The Benefits of Moving: What I’m Learning

By , August 11, 2012

I’m learning a lot from my current move, including some lessons I didn’t learn from earlier moves. The difference: I moved everthing into a storage unit, before moving into my new home.

When I’ve moved in the past, I’ve had the luxury of time, which I’m now learning is also a curse.

For each move, I always rented a new home, but only gave up the old place after a “transition period” of at least several days, and more recently several weeks.  I could move gradually.

For each move, I start out with several weeks of organizing and packing, then many trips with small loads, and then a final trip with a big rental truck. Of course, the official “moving day” is always hectic, and despite the planning and transition period, I sometimes felt as if I hadn’t done any organizing or planning.

The last time I moved without a “transition period” was when I moved from New Hampshire to California on January 1, 1985. That was a long, long time ago.

But this year’s move was different: my new home wasn’t actually ready when we vacated the old home. (My wife decided to take a new job, and quitting her old job as an apartment manager meant giving up our apartment.)

And thus we needed to put most of our belongings in storage, instead of moving them directly from one home to the next.

The lessons started when I thought about how I’d function during the “transition period” when nearly all our possessions were in storage. Ten days before our move-out day, I started “living out of luggage.” During the first couple of days, I needed several things that weren’t in my luggage, and altered the inventory accordingly. Over the next week, I only made minor adjustments to the luggage (not just adding, but also removing stuff).

As we packed, we thought about several different time periods:

  • the time before we finished moving out of the old apartment;
  • the time while we were “homeless” (staying in a motel and with family) waiting for the new home to be available;
  • the first days and weeks after we moved into the new home; and then
  • all the rest of time.

As we packed, we tried to group stuff into those categories, and of course our goal was to put the stuff we wouldn’t need soon into the back of the storage unit, and the stuff we knew we’d need in the front.

One huge difference with this move was my obsession with clearly marking the contents of every box. In past moves, it was enough to mark a box “kitchen,” but now I felt the need to list everything (electric can opener, thermos, ice cream scoop) so I could find items I needed to retrieve from storage.

I also learned that clear plastic storage bags are very, very helpful — zip-lock and slide-lock bags in a wide assortment of sizes (snack-food-size, sandwich, quart, gallon, two-gallon, and several larger sizes). Often, several smaller bags would be put together inside a larger bag, which was then packed with others into a box.

In past moves, a single box could include everything in a category (all underwear and socks, for example), but for this move I split those across several boxes, so I could more easily retrieve “some” without retrieving “all.”

We also decided to get rid of a lot of stuff. If something was large, fragile, inexpensive, or easily “sold now and replaced later,” we needed to clearly articulate reasons for keeping it instead of selling or donating it.

Now that I’m “settled in” at the new place, I’ve made a huge discovery: I don’t need most of the stuff that’s still in the storage unit. Really, honestly — I just don’t need most of it.

Of course, I’ve had to make a couple of trips to the storage unit to find specific items, and ended up needing to open five or six boxes before finding what I needed. But each time, I’ve been aware of how much stuff I packed and moved to storage, even though I probably won’t ever need or even use it again.


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