How to Move as Painlessly as Possible

Let's face it: moving sucks. It's stressful and time-consuming -- but you can make the process smoother.

Let's start by dispelling any delusions: your next move is not going to be fun. Moving is a horrible, terrible thing and there is nothing anyone can do to change that. But there are several battle tactics you can use to make it suck less.

Know Your Enemies

You have two enemies in this fight, neither of which is your selfish so-called friend Dan, who never has and never will help you move. The real enemies are time and yourself.

In addition to your 5,000 regular responsibilities you now have to completely uproot and replant your life. You're going to tell yourself you actually might be a minimalist, you probably don't need that many boxes, and you can pack your entire apartment in an afternoon. None of these things are true. You're just lying to mask your self-loathing.

Write down a moving schedule and set it to begin two weeks before you think is necessary. Here are a couple things that should go near the top:

  • Buy a week's worth of disposable dishes, so when moving week is nigh, you can pack your real dishware and still eat.
  • Change your address. Since the US Postal Service is not email and uses human labor, this takes time to actually register. You can do it online and set the day you want mail to start arriving at the new address.
  • Sort out what you're going to be moving and who is going to be moving it. Are you using cardboard boxes or Rubbermaid containers? If you're hiring movers, have cash on hand for tips. If you're enlisting friends, offer them first dibs on stuff you're donating and provide lunch and beer.
  • Remember that you can pack things like holiday decorations and seasonal clothing weeks (or even months) ahead of time.

Two Simple Goals

For such a nightmarish ordeal, the main components of moving are pretty straightforward: get your belongings to a new place, and don't break any of them. Actually doing this is another story, but take heart - it is possible:

  • Of course you can use bubble wrap, newspaper and extra clothes for packing fragile items, but that enormous ball of plastic grocery bags you have under your sink works pretty well, too.
  • Pack your boxes efficiently, minimizing cavities. Place heavy things on the bottom and use small boxes for really heavy stuff like books or dishes.
  • When you stack plates, separate each one with a styrofoam counterpart, to prevent chipping and grinding.

Prepare for the Real Challenge

You know what's coming in your new place: boxes as far as the eye can see, each more generic than the last. So it's been the longest day ever and you just want to shower and go to bed? Have fun looking for shampoo for the next 45 minutes. Fortunately, there are things you can do while you're still sane to make this cardboard hellscape more bearable.

  • Pack for a weeklong vacation. Really - clothes, toothbrush, shower supplies - anything that you'll need in the next seven days, pack separately in its own suitcase. This will give you a nice buffer before you have to unpack everything else, and will prevent you from being 20 minutes late to work every day for a week.
  • As you pack boxes, write a prominent number on the outside and keep a detailed list of what goes in each box.
  • Designate which boxes go with which rooms, not by writing it on the outside, but by using color-coded duct tape - much easier to see from across the room.
  • When you're dissembling furniture, collect the screws and other hardware, put them in a sealed plastic bag and tape that to the main component with gaffer's tape.

Remember: a place for everything and everything in its place. Someday, that'll be your life again. Stay tough, plan ahead, and take the breaks where you can find them. It will all be over soon... — Pete Wayner

Pete Wayner is a journalist and video storyteller based in Rochester, N.Y. He enjoys American literature, pipe tobacco, and the great outdoors.

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