Six years ago, my husband and I moved across the country from Arizona to the East Coast, where we’re both originally from. At the time, we had a two-year-old and an anxiety-ridden cat — not to mention furniture and belongings in the house we were renting, the condo we owned and a storage unit. It was a lot more complicated than when I moved to Arizona at 22 years old with only a carload full of stuff.
When I look back now, several years later, it still stands out as one of the most stressful times of my life. There are some things we did right and some things I would do differently now.
Seek out recommendations
Especially when it comes to hiring long-distance movers or shipping your cars, get recommendations from people you know who’ve actually used a particular company. Cross-country movers are notorious for being like, “Eh, your stuff will get there sometime between now and forever. Probably.” It is more reassuring if you have a friend who actually was reunited with their possessions in a reasonable amount of time.
The company that moved our vehicles kept pushing back the date they’d be able to pick them up until it finally seemed they wouldn’t arrive to get the cars in Arizona until we were already in Pennsylvania. The phone calls with those guys stressed me out so much that my eyes inexplicably puffed up and stayed that way until a week after the move. Don’t let this happen to you; if at all possible, really research your options and collect recommendations from real people you know.
Ask for help
If you’ve got the extra money, hire movers — even if the move is local. If you’ve got more money, hiring people to actually pack your stuff is even better; then you can focus less on packing and more on purging what you don’t want to take with you. At the very least, call in every favour you can to get help in the days leading up to the move. Your friends can help you box up plates and coffee mugs and your mum can take the kids to the park for a couple of hours while you wrap up the most fragile items.
On moving day, it’s all hands on deck. You need to have someone dedicated to entertaining your kid(s) and keeping them safely out of the way while all the furniture and stacks of boxes are being moved about. Especially if your kids are too young to fully grasp what is happening, they need someone all to themselves. When we moved, my son’s godparents took on the responsibility of feeding him snacks, letting him watch the movers and keeping him out of the way:
Before you arrive at your new home, try to have someone lined up for this job. If you don’t know anyone in your new city, ask co-workers for recommendations, beg a family member or friend to drive in for the occasion or use a babysitting/caregiving website.
(As an added bonus with that last suggestion, you’re probably going to want a babysitter in your new town anyway; this gives you a chance to test someone out while you’re there to see them in action.)
Pack the kid’s room last / unpack it first
A move is an upheaval for adults; for kids — especially toddlers — it can be downright disorienting and scary. Keep their room together and their toys available until the last possible moment. Consider letting them help pack some of their toys, too, so they have a visual on where their stuff is and they don’t wake up the morning of the move in a panic over it.
If at all possible, put the bulk of their stuff on the truck last so it’s the first to come off. When you get to your new home, Priority Number One is to get their crib/bed set up so they’ve got a familiar place to rest. Priority Number Two is getting the rest of their room set up as best as you can so they can start to feel reoriented.
We closed up our rental house at 11 PM, checked into our hotel just before midnight and left for the airport at 3 AM I strongly do not recommend this.
Our thinking at the time was that we just wanted the whole thing to be over. Pull the Band-Aid off. In hindsight, our sanity would have been better preserved if we’d given ourselves a little more breathing room. After a long day of moving — and no sleep — the last thing we wanted to do was take a 5-hour flight across the country. A day (or at least a full night) to simply relax in the hotel would have made a lot more sense.
Similarly, if you’ve got a far drive to your new location, consider breaking the trip up into two shorter days and stay at a hotel for the night at the mid-way point. Everyone’s nerves will be a little less frayed if you’re in less of a rush.
When it comes to unpacking, too, simply acknowledge that it’s going to take a while. If you’ve still got boxes of non-essentials pushed off to the side of the dining room a month from now, so be it. Moving with kids is no joke. Unpacking often happens in the couple of hours after they go to bed, right at about the same time that you feel like doing absolutely nothing. As long as it’s not a safety hazard, it’s OK to take your time unpacking the less important stuff.
If you’re moving with a newborn
Tyler in the Offspring Facebook Parenting Group says she knew she would have to move when her baby was just a few weeks old. So, she packed up as much as she could before her daughter was born. She made freezer meals ahead of time in disposable containers and stocked up on paper plates and plastic utensils so she could pack up the entire kitchen pre-baby. She also recommends letting one parent handle the move while the other parent handles the baby:
My in-laws live 2 hours from where we were moving, so my daughter and I stayed there while my husband orchestrated move-in day. He stayed in the new place the first night without us and we joined him the next day after our bedroom, the bassinet and the A/C were ready for us. I would recommend a night in a hotel for mum and baby if there isn’t anywhere they can crash. It made things easier on all of us.
Throw out all the rules
Think of moving day (or week) as a holiday; all regular rules regarding food, drink and screen time do not apply. Give them whatever they want: All the snacks, all the juice boxes, all the lollipops, all the screens. Even a little gift or two.
You’re in survival mode; just keep ‘em happy.