policies, Services, & Fees

  1. What do you charge for on a move? Is there a fee for rescheduling or canceling a move?
  2. How much is each charge?
  3. What does your travel fee include? Is it hourly? Does it include the drive time to and from my destinations?
  4. How do you verify the start, stop, and any non-work times for your crews?
  5. Will you do a virtual or in-person walk-through?
  6. Can your movers donate or remove furniture I don’t want after a move?
  7. Do you offer packing and unpacking services? What does this include?
  8. Will I be charged for certain supplies? If so, how much?
  9. Is there anything your company will not move?
  10. Is assembly/disassembly of furniture included? Are there types of furniture you won’t re-assemble?
  11. Will all my belongings fit in your truck for 1 trip? What truck sizes do you offer?
  12. What is your claims rate and process if there are damages?
  13. Is the tip included? When and how can I leave a tip?
  14. Who do I contact if I have a problem during my move?

 

Make sure you ask lots of questions when getting moving quotes from different companies.

Ask about their licensing to move, policies, what they can and cannot move, how they calculate fees, and who to contact if things go wrong. 

“Make sure they disassemble; because, a lot of times we don’t know how to take beds apart, or furniture,” Felicia says, mindfully. “A lot of companies don’t disassemble at all. That’s a good thing to ask. Don’t assume they do, because a lot of them don’t.

Felicia recommends you also ask lots of questions about the company’s fee system and policies. This way, you won’t get slapped with sky-high charges when the company promised an inexpensive travel fee upfront. “A lot of times they’ll give you a price based on the hourly rate and the trip charge, and you think that’s a good price because it’s pretty cheap or reasonable. But, guess what? They hit you at the end when you’re coming back.”  

Exorbitant fees can also sneak in when movers charge fuel or hourly trip fees in areas with horrible traffic...meaning you’ll pay for the time it takes them to drive in rush-hour traffic. 

In your quote, (which you need to get in writing) there should be a clear breakdown of the services you’re getting and the cost for each one. 

A representative for the moving company should be able to easily give you definitions of each service and what each fee involves when you ask. 

Due to widespread illness and anxiety about the COVID-19 outbreak, the company’s claim, cancellation, and rescheduling policy should be clearly outlined and more flexible as well. 


How We’re Helping Domestic Abuse Survivors During the Pandemic


On average, 20 people per minute are physically abused by a partner in the United States.

Reports of domestic violence are rising due to the coronavirus pandemic, and it is impacting the way we live, work, and how we feel.

But, at 3 Men Movers, our hope is to reduce that number to 0.

So, we’re using our expert moving resources to support local organizations to address domestic violence. Here’s how we’re partnering with the nonprofit Fort Bend Women’s Center (FBWC) in Texas to support survivors.

Houston Partnership Eases COVID-19’s Effect on Domestic Abuse

Typically, the FBWC resale shop, PennyWise, accepts donated furniture and appliances for resale. Proceeds are used to provide programs and goods for domestic abuse survivors and their children.
Until the stay-at-home order in Greater Houston is lifted, PennyWise is closed and cannot move donations to their warehouse. So, our crews are helping by moving donated furniture from clients to the FBWC warehouse.

Three Men Movers has been a wonderful friend and partner to Fort Bend Women’s Center for many years, and we’re thrilled to be working with them to bring in donations for our Pennywise stores, which support our mission to help survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and their kids. Through this partnership, people can use the VERY BEST movers in town and also make much-needed donations to a great cause! Thank you, Three Men Movers!

Vita Goodell

To dig deeper, we sat down with Sean Hughes, Resale Operations Director for PennyWise. Here’s his take on the partnership and how the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders are affecting domestic violence.

Can you tell us a bit more about your organization and what your mission is?

“Fort Bend Women’s Center has been part of the community for 40 years, and our primary goals are to promote healing and hope and assistance for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. And, unfortunately, with a large community, we have lots of needs for assistance.”

What is your role at Fort Bend Women’s Center and why do you find it rewarding?

“I have a lot of fun doing what I do. My program involves the resale stores—the thrift stores—that are part of the fundraising portion for the agency. So I get to apply a lot of my traditional retail background in a nonprofit organization.
And, I realized, not only am I benefitting myself and my team by having a good operation, but I’m able to make a great place for volunteers to come, a great place for donors to contribute to our cause.

Ultimately, everything that we do well ends up being beneficial to our clients, the survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. So, that part of the things is a little bit more meaningful knowing that all our good works go directly translated into good things for the survivors.”

Can you tell me more about PennyWise?

“We operate four different stores and two stand-alone donation centers across Harris and Fort Bend counties, and we operate with a team of paid staff members and lots and lots of volunteers.

Primarily, what we do is we gather donated items from the community either through our trucks and the team of drivers that is involved with our trucks or directly in our facilities. We prepare those items to be gifted to needy clients who qualify for certain things or to be sold to the public.

A lot of members of the public who love to shop in our thrift stores, and we love having them. It’s exciting to see what’s new every day for us, too, because we never know quite what we’re going to have for sale and it’s a lot of fun.”

How is 3 Men Movers currently working with your organization?

“Well, there’s two parts to what’s going on.

We were able to provide some material for 3 Men Movers to use as training aids. Some of the appliances and furniture that we get are things that we can’t give to clients or sell to the public because of their condition or their age, but they’re the right size and texture and they’re great training tools. So, y’all got a hold of some of our stuff and are training new staff members to use those sample items.

From our end, we have had a great opportunity to do some cross-marketing through 3 Men Movers, and also to make some arrangements to have things donated from the public and stored by the 3 Men Movers team, so that we have really an additional donations pipeline. As a nonprofit who is very interested in material donations, we love any new source of items! Our clients appreciate that and the buying public appreciates that, too.”

What expected or unexpected changes have you noticed as a result of this involvement?

“Well, we’ve seen an opportunity to begin to explore some things. I’m actually kind of new to the organization and new to this particular partnership, so perhaps my perspective isn’t as informed at some other folks… But I know that we’re grateful for the opportunity to share some marketing ideas so that both sides can be benefited.

I know—just as an aside—I have been a customer of yours multiple times. I’ve had a chance to move in a couple different places in the Texas area and every time my first call has always been to 3 Men Movers. I’ve had some sensational experiences so I’m anticipating that all our connections going forward are going to be really solid.”

What are your biggest challenges with getting donations?

“Well, the biggest challenge is a good thing. Houston is such a large and diverse city, that there are a lot of very effective and great nonprofit organizations up there. Everywhere from churches to community organizations to government groups, and they all have different niches, geographically and economically, and with their mission.

So we are very competitive for donated items, as well as funds, as well as volunteer time. So our biggest general challenge is to stay relevant and to stay top of mind to those generous people in the community that want to give their money, their time or their property to us.”

What types of donations do you need the most?

“Honestly, the thing that gets our staff and our clients most excited are furniture items. We sell everything from clothes, to shoes, to household goods, to home décor, toys and games, and neat stuff. But, we have the best luck and have the best opportunity to make the most money for the agency with furniture items.

For instance, we recently opened a second community that provides shelter for some of our needy clients, and all of those members of the community needed new furniture of some kind.

And so, we had a huge run on our inventories of furniture during the early to middle part of February. We were pretty well cleaned out, and that was great because it means we were providing things to clients. But, we’d like to get the opportunity to be restocked always, in the future. People will always get excited about furniture!”

What types of donations are you currently not accepting?

“Well, the things that we don’t accept are for three basic reasons:

One is if the items are so large that it’s not physically practical for our staff to move them around. We don’t like certain things like huge, huge, huge desks, or large pool tables or aquariums that are the size of Cleveland or things like that. So, really large items—things that aren’t safe to resell.

We pay attention to the government guidelines from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and there are certain things—because of the technology or just general safety concerns—that we don’t like.

The other type of thing is, if you wouldn’t want to use it yourself, you shouldn’t donate it. We want something that’s clean and healthy, and that next person who does have a chance to use it, it’ll be hazard-free for them.”

One reason it is so difficult for domestic violence victims to leave is because their abusers often take over financial control. How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting this and what do you think can be done to help people finding it harder to leave?

“That is a super great question, and there’s no easy answer for it.

Yes, there’s additional stress—both in financial circumstances and the proximity to your abuser. Let me talk about finances first.

The government relief programs are great, and there’s a lot of local people who are stepping up and trying to help needy people. But, all those sorts of relief connections take time. It takes time for the money to come in.

So, the suggestion always is for anyone in a relationship to try to establish their own credit, their own separate banking accounts, and things like that if it’s at all practical to do that. Having some money squirreled away so that you can make a more informed and capable escape from your situation is critical.

The other tricky part right now, especially with the [coronavirus], is that people are shut in together to a degree that they weren’t before. Typically, an abuser doesn’t like being out of their own routine, and it’s an opportunity for that person to get triggered and act really, really badly towards their victims.

Our suggestion here is to try to create circumstances where you can have some alone time. It could be a trip to the store, it could be a trip to the bathroom inside the store if you’re shopping as a group. Or, it could be going into the garage or into a car if you have access to a car just to get a little privacy.

At that point when you have that privacy, we encourage people to call a number like our helpline which is 281-347-HELP Or, get on our website, which is FFBWC.org.

Folks can get connected with our team 24/7 and explain, ‘Hey, I’m in the middle of something that’s really ugly… Can you give me some quick ideas about what I can do to try to make my situation better?’

Our staff is trained to help get people started to plan that exit.

Unfortunately just like you say with the financial stresses and being in close proximity to your abuser, it’s harder than ever to do that right now.

Typically, in a standard situation, statistics say that it takes something like seven attempts before someone can actually exit a toxic relationship. I can only imagine that it’s harder right now.”

What housing, financial, or moving resources would you recommend to people who currently feel trapped in abusive domestic situations?

“The best thing that they can do is to leave with a concrete plan where to go, who to be with, when to be there, how to get there.

Our 24/7 helpline has trained folks that’ll assist with those sorts of issues. It’s always a challenge to leave and to bring enough with you. Sometimes people are leaving money and checkbooks behind, they’re leaving credit cards behind, they’re leaving family members and pets behind. A lot of times, when the survivors are fleeing, they’re bringing some family members, but some of them are still in school or across town or doing something and they can’t have an intact family.

But the more time you have to think about what you need when you get to your new space, the more successful that situation is going to be. And, making a plan about how and when and what to bring and who to bring is critical.
There are resources that we have online for that, as well as counselors.”

If people want to get involved with donating or volunteering, what are some important things they need to know?

“The ‘where to learn more’ part is easy! We just updated our website, so again it’s FBWC.org for Fort Bend Women’s Center. There are a couple different types of volunteering that people can do: You can get some specialized training to work directly with clients. We do background checks and we go through an extensive training program that’s certified by the office—or, the Attorney General’s office here in Texas. Then, folks can accompany people to court, or go to hospitals, or work one-on-one with their children… All sorts of things.

But the easier way, something that groups can do that doesn’t take as much training, is to volunteer inside our PennyWise stores. Lots of people can relate to working inside retail stores, and we work real hard to have the volunteers that work in PennyWise help us prepare the items for sale, help us treat our customers nicely and just do things inside stores. That’s a great opportunity for individuals to come in anywhere from 15-90, to volunteer, and for large groups to come in and help us.

We work with donors of money too, and obviously cash is always acceptable. There’s portals on our website for financial assistance, and for pledges for future assistance. There’s information about fundraising programs that we have, because we have special events that are great. Also, just in general, we love and need volunteers.

So if you’re donating items, you’re donating yourself, or you’re donating your time, we can put that to use and you will feel satisfied at the end of your donating experience or volunteer experience that you’ve done some immediate good.

What is Fort Bend Women’s Center’s vision for the future?

“It’s sort of funny because our CEO says we’d love to put ourselves out of business.
We’ve talked about the fact that we help survivors to get on their feet, get away from their traumatic situations, in short-term and long-term health, and we talked about the PennyWise program and how it helps fund the organization but something I haven’t spoken about yet is our prevention programs.

We do some prevention and some community outreach so that people in our community—from student groups to social organizations, to law enforcement and healthcare providers—understand the dynamics of healthy relationships, what to look for, what to expect, and how to stand up for yourself and what consent looks like.
There are people who have been exposed to unhealthy behavior for a long, long time, and they don’t realize how utterly toxic their circumstances are. So, our prevention program helps to show what the norms of behavior are and helps to get at those people early enough to potentially solve some of the problems.

One of the cool things that we do when working with our survivors, is about half of our clients are kids. It’s the adult in the relationship that’s usually fleeing, but they’re bringing children with them. Those kids sometimes are direct abuse victims, but more often are indirectly abused and they’re aware of how badly their parent has been treating the other parent.

Breaking that cycle of violence in someone who’s young is incredibly critical to their long-term health and emotional stability.

So, the prevention efforts that we’re making is what we want to continue to emphasize a lot. We’re glad that we’ve had an opportunity to serve a lot of people in a lot of ways. We are doing trauma-based treatments with people. We’re recognizing that many of our clients have physical issues. We have a lot of people that we’re helping who have had chemical dependencies, or traumatic brain injuries, and that changes how they’re able to handle their own treatment. So we’re sensitive to that, and have developed some new therapies to do a better job connecting with those folks.”

National & Local Resources to Help Stop Domestic Abuse

If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation and needs help, please contact the following for help:

  • Fort Bend County Women’s Center (FBWC.org)
  • Houston Area Women’s Center (HAWC.org)
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline ( 1-800-799-7233, *Advocates are available 24/7. All calls are free & confidential)