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Best Tips for Moving: From a Military Spouse

by Meg Garman, League Member

Packing up your entire home and moving doesn’t have to be a disaster, whether it’s across town or even across the world. During my husband’s 10-year career as an active duty pilot for the Air Force, I learned a lot of things to do and probably even more on what NOT to do when we relocated. We have had as little as 55 days notice a move was coming, moved into our new house a mere three days before Christmas, and our last move was when our youngest was one month old! Thank goodness for baby carriers.

Our first move was the most disastrous. We learned the hard way to keep a keen eye on those packing for us because as we unwrapped boxes and packages moving from Enid, Oklahoma, to Marlton, New Jersey, we were near tears. We could hear boxes jingling with broken dishes before opening them. A packer even put a cast iron pot on top of a Tiffany lampshade! It had been a wedding present and, unfortunately, was completely caved in and beyond repair. We decided going forward those irreplaceable and sentimental items needed to be packed by us. For future moves, I put copious amounts of paper and bubble wrap around a favorite original painting we purchased on our honeymoon. We drove it ourselves instead of sending it on the truck. Even the best movers won’t necessarily be able to recognize your most prized possessions.

Here are some valuable Moving Tips:

  • When it comes to the actual packing, one of your best friends will be liquor boxes from a liquor store or Trader Joes. They usually will give them away for free. These are perfect for all types of glasses and stemware, spices and oils, mason jars, and even toiletries. It saves you a lot of time not to individually wrap each thing. They may seem tiny, but in our experience, small boxes are better because they are easier to carry and not as daunting to unpack. It feels wonderful when you are unpacking to finish a box! We’ve also found that Blue Apron or similar food delivery service boxes work well for many of the same reasons and even come with their own bubble wrap insulation. If you decide to invest in styrofoam dish packs, make sure to hold on to them. They are great to use again for holiday plates or to loan out to a friend.

  • Set aside one small box for all of your remotes. Make another small box with individual sandwich bags of furniture bolts and other important parts. Label each bag with scotch tape so that you aren’t stuck with a bed frame and no way to put it together. The movers lost our bed’s bolts in our first move. We had to sleep with our mattress on the floor for six weeks while the manufacturer shipped us new parts. Don’t be like us!

  • Some moving companies will let you move with your drawers intact. If you are moving yourself, get one of the giant plastic wrap rolls moving companies sell and wrap it all up with your drawers full. It is a relief to show up to your new house and have your bedroom mostly done once you put your bed together.

  • The very last box you pack should also be the first one you unpack. It should have a pair of scissors, some tape, a measuring tape, paper cups, plates and utensils, everyone’s daily medications, Tylenol, bandaids, chargers for electronics, and if you’re like me– a corkscrew or church key!

  • Do as much prep at the new house as you can before the furniture arrives. I usually read my favorite design blogs and try to paint as much of the house beforehand as possible. I like to have the house cleaned, and my mom usually puts new shelf paper in every cabinet. This is a lot of prep work, but it makes moving in and unpacking much smoother.

  • When you arrive at your new location, put sticky notes on the doors. We called our primary bedroom “Bedroom 1” and so on. It makes it much easier when the movers come in with loads of boxes on a dolly to have an efficient way to identify rooms. This is especially helpful if you have multiple bedrooms and/or living areas.

  • Treat your movers well. We always provide coffee and donuts in the morning and something easy for lunch. Not only do the movers appreciate it, but it was a huge benefit to us and it also saves time. You don’t want your movers disappearing for an hour or more in search of food right in the middle of loading or unloading. Many people don’t know that you should tip your movers too. If you think that they have done a great job, pay them accordingly, and also remember that reviews go a long way in their business!

  • It is hard to get it all unpacked quickly. My advice to help keep stress low is to choose one room to “finish” in the first day or two. Usually, this is a room that isn’t high traffic or has a lot of pieces to unpack. In our current house, that was the formal living room and the breakfast nook. Neither had a lot of furniture, required a ton of decor, and they aren’t very big. I can’t overstate how nice it is to have a space right away to drink a cup of coffee in peace. You really need a place to relax that isn’t sky-high with boxes or tables covered with stuff that hasn’t found a home yet. Think of it as your calm retreat from the chaos.

  • When moving with children, the pressure is on to make them feel safe and worry-free. Little kids don’t fully understand what is happening. One of ours thought we were going to give away everything we owned. He was terrified to be parted from his favorite toys. We always ensure our kids choose a few things to keep in a backpack with them. Let them be a part of putting their room together. Have them help make their bed or choose which corner to put their toys in. We love to have a pizza party picnic on our first night. This is also a great time to bring out a new toy or game.

In our last two moves, we also hired a decorator pretty early on. The goal wasn’t to make every room perfect but to help us make sense of our furniture, artwork, and decorative items. It is so overwhelming at the beginning. Hiring someone to help decide the furniture placement and to get some artwork up on the walls makes it feel like home much more quickly. It also gives some of those pretty items a spot instead of taking over your dining table while you are paralyzed in deciding what to do!

Whether you are downsizing, changing locations for a different school district, or finally settling into your dream home, packing up your entire life and moving is really challenging. Hopefully, some of my tips will ease tensions during your next big move!

Do you have any moving horror stories?

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