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Eppur si muove

October 18, 2012
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Well, we’ve fallen a long way from the immaculate, ready for showing house (with everything stuffed last-minute in the car, or the oven, or the dishwasher, or the drier….)  Things are a disaster. It’s like that fable with the porridge that never stops coming from the pot, no matter how much you eat…except with books.

I’m the one who is supposed to LOVE LOVE LOVE moving, and I’m a basket case. Everything is a shambles. I’ve broken down and hired someone (two someones and a truck, actually) to load most of the furniture and some of the books and drive them across town and unload them (consoling-windows friend convinced me I was insane to imagine I could do it all myself, and reminded me that she has a bad back anyway AND that she would be out of town the weekend before the move; that decided it), and I’ve made most of the vexing telephone calls regarding utilities and insurance and piano movers and cable/internet/telephone service and cleaning people and the yard guy (hiring them both–the cleaning people once, the yard guy on an ongoing basis–being a condition of the lease). I’ve given more books away than sane people own. I’ve measured things, tried to plan, I’ve started stacking boxes and boxes and bags and bags in the living room.

And I have a long, long way to go. 

Never again will I live in one place for this long, and accumulate this much stuff. Never. “The joy of living in a small place,” my boyfriend, who lives in a very small place, reminded me, “is that you use every inch of your house. Right now there are all these weird wastelands in your house.” He’s right. Also, for eleven years I’ve merrily said, “Oh, you can put that in MY house, I’ve got room!” to all and sundry. I thought things were under control–I did fill an entire dumpster with crap before listing the house, after all. I was a fool.

Any specific advice–on how to pack, how to move, how to stay sane–is greatly appreciated.

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. SarahB permalink
    October 18, 2012 8:22 pm

    When we moved here from a 2 BR condo to a smaller 2 BR apt, we had 60 boxes. Half were books. We got rid of two carloads of stuff when we got here. It was a military move, which means they pack everything for you–but then you don’t end up sorting out crap as you go. Eesh. Good luck!

  2. October 18, 2012 8:39 pm

    Some advice from a seasoned packer/mover, having done eight houses in as many years…

    Pack room by room, preferably using the same size boxes so they stack without falling over.

    Tape the bottom of each box securely before packing contents, especially books.

    Don’t over pack the box, especially with books.

    When packing breakables use bubble wrap, newspaper and lots of it. Don’t over pack breakables. It’s better to put less in the box with more padding to avoid breakages.

    Keep a smallish box in each room for the dumpster/rubbish and the Goodwill. When each box is full take it to the dumpster/rubbish or Goodwill by physically putting the box in the car and driving, even if it means several journeys. Or hire another dumpster til you move. Less boxes = less mess = an uncluttered mind and heart.

    Write on each box a rough list of the contents and which room it will go to in the new home, as you pack it. The someones won’t know where to put it otherwise and you won’t have time on moving day to direct their box traffic and stay sane.

    Get the kids to pack their own room, even if it means bribing or nailing them to the floor. Then there can be no accusations of “Where did you put my whaahhhhhhhhh”.

    Try and have a lap over day from one house to the next. That way you won’t feel inundated by boxes and overwhelmed by the move.

    Pack an overnight bag and essentials (night clothes, bed linen, toothbrush etc) for the first day/night and lock them in the car before the someones turn up with their truck. That way it won’t be the first thing the someones put on their truck. Instead it will get to the new house at the same time as you, which will be around the time you need your bed. No hunting for the kettle/chocolate/Gin, it will be on hand. Ask the kids to do the same, leaving out the Gin.

    When you get to the new house and unpack the boxes, put them on Craigslist/eBay immediately or recycle them. You won’t need them for a couple of years and anyway there will always be other boxes.

    If things get too much on moving day lock yourself in the car, tie your hands to the steering wheel and and scream…..loudly…. No one will hear you above the noise of the radio, they’ll all be too busy playing headless chicken.

    If all else fails, remember the reasons you are moving and what a fantastic new start this is for you all.

  3. October 18, 2012 11:58 pm

    My favorite way to pack CD’s and books is to use wine boxes. Here, in Napa where I live (and as an exwife of a winemaker) they are easy to find. Maybe where you are there is a snooty wine shop which might help? In any case, without their dividers they hold books in beautifully stackable and proper carrying weight portions. I dare remember even simply marketing the shelf numbers they belonged on as I packed them making books an easy and comforting first unpacking chore upon arrival in my new (solo) household. Good Luck!

  4. October 19, 2012 6:46 am

    What you’re feeling is completely normal and right on schedule. I have felt this kind of weepy panic toward the end of every move, including when I moved from a studio apartment with a suitcase and black plastic bags, all of which fit in one station wagon. Don’t beat yourself up too much about having too much stuff because you were too settled. This, in my experience, is just what moving feels like.

  5. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    October 19, 2012 10:10 am

    This is all very reassuring. I’m packing the books in cases-of-beer boxes! They’re the perfect size. Puncturedbicycle, you make me feel much better. A friend emailed me to say to throw EVERYTHING away, which seems rather profligate but is also liberating. The only worrying pieces of furniture right now–too big for me to take, too “nice” for me to toss–are a sofa and a great big desk. But I may in fact put them out on the curb anyway, if I can’t find someone who wants them…

    • October 24, 2012 9:34 am

      Ooh gosh, I love being unexpectedly helpful! Seriously, moving makes me feel like someone has died. Just get through it. If you’re unable to make decisions about throwing stuff away, just cram it in and I’ve found it is often easier to make that decision when I’m in the new place and not feeling bereft and panicky in the old place. (I’m sure it’s very wasteful and everything but you have to look after yourself and get to the other side so do what you have to do.)

  6. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    October 19, 2012 10:10 am

    Also, locking myself in the car and screaming!!!! How brilliant.

  7. October 19, 2012 10:49 am

    The ‘Free’ section on Craigslist is your friend. Anything we ever didn’t want was gone within an hour of putting on there. Label boxes well and keep a master list so you know what’s in them. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed to the point where you start just setting stuff aside as you unpack it instead of finding each thing a home. (When the clutter gets unbearable here and I have to clean I use the ‘OHIO method’–Only Hold It Once. Forces you to actually deal with everything.) Save organizing the books for two years from now. (I’ll come help.)

  8. Was Living Down Under permalink
    October 19, 2012 11:40 am

    My first instinct is to say outsource but sometimes that just causes more trouble. And it sounds like you have outsourced what you can.

    Do a room at a time and start in one corner of the room. Each desk/shelf etc. gets its own box/boxes. Try to purge as you pack. Beats purging as you unpack (though that might happen too).

    All the things that Foggybottom said. The “first night” box is extremely important. I actually make 2 first night boxes – One for the kitchen that would include – some cutlery, plates, cups, a pot and the kettle (and the tea and sugar), a dishcloth, dishsoap and a roll of paper towels. One for the bathroom/bedroom – sheets for the beds, toothbrushes, pyjamas, hairbrush, soap, a roll of toilet paper and a spare set of clothes. Have a box/suitcase with your towels clearly labelled so they’re also unpacked first.

    Labelling the boxes is important j- include the room they’re going into in the new house. So living room stuff should be dropped off in the living room, kitchen boxes in the kitchen and so on. It is helpful to list the contents of each box (makes it easier to find stuff after). I bought coloured paper and coded each room. And then went and posted a sheet in the corresponding room in the new house so the movers could easily tell where each box went. Also helpful (for unpacking) for you to put a star on the boxes that you think you might need to open first (first week in for example) and the rest can wait til later (if that makes sense?)

    Hope that helps. Just know that even if you spend every spring purging and even if you move every year, the stuff you can accumulate (even if you’re not a pack rat) can be overwhelming. Especially when you’ve got children as well. We’ve moved several times in the last seven years and each time it’s been, at some point or another, overwhelming. I think it’s par for the course.

    There’s light at the end of the tunnel and a few weeks from now you’ll be lounging on your new porch (on an unusually warm fall day?) with a cup of coffee and this will all be behind you 🙂 (To get me through rough bits, I usually try to visualize myself after the rough bit – sometimes it helps.) Good luck!

  9. Candace permalink
    October 19, 2012 1:01 pm

    Having just moved after living in the same spot of 9 years I can offer this – sell or donate 90% of it. You don’t need it and trust me, in two months time you will hardly remember it all except for the relief it brings to not have to trip over it anymore. The 10% you keep you will treasure and appreciate.

  10. Celeste permalink
    October 19, 2012 1:05 pm

    My only addition to the First Night supplies is a few items for cleaning the bathroom and wiping down the kitchen. Those wipes in a jar are wonderful. Also find out if there is already a shower curtain up in the new place, because you will get sweaty and miserable moving in and you will want to shower sooner rather than later. It’s better if you don’t have to go to Bed, Bath & Beyond Human Endurance in a gamy state.

  11. October 19, 2012 1:32 pm

    Oh gosh. Now I never want to move.

  12. October 20, 2012 6:07 am

    Pack things vertically that are meant to stand vertically – vases and photoframes etc. A guy with a van said they’re stronger that way and less likely to break. It has worked ok so far for me! Good luck!

  13. October 20, 2012 1:11 pm

    Only thing I can think to add is to pack up some fresh bed linen and all your bedding separately, and make up your bed as soon as you move in. That way when it’s suddenly 2am and you’re exhausted you have the bliss of just falling into a freshly made bed… Aaaah. Good luck good luck! When do you move? I will send you bountiful Good House Move vibes xx

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      October 20, 2012 5:15 pm

      I can’t believe you just had a baby and you are commenting on my blog, what a trooper you are (it’s your national character, I am even more excited about my new tenants now! Next thing I know you’ll fly over here and help me pack boxes while nursing, or something.) I don’t even HAVE fresh bed linen, really, it’s all skanky and elderly. Perhaps I should treat myself to some…now there’s a thought.
      Congratulations congratulations congratulations, oh my oh my. A new baby! What a thrill!

      • October 22, 2012 10:02 am

        Thank you! I can’t begin to tell you just how out of it on drugs I was when I wrote that (not to undermine the wisdom of my advice or anything…) In fact it transpired about 12 hours later that I had been given too many opiates (Symptoms included: pulsating vision, erratic heart beat, complete and utter blissfulness, and a desire to lie back and listen only to the music in my head… (seriously).) Then the bastards cut my supply and it’s all been fairly dull since – really there’s only so much joy you can get from paracetamol, pah.
        I would most definitely treat yourself to some lovely new linen – your own house-warming gift. I’ve just arrived home from hosp and can assure you that snuggling into a bed made with sheets which have toddler effluence on them doesn’t quite make the warm and cosy homecoming I was hoping for.

        • October 24, 2012 9:29 am

          @Reluctant Launderer Not to minimise the potentially scary experience of being given an overdose of painkillers (yikes), but your reply made me laugh! I’m bookmarking your blog.

  14. Lucy permalink
    October 21, 2012 11:42 am

    And to wind down at the end of the hard day’s work, make sure you have a glass ready in your ‘bare necessities’ box for that well deserved sip of wine. Good luck, Lucy.

  15. Shauna permalink
    October 22, 2012 2:26 pm

    I came across your blog–well, now I can’t remember how–but have so appreciated your writing and your honesty; I consume the “printed” word voraciously (I’m a librarian and volumes of stuff to read in book or screen form crosses my path every day), but finding a new piece here is always a happy moment for me.

    I’m a Californian, so I assume I live nowhere near you…if I did, I really would love to come help you pack, or truck away some stuff, or ferry a carful over to your new quarters. The whole moving process sucks; I hate moving with the heat of a thousand suns, but only when it’s me and my family who have to be moved. It’s a lot like the airport thing. I love being at the airport, so I offer to take people to and pick people up from the airport, but hate dealing with airports when I’m the one going away…

    I hope you see a real dent quickly, and that it all goes as smoothly as possible–more smoothly than you expect it to–from here.

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