Embracing the Hell of Moving

moving-2I hate moving, which is hard to believe when you consider how nomadic I’ve been over the last several years. I think the longest I’ve stayed in any place at one time is about three years, and of course there is the hilarious number of times I moved in and out of the Fortress of Solitude. (I had an apartment leased by my friend’s parents that I moved into no less than three times, each after a breakup. They, thankfully, managed to keep their eyebrows at a level position over all of this.)

I suppose having so many moves under my belt has honed my skills when it comes to packing and purging, but moving a house of six people plus a business may be my greatest challenge yet. By that I mean, I’d really rather crawl into bed with a stack of books and a thermos of gin and watermelon slush and re-surface when it’s over. It’s hard to not feel overwhelmed, and I will admit to some actual tears being shed over the volume of work ahead. (Read near-daily mental breakdowns, particularly in conjunction with PMS.)

These last couple of months have been beyond stressful with several years of income taxes to prep and file for two businesses, some hard decisions to make about our life, and now the spectre of purging and moving looming again. Add to that cocktail a teething baby, and mama NEEDS some cocktails to get through it all. My good friends at the LCBO are on a first name basis, and have started giving out cookies to my kids with each visit. Kidding. Sort of.

Here are my patented Schnoo-tested tips for tackling a move:

  • Whenever possible, book your move for mid-week. Movers charge more on weekends. Also, avoid the end of the month, if you ever can. We have gotten very, very lucky here and sometimes you’ll find sympathetic landlords. It never hurts to ask about the possibility of moving in a little early, especially when displaying your cleavage.
  • Collect boxes from places like No-Frills or your local grocery store. Small to medium sized boxes are easiest to manage. The liquor store is a gold mine for these (I should know). Make friends with your store manager (Hi Chris!), and find out the best days and times to pick boxes up.
  • Grab stacks of those free newspapers that seem abundant in the city, (especially the stupid, elitist ones who no matter how hard you’ve tried over the last ten years, refused to write about your theatre company) or save any newspapers you may have at home. You’ll need them for packing fragile stuff. Grab felt sheets from the dollar store for packing precious dishes. The felt is nice to layer between plates to make sure they don’t scratch/chip.
  • Go room-by-room and purge, purge, purge. Take this opportunity to turf any clothes you haven’t worn, books you’ve already read, accessories that are collecting dust, and useless knick knacks. Be critical and don’t let yourself hang on to things you don’t need and aren’t using. You’ll be so happy to lighten your load, especially at the end of the day when you get the bill from the movers. You can either sell your stuff or donate it to charity. Some charities, like the Diabetes Association, will even come to you to pick stuff up!
  •  Plan to have a yard sale just before you move. Put prices on stuff as you pack them into labeled boxes for your sale. Think of cute and clever ways to get rid of things. For example, we packed collections of the girls junky little items into brown paper bags that we stapled shut and labeled ‘surprise bags’ and we hope to sell these for a dollar each. It was easy to convince the girls to part with lots of their old toys and such by telling them they could keep the profits from their sales, and I’m hoping that their adorableness will help move more goods. In some instances, I am in favor of child labor. More yard sale tips in a forthcoming post.
  • Before you start packing everything up, take photos of each room of your house for posterity. This is a great idea, especially if you have kids. It will mean something to them to be able to look back on where they’ve lived, and it will be amusing for you to have at least one photo of each room really clean and clear of clutter.
  • Pack fragile items carefully, with lots of extra padding. Movers aren’t always as gentle as one might hope. Especially if you’ve made the brilliant decision to offer them some brewskies. Lesson learned.
  • Label your boxes. I once used a floor plan and a color-coding system with corresponding labels so that our movers would know where each item went. This worked for about half an hour, and then they stopped giving a shit. I once had a colleague who insisted that all movers were ex-cons who couldn’t get work elsewhere, so perhaps my expectations were too high. I was disappointed, but the system was useful for us later. I think a less crazy-lady alternative would be to label each box on two sides with the room it will belong to and a brief description of the contents. I find it useful to add a star to any of the items you will need quick access to once you’ve landed at the next residence and you can ask the former criminals to keep those boxes accessible. There is a slim chance that they might not look at you like they want to strangle you. Eek.
  • Pace yourself. Try to do a bit each day, rather than leave it all to the last minute. Make a fun afternoon project (complete with treats and grown-up drinks) of big rooms like the kitchen.
  • Enlist helpers! Kids love to get involved in home projects, and some of your family and friends can be drafted too. Even if you’ve used up your quota for packing help (for a lifetime), maybe your friends can keep the kids busy at the park so that they aren’t under foot. (Ahem…wink, wink). Pet sitting will also be a huge help, if you have a pet. Or a husband who hates packing.
  • Pack a last minute box with toiletries, sheets for each bed, pjs, books, towels, etc. This should basically be an overnight bag that includes something to sleep on and shower with. Count on sleeping on mattresses on the floor.
  • Expect moving day to be long! Usually double the length you had imagined. Provide snacks (for everyone, including the movers), make a dinner plan that is very low maintenance and keep the refreshments flowing (DO NOT GIVE THE MOVERS ALCOHOL until they are finished, and then limit them to one cold beer. Try to have fun (I know…easier said…) and remember that the kids don’t know that moving seriously sucks.
  • If you can afford a cleaning service to clean the place you are moving to ahead of the movers, do this. It is money well spent. Be sure to budget time and energy to do a decent cleaning of the place you’re leaving, and build good moving karma. Don’t leave your crap behind for the new tenants either. I’ve actually arrived at new residences to find closets full of clothes and dirt caked all over the kitchen and bathroom. Yes, I cried.
  • Don’t rush to get all of the unpacking done, and definitely enlist the kids for this one. It will be really empowering for them to help set up the new space. Think of it like a ritual to claim your new home. In fact, if you’re a closet tree-hugger like me, you could even do a ceremonial sweep and sage smudge.

So in summary, here is what I’ve learned over a total of fifteen moves in as many years; keep it fun, especially for the kids, use alcohol to maintain your sense of humor (unless you are driving or operating a forklift), remember that some movers might be ex-cons, throw out your crap before you move it to yet another home where it will sit untouched, and DO NOT give your movers booze. Also, don’t forget to bring the dog with you.

Do feel free to share your moving tips! I can use all the help I can get.

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