Smile Politely

The Ten Commandments of moving

If your last weekend was anything like mine, you are probably sitting in your new apartment, surrounded by half-unpacked boxes, swearing emphatically to anyone who will listen that you will never put yourself through the hell of moving ever again. Unfortunately, moving seems to be one of those inevitable and unpleasant realities of adult life, just as irksome as doing taxes and just as painful as heartburn. To make matters worse, grad students, as well as other 20-somethings, move often, and, as I exclaimed several times last weekend, “we have a shit-ton of stuff!”

Nevertheless, there are a few ways to assuage the wrath of the moving gods. Having moved every year for the past six years, I have compiled a list of my top ten best tips, given in no particular order of importance.

1. Thou shalt be label and log. (More generally: Thou shalt be organized.) People laugh at me for doing this, but I like to label and log my moving boxes. Once I fill a box, I write a specific number on it as well as its destination room. Then I fill out a spreadsheet with columns for box number, room, and contents. That way, when I unpack, I know that “extra tape, misc. fasteners, rope (?), and bookcase knickknacks” are in Box #16 in the office. Who’s laughing now, suckers?

2. Thou shalt expect and prepare for incompetence at every turn. During a move, it is useful to anticipate many things going wrong. Double check that your utilities at the new apartment are scheduled to be turned on the day before you move in and turned off at the old place the day after. If you have a landline, make sure to tell your service provider that you want to keep your old number because apparently, such things are not always assumed. In short, you are not in control of every part of your move, so it is helpful to be prepared and ready for any slip-ups outside of your control along the way.

3. Thou shalt make a box of useful items to unpack first. Even though you have painstakingly labeled and logged your boxes (See Commandment #1), it helps to have one box with all the necessary items for the first few days of living. My “useful things” box included paper towels, scissors, a copy of the lease, a notebook and pen (for making lists of things we needed), disposable cups, plates, and silverware, toilet paper, basic cleaning supplies, a shower curtain and rings, towels, and a few changes of clothes. It is also helpful to write “unpack first” on the box itself.

4. Thou shalt change thy address. No offense, but I don’t want to get your AAA renewal notices if you lived in the apartment before me. Make sure to give friends, family, acquaintances, physicians, magazines, insurance, student loans, credit cards, and banks your new address just in case your change of address doesn’t go through right away with the Postal Service. Again: expect and prepare for incompetence at every turn.

5. Nourish and hydrate thyself throughout the move. Make sure to have bottled water and some snacks on hand during the move. By some cruel trick of nature, August 1 is often the hottest day of the year, and you don’t want to pass out from lack of fluids, do you? As an added bonus, the people you roped in to help you move will resent you and your heavy furniture less if you can provide them with juice and muffins!

6. Thou shalt take pictures of all thy stuff as well as thy new apartment. This is useful for several reasons. First, taking pictures of your stuff as your put it in the boxes helps you keep track of what you actually own. Then in the event of an apartment catastrophe, you would have documentation of your things for insurance purposes. (Just make sure to keep a copy of the photos backed up outside of your actual apartment.) Similarly, taking pictures of the new apartment before you fill it with furniture and boxes allows you to inspect and report its condition, which is useful in the event that discrepancies arise in the future.

7. Thou shalt not wear flip-flops while moving. Carrying boxes is hard, and oftentimes, you have to do it while maneuvering backwards down a flight of twisty stairs. Proper foot attire (and apparel in general) will keep stubbed toes and tripping to a minimum.

8. Honor Thy Craig’s List. You know it’s moving season when the usually quiet “Furniture” and “Household” sections of Craig’s List are flooded with particle board bookshelves, mini-fridges, and office chairs. Amid this collection of mediocre household wares, it is possible to find some really nice pieces if you look hard enough. True story: when we moved here on a grad student budget, my boyfriend and I managed to furnish our apartment with hand-me-downs and Craig’s List purchases for about $600.

9. Thou shalt test all boxes for structural integrity and weight. Everyone has a bit of moving advice, and more often than not, it is “Don’t pack a big box full of books.” Along this vein of logic, make sure that your boxes are strong enough to hold whatever you decide to put in them. Double tape the seams of your boxes if they were previously collapsed, and before sealing a box, try to lift it and make sure that you are actually able to carry it. I found that it is also helpful to write “Heavy” on the boxes that are actually heavy…and then pawn those off on the manly men.

10. Thou shalt set a deadline for unpacking thy junk. Once you’ve unpacked the essentials, it is far too easy to let those boxes of DVDs and extra decorations sit around for days, weeks, or even months. I set a deadline of about a month to get the last articles unpacked (or at least, shoved into a cabinet somewhere if I’m sure I won’t need them). This may mean nagging yourself or your roommates for a while, but you’ll be much happier if you get those boxes unpacked, out of sight, and out of mind.

There you have it: ten anal-retentive but useful tips for moving. Keep them in mind, in case you suffer a brain aneurysm over the next year and decide to move again.

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