Hi. I recently moved across the country, from a two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn to a two-bedroom house in Austin. It was pretty daunting, but my wife and I managed to pull it off without murdering each other, so that counts as a win. (Our two-year-old daughter, thankfully, is too young to really appreciate what just happened.)
If you’re considering such a move, my main advice would be don’t. If it’s too late to change your mind, learn from my mistakes, and do the following things:
Life’s too short to spend scrounging around grocery stores or your building’s recycling area to find decent boxes. You can get good ones from U-Haul online, and they’ll buy back any that you don’t use.
Phase One: Packing
1. Factor in some time early on for editing.
You don’t want to be making decisions on what to keep and what to skip while you’re packing. Because, depending on your personality, you’ll either a) keep a bunch of shit you don’t need; b) toss a bunch of shit you’ll regret. Make these decisions early, when you’re not under the gun.
2. Keep the bar high.
Ask yourself: Would I pay someone 20 bucks to move just this one thing across the country? If the answer is no, chuck it.
3. Sell the excess immediately. Not tomorrow. Not on moving day. Now.
By the time you’re packing (or God forbid moving), you’ll be too tired, too busy, too everything to deal with it, and you’ll just end up throwing it in the trash or on the street, which is both wasteful and a missed opportunity to get some cash for your stuff.
If you think something has value, and you don’t have room for it in your new life, sell it. Now.
For furniture, I’ve done well on Craigslist.
For clothes, sites like Grailed will buy anything that’s a little too nice to be donated. (That said, organizations like Dress for Success—which donate your lightly used business attire to guys who can’t afford business attire—are a great way to give back.)
For food and booze, well, now’s as good a time as any to get your neighbors.
And then there’s media. Books. CDs. DVDs. Once upon a time, for a certain type of self-styled cultural connoisseur (cough, me, cough), maintaining a properly curated bookshelf was perhaps the number-one most time-consuming life-task. No more. Download your books to your Kindle. Subscribe to Netflix. And Spotify. And Amazon Prime. Sell everything to your local bookstore or music store (surprisingly, they’ll still buy it). Move on.
4. Hire professionals.
Seriously. Who are you trying to kid? Unless you’re 22, with little more than a coupla suitcases worth of stuff, hire a pro. They’re stronger, faster and way less likely to break something important. This is why you work so hard in the first place.
5. But pack yourself.
Good movers will handle anything oversized or awkward or fragile (your bed, your TV). Everything else, you can throw into a box yourself.
6. On that note, buy boxes.
Life’s too short to spend scrounging around grocery stores or your building’s recycling area to find decent boxes. You can get good ones from U-Haul online, and they’ll buy back any that you don’t use. For local moves, services like Bin-It let you rent plastic bins, which they’ll both drop off at your place and pick back up at the end of your move. Better for the earth, but also better for you—bins stack better than boxes, they’re much stronger, and the deadline to turn in the bins forces you to unpack faster.
7. Label everything.
When you get to the other side, you’ll want the movers to put everything as close to its final destination as possible. You’ll also want to know which box to open when you run out of clean underwear, need soap for the shower, want to find the remote, etc.
8. Buy good tape.
I’ve never had a problem with this but I’ve heard some people have. We used IPG, which you can get on Amazon. It kept things stuck together.
9. Also: bubble wrap.
I don’t know if we even used that much bubble wrap to pack, but popping the bubbles kept my toddler entertained after most of her toys were packed. And that, my friends, is fucking priceless.
10. Bring in reinforcements.
If you have a buddy or a relative who’s willing to pitch in, count yourself lucky. Even if they’re not that helpful, it’s nice to have a friend around. Just make sure it’s someone you can stand, as you’re not likely to be at your best during a big, stressful move.
11. Prepare for landing.
Electricity. Heat. High-speed Internet. You’ll want those things set up as quickly as possible on the other side. Call ahead and make appointments before you move; if you can, set those up for the day you move in.
Phase Two: The Unpacking
1. Make sure all your stuff is there.
You should’ve received a bill of lading when the movers took your stuff. Uh, you want to hold onto that. When they’re unpacking your stuff, each box will have a number, which you’ll want to crosscheck against that bill. Ideally, everything is accounted for. (Somehow, we lost a solitary lampshade, which… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.)
2. Unpack some entertainment first.
Your laptop. Your stereo. Your TV. Hell, a bowl to put your phone in and amplify the speakers. You’re gonna want some background entertainment for the hours of monotonous unpacking before you.
3. A good knife goes a long way.
If you don’t have a pocketknife already, consider this your excuse to get one. Mine is from W.R. Case, and it made unpacking a relative breeze. Also: looks cool.
4. Find something personal, and unpack that first.
This is your new home, so you’ll want it to feel that way as soon as possible. For me, that meant finding some baseball trinkets and old books (the ones that made the cut) and finding them an honored placement on our bookshelves.
5. Think of this as one long cheat day.
Fair warning: You will eat a lot during your move. When you’re packing, you don’t want to leave behind a bunch of groceries, so you’ll probably start eating out for one, two, three meals a day. When you’re unpacking, you’ll be too exhausted to cook, not to mention you might not know where half your utensils are.
All this, and the fact that you’ll have no time for real exercise, is a great way to get off your plan. To some extent, you just have to embrace it, gain the moving five and work it off in your new life. But you’ll also want to make sure you’re getting some salad, some fruit, some good proteins, etc. Because you don’t want to be getting pizza for dinner and eating leftover pizza for breakfast and lunch. Trust me.
Paul L. Underwood is a writer and editor in Austin, Texas. For more, go here.