Moving 101: From Point A to Point B With Minimal Crying

You are moving!

Near or far, for work or play, with your girlfriend or with your cat or with the Star Wars action figures you’ve had since you were ten, in a box, with a fox — it doesn’t matter — you are moving to a new place.

There are certain truths universally acknowledged about moving, like that it sucks, and that unless you’re a military brat or someone in a Disney Channel movie, you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

Conveniently, all three editors of this publication have also moved relatively recently, ranging from September 2010 (Riese) to May (Laneia) to this August (Rachel).  We’ve all learned many lessons, mostly about our own inner workings and how many panic attacks are possible in one day. But some of those lessons were about moving! And we are here to share. Although, you know, fair warning, we actually have no idea what we’re doing. Here goes!

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3-6 months ahead of time

+ Start saving money, because moving is expensive. Probably way more expensive than you think it is. Here’s just a sampling of the things you may or may not be spending money on in the near future:

UHaul
Hotel room, if you’re traveling a long way
Gas for the trip
Shipping costs
An actual moving company
Packing tape (it’s like $5 or more per roll?)
First, last, and security at your new place
The likelihood that utility bills and rent between apartments will overlap
A week’s worth of pizza and Chinese once your kitchen is packed up
A week’s worth of buying $3 coffees after you pack up the coffee machine
Cleaning supplies, soap, toilet paper, etc for your new place
Replacements for the things you didn’t feel like moving (trash can, iced tea pitcher, half-full honey bear)
Bike rack
Therapy
All your living expenses until you find a job at your new place

Could you afford all that right now? No. Work on that.

+ Start getting rid of shit, because you have too much of it.

Trust me on this. If you are wily, you can leverage this into point number one by selling your shit, which is really ideal.

Garage sale! EBay! Your greedy roommates! Chances are you don’t have an unreasonable amount of stuff, but unless you’re an actual ascetic, as soon as you start trying to pack it up you will feel like one of the failure stories on Hoarders.

A former roommate of mine who is generally much more successful in life than I am advocated the “sticker system” — buy a set of stickers from the dollar store and for a set period of time, maybe a month or six weeks, put a sticker on an item every time you use it. At the end of the set time period, look at the stuff that doesn’t have stickers on it. How bad do you need it? Obviously if it’s your snow boots and it’s July, you get a pass. But if it’s the set of knitting needles you’ve been meaning to teach yourself how to use for the past two years, maybe get over it and get rid of them. Your aspirational ideas about your future self are not worth making your friends carry that shit around in boxes.

VIA FLICKR USER FLAMINGTEA

Obviously I don’t have my shit together enough to use this method, as it requires forethought. Instead, I went through my stuff as I packed the week of, picking up each object and looking deep into my soul as I asked myself “Do I really want to pack this in a box and move it 800 miles to unpack it again?” Frequently the answer was “no,” so it was effective in that sense, but I would warn that with this method, you are left with a huge pile of shit that you no longer want at exactly the eleventh hour, when you have no time left to figure out what to do with it all. Your call!

+ Begin looking into roommates, jobs and apartments. If you are physically moving out of your old home, then the “finding an apartment” stage should really be complete already. This 3-6 months is your time to take care of that. Get on it. In these things, as in all things, the answer to your prayers will come via Craigslist. Also though, don’t get axe murdered.

4-6 weeks ahead of time

+ Start packing. It seems like you don’t need to yet, but you do. Stuff that you’re not going to use up until you move — parkas in summer, ice cream maker in winter, etc. Be real, are you going to read War and Peace between now and then? No. I realize that having huge piles of boxes in your house is really depressing, but you really have way, way more than you think you do. Remember all that stuff in the attic? And the casserole dish set your aunt gave you? It all has to go. Unless:

+ Get rid of even more stuff. I’m serious.

+ Logistics. How are you getting there? Plane, train, automobile? How much will it cost? Will you need to stay somewhere halfway? Do you need to rent a van or car? Are there things that would be easier to ship? Do you need to sell your furniture or whatever? Can you sell anything to the new tenant? Is anyone helping you? Do you have any friends even?

Organizing these things won’t be easy. All I can say is: make lists. Lists of what to pack, what to do, who to call, what to take care of before leaving Point A, what you’ll need to take care of when you get to Point B. Should you make sure to check off going to the dentist before you leave? Library books to return? Parking tickets to pay? Try to take care of those things now, because you’re not going to have time to realllllly soon.

2 weeks ahead of time

+ Start eating strategically. Now is the time to start working on that 24-pack of frozen Gardenburgers that you bought six months ago and forgot about, because otherwise you’re going to have to throw them all out. Anything perishable or anything that could at some point become perishable needs to go. Invite friends to help if necessary. Which brings me to:

+ Start making plans to see the people you need to say goodbye to if you’re moving far away, because otherwise the last time you see them will be waving from the sidewalk while you’re sleep-deprived and blubbering like a child, which is not sexy. You want them to remember you as sexy.

– If you are driving (I’m going to assume you are because I did) start making road trip mixes/CDs. This may not seem important but it is because otherwise you end up driving through 173 miles of Ohio farmland with nothing to do but curse yourself over and over for not burning a copy of The Black Album. Also, make sure you bring The Black Album.

+ If you’re driving, get your car a tuneup. This is also something you will appreciate in the middle of Bumfuck, Ohio. At LEAST make sure you have a recent oil change and good tire pressure, you crazy diamond.

+ Get a Xanax prescription if you can. I’m serious about this. I don’t advocate the use of prescription drugs for recreational purposes, but this is not a recreational purpose. You will need this at some point in the moving process. I feel confident promising this. Your doctor may understand.

+ Change your address with the Post Office. You can tell them in advance what date you’re moving. It’s a little thing, but it will save you SO MUCH HEADACHE.

+ Pack ALL YOUR SHIT. Seriously. Go to the liquor store. Get the free boxes. Bring a pretty friend if necessary to make sure you get the free boxes. Don’t buy any liquor though, because drunk packing is even harder than regular packing. Take my word for this.

PACKING PROTIPS!

+ Pre-pack a duffle or suitcase that contains your basic toiletries (if you have stuff in travel sizes, that’s great), a week or so’s worth of clothes and underwear, and a few pairs of shoes. If you pack this stuff first, then you can live out of this before, during and immediately after moving, so you don’t have to agonize over what box you packed your v-necks in, or whether you should pack your v-necks yet, or whatever.

+ I used my clothes as packing materials for fragile things, and ended up not having to figure out how to pack like ⅔ of my clothes! Granted they are now really wrinkled and smell like my wine glasses, but I’m ok with that.

+ Pack a box of “first week/first day” things that you will need to unpack immediately. It should contain: corkscrew, vibrator, vital medications, important books, granola bars, chapstick, and anything else that you feel you will freak out without and need to unpack EVERY BOX until you locate.

+ Put books and other heavy things in SMALL BOXES so that you’re actually able to carry them yourself.

+ Pick something to label your sex toys and other personal items so the yahoos that you convince to help you move don’t feel weird, like “items for Lily Tomlin devotional altar” or something.

+ You could optionally label important things accordingly, like “favorite books,” just be aware that if you are later storing said boxes at the house of someone who is soon to be a vengeful ex-girlfriend, or something, that will be the first box to be vandalized.

+ Pack cleaning supplies last so you can get your security deposit back.

+ So many ziploc bags. Use them for silverware, spices, especially terrible liquids (like nail polish remover or, say, liquid smoke). This will seem excessive and annoying at the time, and I sincerely hope for you that your move will proceed such that you can continue feeling that way, as opposed to “Oh Jesus, I’m so, so glad everything I own doesn’t smell like liquid smoke,” or worse, “Oh Jesus, everything I own will smell like liquid smoke forever.”


Next: What to do in that crucial final week.

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Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1129 articles for us.

68 Comments

  1. Only moving I’ve done is from one bedroom in the house to another, but I’ll be going off to college after next year, so I will definitely be using all of this then.

    I already have my stuff to where I could move it easily enough since I moved into my sister’s room the other weekend. I started going minimalist last year (I got rid of over half my possessions over winter break, and continue to pull things out here & there). Art supplies & my hoard of references(which I do use for art regularly) are pretty much the only reasons I haven’t gone even more minimalist.
    This was really helpful for me when I was decluttering:
    http://minimalstudent.com/moving-from-home-to-dorm-part-1-decluttering-5-steps/

  2. I have no problem getting rid of stuff. But for those who do, maybe stream Hoarders on Netflix while you are deciding what to keep? I dunno, tho, I find when I do watch it I am mesmorized, even by the 20th time I’ve seen someone buried under 3,000 pounds of broken lamps, dolls heads, and rotting (fill in blank).

  3. I am planning on moving this year, but haven’t started officially planning yet, so this guide is extremely appreciated. I have moved exactly 1 time in my life, and I was 4, so I really have no idea what I’m doing. All I remember from that moving adventure is that someone stole our vcr and video camera and a few other things from the old house while we were at the new house. Lesson: Do not take multiple trips unless you leave someone to guard your shit. I only remember this because they didn’t take the tv and I wanted to watch Cinderella and 4 year old me could not understand why this was not possible. The tv was right there, how important was that other little box thing, really? It was very upsetting. x_x

  4. Great article – I was wondering if I was jumping the gun by getting things ready now without a definite moving date/plan yet. Clearly, I’m doing the right thing. I spent most of my childhood and young adulthood moving, so this should be second nature… but I’ve lost the instinct. Excellent article and comments.

  5. If you love yourself at all, listen to the advice about packing ALL (ALL!) of your shit in advance. Don’t think you’re going to get it all the week of the move.

    If you have furniture that needs to be taken apart don’t save that for last. Also, if it’s Ikea furniture – fuck it. Don’t take that shit apart and think you’re getting it back together again in the same condition.

    If you can afford it, hire movers.
    If not, choose your friends wisely and be prepared when arrive to help you. Don’t still be packing or cleaning. And make sure you give everybody enough time so you don’t have to rush them at the last minute. Moving is an excellent opportunity to thin out the herd of friends if shit gets too stressful. And buy them food after.

    Don’t pack junk and figure you’ll sort out what you want in the new place. Start packing soon enough to choose ahead.

  6. I KNEW Autostraddle had an article about moving. I’m five days out and getting rid of all the things I don’t need (and some of the things I can afford to replace) has been a huge stress reliever.

  7. so i saw this pop up in the “from the archives” section, and i am now here to request “moving 201: how to adjust to living somewhere new with minimal crying”

    also, all that stuff that you throw away because you don’t want to move it but you’ll probably need to replace it? maybe make a list of what all it is so once you’ve moved you’re not like BUT I KNOW I HAD THAT…

  8. Moving is always a challenge :)) But it is definitely worth the effort. Recently, I helped to move my friend to a suburb of New York City from downtown. My friend was madly happy to move, because the proximity of nature and the lack of noise made his life better and more peaceful. Did anybody have such experience?

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