Like a New Year’s resolution, packing up your house begins with burning passion and world-conquering confidence and ends flat on your back in despair, with a sigh and a mouth filled with trans-fats.
You’d think we would be used to moving by now. Liz and I have moved house – believe it or not – seven times in six years (not including my move from Kathmandu to DC in 2007). The smells of cardboard and bubble wrap are like crocuses in spring. Through the process, I’ve discovered that moving is a science. Unfortunately, I suck at science.
But for those of you who are desperate for somebody to tell them what to do, allow me to share….
The Seven Principles of Moving, by Conor, Who’s Not Very Good at This.
1. You Need More Boxes Than You Think. No – More Than That. Yes, Really. Right, Now Double That. Okay, Now Double That. Now Go Buy Some More Boxes.
Anyone that’s moved before knows this already. Here’s the general thought process:
Okay, you think, looking around at your tiny one bedroom apartment. How many boxes will I need here? Let’s see…I have a closet of a bunch of clothes, shoes, stuff like that. Then there are the books on the shelf, and those little framed photos that statue thing of the rooster and that alcohol that’s gathering dust and coffee cups and silverware and whatnot. Oh, and those wooden bowls and other stuff in that drawer with the stamps. So maybe… thirteen boxes? Seventeen, just to be super safe?
That turns out not be accurate. The actual number of boxes you need is forty thousand.
I’ve gotten better at estimating number of boxes. But I’ve never managed to buy too many, which is my real goal. I want to sit there and look at all the extra boxes and chuckle and say “Well, we can always use boxes, I guess!” instead of blazing through the aisle of Home Depot, trying to get home to the movers who already have loaded everything else on the truck, with boxes stacked so high on the shopping cart that it looks like a Dr. Suess drawing.
2. Your Household Items Will Literally Get Larger The Day Before You Move.
Stuff that used to fit in your car no longer fits in your car. You strain your back lugging that rocking chair out to your car, because when you bought it six months ago it fit neatly in your hatchback. Now that same rocking chair is actually larger than the car itself, and that if anything you should put the car on the rocking car and push that.
3. Start Packing Early.
I’m talking early. A good rule of thumb is when you’ve been a new place about a week, that’s when you should start packing up for the next move.
4. Pace Yourself.
You can always tell what you’ve packed first, because that’s the box that you open with each item carefully wrapped with exactly the right amount of bubble wrap, nestled in a bouquet of carefully crumpled paper. It’s labeled with each item that’s inside, color-coded for the room it’s going into. The next box will be a little less perfect, with just some bubble wrap sort of stuffed among your valuables. The last boxes, I find, are usually overflowing with shards of teapots and wine glasses that look like they’ve been dropped from an airplane and the box is labeled “WHATEVER!!” in old eyeliner you found in the trash.
5. Just Pack It. You’re Not Going to Use It. Seriously, You’re Not Going to Use It.
One of the hardest things about packing is knowing what not to pack. For example, the first things you should pack are the spare vases, rather than, say, your heart medicine.
Also, you’re not going to need that cooking stuff. I see you standing there, three days before you’re about to move, staring at the bread maker that has an inch of dust on it and a tag on it that says “Congratulations Newlyweds!!!” and thinking “You know, I bet I’ll really up for some fresh bread tomorrow morning.”
Pack the bread maker. You’re not making bread. You’re not making it now, you’re not making it next year. You’re never making bread.
6. Don’t Mark Any Box “Urgent.”
Yesterday I went down to the basement and was bringing up boxes that I hadn’t opened since the last move, and buried deep in there was a box marked “Urgent!! Open Immediately!!!” and inside was stuff like my passport and an envelope full of cash and about a hundred other things that I had been stressing about losing for the last twelve months. I’m just sayin’.
7. Don’t Move. Ever.
Go back to Connecticut. You like it there. You love the people and you adore your church. Go there and stay there until you are dead.
Pretty good rules, right? I know!
The truth is, when you’re packing up your stuff in boxes and dragging it from one house to another, it’s hard to figure out what’s important and what’s not – what makes you happy and what’s just stuff. And then a Saturday morning will roll around, and the kids will climb into bed with us and I’ll have my family cuddled around me and it will occur to me that we just spent a ton of money boxing up and moving things that have, alas, nothing at all to do with my happiness.