In my adult life I’ve moved seven times; two of those as a family with a child. Averaged out, that’s once every three years! Ugh. No wonder I despise the process so much. Each time I move, I dislike it more and more. (I say as I’m breaking from unpacking.) It seems as though we’ve got this thing figured out, though, and perhaps I can offer some advice to those of you that are planning on a move any time soon.
I’ve learned that it will always take longer than you plan, or want it to take to get everything moved and unpacked and in working order unless you downsize your belongings. We Americans like our Stuff, even those of us that don’t consider ourselves “Normal”. As soon as you plan to move, begin ridding yourself of excess. Reduce, recycle, or give it to someone to reuse (or if you’re a glutton for punishment, hold a yard sale). E-bay, Craig’s List, or Freecycle are some excellent alternatives to a yard sale or Goodwill – and I like them because it is a lot less stress than spending an entire week to set up and clean up a yard sale.
Avoid purchasing items for your new place until you’re moved in. Yes, you’ll want your new joint to be happening and functional the day you walk in. First of all, that’s a completely unacceptable expectation to put on anyone, even your own self. Second of all, why bother getting more stuff you’ll have to pack and transport when you probably have too much as it is?
Start gathering boxes, newspapers, and other packing material as soon as possible. These are items it seems you can never have enough of. Liquor stores, grocery stores, and farmer’s markets are all great places to look for boxes. Also, look for sales on packing tape and big permanent markers. Find a home for them and put them away every time you’re done with them so that you know where to find them the next time you start packing.
Do a little research of the area you’ll be moving to beforehand. Get contact information for utilities, locate grocery and hardware stores, arrange internet/cable/telephone start dates, and find a convenient restaurant or two to make things easy on yourself.
Keep tape, markers, scissors, box cutters, garbage bags, and newspaper available even when you’re UN-packing. Surely you’ll have second thoughts on a few items and need to repack them for storage.
Label. Label. LABEL! You will never remember what is in each box unless you only have five of them or have a photographic memory. Write clearly on the top and two adjacent sides of the box what is inside and a general idea of where they belong. You may also want to come up with a color code for especially fragile items. We used bits of blue painters tape on fragile boxes so that we knew at a glance which weren’t good boxes to play basketball, soccer, or football with.
Don’t stress about dusting or making things spotless before packing them. Dishes and glasses will inevitably get fingerprints on them when unwrapping, and you’ll want to wash any newspaper/box germs off your dishes, silverware, and cooking tools anyway. You never know what’s crawled on those boxes or papers.
A quick rinse through the hot cycle of the dishwasher may be good enough to get some of those prints off. If you’re worried about germs, you can use some mild detergent in the machine, or quickly wash them in the sink.
Put your toiletries in a carry-on bag so you don’t have to search for them when you’re bedding down for the first night. It’s an awful pain to have to dig through boxes to find saline solution so you can take out your contacts. Even worse, fumbling around for your glasses once you’ve taken your contacts out!
Make sure that you have enough clean clothes to get you through the move and a day beyond. A washer and dryer will probably be one of the first things you hook up if you own them, and keeping a load or two running while you’re unpacking and cleaning is almost painless.
…however it’s a good idea to wash all your towels, bedclothes, and curtains to have them ready to hang or put away as soon as they’re unpacked. I put mine in large garbage bags for easy transport, then reuse the garbage bags for clean up in the new place.
Prepare food in a crockpot, cook a roast in the oven, or even (gasp) order out if it helps you stay sane. There’s no reason to cook big meals, bake breads, or go over the top if it’s going to add to your workload. Think of simple meals that you can make at home to save money, perhaps eggs with mushrooms and kale in tortillas topped with hot sauce and sour cream; an easy salad with sliced leftover roasted chicken; or even a bowl of oatmeal with nuts, fruit, and cream. And keep healthy snacks available! You’ll most likely be using up more calories than normal, so keep your energy levels in check. (Don’t fail like me and fill up on junk and completely crash when everyone is counting on you….)
Use up all of those disposable plates and cutlery you’ve been hording because you’d otherwise feel guilty having thrown them away.
Arrange tools like screwdrivers, wrenches, drills, and hammers in a small carry-on bag so that you don’t have to dig for them when you need them. Don’t forget any hardware you may need.
Keep cleaning supplies nearby all the time! You will drop something. Something will spill. Food will spoil. Your child will dump her drink in the backseat of the car during a poorly-timed trek through rush hour traffic in a major city. The Gods of Moving say it must be so. Keep rags, towels, a broom and dustpan, mop and bucket, trash bags, and some simple cleaners around for basic cleanup.
Don’t forget to spend time with those kids when you can so that they’re feelings don’t get completely crushed when you scold them for dumping said drink in the car during your poorly-timed trek. Remember that time spent with your loved ones is also supposed to be relaxing for you.
Ask, pay, or bribe friends and family to help you early on. Remind them (although not obsessively) when they’re expected. It’s considered excellent manners to feed people and even provide cold beverages!
Take time out to celebrate, relax, and just be with the people you’ll be leaving behind. Goodbyes are difficult, especially in these times of email, Twitter, and Facebook when short statements are the norm. Say what you feel, and keep in touch.
Finally, remember that you’re not perfect. Be realistic with your expectations concerning your time, finances, and energy, and do the same for those that are along with you for this crazy ride.
Jennifer can be found blarging at Unearthing This Life and on Twitter as @unearthingthis1.
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