Tag Archives: boxes

Lessons From a Life on the Move

2 Mar

I am approaching my tenth move in sixteen years.

Those are my own moves, rather than moves I have helped with, although there have been some of those as well.

What have I learned from all of this moving? I learned to expect to move again, no matter how contented I might feel in a given location. I learned to be prepared.

I realized that the next move was guaranteed to arrive sooner than I would like, and I learned that certain choices made while stationary would have both physical and economic consequences during that next move. I made my furniture choices accordingly.

My furniture purchases were based on how well a given item would fold, stack, disassemble or fit through a doorway, not to mention how easily the item could be lifted. I still have some folding and stacking oak shelves I purchased more than fifteen years ago, while other less manageable items have been left behind or given away. In some sad cases, awkward items were broken during a move. No wonder I became interested in minimalism!

Then, I became a wife and mother. I forgot some of the lessons I had learned in my life. I felt settled. I found a large (and still new-looking!) leather sofa at a secondhand store for $600. It just happened to match the almost-new leather chair and ottoman I had already brought home from another secondhand store for $150. It seemed like fate. I couldn’t resist.

Now, after just a few years, I am forced to consider how exactly we will fit that large leather sofa up the switch back staircase in our future destination…there is another side to fate, you see. You win some, you lose some. Hopefully we won’t need to lose the sofa. That would be a hard lesson.

Something else I learned from my moves is to start packing early. Moving is like going on a trip — one that lasts a very long time (although sometimes not as long as we hope). I never liked packing for trips. I always thought I might forget some crucial item, like pants. Pants are important. Restaurant signs used to say “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service”, but of course, pants (or a reasonable substitute for pants) are also expected. In fact, I am certain that pants are more of a priority than either the shirt or the shoes, despite what the signs used to say. (These days, signs are more likely to say “No Cellphones”.) I have not actually forgotten my pants on any trip, but I worry about these things. I can be a little bit forgetful at times, which is why I try to organize things so deliberately. I need to compensate for my poor memory.

My stress level and my mood on the days before leaving on trips were enough to teach my husband a lesson. Now he encourages me to pack a few days early. Sometimes he even brings my suitcase out. It helps. The very first trip we took as a family had a rough beginning. Now that I think about it, the middle and the ending of that trip were kind of rough, too. It started with my husband and the three boys sitting in the car for the better part of an hour. They were waiting for me to meet them after I finished work, trying to be efficient in their readiness.

Unfortunately, lack of communication was a problem that day. I was hungry after work and stopped for something to eat, without knowing they were already sitting in the car. The four of them were hot, fidgety, and cranky from being strapped in a parked car for so long, and I was horrified to find them there when I arrived. We left too late in the day, hitting some heavy traffic on the journey. Further crankiness ensued. I have heard that you don’t really know people well until you have traveled with them. I think it might be true. Lessons were learned on that trip.

At least traffic won’t be an issue in this move, as we will only be a few miles away from our current home. I wanted to start packing boxes as soon as I knew we were moving, although I knew it was unlikely that we would be able to transport anything for another four to six weeks. Starting early is my own version of efficiency. Now the boxes are stacking up, getting in the way, making the place feel a touch claustrophobic…but it is better than the anxiety of packing in a rush. At least, to me it is better — I shouldn’t speak for my family. But really, who wants a stressed out wife or mother? No one. A few stubbed toes might be worth it.

I asked some friends for their own moving tips and I got a few good ones.

My advice would be to label the HECK out of every box. Add the date and ALL the contents… unless you plan on unpacking everything immediately (unlikely, right?). I actually listed all the contents of each box on at least two sides of the box – not only don’t you have to unpack a box to find something, you don’t have to unstack all the boxes to find the right box!  ~J.I.

To move hanging clothes, cover 10-20 items (still on hangers) in a large trash bag and tie the bottom closed.  ~J.L.

Dust everything before you pack it, and always ask yourself, “Shall I pack this or donate it?” I put all small miscellaneous breakables in socks. Socks work better than wrapping in paper.  ~J.F.

I especially like the tip about socks. I have also read that towels and T-shirts are good for packing dishes, and like the sock idea, this helps eliminate paper waste, and allows you two pack two items at once.

Here are some of my other favorite moving ideas:

  • Pack one room at a time.
  • Label boxes “Open First” if you know you will be needing the contents in the first days after arrival.
  • Load the moving truck according to the order in which the large items will be moved into the house.  In other words, the last things into the truck will be the first unloaded, so they should be the ones you want to place first.  Pieces destined for the back rooms of the house are likely candidates for the back of the truck.
  • Pack a suitcase with changes of clothing and toiletries as though you were taking a weekend trip.
  • Take pictures of the wire hook-ups for your electronics to make it easier to reconnect them, and label all cords, wrapping them to avoid tangling in the move.

I already have many of our cords labeled, and I plan to wrap them carefully. No one wants to open a box and release that tangled nest of mysterious black snakes, their threatening metal fangs extended, dripping with the toxic venom of potential frustration. I look forward to more wireless technology in the future.

In the meantime, I will settle for some organization, a positive attitude, and the hope that our leather sofa will make it up that switch back staircase.

(P.S. If you are moving soon, there are some great moving tips to be found at movers-edge.com — 101 Best Moving Tips)