City Cast

The Ins and Outs of Moving in Madison

Hayley Sperling
Hayley Sperling
Posted on August 14   |   Updated on September 12

Every year at the start of August, the streets of Madison fill with treasures and trash alike as residents participate in the annual housing shuffle.

Locals call the season “Hippie Christmas.” IKEA couches, cracked coffee tables, someone’s-grandma’s recliner, and more flood the city’s sidewalks from Aug. 1 through 15.

When it comes to moving season on the isthmus, there are plenty of written — and some unwritten — rules to abide by. Here’s what you need to know about moving season in Madison.

What are the rules?

At the beginning of August, residents in the downtown moving area can place trash and recycling items out for pickup. Crews will come by every day between Aug. 7 and 17 to pick up items and empty out the beige collection carts in that area.

The highlighted section on the map represents the downtown moving area. Image via City of Madison

The city encourages residents to fill up their trash bins over and over during this time and not pile loose trash at the curb. Trash that can’t fit in the carts should be put in plastic bags, not cardboard boxes.

Can you recycle that?

All recyclables should be put into your green recycling cart. Make sure you empty, flatten, and bundle cardboard.

In Wisconsin, many small electronics can’t be tossed in the trash because they are banned from landfills. Instead, items like TVs, computers, monitors, and laptops can be brought to the Streets Division’s drop-off sites or a private electronics recycler. Most electronics will require a recycling fee.

Image via City of Madison

The city allows residents to take one load of recyclables to a drop-off site per day. To use the sites, you must be a Madison resident.

What about large items?

Items like couches, desks, and chairs don’t require any fees for pick up and should be put out neatly onto curbs. Try to keep items together if possible and make sure they don’t obstruct fire hydrants or street signs.

Keep your stuff out from under low-hanging wires and trees, too. Remember, there are real people coming to pick these items up for you, don’t make their lives harder by making a mess.

Image via City of Madison

From Aug. 8 to 19, if you live in the downtown moving area you will not have to complete work orders for large items that normally don't require a collection fee.

Large items that do require fees, like refrigerators and air conditioners, will still require work orders.

Have you considered donating?

The city reports August moving days create more than 1 million pounds of extra garbage every year.

Rather than dumping your old items into landfills, consider donating them to one of Madison’s many resale stores.

The city has compiled a list of local businesses that will take your unused items for donation. Websites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are always good options as well. Just make sure to take the proper digital and in-person precautions.

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