Image via DesignMom
So we sold our house. Fast. Like, it wasn’t even on the market fast. So all the purging, pre-packing, and organizational type things that most people do before moving just didn’t happen for us. If you want to read about a picture perfect move, complete with a timeline, checklist and perfectly packed boxes, go here, or here, or even here (this last one is INSANE). If you want some reality, and some “it happened to me” tips – fresh from the trenches – keep reading.
Partner our frantic house search and move with maybe the busiest month on record for my husband and I, and you already get an extra dose of chaos. Throw in a lost week of packing thanks to unforeseeable, ridiculously invasive and complicated repairs on the home we were selling – more chaos. Then top it off with a one year old – you get the point. Which leads me to my first tip:
Tip #1: Plan for chaos. While you can’t ever know ahead of time what kind of chaos it may be, I haven’t had a move happen yet without a healthy dose. After 4 house purchases/sales in my lifetime, here’s what I’ve learned: 1.) it always costs more than you think it will and 2.) it is always a massive pain in the ass. My advice is to have an extra $3000-5000 saved up to cover it. “IT” could be structural repairs, extra closing costs, plumbing leaks, changing mortgage rates, or 4 extra hours from the mover. Or all of the above. I speak from experience. If I’m wrong, then hey, you’ve got an extra $5K to spend on paint and furniture, no harm done, right? Just be prepared, financially and emotionally. For the emotional preparedness part, just have lots of wine on hand.
Next up, packing. Sure, you can go by the timelines I linked to above – but when you’ve got to do it fast, cheap and with a small child hanging from your leg most of the time – here are some of my favorite tricks:
Tip #2 – Find a box fairy. Surely you know someone else who just moved? Hit them up. Ask around, throw it out there constantly that you are moving. People will come out of the woodwork with boxes they can’t wait to get out of their garage. This is especially handy for those expensive wardrobe and dish boxes that make life so much easier. Can’t find a donor? When we ran a wardrobe box short, we ran to our local U-Haul store and discovered that they take back used boxes and give them away for free! If you get there on the right day, you can hit the motherload – or I bet if you gave them your number they would call you when some show up – give it a try!
Tip #3 – Pad breakables with items you need to pack anyway. T-shirts, towels, cloth napkins, tablecloths…you get the point. They provide way better padding than paper or bubble wrap, are more eco-friendly, FREE, and then you can kill two birds with one stone. Cloth napkins and washcloths are great between plates, tshirts work for vases, and towels can go between framed pieces of art, and so on…
Tip #4 – Use wine boxes for glasses, crystal, stemware. While your at the liquor store stocking up on your emotional preparedness kit, grab some boxes. They already have the grids inside and with sturdier glasses you don’t even have to wrap them much. Bonus points if you drank all the wine from the box first!
Tip #5 – Label, label, label those boxes. Label on the top and at least one side, with the name of the room, along with a DETAILED list of what is inside (I better not see a “MISC” anywhere!). Two moves ago I lost my flatware for 3 weeks because it got stuck in a random box at the last minute. This move, it was the coffee grinder. Cue Saturday morning screaming match over coffee, labeling practices and who put what where. If you found a box fairy and aren’t using the boxes for the same items your predecessor did, heavily scratch out their labels. Even if it seems reallllly obvious that you re-labeled it. Trust me.
Tip #6 – Make an “OPEN FIRST” box for each room. This should include anything you might need for at least 24 hours. Don’t count on having time or energy to unpack anything that first night. For kitchen, this could include: coffee accouterments (see above), flatware (see above again), a few plates, glasses, WINE, and anything else necessary to your existence. For our sons room we packed his crib sheets, extra blanket, baby monitor, sound machine, and a few bedtime books to ease him into the new place a little better. I would also recommend packing a suitcase with your PJs, toiletries and clothes for the next day. I didn’t even want to think about opening a box at 10 pm after that 12 hour day of moving, so having the suitcase ready with everything I needed was fantastic.
In the new house: I think it will vary a little for each person/family how to best unpack. We had painters start a few days after we moved in (Tip #7 – Paint and install any new flooring BEFORE you move in, if possible), so we couldn’t unpack everything right away. We are over two weeks in and still have a couple of kitchen boxes hanging out, along with my entire office, closet, and anything decorative or unnecessary. My goal was to get my son’s room finished as soon as possible to help him settle in, but it’s still lavender with boxes stacked up everywhere. Luckily he’s so busy running around the new (bigger) place, that he’s been sleeping great (that kid amazes me!).
Did I mention to plan for chaos and take deep breaths?
What other “best practices” do you have for moving? (Not that I plan to do it again anytime soon!)
Next up in the new house: Adventures in Paint. Stay tuned.