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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Make Moving to a New Home As Smooth a Transition as Possible

I've moved thirteen times in my life. I'm now preparing for my fourteenth in a couple of months, and hoping it'll be the last one for at least a couple of years! I've both downsized & traded up in my life. I gained a bedroom & a big closet with my last move, but lost a kitchen bar, an entire row of kitchen cabinets & countertop space. Moves are a chance to get rid of old dishes, flatware, drinking glasses, bowls, etc. that are no longer in great condition, and don't look so hot anymore. You can finally try & talk your spouse or housemate into tossing that one piece of junk they own that makes you loony tunes every time you look at it, especially if you're downsizing. Seize upon this opportunity to minimize & simplify!

Boxes & wrapping are NOT cheap if you have to pay for them from the moving company, typically. Boxes can be $4.00 a piece if you buy from them, but since most moving companies will deliver fresh boxes right to you, sometimes this is your only option. (If you're disabled or unable to lift a bunch of boxes up steps, I understand where you're coming from.) So if you know for months in advance that you'll be definitely be moving and you know it'll be within a certain time period save every good (particularly the big) box that you can. Break them down by removing the tape & storing them flat against a wall together, to take up as little space as possible. While doing that meant storing cardboard boxes in a corner of my dining room, along with bubble wrap & tissue paper that comes with packages for a few months, I'm really glad I did it. Yes, it was a bit of an eyesore, but I'm thrifty enough to realize that I'd already packed twenty-seven boxes with several more to spare, by the time we even hired our movers. And no way was I paying $100.00+ for boxes alone- the move is expensive enough! Beyond the saved bubble wrap & tissue paper I used old but clean towels (kept aside as towels not destined for use out in the bathroom anymore), plastic grocery bags & newspaper sheets with no print on them to wrap my stuff. I don't recommend putting anything other than trash in trash bags, especially dark-colored ones. I have several reasons for this. The first one is of course that someone can easily make the mistake that it's garbage, and it could get tossed accidentally- not good! Dark bags have a colorant in them that rubs off on items, making them unacceptable for storing items which aren't garbage. Even white trash bags are hard to see into. If the trash bag tears, there goes your dust-free, clean storage. People often toss in last-minute papers that are hanging around, which they didn't get around to de-cluttering & filing into these trash bags but aren't throwing them away- not a good idea, for obvious reasons. You probably know already how I feel about moving items with you into a chaotic manner that should've been tossed, sold, filed properly or donated beforehand!

After so many moves, I've discovered a few other things on my own:

1) Movers can & do occasionally do drop boxes accidentally, so make no assumptions- pack your breakable stuff as if it could get dropped, and therefore wrap it well.

2) Movers don't like when you use their five-foot-tall boxes to pack your heaviest kitchen equipment into all at once or dedicate your massive hardcover library to. They're not fun for you to unpack, either, when you think about having to reach in deeply & pick up that ten pound stockpot off the ground for example. Really heavy items or things that are heavy when packed like-with-like should preferably kept to their own, smaller boxes.

3) Try not to pack a box so heavy that you yourself cannot lift it. (I know that sometimes this is unavoidable, like with a huge all-in-one printer.)

4) Don't pack stuff up that weighs beyond a couple of ounces in bare feet. Stuff falls on toes & insteps easily. Trust me on this.

5) Even if you use the technique where you fold a corner of a box underneath another corner to make a box stay closed without tape (something I learned from doing stock & inventory work in retail years ago), seal it with packing tape anyway. Again, trust me, I learned from experience (a costly experience) that tape is not optional.

6) When your nerves are ready to collapse & you find yourself yelling at anyone who passes by, take a break from the packing and/or cleaning that go with a move. I've worked to exhaustion before, sweating & scrubbing like a fiend, feeling so rushed & overwhelmed that I was ready to smack any living thing that came by me, determined to "get this darn job done now!" I would've been better off tackling one chore at a time over a period of days rather than leaving the entire job to be done in one day.

7) There's little room for long-term procrastination, no matter how long you have to plan for a move. You have to set a battle plan and try to stick to it, making adjustments as things arise. If you have a month in advance to move, don't put off all packing until the last week, even if you've designated it as time off from work or something akin to that. There is no way of knowing what will come up the week of a move. None. My last move was only nine months ago and let me tell you, the older & more disabled one gets, the more slow-and-steady-wins-race-the-race becomes one's philosophy. Not everyone has the luxury of one or two months of planning, but if you do, take advantage of the pace. Set a goal of packing, labeling & sealing one or two boxes a day, preferably per person in the household. If you have a month or two before you have to move, this gives you a relatively easy goal to achieve without stressing you or your body out too much. Start packing out-of-season clothing & shoes, seasonal items that you know you won't need in the meantime (i.e., Christmastime decorations) & any kitchen items set aside for "company only". Some other things can be packed early on- such as pictures on the wall, books, CDs, DVDs & backup office supplies. De-clutter as you pack. FlyLady's questions should resonate through your mind as they have mine- "Do I/we love it? Do I/we use it?" Whatever you do, label the box with the name of each & every item going into that box. Label it as you wrap up and/or place each item in the box. Yes it takes a bit more time at the outset, but I promise you that it's worth it later on.

8) If you're wanting the movers to dispose of heavy big-ticket items, in other words not moving them to your new home, make sure that your moving company knows they have to do that in advance. Your moving company may not do this, though, if you're like me there's no one in my circle who can handle doing this, and therefore you'll have to get outside help for disposing of the items ahead of time. Last year when I moved I got rid of a sofa, a broken armchair, a headboard pre-dating me and a 300-lbs. 1987 RCA TV. (Hey, it was a top-of-the-line at the time my mother bought it; that thing was an actual piece of finely-made furniture. I used it as a thrifty person's vanity table after the TV itself died. I threw a sheet over it & I have to say, it made an awesome makeup table! For those old enough, remember when the heft of your TV was a symbol of making it to the big time?)

9) Don't assume that you'll be able to spend the entire day before or after your move cleaning. A move is exhausting. Beyond the physical work, there is paperwork galore, keys to get & be made, making sure kids and/or pets are settled in properly (and dealing with the emotions that come with that process), illnesses & emergencies in families that can & do come up. Either set up cleaning a little bit at a time coming up to the move (i.e., clean the refrigerator one day, stove/oven the next day, inside & outside of dishwasher third day, etc.) OR invest in getting a reputable maid service to clean your old house after you move. My mother did this in the past, and she said it was one of the best things she ever did. The maids cleaned the inside & outside of the kitchen cabinetry, scrubbed the inside of the fridge, left the windows sparkling- my mother was thrilled. For a couple of hundred dollars, max, you should be able to get the same service. Consider this possibility seriously if you're expecting to get a security deposit back on your place based on the condition it is left in. When you leave it immaculate (and I'd recommend taking pictures or making a video of the condition it's left in, if money's involved at all), there's not a thing that the rental office or landlord can complain about. Even if you're selling the place, wouldn't you rather leave behind a germ-free, clean home to the next tenants? Do unto others...

The only time this isn't applicable is if so much painting, appliance removal, floor-changing, restoration work, etc., is going to be done that your cleaning efforts would be completely obliterated for the next tenants. Or if the property is scheduled to be torn down. Even so, I'd still wipe down the bathrooms with a few Lysol wipes, vacuum the floors & leave the kitchen appliances in a decent state, though. Items such as ovens could end up getting donated to charity, and you don't want to leave anything really nasty behind, just as a courtesy to all involved.

10) Before you pack anything, once again remember Julie Morgenstern's SPACE acronym:
*S- Space
*P- Purge
*A- Assign a home
*C- Containerize
*E- Equalize

When applying this acronym to moving I have a few suggestions. Keep in mind the space that you'll be moving your items into in the new home. Think carefully about furniture placement, what will realistically fit in your new home, what storage you'll have (you may either be gaining or losing closet, drawer & cabinet space, so it's imperative to think this out in advance), what may need to be tossed & what you may need to buy for storage in your new home. Getting a new closet sometimes means that you'll need new & different organizers. For this type of help in regards to getting solutions, I recommend reading Linda Koopersmith's, "The Beverly Hills Organizer's Home Organizing Bible". There is no way I could pack into this blog all of what that author espouses in the book, but I own the book & know she'll help you maximize your space to the best of it's ability. If you're gaining storage, such as built-in bookshelves & cabinetry, you may actually decide to let go of a few past storage pieces (especially ones you never liked that much). It really depends on what your new storage will hold, what you are comfortable in donating & selling, and how long you plan to be in your new home. The longer you plan on being in the new place, the less likely you'll want to hang on to items that can't be used there, obviously. After all, renting a storage space is complicated & expensive over time. I'm sure you can imagine that I do not ever recommend renting a storage unit somewhere unless it is some kind of emergency situation. Keep in your mind how you'll want to store the items which are not used all year, such as holiday decorations or kitchen tools only used for big family reunions. Some people are fine with storing those items in a shed or garage, while others have fragile glass items that can't take the temperature extremes that can happen in those types of spaces. Remember that it'll be imperative to use all the space that you can vertically- via tall bookcases, shelves hung up high, lighting from the ceiling or drilled into the wall, etc. This often means less tabletop surface to clean, too- and when is less cleaning ever a bad thing?!

Moving is a wonderful time to purge and depending upon the circumstances, you may have no choice but to downsize your belongings. Moving more stuff costs more money, especially in military families (from things I've learned through acquaintances), and if you don't have the additional money to spend it can be a tremendous burden. There is TONS of info on the web & in books to advise how to determine what's meant for purging & what isn't, and how to determine the matter if you're unsure. So I won't bore you by repeating it. The more you purge what isn't needed, the better. Letting go of the old which is no longer loved & used frees up the universe to give you something that will be new & necessary. Of all of the things that I've tossed, sold or donated over the years (and we're talking dumpsters worth), I regret virtually nothing that I've gotten rid of. A couple of things I could have ended up using later were still things that were easily replaced. I'm not talking about tossing things that have deep meaning to you, but stuff sitting in linen closets, kitchen cabinets & drawers, on videotape shelfs- things that you'd forget you even owned if you didn't look at them with your own eyeballs.

If you already have your items well-containerized, moving them right in their containers (especially if they're concealed ones with a top) can save you boxes, labeling & wrapping. An example would be holiday items that you've stored in a Rubbermaid box with a lid. The last time that I moved I simply labeled the container (because it contained breakables, it was already well-wrapped from year-long storage) & taped it up well so the lid couldn't accidentally come off. If you have open containers, you still may be able to just keep the items in them & move them as is, especially if you're not making a long-distance move. If you'll be able to take things over to your home via your own vehicle, especially if you can do so in advance, that's a great time to take contained items over to the new place. You'll feel less stressed this way, less "fresh" organizing will have to be done, you'll save on using up packing materials & will already have some things put away before you're even totally moved in.

Equalizing is an important subject to broach here. Maybe you've always had your workout equipment, for example, in your bedroom. In your new home, will it still work there? Maybe now you're trading up & will have a home office, family room, basement or other area these items could go into. Or maybe they will stay in your bedroom, but will be laid out differently because you've gained a sitting room space in there. If you've downsized, the items may need to go to the living room. Remember that your home is for living in- not to impress people (I hope). There should be no shame whatsoever in having things you use every day out. If you never eat in space designated as a dining room because you don't own a table, and probably wouldn't sit at one if you did, what's wrong in making it into an entirely different type of room? Use your rooms as they speak to you to utilize, not what the original designer, your mother or anyone else says you should use it for. Dining room space is great for turning into an art studio, exercise room, playroom or game room. If your home is clean, organized & easy to move through, then what's the problem? If your home is all of what I just wrote & someone still comes to visit only to criticize your "decorating" choices, remember that they don't have to live there. Also, if the setup works for you & your fellow dwellers, say so clearly to the criticizer. Decor should be based not just upon looks, but function. This applies in your home office, your bedroom, your bathroom & more. You're there to live- not keep up some false image to others.

11) What I like to do is set aside a hard caddy with a handle, which holds all of the packing supplies that I'll need in advance. Here is the list of what's in my caddy:

* Black permanent markers, one or two thin ones & one thick- I like the Sharpie brand
* Bounce scented dryer sheets (I like Outdoor Fresh Scent); these are great to tuck into boxes, especially those that hold any cloth items. If you're packing clothes, blankets, towels, backpacks, etc., they prevent that sort of stale smell from getting embedded in clothing, even if they're bagged up first. This is also true if you're packing these items into any sort of closed-up plastic bag like a space bag.
* High-quality packing tape- lots of it
* Red, thick permanent marker, for labeling boxes that hold breakables "FRAGILE". Label both the top of the box AND one side of the box, so that movers can see this label from virtually any angle.
* Scissors that cut extremely well
* White, peel-off labels, as big as possible, for easily labeling items as you go along

12) If at all possible, work where you can be most comfortable. You can leave your caddy, boxes & packing filler in one room & either bring the items to that room, or if you're really lucky, get others to bring those items to you as you work. This makes more sense, if it's possible, than lugging the caddy, what you hope are the right number of boxes for the job, and packing filler to every little corner of your home as you pack. For me, because I have back & knee problems, what's most comfortable is working in a seated position, at least after I've been standing for ten to fifteen minutes. Yes, standing up means you can probably move a bit faster, but don't push yourself to the point where you can get overtired & even injured. It simply isn't worth the results when you overdo it. If something is just too heavy for you to lift and/or pack, leave it be. Don't risk getting hurt, seriously. No piece of furniture is worth a trip to the emergency room.

13) When seeing your vacant home for the first time (after it's no longer occupied & it's preferably been cleaned), bring a tape measure, paper, Post-it notes & a big black Sharpie pen. Verify that your furniture will fit in the places that you want it to go, if it looks like it'll be tight. Before you put a TV in a built-in, for example, make sure that it'll have the appropriate height, depth & width to accomodate your set. This planning ahead will save headaches on moving day, even if you have to rework where you'll be putting things, since you'll know in advance. In your new home, put a sheet of paper on each door advising which room it is (especially important for bedrooms). Don't assume the movers will know automatically which room is the family room or the living room- put up at sign at the entry to the room. Also put down a sheet of paper or tack up a Post-it note designating what furniture will go where in each room for the movers. You can put a note on the furniture itself, as well, advising what room it'll go into. Tape every single drawer, cabinet, tray, etc. shut with packing tape, so that they're not falling out on the movers. If you're furniture has to be separated (a dining table with a pedastal that comes apart from the top, a hutch on a desk that is to be removed before it's transported & replaced afterwards, bed frames, etc.), tell the movers this explicitly. When you get your confirmation phone call from the moving company before (and you should ALWAYS get this call), be sure to tell the company that you'll need this done, as well. The movers should have the tools on them, anyway, but a heads-up is both courteous & necessary.

14) Reading FlyLady's Moving Tips will help give you additional ideas, as well:

http://www.flylady.net/d/getting-started/flying-lessons/moving/

15) This list from Real Simple gives a step-by-step checklist, which may help as well. I will always include info from any website that I think will help you! :)

http://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/organizing/moving/moving-checklist-00000000000208/index.html


16) WRITE DOWN EVERY SINGLE THING THAT HAS TO GET DONE. In the old home, in the new home, regarding pets, cleaning or repair projects, regarding kids. It may be an "obvious" item, but I don't care- put it on paper or somewhere that you can check it easily & all together. I created a Google Document called "Moving To-Do List" & track it all there. This can be as simple as things like "Wipe down the cat carrier" to "Make sure that every paper on the mortgage is signed that needs to be". Everyone's situation will be different. Everywhere you go that the move is involved with, take this list with you.

Here's to being a happy organized minimalist,
-Liz


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