Tips and Tricks from a Moving Expert

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A couple packing for a move.You might wonder why I call myself a moving expert when I say that I am a mom and a chemistry professor in my biography. Over my lifetime, I have lived in 33 different places, and most of the time, I was an active participant in helping the move go smoothly.

Early in 2022, we moved from location 32 to location 33, and for this move, I had an eight and 11-year-old who were part of the process. This move wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies, but with the exception of one meltdown for each child, the move went very smoothly.

So based on this success, I thought I would share my tips and tricks to help your family the next time you move.

Plant the Seed Early

Having advance notice makes moving logistics go more smoothly, but also if you can start floating the idea of a move with your kids months in advance, so they have some time to adapt to the idea. Kids like consistency and routine, so if there is time for them to anticipate and discuss changes in advance, this will help them feel prepared. Also, if any changes seem scary, like going to a new school, having more time to process the idea before it becomes a reality will help them (and you) to think of good things that will happen with each scary one.

Maintain Your Roles

The thing about moving is that so many of the decisions have big financial and logistical consequences. So while it is great to ask the kids if there is anything they hope to have in the new house, after getting that feedback, make it clear to them that this is a parental problem so that the parents will be making the final decisions. While it is fine to take the kids to a few open houses or showings so they can imagine what their new house will be like, for the most part, leave them out of the house selection process because there are too many considerations as it is without them thinking they will have the final say in the matter.

Start Dreaming

Once you find a new place to live, take your kids to see it so they can start imagining their new life. Let them have the autonomy to pick out something fun and new for their new room – maybe a new rug or the color of the walls. By letting them help create the feel of the new space, you will get them more excited about the change on the way. And don’t forget to also let yourself dream about and define the mood of certain spaces. My husband and I divided up different parts of the house that we each wanted to have the most creative control in their final design, and whoever wasn’t in control could provide input and gets a limited number of vetos. Still, they had to agree to step back and not try to take over the other person’s vision.

Throw Things Out Before You Pack

Editing your possessions can be challenging. So often, we hang on to things because of the memories attached to them. Yet, when it comes to moving, the less you have to pack and move, the easier you will make your life. Try to encourage everyone to make keep, give, and throw piles of their things because as we all age, we inevitably outgrow things (whether they are toys, clothes, or other things).

Be honest with yourself, and sometimes doing this with a friend can make it easier; if they see a shirt that you have never worn or a bowl or knick-knack that has never been used at a party, have them ask you if you need it. Do whatever it takes to embrace your inner Marie Kondo so that you edit your stuff carefully to make it easier to sort, pack and unpack for the move.

Whenever Possible Outsource

Organizing, staging your home or apartment, packing, and moving are all a lot of work. And if you are trying to move with kids and jobs on top of it, you will have more work on your plate than normal (and who among us has free time anymore?). So as much as your budget allows, get help.

This could mean asking friends over to help with packing or hiring it done, but don’t try to do everything yourself. For most of my moves in my 20s and early 30s, I was able to rent a U-Haul and, with a promise of pizza and beer at the end of the move, get a lot of friends to help. Now, moving in my 40s, I realize that all of us aren’t so young anymore, so really, it isn’t worth the possibility of throwing out my back (or my husband’s) to move. It is cheaper and safer to get movers because if either of us got injured moving, it would be much more costly for our family.

Guard Your Most Valuable Things Yourself

I learned long ago that I always need to pack an “Open Me First” box containing the coffee maker, coffee, cups, paper plates, paper towels, plastic silverware, and a few other essentials that I will transport from one home to another the next.

Also, pack suitcases for everyone like you are going on a trip, so you make sure to be able to quickly find your underwear, medicine, or lovey so you can all sleep well in your new place. Now with kids, I also make sure that we have let them pack their own “Open Me First” boxes, so they have their essentials up until the last moment before the move happens, and then they can be found right away. I also pack things that have monetary value myself and keep those with me, but honestly, in our house, it will all be ok as long as the kids have their stuffed animals and I have my coffee.

Cut Everyone a Break, Even Yourself

In life, I have learned that for most of us, we get the feeling that all change is bad, even good change. So it is natural to get stressed out when moving, even if you are excited about it in general. Surveys repeatedly show that moving is one of the most stressful things you can do in life, so give yourself (and your kids) the space and time to mourn the ending of an era.

Make It Fun

Moving can be a lot of fun. And if you plan on some extra eating out, let everyone in the family pick what’s for dinner (within reason) for the week before and the week after the big move—letting everyone know that they get to look forward to a dinner or other meal of their choice will help everyone deal with the stress of moving.

Also, think of something fun to plan as a family reward a few weeks after the move, so you have that to look forward to – like a movie night or a quick trip. Just plan something that would feel like a great reward for your family for making it through the move and all the stress.

Keep the Faith

No matter what happens in your move, it will all find a way to work itself out. Your kids will make new friends. You and your kids can do the work to maintain your important friendships after you move. Remember that things might break, but they are only things and can be replaced. You and your family are on a great adventure together, and soon you will be making great memories in your new home, so keep saying to yourself that everything is going to be okay no matter what. I promise. 

Do you have any moving tips or tricks to share? 

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Erika is a professor of Chemistry and Environmental Studies and mom to two kids (2010 and 2013) plus two cats (2005 and 2019). A Midwestern transplant who has lived in 32 places, she has happily called Fairfield her home for the past 12 years. At work, she directs a program to support first-generation and underrepresented student success in science. In town, she can often be found driving her kids back and forth to their respective sporting events and teams or sitting in a coffee shop using the wifi to get a little work done before pick up. Erika loves spending time enjoying the water, cooking, theater, reading, and hanging out with her husband.

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