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7 Seriously Important Tips for a Smooth Move

Monday, December 8, 2014

Mike and I have been married, oh, about a bazillion years - ok, ok, maybe slightly less than a bazillion - and over the past 12 years or so we've moved house 5 times and are about to do it again. 

Let that sink in for a second: 6 moves in 12 years.

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Yeah, I'm kind of a pro at moving. I've actually moved one extra time that he didn't. Life is so unfair sometimes.

These have not been small moves, either. 3 of them were across 1500+ miles. The move I made by myself was 800 miles. 2 moves involved crossing an ocean. The shortest move I've ever made was to a new house 6 hours away... and Mike was working and couldn't help at all for that one. Thank goodness for great parents!

Believe me when I say I understand. It's overwhelming. It's scary. It's hard work. Don't underestimate the amount of energy you're going to put into this.

But there are things you can do to make it better. I'm here to help.

#1 - Be Organized

My biggest and best tip is organize yourself, your family, and anyone else you're responsible for. I recommend starting 6 months before your move date. You can live without a lot of your stuff for 6 months and it will make your move infinitely smoother. You may even get so used to having less "stuff" in your home, that you decide not to unpack it all at your new place. You'd be surprised how often this happens to us.

There are two basic choices when organizing your home for a move:

  • First, you can deep clean everything, declutter each space, remove everything unwanted, and then leave your rooms exactly as you live in them. This is probably the easiest way and it works really well if you definitely have "living room decor" vs "guest room decor." If you know that a certain painting always hangs in your dining room and you always pair those candle sticks with it, this method will work nicely for you. You can box up each room quickly, and unpack in the new space just as quickly. Setting up your new spaces will be a breeze.

  • On the other hand, some of us - myself, included - are more fluid in where our things "live." I'm constantly moving stuff around until I find it a happy home. Then I leave it for a while until I get bored or I start thinking that the energy has stagnated in a space. So I move things around again. I am constantly redecorating. When I move, I group things in broad categories. I will take all of my pictures off the wall and stack them together. All books will go to the same space (even if they won't all fit on the shelves - we have a bit of a reading addiction in this house). Every piece of random decor gets shuffled around until they are all clustered together somewhere. Exercise equipment finds a home together (usually in my closet). You get the picture. The downside to this method is that it requires more time both before and after the move. I don't have the bonus of "ready made room" boxes that I can open, put things away, have a beautifully decorated room, and then move on to the next room. But here are the pros: I touch every single thing I own at least twice every time we move. This makes it easy to get rid of things I no longer love or that just don't mesh with my home anymore. I get to take some time to get a feel for the new space and decide what needs to be there to keep my home harmonious. It does take me a little longer to decorate, but I'm ok with that. I enjoy doing it and I like taking the time to get to know my new home. Some of you are going to think this is some hippie-dippie-voodoo-nonsense and that's ok; it just means this method isn't for you. But some of you are nodding your heads and already feel less stressed thinking about it, aren't you?

In case you're curious, Mike is a total #1 everything stays where it's always been type and I'm obviously a #2 go with the flow, let the house tell me what it wants and needs from me before we make any decisions girl. We argue a lot when we move. It's ok, he's still my bestie.

#2 - Downsize

You have stuff you don't need and likely don't really want. I know you do; don't deny it. Unless you are an ultra-minimalist, of course, but then you probably don't have problems moving, so why are you reading this? For the rest of us, get rid of it. Have yourself a yard sale, post things to Craigslist, donate it to a local charity, give your stuff to your church and let it be a blessing to another family who needs whatever it is. Get it out of your house.

Set up a Donation Station somewhere out of the way. Stock it with boxes, tape, garbage bags, and a nice big Sharpie. While you're cleaning or sorting, if you come across something that makes you think twice, take it to the Donation Station immediately. Be ruthless. You will always buy more things, more decor, more furniture, more toys... but you need to have room for them. The way to make room is by getting rid of the things you no longer love.

Clutter is a whole other post waiting to be written, but please - do yourself a favor and move on from the stuff holding you back. If you don't love it, out it goes. Don't waste precious packing or unpacking energy on things you don't want, need, or love.

#3 - Clean Everything

I once helped a new friend unpack after a big move. She was overwhelmed and didn't know where to start, so I went to help. I learned a lot that day, but the biggest lesson was this: You never want to open a box that has been sealed for 2 months with dirty sheets inside. It is highly unpleasant. 

The other lesson I learned that day is to not help people unpack their bedrooms. That's personal and you should do it yourself.

The moral of this story is simple: clean everything. Dust, wipe, wash... whatever you've got to do. You should be able to sleep on your sheets one night and not have a problem when you get to your destination, but if you're very worried about it, pack them in your suitcase.

Oh, and double check your dishes. I actually had packers pack our dirty dishes out of our dishwasher once. Fortunately, I caught it that afternoon and we opened all of the kitchen boxes until we found them. The packers were really unhappy with us the next morning when they arrived but I was really unhappy with them for being disgusting so it was a fight I was prepared to have. 

Another random thing I've had happen to me: unpacking garbage from my previous house. Why anyone would pack a bag of garbage is beyond me, but please, do yourself a favor and just take out the garbage before they arrive to pack your house.

#4 - Know Where Your Important Papers Are

I keep a sealed envelope with certified copies of our important paperwork- birth certificates, baptism paperwork, passports, professional licenses, etc - with me while we're moving. It's unlikely that anything will come up that needs to be dealt with immediately, but I'm covered if it does happen.

If you have significant medical problems that concern you, keep a copy of your medical records with you as well - or summarize your history on a sheet of paper. A quick summary would include any drug or food allergies, past diagnoses, any surgeries with the year they occurred, and all current medications you are taking and how often you take them. Be sure to include any over the counter meds, vitamins, and herbal supplements as well. Your primary care doctor and a good phone number for his office should be on there, too, if you have that available.

Nothing you do with paperwork is secure. If you pack it with your household goods, it's out of your hands and may be lost or stolen, but even if you keep it with you it may also be lost or stolen. Remember, though, that most paperwork can be replaced if need be, it's just a headache to track it all down. If you are super organized, create a spreadsheet database with all of your important info and whom to contact if it needs to be replaced. 

#5 - Think Ahead

Are there any big reorganizing or redecorating projects you want to do? Moving is a great time to accomplish them, if the finances are available. I always like to reassess my linen situation when we move. Sometimes we need new towels or sheets and this is an easy time to pick some up. If you're buying something new, go ahead and let go of the old. It will force you to buy that new thing, whatever it is. I've found that once we settle into a new place, most of our stuff just settles in, too, and it takes a lot more effort to get it out again.

My big project for this next move is going to be reorganizing our DVDs. Right now we store them in those big binders that my husband loves so much, but I think they are ugly and bulky and I hate flipping through them to find a movie I want to watch. I hate putting the movies away even more so they end up stacked next to the TV. I don't have a solution yet, but that's going to change. 

#6 - Plan For Your Pets

Moving can be extra stressful for our fur babies, so try to make it as easy as possible for them. Give them extra love and attention - just a few minutes of cuddling goes a long way towards settling their nerves. Make sure they have plenty of water available. If the door is opening and closing a lot, keep an eye on them to make sure they haven't run outside unexpectedly. If your pet is very territorial or runs into the street sometimes, consider a pet sitter if you have packers coming. 

Also be sure their paperwork and shots are up to date and check if you need anything additional for where you're moving to. Some areas have special vaccinations they recommend based on the diseases they see around there that may not be common elsewhere. Keep a copy of your pet's vaccinations or health certificate with you while you travel, just in case you are ever asked for it.

#7 - Keep A Good Attitude

Things may go wrong. Some of your stuff may get broken or lost. It happens. 

But it is not the end of the world.

Having your belongings insured may help you feel more secure and trying to eat a few good meals a week (instead of eating take-out every single meal) may help you feel calmer. Find what it is that you need and try to make that happen. Take a long walk after a stressful day. Move the boxes to the side and turn on your favorite movie. Everything can wait for two hours. Be flexible with yourself... and with those around you.

I like having all of my suitcases packed a few days before the packers come to start boxing all of my things up. I also like having all of our digital pictures backed up (several times, actually) and stored in different locations, just in case the worst happens. But other than that, as long as we are ok and the dog is with us, everything else isn't as important. There's nothing in my house I can't walk away from. I know not everyone feels that way, but you have to find what works best for you. If you're feeling insecure about something, sit down with a cup of tea and see if you can find a solution that will put you at ease.

I could go on and on about moving well but those are my big, most important tips. If you're in the middle of a move and feeling stressed, give yourself some grace. Go take a nice bubble bath. Have a glass of wine. The "stuff" will be there when you get back. You're working hard. You deserve a break.

I'd love to hear your tips for how you make a move more successful. I feel like I learn new things each time we go through this, so, please! Talk it up in the comments!

And if you're planning a move, or know someone who is, pin this for later and please share away!

Update: If you're looking for ways to infuse more fun into your move, check out 7 Seriously Silly Tips to Keep Your Sanity During a Big Move.