We’re on the move!
As an increasingly mobile society, statistics say many of us will move five or more times in our adult lives. Gone are the days when we got a good job right out of high school or college — stayed put — and retired from it at age 65 with the requisite gold watch. Jobs are economy-driven; employees are laid off, finding new jobs in new places and working into their 70s and 80s; dual income households are the norm (and following our male or female spouse to an out-of-state job is common); and many of us just need to go where the work is — period. Factor in an empty nest, eventual retirement and the downsizing that often accrues on both fronts, and there’s yet another move or two on the horizon. In short, some say moving is the new black!
Chances are if you or your spouse is in the Armed Services, you already know something about the moving process and have a few efficiency tricks of your own. For the rest of us, even if we’ve moved before, there’s a lot we can do to organize and streamline the process the next time — even making it fun for the whole family!
For the Curtis family of Green Bay, Wisconsin, mom Carol’s job transfer to Charlotte, North Carolina, meant a dozen years’ worth of clothing, personal mementos, furniture, sporting equipment and other gear had to be sorted, organized, and packed up — quickly.
“I got notice of the transfer the week before Christmas,” Carol says, “and they needed me in Charlotte on February 1st.” Carol’s company was putting the family into a rental house until she could find a home that worked for her and husband Paul, and their two boys (ages 8 and 15).
Though her company was providing the moving van and covering expenses, a huge savings for Carol and Paul, the Curtis’s decided there was no sense taking everything from their 9-room Green Bay home. Moving from a cold, snowy climate to one that is more temperate would determine some of what was left behind to be sold or donated, but organizing is about so much more than climate, according to professional organizer Elizabeth Shore.
To begin the process, Shore recommends compiling a moving binder (or using a spreadsheet or moving organization app), which involves taking inventory of clothing, personal effects, furnishings, etc. in each room of the house. “This is a solid organizational tool that allows you to see everything — all at once. It’s easier to make decisions that way,” Shore explains.
Next, Shore says many people become “paralyzed” when she talks about sorting and purging. Though these can be time-consuming, in order not to become overwhelmed, Shore recommends tackling only one room at a time.
“The first time I moved as a young mother,” she recalls, “I went from room to room — and room to room to room — like a chicken with my head cut off, as the saying goes.” Shore believes that confining your activities to one room at a time — top to bottom — until that particular room is sorted, organized, divided and fully packed — will provide a sense of accomplishment, completion, and peace of mind, resulting in a higher level of productivity and a tried and true system for the next room. While the tendency today is to multitask, don’t apply the concept to the entire house at once or it can become daunting.
“There’s a psychological component to efficiency,” Shore affirms, adding that it’s also helpful to divide the room into four sections: discard (recycle would go here); sell; donate; pack. If you are unsure about something, add a fifth section that will allow you to circle back a few days before you leave to ultimately determine what you are going to do with that item. In this regard, even very young family members can contribute to the moving process by being assigned age-appropriate tasks such as placing objects in the right section.
According to Shore, it’s also important not to mix items from different rooms in the same box. This shouldn’t happen if you are tackling one room at a time, but even if tempted, resist as it will be much more time consuming to unpack. Taking a moment to write the contents of each box on the side, along with the room in the new house where it will go, will also make for swift and efficient unpacking at the new venue. Note: Irreplaceable items such as financial statements, heirlooms, and family photos should not be loaded onto a moving van, if possible. Do everything you can to transport them yourself.
Some experts also recommend packing a “survival box” that is loaded onto the moving van last, which includes soap, toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates and cups, bottles of water, and a pot or pan. This can be your go-to box for the first day in your new home.
“Moving isn’t a day at the beach — not necessarily something we look forward to,” Shore says, acknowledging the complex task of packing up one’s life. “But a little thought, planning, and discipline can cut the amount of stress in half.”