Helping a Friend Move is Everything You Wanted to Do This Weekend

Matthew Zach/Bridget Shevlin/Thrillist

I’m sure this opinion is going to elicit scoffs, but here it is: Helping a friend move is the best way to spend a Saturday, and anytime you’re given the opportunity, you should take it. Hear me out.

Of course, Saturdays are a comparative commodity. Some of us spend our prime weekend day marveling at museums, attempting to pack five days’ worth of lackluster workouts into one overstuffed gym visit, trying to hear our friends talk over some loud club music, or adding a sixth work day to the week (my condolences). Yet somehow helping a friend move threads the needle of almost every standard Saturday activity, and improves on it.

For starters, what better way to hang out with friends than to prove what a great help you are? We all know the “ask” process. It’s some sad cross of shame and tepid desperation; typically in the form of a mass text or email: “If anyone is around next Saturday, I’d really appreciate the help!” Nobody expects a deluge of pingbacks like they’re offering pizza (even though they are). If you get that mass text, be first one to say yes. It’ll pay off in the long run when you’re the friend in need and they remember you didn’t hesitate.

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Right out of the gate, when you agree to help a friend move it sets the tone for your entire weekend. Knowing you’ve got a responsibility to a friend will help you keep your Friday in check. I tend to spend Friday unwinding 'til late hours. That’s definitely not the best pathway to a productive Saturday -- a fact hammered home much harder by moving.

I’ve made the error of helping a friend move after too much Friday night. It stands as one of the biggest mistakes of my adult life. Hauling boxes up three flights of stairs when I’d barely slept found me pale as a sheet and sweating profusely. Learn from my mistake. A low key takeout and movie night with an old friend can create just as many memories as a night at the club -- and won’t have you out 'til 3am.

Speaking of self improvement, helping a friend move means you don’t have to go to the gym. The gym is the worst! It’s all repetitive motions that never yield meaningful results unless you do them consistently over weeks and months and years. With moving, you can quit worrying. Out there in the driveway is a flatbed truck’s worth of boxes in varying weights and measurements. Your job is to lift all of them and carry them inside, possibly up some stairs, and then gently put them down (use those knees!) without breaking anything. Sounds like a perfect total-body workout. And here’s what makes it better than intangible sets: You’re done when the truck is empty, at which point your friend owes you a favor.  

Matthew Zach/Bridget Shevlin/Thrillist

Also, when you avoid the gym you avoid having to ask some random guy, probably named Slab, who looks like he sleeps on a cot at the gym to help you not die while lifting. By helping a friend move you’ve got a built-in lifting crew. You spot, you do the spotting. You help pivot a couch up a flight of stairs. It takes teamwork to make the dream work, people.

But it’s also more than that. The bond felt by moving buddies is stronger than mere gym buds. It’s much closer to combat. You’re sweaty, tired, probably in a little pain… why are you doing all this? You must really want to help these people. This is actually the overlap of two effects. First, shared goals make for close friends, and second, doing a favor for someone actually makes you more likely to see them as someone you like. It’s called The Ben Franklin Effect, and not just because everybody likes Ben Franklin. Maybe it’s because of how profound the perceived favor is of helping a friend move, but there’s a deeper mutual appreciation involved. When you’ve made it through that particular jungle together, you’re friends for life. You should get matching tats. (Editor’s note: we will not be held responsible for any matching barb wire arm bands between you and your bros.)

This goes for other people who may be helping in the moving process, too. A lot of us tend to overload our social interactions into one night, and as a result all the new people or frequently seen acquaintances we encounter are in crowded or loud settings. Meeting a new person or getting to know a “Hey I think we’ve met but I can’t recall your name” during a move has the potential to grow into something a lot more meaningful. You’ll recall the names of people you only see intermittently when you’re calling out to each other every few minutes to make sure no one drops the sectional down three flights of stairs.

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Those interactions will be more meaningful, too, when you can actually hear each other. Unlike the bar, an empty house has great acoustics. And when you slump, exhausted, onto a couple of boxes to watch the sunset, odds are you’ll really listen to what your friend has to say.

A lot of these benefits are outward facing, but there’s also something self-reflective in helping a friend move. The process of watching a person or people you know enter a new phase of their life gives you a chance to reflect on your own situation. You start to see the potential of things rather than the way they’ve always been. Sharing in the excitement of a new chapter can inspire you to make changes that you may not make otherwise. It could be as obvious as upgrading your own living quarters, or it could be that you realize it’s time to change locations, life stations, or personal relations. You can lose yourself meditatively in the work while you think about life.

Liana Cervantes/Thrillist

Finally, more than the physical, social, and aspirational benefits of helping a friend move is the pizza benefit. Legally, if you put in the work, they are required to provide you with pizza (probably; I’m not a pizza lawyer).

Add it all up and it turns out to be a pretty perfect way to spend a Saturday. Maybe next time you get that panicked mass text you’ll be a little less hesitant to lend a hand. If nothing else, it could get you out of that sixth day of work.