Well, it’s been just over a week since our move, and I feel like there’s no time like the present to write a Moving Post. As in: here’s my advice about moving (but hopefully it’s also a moving post). I don’t have a lot of experience in many areas of life. But one area I do have experience in is moving.
We’ve now officially lived in ten houses in nine years of marriage. We’ve also, as you know, moved to a different continent. So yep, I’ve got some experience.
Mostly I’m writing this blog post because I’m entertaining the fantasy that It’s going to be so long before we move again that I’ll to forget everything I’ve ever learned. And when that time comes, I’m going to need a refresher. So here goes:
1. Moving is stressful. Really, really stressful. You can be Super Organized, you can Have a Plan, you can have Lots of Help, and in the end you will still have moments surrounding your move when you will want to scream (or perhaps when you will actually scream).
I decided that more than anything else in life, moving brings out my worst self. Even after the fact. I told a friend the other night (after first confessing that I blew up at my husband this week. in front of our kids) that I think I spent so much time psyching myself up, telling myself this is a good move, that we’re Buying A House! That in the long run it’s going to reduce the stress in our lives so much, that I refused to face the fact that it’s still just really hard. Especially for someone like me, who struggles with change.
So even last week, when I was supposed to be perfectly happy in my new house, I found myself emotional and exhausted and snippy. This doesn’t excuse my attitude. I’m not a victim to moving or to any other season of life. But it’s something to remember. Something to keep me running to Jesus and repenting often and asking the people in my life to pray for me.
2. It helps to be organized. While all of the above is true, while moving is just hard, period, being organized around the time of your move sure does save a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. I’m big fan of Tsh Oxenreider’s books: Organized Simplicity and One Bite at a Time (which are companion books), and I’ve been more or less following her home organization tips for two years now.
For that reason, this is the easiest move we’ve made. Oxenreider’s point is that keeping your home simplified and organized isn’t drudgery; rather it actually frees you up to live and enjoy your life more. Her books are so inspiring because they help you see why it’s important to “keep house,” then they help you to do it. I’m here to tell you that her philosophy really works.
Every few months I do a big organize/purge of every closet in our home. I last did it this winter, and when we began house-hunting this spring was especially motivated to stay organized. Over the months I’ve been steadily getting rid of things we don’t use.
And we’re doing our best to keep spending habits at a minimum, to stop and ask questions before making purchases, so that we don’t immediately replace those things with more stuff. I also try to make sure there’s a place in our house for everything, so that when we clean up we’re not just adding to piles or shoving things under beds. This is a daily battle, but I’ve noticed significant progress.
I didn’t really start packing until the week of the move. Looking around our rental at one point, David said to me, “Wait. Do you think we’ve finally reached a point in our life where we actually use all of the stuff we have!?” Of course that’s not completely true. We still have boxes in the attic filled with Christmas decorations, clothes the kids will grow into, old yearbooks and my journals from middle school and family heirlooms we want to use or pass on. But, other than those things, we’ve streamlined most of our home and try to only fill our closets with things we use regularly (see Organized Simplicity for great advice on how to do this). It’s so liberating.
I don’t want to write this at all to say, “Oh look at us, we’ve got this simple living thing down.” No way. There’s always more to learn. But I do write it to say: it’s possible to change, to start a new direction, to make progress.
3. If you have children, pack while they’re sleeping or away from home. If moving is stressful for grown-ups, it’s really stressful for kids. Judah and Amie were thrilled about our new house, asked me to make a paper ring countdown to Moving Day, and made lots of plans for their new bedroom, but it was still nearly impossible for me to get anything done when they were awake and nearby.
It’s like a switch turns on inside kids in the month or so surrounding the move that says, “I need Mommy. Every second. She cannot occupy herself with anything that doesn’t directly involve me. I’ll shrivel up and die!” I get that. I’m not saying it necessarily makes me a patient and attentive mother all the time, but I do get it. Stress levels are high and their whole world is being rocked and there’s so much that’s unknown (there were even a couple times this month when Judah or Amie needed to clarify that we weren’t moving back to South Asia).
So because of that: we tried (read: didn’t always succeed) to work on packing and moving when they were in bed or out of the house. We tried to regularly fill them in on how many days until the move and what’s going to happen today/tomorrow. Finally, if the kids were especially crazy/misbehaving, I took it as a cue to drop everything for a few hours and just do something fun with them.
4. Accept help. I’m not good at this. I’m getting better though. Four people offered to help babysit Judah and Amie so I could pack and I actually took two of them up on it. Friends and family offered to help paint and help on moving day, and we took them up on it. A friend took me out for celebratory Mexican food and two hours of girl time on Tuesday. And one sweet couple from church brought us dinner this week. Help is great.
I will say here: If you do accept help, respect yourself and the person who has given up their time to serve you by being organized. If they watch your kids for two hours, make a plan beforehand and use that time well. If friends come to load boxes on Moving Day, make sure there are packed boxes for them to load. Or at least that there’s a plan for them to quickly pack those boxes. There’s nothing worse than wasting everyone’s time during a move, that just adds to the stress rather than easing it.
Conversely, if someone in your life is moving, offer to help them. In my experience it’s best to be very specific about your offer. Instead of saying, “Can I help you?” say, “I want to help you! What day can I do ______?” My favorite offers of help include: babysitting kids, bringing a meal (either before or after the move), helping with painting/Moving Day, cleaning the new house, or cleaning the old house.
5. Mark your boxes carefully and prioritize with unpacking. For each room of the house, have at least one box marked “Necessities” or things you need that very first night (these are the boxes that will sit empty until the morning of Moving Day because you’re using all of their contents).
Our top two priorities during every move are: the kids’ bedroom and the kitchen. I make sure to have Judah and Amie’s room more or less set up (beds made, some toys out, all boxes and clutter removed) when they first walk in the house. That way they immediately see something familiar.
We do the kitchen next because it’s maddening to be searching around for cups and silverware in the stress of moving day. I can’t tell you how comforting it was last Saturday to move all morning, then sit down to a homemade lunch of scrambled egg and goat cheese tacos rather than fast food. And then, after naps, to get up and brew a pot of decaf coffee and just sit for thirty minutes with favorite mugs and enjoy our place before getting back to work.
Next we work on the bathroom and boxes of necessities for each room. As you could see from our photos, I also made a priority of unpacking our books, simply because I was itching to get as many extra boxes as possible out of the house. Oh my goodness. We have way too many books. Yes, that’s an area we could stand to simplify.
Finally, to end Moving Day (or weekend, or whatever), we choose one “junk room” (for us it’s our office/guest room/homeschooling room), and stuff every extra suitcase and box and pile of junk inside. We close the door. And we determine to take our time with the rest, one box at a time.
This helps us to right away begin to enjoy and live in our new space, rather than sitting down to watch a movie and staring a wall-size stack of boxes. Talk about stressful.
You could debate that this is unnecessary, but I also pull out a few “decorational” pieces that very first day: lamps, framed photos, throw pillows, baskets, and arrange them on free surfaces. Even if they won’t stay there, it helps make the place feel like home. I used to be similarly compulsive about hanging pictures, but have since become way more laid back in that area. Better to live in the space awhile and decide exactly where we want things before putting holes in walls.
6. A sense of humor is vital. Especially when it comes to your own mistakes. For example, my Moving-Pro self may or may not have completely forgotten to follow up with my application to the water company last week, which may or may not have resulted in our water getting turned off on Monday (while David was out of town), a semi-frantic 4:15 trip downtown to Columbia Water, and our household being without water for nearly twenty-four hours. There’s nothing like asking your new next-door neighbors for a bucket of water to flush the toilet in order to break the ice.
Oh, how it helped to send David a text alerting him to our “situation” and have him laugh and say, “No problem, babe!”
I guess this is where we come full circle. Yes, you should be organized, yes, you should accept help and have a plan, yes, it’s gonna by stressful. And so, make sure to keep things light-hearted as much as possible, and to remember, “This too shall pass.” It really will pass.
And because of that, I tried to tell myself every day, “My attitude and the way I treat the people around me matters way, way more than what I do or don’t get done today.”
It’s been a crazy couple of months. But so, so worth it!