From my inbox this month:
“We will probably be moving from Texas to Connecticut (God is really hilarious) when baby #2 is about 8 weeks old. I have never moved with one kid, much less a 3 year old and a newborn and I was thinking about who I knew who had moved with kids and naturally you came to mind. Do you have any advice you could give me about moving with kids? Anything would be helpful.”
I move a lot. If I’m counting every home, I’ve moved 8 times in 7 years. It comes with its own set of challenges, but mostly I don’t mind. (HAVEN’T minded. For the sake of my babies and my own tired heart, I’m ready to be finished for a bit.)
A major move is among one of the most stressful life events a person can experience (it ranks near the top along with the death of a loved one, divorce, pregnancy/new baby, and getting fired). Even a positive move for positive reasons is a total disruption of almost every category of life. Different jobs, different homes, different streets, different friends, different grocery stores, different hair dressers, different daily interactions. Add the stress of packing/unpacking, the inevitable financial hit, and the affect the process has on children, and WHOA.
No matter how wonderful the situation to which you’re headed, you must uproot – and uprooting is stressful.
I wrote a post called “Puppy Box” a few months ago, right after we arrived in Raleigh. It was about surviving life-change. The three things in that little post are what I would tell to anyone who is staring straight down the barrel into a major life change – move, divorce, death, pregnancy, et al. There is no quick fix, but I think that those are the start to a real one.
I am still personally pressing through that list, holding my own toes to the fire, doing the next right thing. I am cultivating a beautiful space, I am sharing with my safe friends, and I am finding routines that work for me.
As for the nuts and bolts of moving, I’ve learned a thing or two. Here’s how I minimize the chaos:
1. When in doubt, throw it out.
(Or give it away). Stuff costs. The more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to wash. And store. And care for. And fix. More clothes don’t help you do laundry less. They just help you put laundry off until you have THREE TIMES AS MUCH to do. I halved my wardrobe 2 moves ago and it changed my life. I got rid of our coffee table and it changed my life. I got rid of all but one set of glasses – because why? I am in a constant state of re-evaluating “need,” and moving is a perfect time to do it. You already have to lay hands on everything. If you don’t want to move it, consider how badly you really want to have it.
2. ZIP-LOCK BAGS.
What goes in them? Makeup, nail polish, 24956230946243 pieces of play kitchen food, silverware, Play Doh tubs, scarves – I put every sub-category of thing in its own bag and when I look down into my organized moving boxes my heart swells with joy. There’s nothing floating or rattling around in boxes. Everything shuts and stacks neatly. Be still my heart. Hefty makes Jumbo sized ones, 2.5 gallons or something amazing. They are the new heavens and the new earth.
3. Don’t undervalue comfort items.
In your overnight bag, pack your kids’ cup, plate, sheets, towel, soap, and nightlight. Of course you could do without them for a day or two, but in keeping as much familiarity as possible, you give those little hearts some tiny anchors. They’ll sleep better and transition better, and therefore so will you.
4. Use disposable dinnerware and/or eat take out for a week, or three.
The environment will understand. 50% of all your boxes will be kitchen boxes. This allows you to JUST DO IT. No “Will I need a colander this week? A knife?” Save the time and mental energy of categorizing and planning and agonizing – you have more important places to spend it.
5. Color-coordinate your boxes by room.
Get a few rolls of colored duct tape and slap a piece on your boxes so that all your helpers (YOU HAVE HELPERS, RIGHT?) don’t have to ask you where every. single. thing. goes. And you won’t have to re-move everything after they leave. Blue tape? Bedroom. White? Kitchen. GAME CHANGER.
6. Set up your bed before your help leaves.
You’re going to be exhausted, and you’re going to want to sleep in your own bed like you want to BREATHE. As the truck gets emptier and people start asking, “Is that all? Is there anything else?” Say, “Yes!” Pay them in pizza or ice cream or whatever you have, but assemble the frame while the help’s still good. At 11:00 at night when you walk into your room, sweaty and spent, the difference between a bed and a pile of beams and screws will be the difference between life and death.
7. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Early on, it’s easy to one-more-thing yourself to death. I get excited about nesting and settling in. I love unpacking. I love creating a beautiful space. I want to create Apartment Therapy-worthy bookshelves and hang ALL THE GALLERY WALLS. But that’s a recipe for burn-out. The kids’ and mine. I am learning to say, “That’s enough for today.” Eat dinner with your kids. Don’t unpack the plates while they munch, sit and look them in the eye. Play the Wii amidst the boxes. Get out of that chaotic house and go for walk. Turn off the music and sit in the quiet. Sleep. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
8. If you can get someone to watch the kids for a week, do it.
Send ‘em to Grandma’s. A week will sound like FOREVER. It will be hard, and you’ll miss them. But when they get to their new home, it will be a HOME. If you can, schedule it so they’re gone for the 2 days before moving day, the day of, and 2 days after. You’ll be able to move 12 times as fast, you’ll be able to pack up their rooms and toys without saving things for “the last minute.” You’ll be able to run errands – drop off the donations, clear the boxes, make their beds, GET GROCERIES. It will save them from the most chaotic part, and alleviate some of your mom-guilt for being busy and feeling like they’re in the way.
Also these 2 moving hack links are ON POINT.
And with regard to finding your way in a new city (literally or metaphorically), don’t be afraid to turn around. You’re never lost if you know how to get home.
You can do this.
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*and eat them myself because you live too far away.