I survived moving: how to move with children

by Sara I feel like we deserve a bumper sticker: "We moved and survived"  I know people move all the time, some people even several times over the course of a few years, but our recent move really felt like climbing a mountain: a long haul with no end in sight.

We had been passively looking for over a year when we found our new house and within the span of 14 days bought our new house and staged and sold our old house.  All with 2 little boys underfoot.  Not to mention a 4th birthday party and lots of winter weather.  But we survived and learned a few things along the way.

1.  Its never too early to pack.  There was a three-month gap between the sale of our old home and the move into our new home.  When we began the process of staging our old home I packed away a lot of personal items that stayed packed for the duration of that three months.  Family photos, knick knacks, and holiday-related kitchen items are nice to have around but not necessities.  Out of season clothes, infrequently used toys, and stuffed animals were also on my immediate packing list.

2.  List of all lists.  When the process began I took over an hour to walk around our house and make a list of everything that would need to be packed: every dresser, cupboard, drawer, and shelf was listed.  And then I made the master of all lists in excel of every room in the house and a plan of attack for packing.  Call me crazy (or a multitude of other things) but it worked: instead of looking at everything in our house and feeling panicked about how / when I was going to pack it, I felt like I had a plan.  From the day we sold our house I set a goal of packing 5 boxes a week until we moved.  By the time the last month rolled around I had over 50% of the house packed and could panic about paint colours instead of packing.

3.  Donate, donate, donate.  Every time you get ready to pack something, ask yourself this: is it worth the effort to pack, store, haul to the new house, unpack, and find a home for?  We donated at least a garbage a week of items to a variety of different charities.

4.  Your possessions aren't all as equally important .  When you pack boxes, number them according to the importance of being unpacked.  We labelled boxes that could wait with a 3, boxes that we would need relatively soon a 2, and boxes that needed to be opened a.s.a.p. with a 1.  It also made it easy for family and friends who helped with the move: they knew that '1' boxes needed to be at the top of the pile.

5.  Rubbermaid is your new best friend.  During renovations last year we boxed all holiday decorations, memories, and other 'rarely see the light of day' items in Rubbermaid containers.  Although not part of my moving plan, having all these things pre-packed and ready to move made life so much easier.

6.  Embrace the chaos.  This was a tough one for me (see #2) as I like everything organized and tidy.  But moving is an inherently chaotic and unorganized process, which we learned to embrace.  The boys turned the unused boxes lying on the floor into a rescue boat and the large unopened boxes of IKEA furniture in front of our fireplace became a stage.  I learned to appreciate the sight of full cardboard boxes stacked around my home as a sign that we actually getting prepared for the move.

7.  Second hand is best.  Most moving supply companies sell used boxes at a vastly reduced rate.  We bought ours at CSR near Trainyards and paid about $1 a box for smaller boxes.  And ask about coupons and discounts: I also scored a 25% coupon that was good for multiple visits.  You can then sell your boxes back to the company once you're done moving or pass them onto someone else.

8.  Permanent marker is the enemy.  I dedicated a pack of Crayola markers to the packing and labelling process, which meant the boys could 'help' label boxes and nothing was permanently damaged in the process.  While I packed, they coloured boxes, the floor, me, and themselves, but at least with Crayola I was able to clean up the mess.

9.  Let them eat cake and watch TV.  Well maybe not cake for dinner but we gave ourselves a break when it came to mealtime.  For a week long period we used disposable cups, plates, and utensils, and I relied on frozen food from the grocery store and easy meals like hamburgers and raw vegetables.  We saved a lot of money by avoiding take-out!  And the kids normally restricted TV diets went the way my sanity in favour of a portable DVD player that let mom and dad get a few things done during the 4 to 6 pm witching hour.

10.  Beg early and often.  We starting asking for help almost two months before we moved.  E-mails and phone calls were followed up with offers of food and beverages in return for sweat equity.  A bit bold, maybe, but on the first weekend of our move we had over 10 family members and friends there to move boxes, paint, assemble IKEA furniture, and unpack.

11.  Your babysitter is your new best friend.  We have a sitter that we use occasionally when we can't get one of the aforementioned family members to watch our kids.  During the move we hired her for 2 entire Saturdays and a Sunday.  This freed up all adults for the moving process and ensured that there was one person responsible for the kids at all times.

12.   Let them help.  Our oldest, who is 4, really wanted to help with the move so we gave him safe and age-appropriate tasks that kept him occupied and made him feel like he was contributing to the moving process.  He unpacked boxes in his room, he put toys away in the play room, and we even let him help paint the walls (in a room where the floors were covered entirely in drop clothes).  We also encouraged the boys to give visitors tours of their new home: they were really excited to show friends and family their new bedrooms and the play room.

13.  Kids first.  Despite my desire for a functional kitchen and somewhere to rest my weary feet at night, the first rooms we painted, unpacked, and assembled were the boys bedrooms (followed closely by the play room).  With all the disruption we wanted to make sure they had a space that felt like home.

14.   Give yourself lots of motivation.  Organize your son's second birthday 11 days after you take possession of your new house.  Invite 45 of your closest friends and family and celebrate.

Okay, so #14 is optional but it certainly sped up the unpacking process!

Sara is mom to a 4-year-old firefighter and 2-year-old monkey.  You can find her at her blog, My Points of View