I’m sure there are more stressful things in life, but packing up and moving to a new state has been a HUGE event in our lives this year. At first, it really doesn’t seem all that difficult. I’ve moved to several states and even stayed in a different country for a semester. I felt like I knew how to pack, how to move and learn a new place. The only difference? This time I have two children in tow.
All moves are different. Down the street is easier than a different town or state or country. Another consideration is the change in square footage. Moving to a larger place isn’t as stressful as downsizing. And having plenty of time to prepare is, of course, an advantage over unexpected moves.
For our move, we were going only about 300 miles from Durham, NC to the Baltimore area. We knew we’d be using a truck so we weren’t very limited on how much we could bring. The limits for us came in the smaller home size. We left our 2-story 1100 sq ft town home in North Carolina for a 870 sq ft apartment in Maryland.
Our experience– compared to what it could have been– wasn’t terribly harrowing, but it was much more difficult and stressful than I had anticipated. Part of it came from me getting sick three times in the last month before we moved. Although we still aren’t completely settled, I did unpack the last box and with that came a great sense of relief: We’re finally home.
Here are a few things we did (and should have done) that might help you moving (especially) with children.
1. Start early. I cannot stress enough how much longer everything takes than you’d expect. You can begin packing things like out-of-season clothes, keepsakes, knickknacks, decorations and books. I actually packed away all our books (kids’ too) and relied on library books for the last 6 weeks. About 2 weeks before the move, I packed up almost the entire kitchen. We used disposable goods and ate more to-go dinners than normal in the last few days before we left. Plan for all those little things like taking down curtain rods and wall hangings. Like everything else, they take longer than expected.
2. Don’t pack what you don’t need. If you’re into sports metaphors: The best defense is a good offense. Even though I thought I had already purged before packing, I still ended up dropping off several loads at Goodwill on our first week in Maryland. Downsizing means that we have less than half the storage space we had before so there is simply not room for extra boxes of baby clothes for “just in case” or toys that my kid plays with for only 30 seconds. It’s best to get rid of as much as possible before the move because– obviously– that means less packing and unpacking work, but it’s also a good idea because you’re more familiar with consignment shops and donation spots in your current city.
3. Make a master ist of places to call or contact. You’ll need one list of old to disconnect and one list of new to sign up for services.
Here’s our list to get you started:
Electric/Gas, Water, Internet/Cable, Renters/Homeowners Insurance, Auto Insurance, Health Insurance, Doctors/Dentists (*Let them know you are moving and get any routine checkups you might need. Ask if they can refer you to a physician in your new area and find out about how to get your records transferred.)
4. Explain what’s happening to your children. Even if you are moving just around the corner, kids are very sensitive to changes in their environment. They pick up on the slightest changes and can sense if you’re stressed out. Don’t be surprised if there are changes in eating, sleeping and behavior. Try to maintain as much normalcy as possible. Talk to your children about the move explain what’s going to happen in simple terms. I kept telling my three year-old son that we would be getting a new house but that all of our old things like the couch, bed, and toys would come to our new house. We also checked out books about moving and looked at maps of where we were going.
5. Let your kids help. Sure, you can do it 10x faster. But if you can assign your little ones a small task (like ‘transfer the contents of this bin into this box’) while you focus on a bigger task, you might actually get some work done. Even if you have to re-pack what they did later, it will help them feel a part of the process and buy you a little time.
6. Pack like you want to unpack. Don’t just think of packing room-by-room. We had 6 main categories: study (books and school supplies), clothes/accessories, kitchen, decor, toys and bathroom. Make sure you have a few vital boxes and suitcases that you want to unpack first. Those boxes should have everyday use and high-need items. I recommend packing a couple of suitcases as if you were going on a trip for a week: include clothes, toiletries and favorite toys. (And don’t forget about urgent items like a thermometer and medicines–just in case!)
7. Consider what your child will do on moving day. It worked out that I was in Houston visiting my parents while my husband did the actual move to Maryland. Although it was lonely for him (he did have friends helping), we were so glad we planned it that way. Moving can be stressful and even hazardous for little ones. Make sure you arrange for them to be supervised and safely occupied while things are coming in and out of the house.
8. Don’t unpack until you know where it goes. Once you’ve moved in, the temptation is to quickly unpack and get out from all those stacks of boxes. And while heavy boxes can be safety hazards for little ones, it will make your life easier if you can unpack little-by-little. Keep things packed until you are really ready to put away everything in the box. All those breakable knickknacks and teeny accessories are taped up and out of your little one’s hands. Unpacking in a methodical and organized way will help your home run much more smoothly in the long run. (And save you from tripping over piles of random items in the short run.)
9. Introduce your children to their new home. Make sure they know their way around the new place. Little ones can be easily turned around and might get scared– especially at night. Go around to each room and talk about what is going to be in there. Explain how this is your new home and listen to any concerns your child might have. Be prepared again for changes in typical behaviors until things get settled. It’s only natural that they may feel unsettled. One of the first things I set up was a play space for my kids. Even though my kitchen is still a little disorganized, I’d rather have their space settled so they can relax and enjoy it.
10. Have fun with it! In the first few days everything is crazy–boxes everywhere, you don’t know where your left sock is–much less the grocery store. But take a break from the overwhelming task of creating a new home and make a few memories. Get out of the house and go on an adventure. Google Maps now has turn-by-turn directions on their App so you can explore your new city with confidence. Even if you don’t want to leave, just take a break from work and play with the kids: use boxes as drawing boards or play hide-and-seek. Be patient (I know it’s hard) but your home will all come together soon!
Have you made a big move with the kids? What’s your best advice?