Articles are valuable only if the information in them is USED. Picking at least one element from this (or any) article to implement immediately will make it more useful than promising yourself ‘someday’. Saving articles without acting on the ideas presented and thinking you will later is mostly self-deception or delusion. The odds are you won’t – all you are doing is adding to your clutter. NOW is the only moment you can control. So I am issuing this challenge – as you read, ask yourself “What information or reminder here can I apply today?”

My experiences from moving may benefit any readers planning a move in the near future. Even if you are not moving, some of these points may help you be more comfortable in a long-established home.

1. There is no such thing as too much planning.
         Most of my mistakes resulted from cutting corners – not doing enough research or asking enough questions. I did an enormous amount of planning and things mostly went pretty smoothly (not a single broken item!) but more care would have prevented some mistakes.
Other mistakes weren’t preventable because I could not anticipate what would be needed in this different environment. Spending more time in the area might have prevented them, but the trip up here was expensive, exhausting, and time consuming. If you have the opportunity, spending more time in the area you are moving to would improve planning. (I made three trips up here but could only spend about an hour each time – it wasn’t enough to understand the environment.)
         Play through various scenarios to identify planning needs for each major element of your move. Question all solutions to see your assumptions and to test their validity (my mover error resulted from assuming that I could only  afford the cheapest possible mover – the resulting bad decision ultimately cost an extra $650). Try to learn about the issues (I knew nothing about movers or how to assess whether a truck is big enough). Studying such uninviting topics may not be much fun, but is better than the pain of making a preventable error.
         Draw up a detailed budget for the entire move process using worst-case assumptions and skeptically evaluating resources. This is not the place for rosy projections, but adjust the figures each time new numbers are available. I first guessed that my move would cost about $10,000, and thankfully I was wrong, but it was still steep. Many things saved money: not having to pay a large security deposit, last month’s rent, or even all of the first month’s rent (I signed the lease on the 29th of the month, so the first month’s rent was prorated and I only had to pay for two days for the first month), getting boxes donated instead of buying them (thanks, FreeCycle and Rainbow!), aggressively getting mover bids (drawbacks below), finding good deals and donations for replacing furniture, and, yes, abandoning some plans as too expensive. There were lots of little things I didn’t anticipate that would nickel-and- dime any budget: curtains and rods, power strips, lumber, storage containers - just the endless parade of items needed to make a new home functional. $10K is probably realistic for many moves, but I spent only half that. It may be hard to spend less unless you can do your own move.

2. Something that is too cheap or too-good-to-be-true really is.
My biggest mistakes, choice of mover and vacuum cleaner, resulted from trying to cut already reasonable expenses. Choosing the cheapest possible services or items usually results in failure: the $79 vacuum didn’t last two months, did a lousy job, smelled horrible, and was hard to use (the manager who handled the refund said one has to pay around $250 to get a decent vacuum); the mover disaster was largely the result of getting an offer that was too-cheap-to-turn-down.

3. Reducing your volume of belongings makes life easier whether you are moving or staying.
Moving is a golden opportunity to lighten the load you carry through life. The less you own, the lower your moving costs will be, and the less time will be needed for packing, unpacking, putting away, and caring for items, all wasted money, time, and energy if items aren’t used. Be relentless about getting rid of anything not used in the past year except for legal, tax, insurance, or similar papers, and a few mementos.
         Draft everyone you know to help take things to Goodwill or wherever you are donating them. It is hard to schlepp discards, especially if you do not drive, while you are packing and trying to clean up your old home before leaving.
4. Try to anticipate lifestyle changes.
Many changes cannot be anticipated until you become familiar with your new environment, but others, such as those created by moving to a different climate, aging or illness, are entirely predictable. Had I realized that returning to teaching and seeing clients was not realistic before my move, I could have saved the cost and hassle of hauling all my materials here. Had I known how dangerous this city is for cyclists, I would not have brought the trike and saved myself two crashes.

5. Double-check all agreements with movers, service people, and building management.
The moving company manager forgot our written agreement and failed to send the wardrobe boxes and a third mover for the San Francisco part of the move. I would not have imagined that such clear agreements could be overlooked, but I should have followed my own cardinal rule: if an error or over-sight will have greater impact on you than on the person you are working with, then you must be the person to double-check everything to make sure it goes right.

6. Begin dealing with your most difficult belongings as soon as you know or suspect that you might need to move.
Do not wait – the longer you put off tackling these items, the more anxious you will likely become. As your move date nears, pressure and exhaustion will increase and all decisions will be more difficult, much less good ones. Paper is often the most difficult belonging to cope with, so clearing out and sorting papers first will likely prevent problems later. If you have a different difficult item, start there.

7. Start getting boxes and packing as soon as you know you need to move.
Don’t wait until you actually have a place. Pack things you can most easily spare first (although the fact that they can be spared should raise questions about whether they are actually needed). Use existing shelves, book cases, and files as containers for your packed boxes. As you empty storage shelves and areas, they can be used as staging areas for packed items and storage for packing supplies.
LABEL EVERYTHING clearly in case you have to re-open packed boxes before moving and to make unpacking and putting things away easier.
         I did not tape the initial packed boxes in case I might need to go back into them before moving and in hopes of deciding to get rid of more items (that worked), however, going back to tape them when I was hugely busy was a pain. It might have been easier to re-tape those needed than to have to go back to all of them.

8. Use clothing, linens, and blankets for packing fragile items.
Buying packing material such as peanuts, bubble plastic, or foam wrap is an unnecessary waste. Use any that come in the mail and recruit friends to do save them for you, but off-season clothes (winter clothes during a summer move and vice versa), towels, sheets, blankets and pillows work as well or better without the expense or headache of disposing of no longer needed packing materials after the move (this approach is also better for the environment).
         On the other hand, it is hard to have too much packing tape – I went through about eight rolls, but I may have been over-zealous.

9. Set up file cabinets and bookcases in your new home immediately after your bedroom and the kitchen to reduce the mess and stress of moving.
Using packing boxes that fit on bookshelves or in the file cabinet allows putting boxes in or on them while you deal with more important issues. Having the moving mess contained will go a long way towards lowering stress.

10. Fight to have mistakes remediated.
The day after the disastrous move, the moving company manager was adamant that he would not compensate me in any way for having messed up the move. I joined Yelp (where I had found the company) and wrote a scathing detailed review laying out every mistake they made. Three weeks later he wrote to me and offered a refund of nearly half of my money in exchange for removing the review, an offer I accepted. Although my review was a service to other potential customers, I imagine that the company learned a lot from the experience (don’t mess with old ladies, for starters) and my first responsibility is not to potential customers but to myself – the financial blow of the mover disaster had been really scary.
         A similar situation occurred with the vacuum cleaner – initially the company refused to accept it back, then would only give me store credit (unacceptable – I had been a good customer, went to them for their reputation of standing behind their products, and I had given them my good cash). I told an online customer service person how poorly I felt the situation had been handled by the 20+ representatives I talked to previously, listed all the major items I had bought from them over the years, said I wanted to write to the company headquarters, and that I was never buying from them again. She got me a full cash refund.
         The point of all this is, don’t accept ‘no’ for an answer and be prepared to fight for the right thing to be done. Yes, I made mistakes too in choosing these turkeys, but they had responsibilities to me as a customer, and my mistake of choosing them should not make me the repository of harm. They have to live up to the representations they made regarding their services or products. In both cases, I would have gone much farther (the licensing board for movers; Yelp, company execs, and Consumer Reports for the vacuum company) had they not acceded.

11. Take care of yourself with humor, exercise, nature, meditation, and whatever else you need to stay sane during the moving process.
Moving is hard, takes enormous energy and effort, making so many decisions is draining, and many elements of this process undermine physical and mental health. Taking care of yourself to the greatest degree possible is even more important when coping with such stressors. You will not make good decisions if you do not do whatever you need to stay healthy and sane.


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© Gloria Valoris, 2015

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