The Seven Principles of Moving

22 April 2013 by Conor Published in: Travel Tags:, , 46 comments

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.


  1. Amy
    Mon 22nd Apr 2013 at 9:00 am

    I’ve also moved a gazillion times and would add:
    8) If you find a box that you haven’t opened since your last move, just put it at the curb for the garbage men. (Unless it’s old family photos.)

    • Conor  –  Mon 22nd Apr 2013 at 9:03 am

      Oh, if only I had that will power….

  2. Hannah
    Mon 22nd Apr 2013 at 9:06 am

    This is hilarious and so true! I’m a university student and have had to move very single year for the past 3 years, and next year too..And I can relate to this is so many unfortunate ways :P I was deeply moved by your book, and it’s great to get to read more of your writing through this blog! Thank you!! (I’m leaving for Rwanda soon for the summer and bringing your book with me :) )

    • Conor  –  Mon 22nd Apr 2013 at 10:46 am

      Good luck in Rwanda Hannah!

  3. Kate
    Mon 22nd Apr 2013 at 9:10 am

    Thanks for the good laugh!! My husband and I are getting ready to move again in 6 weeks. This move will be temporary for a few months but already having anxiety over it. This will be our 3rd move in 2 years & we have 5 total in past 9 years. I have to say it gets easier purging items!! Our first move I saved everything…we even moved a hot tub & piano cross country!! I have boxes from last year I still have not opened…think it might be time for another purge!! Good luck with the move!! :)

    • Conor  –  Mon 22nd Apr 2013 at 10:47 am

      I’m having visions of hot tubbing at 70 mph in South Dakota. That would be pretty dangerous, I’m thinking.

  4. Vicky
    Mon 22nd Apr 2013 at 9:53 am

    Pitch the bread machine. If you haven’t yet used it, give it up to the universe to benefit someone else and save the cost of moving it. The “cost” includes the gas to haul stuff across the country, and the extra cardboard to box it up. You know?

    Plus, though I completely understand having a lot of stuff, and I’m always trying to cut down, I try to remind myself we can all manage with less stuff that we think. Three sets of bathroom towels? Will two do? Give the old shaggy set to an animal shelter. Four dictionaries? Do I ever do anything other than Google word definitions? Best of luck as you face the boxes, the questions, the planning…

    • Conor  –  Mon 22nd Apr 2013 at 10:48 am

      Four dictionaries. Totally. Though I’m guessing in a post-apocalyptic world they’ll come in handy…

  5. Julie
    Mon 22nd Apr 2013 at 11:10 am

    Hilarious and very true! Thanks for the post.
    I’ve managed to move 22 times in the past 11 years. It’s not a fun task. Currently about 80% of my belongings are still in boxes as I await the next move. It’s amazing how much stuff you think you need compared to what you actually need.

    • Conor  –  Mon 22nd Apr 2013 at 5:31 pm

      I know – if we just kept everything in boxes our lives would be so much simpler…

  6. Natalie
    Tue 23rd Apr 2013 at 3:47 am

    Hilarious and so true. I’ve moved every year since 2009. I’m already stressing about getting boxes for the next move.

    Are you guys moving back to CT?

    • Conor  –  Tue 23rd Apr 2013 at 8:31 am

      Yep, back home to CT! Where leaves change color and stuff like that.

  7. Thu 25th Apr 2013 at 11:15 am

    Do you think you’ll ever be writing another book? And about what?

    Love your down to earth, writing style

  8. Merle
    Sat 27th Apr 2013 at 5:43 am

    Pretty good tips, moving in two days and this place still looks like a bomb exploded! Even though I moved several times already, I never get it done on time! Good luck with the moving

  9. Tricia
    Sun 09th Jun 2013 at 5:16 pm

    We’ve been in our house for 10 years and there are boxes that we haven’t touched since getting the keys to the doors. My husband also has a “thing” about putting boxes on the curb. He doesn’t like “telling” people what we have in the house. As in, “Whoa! There’s an RCA VCR from 1999 in that house, let’s totally break in to get it.” So, he’ll go through an elaborate process of turning the boxes inside out, folding an taping them or going ninja by heading out under the cover of darkness to find a dumpster.

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  13. Mon 22nd Jul 2013 at 7:42 pm

    People who move should support Freecycle a group of people who are saving the planet one gift at a time I think is the motto. There are frequent advertisements of free moving boxes which people use and then pass on to the next person, that is if they get to empty them!!

    • Anita  –  Thu 05th Sep 2013 at 8:24 am

      Sue, I agree completely – Freecycle is a wonderful thing – everyone should use it!

  14. Anita
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    The best way to move? Pay the extra $ (or better yet, have your company pay) for the movers to pack your stuff. You get to walk out of your house without having had to take a picture off the walls, it all gets securely packed, the boxes are labelled, and your stuff magically arrives at your new house! The movers will even unpack your stuff on the other end, set up your beds, etc.
    We have done this three times now (with my husband’s company footing the bill – we could never afford it!), and I highly recommend it!!

  15. Mon 21st Oct 2013 at 5:42 pm

    Connor, One of my all time favorite posts of yours from your old old old Bootsnall blog (remember that way back when?) was I believe about you moving. It was about you listing things for sale on Craigslist and it made me laugh out loud just like this post did.

    Also, if you have children and are planning a move with said children, I recommend handing the children the pair of scissors for safe-keeping. That way, you’ll always know where your scissors are. “No, kids, don’t run with the scissors! I need them to open up this box!” Otherwise, you shall, as I have, wind up running to the store at 10 p.m. to buy yet another pair of scissors or using the dull tip of your keys to open another box named “urgent.”

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