Anyone who has moved at least once knows that the entire process is usually quite overwhelming. There are about 65,782 steps that all seem to require an individual packet of paperwork and a varied timeline. One extremely important item to float to the top of the list is anything and everything that has to do with your mail delivery.
No matter how near or far away you move, any change of address often results in several tedious steps to ensure the safe and accurate delivery of your personal mail and packages. Beginning with the process of closing out your current mailbox and returning any keys, then completing the correct paperwork in a timely fashion – while also trying to find your local post office for information and updates…it can become exhausting.
These steps, while numerous, are fairly easy and can be accomplished in less than a day. Once you begin your moving process, follow the basic steps that I have outlined below to get your mail service correctly routed. Then you’ll be ready to get on your way!
Before You Move
Before you begin your bubble wrapping and box taping, check with your realtor regarding your residential mailbox setup in your new home. Will you have a private mailbox, or will you utilize the centrally located one at your new apartment, townhouse, or neighborhood area? Determine your exact new mailing address, as it will be verified by USPS, and use it to forward your mail at least three days prior to moving.
Forward Your Mail
Previously, homeowners were required to physically go to the post office to complete the Change of Address paperwork. Now, you can easily perform this task online at the USPS website for a minimal cost.
After entering your contact information and previous address, you’ll enter your new address and pay the fee. You should receive your mail at your new address within 7-10 business days of your move-in date. You may also receive special coupons and deals as a welcome-to-the-neighborhood gift!
Return Mailbox Keys
Once you sign the papers, pack the boxes, and load the truck, don’t forget to turn in any mailbox keys. This process will differ depending on the ownership of the box. If your community mailbox or PO Box is owned by USPS, you must surrender your keys to your local post office prior to your move. The post office will then re-key the box and lock for any new tenants.
If your mailbox is privately owned, relinquish both your mailbox and house keys. If you rent your mailbox, consult your landlord or leasing company about their requirements. Do not leave your keys in the mailbox unless specifically told to do so, as postal carriers are not permitted to accept abandoned keys.
When You Arrive
After you get settled into your new home, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the neighborhood services. Scope out the community or find out from local homeowners the regulations for your private mailbox.
Community mailboxes can be a space saver for your yard and certainly an environmentally friendly option. These “cluster boxes” give postal workers the ability to deliver mail for the whole area in one central location, which saves time and also reduces fuel expenses and limits carbon emissions.
It’s important to remember, especially in the case of community boxes, that the condition of your mailbox is not necessarily the responsibility of the postal service. It is the owner’s responsibility to maintain a safe usable condition or otherwise forfeit their mail service. In the case where you may not own your mailbox, you might contact the landlord or the leasing office to bring the issue to the owner’s attention.
You might decide later to spruce up your mailbox with your own style and design. But before purchasing supplies, be sure to confirm that your new box will be up to code. Mailboxes must be a specific size and construction to receive Postmaster General’s (PMG) seal of approval. Otherwise, it will be unacceptable and you will not receive mail in the box. Check with your local postmaster to determine if your plans are approved.
If you choose to buy a new mailbox or to have one custom-made, you might look into curbside or wall-mounted options. If you plan to purchase a new door, you may consider a door slot. Be sure that your new mailbox is accessible to your postal carrier and there is a clear path. For regulations on size, construction, and placement of your new mailbox refer to the guidelines provided by USPS online.
Locate Your Local Post Office
After identifying a process for receiving mail, new homeowners will want to know how and where they can send parcels. Go online to locate your closest post office or stop in to inquire about the process for mailing packages and the hours of operation.
Keep In Touch With Your Postal Service
Even after your big move, it’s important to keep in communication with your local post office. If you need assistance with stopping your mail while on vacation or need to hold a package during your work hours, your local USPS team can assist.
If you find yourself in a bind with lost mailbox keys, contact the owner of the box. If your box is owned by USPS, contact your local post office. You will need to complete a form and have your box rekeyed and locks replaced, and you may also be charged a fee. If your box is owned by a landlord or HOA, contact the person or organization to inquire about replacement procedures.
Communicate Your Address Change
Eventually, your application for a Change of Address with USPS will expire. This typically occurs one year after your paperwork processed date. This means USPS will stop forwarding your mail to your new address.
Keeping this timeline in mind, it is very important to communicate your new address with any friends, family, magazine or package subscriptions, credit card companies, service providers, medical billing companies, and employers. While you’re making your list, don’t forget to officially change your address on any government-issued identification cards such as your driver’s license and passport.
In the event that your mail is not forwarding properly, contact the sender to ensure your new and correct address is on file. Also contact the post office to discuss options for setting up an extension until your mailing address is completely transferred on all accounts.
You’ve Got Mail!
The excitement of moving into a new home often comes with many tedious steps, but getting your mail set up can be a seamless task – if you start early and stay in communication with your postal carrier. Complete your sign out process by returning any mailbox keys, fill out your USPS Change of Address form, locate your new local post office, and advise your correspondents. Before you know it, you will be wrapping this process up and your mail will be signed, sealed, and delivered to your new home!
Melanie Theriault is a writer, counselor, and lifelong learner. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Southwestern University, where she discovered her passion for fostering human connection through storytelling.