By Amy Roberts

My apartment lease just came up for renewal, and even though it meant a slight rent increase, it wasn’t too hard for me to decide to stay put. I like my place, but more importantly, after moving six times in eight years, I’m well ahead of the lifetime average (about 12) for most Americans.

Still, every year 40 million Americans move, and nearly half do so between May and September. Every move is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all outline for orchestrating the process. But we’ve put together some general guidelines to keep in mind when planning a move. A few key issues to consider:

DIY or hire help?

Recruiting friends and family and renting a truck are certainly cheaper, but think very hard about whether or not you’re all really up for the task. Assess your situation and budget carefully, and consider hiring out as many tasks as you can afford. You may find it’s not worth the trouble (or your back) to do the heavy lifting yourself, but moving smaller or valuable items by hand is worth your effort.

Moving = the ultimate decluttering opportunity

The less stuff you have, the cheaper it’ll be to move it — and the neater and faster your new home will come together. Start as early as possible, and divide items into “keep,” “trash,” “recycling,” and “donate.” Be ruthless — if you haven’t used it in a year (or forgot you even had it!), you don’t need it. Stuff you really shouldn’t bother moving: Open condiment containers and cleaning products, and stacks of old magazines.

Supplies ain’t cheap…

But there are a few clever ways to save on boxes — and even get them for free, if you play your cards right. My fave tip: Make friends with the stock guys at the local grocery or liquor store. Those cartons are durable and not overly large, so if you are planning to move yourself, you can’t fill them so full that they’re overwhelming to carry.