After moving 22 times in 23 years of marriage, I’ve adopted several habits when faced with a move to help reduce the risk for melt-downs — and I’m not just referring to the kids here. Moving well takes a lot of composure and having insider knowledge will only help you be a better person (read: less crazy) through the chaos. If you’re lucky, you may even do it gracefully.
So when the ink on your new job contract has dried and the likely move morphs into the category of certainly, it’s like the start of the Indy 500 (yes, I’ve lived in Indianapolis and know what I’m talking about): there’s so much noise and confusion you can hardly hear yourself think. So digest this now, before the drivers start their engines.
1. Start hoarding boxes, bags and newspaper. As soon as you know for sure that you’ll be moving, immediately start squirreling away random boxes and all types of plastic and paper bags. These items become your best friends as you begin the chore of purging. You’ll be sneaking things out of the kids’ rooms to deposit at Goodwill. You’ll be making hard decisions about consigning something quasi-valuable and sentimental — like maybe the dusty china you received long ago as wedding gifts. (Eeerp, nope, I haven’t done that yet. But maybe you will.) You’ll be transporting bags of hand-me-down clothing to best friends for their kids. You’ll be taking older towels and linens to a nearby shelter. You’ll be carting unwanted books, DVDs and CDs to Half-Price Books. And even if you’re lucky enough to have the company pay for full-moving services, you’ll probably want to pack some personal things yourself. Ziplock bags are great for your bathroom closet. Wine boxes from the grocery are terrific for personal journals and sensitive folders with confidential documents you’d rather pack yourself. Be ready and have these supplies around.
2. Locate every permanent marker in the house. Track down every last Sharpie you already have and then look out for sales so that you have an ample supply. In this case more is better. Go nuts. Permanent markers help save you time later because you’ll be more likely to label those boxes and bags with as much detail as you have the energy for. When you arrive and you’re looking at a neatly folded mattress pad tucked into zipped plastic storage bag, you’re better off knowing if it’s a queen size for the guest bed or two singles for the kids’ beds before you open it up. Don’t even be tempted to think your recall will be helpful. Trust me, your recall won’t show up in time to be remotely helpful. In fact, it may not even make the move.
3. Packing tape: you can’t have too much of it. Packing tape allows you to keep things from getting separated. Sometimes the movers will get it all done perfectly and every little screw or attachment will not only arrive (that’s generally not the problem) but they will be found. Mostly, various bits and bobs will tend to be illogically packed so you’re on a scavenger hunt to make your various household goods whole. And sometimes, things just don’t show up. I screwed up on this latest move to Austin. I should have taped over the newly replaced battery for our daughter’s wall clock to keep it from jiggling loose in the hands of the packers. The clock showed up just fine, minus that damn battery. You get what I mean. This stuff doesn’t rise to the level of major, but it’s amazing how when multiplied, all of these little missing parts can cost you time, money and your beloved sanity, which will already be in short supply.
4. Stash an arsenal of paper plates within reach. And plastic spoons and forks. And paper towels. Your kids are not going to be thinking about how their kitchen messes become a bigger problem as your moving date nears. Take charge and give yourself a break. Restrict use of glassware and go disposable so that you’re not stuck the night before the packers come with some late-night dishwashing party. By this point, your dishwasher should be verboten; hand-washing it will be, a party you’ll wish you could skip. Avoid this scenario by using paper products the week of your move. You may just be a little less crazy because of it, and your kids will think that’s a good thing.
5. Got gardening gloves? Use them. Cardboard is not your friend, moms. When you’re faced with mountains of boxes, you’ll feel like you may just survive the move if you have your garden gloves to protect your poor hands as they handle vast quantities of that hostile material. Also, handling sharp scissors and/or box-cutters when you’re teetering from exhaustion is dangerous. It’s easy to nick a finger and having even a humble pair of gardening gloves will provide a small degree of protection.
6. Bonus tip: Keep Band-Aids handy. No need to ask why. As you unpack, someone will need one. Trust me. And blood, dirty cardboard and newspaper or packing paper don’t mix. Unpacking towels and smearing blood on them isn’t cool. Stop the flow, stop whining and move on…
— Kathryn Streeter
Writer, traveler, mom and wife, Kathryn Streeter writes about people, places and family adventures. She’s highly mobile — Streeter has moved 22 times in 23 married years. Her writing has appeared in a variety of publications including elephant journal, Mamalode, The Briar Cliff Review, BLUNTmoms and CSMonitor.