You Can’t Take It (all) With You
It’s that time .
Time to move.
American is now more mobile than ever and if you haven’t moved recently, the chances are pretty good that you will soon.
According to Moving.com, 1 out of 10 people in the U.S. will move in 2020, just like in 2019 and 2018. For those keeping score that’s 10.1% of the US Population, or 32,252,000 people out of our population of 319,310,000 citizens. No wonder you see lots of moving trucks on every interstate and back road in America.
We’re a mobile society and on the move.
After the dust of 2020 (what a year…) and the pandemic hangover are in the past, there’s reason to believe that even more people will be moving in the future.
The pandemic introduced corporations and employees to the joys of working at home and, given the choice between a really great house on a ranch, in the mountains or at the beach or a townhome jammed in close to downtown, most will opt for more space and instant access to the great outdoors. Cell phone service (check the signal strength for any place you’re considering) and fiber optic internet(check that too) means you leave little behind if you decide to move further out. Companies are encouraging employees to work at home, some are even offering stipends, and mortgage rates have not been lower in ages. It’s a good time to make a move, for any reason: new job, new position with the same company in another part of the country, kids off to college, move closer to the grandkids, or entry into the witness protection program. There are as many different reasons to move as there are people but the one common factor is that moving is a time consuming and labor intensive process so maybe a few tips on how to get it all done will help.
Context: I am a bit of an expert on the topic. I went to 14 different schools between the 1st and 12th grade, moved multiple times before I was even out of kindergarten. While in college, I never went back to the same house for Christmas that I left for school in September. Out of college, the personal trend continued. My mother, who organized all the moves, got very good at moving and she made sure that those survival skills were passed down to me. We lived a very streamlined life, but looking back on it now, don’t think we missed much.
Facing yet another move—and not just across town, but across states—I thought it might be a good time to revisit and pass on what was learned in all those moves.
Below: The Nine Truths of Moving that will help you survive the uprooting and replanting.
- Take a realistic inventory of what to move. Go through your place and see what you really want to take with you and what you might want to leave behind. Start by looking at your home and editing it: what is really necessary and important to your life and what is not. Start with the big stuff: furniture, case goods, armoires, rugs and carpets. Then look at the smaller essentials, like kitchen equipment, tools, outdoor gear. Edit out your electronics: old computers, equipment, sound systems (more on that below). Then media: books, CDs (everyone does streaming now), photos (always a good idea to edit photos as you create them). Then Artwork (almost always requires special handing because It’s easily damaged in transit). And, clothes…work clothes, hangout clothes, workout clothes. Clothes move easier if they’re not on hangers, by the way. Fold and pack them and pack the hangers separately. A lot more streamlined and easier to deal with. That collection of old barbells you seldom use….that’s hard to store and expensive to pack and move…give them to the future linebacker down the street. Be very, very critical because you will have to pack and load every single thing (and unpack and unload). Cut it down to the essentials and the essential you. Not only will you lighten your moving load, you will no doubt find a more defined, unique, you in the process, when the excess is trimmed away.
- Start Early. Moving is a huge chore. There are few, if any shortcuts. In brief you have to go through everything in your home (and office ) and see what goes (literally) and what gets left behind, in the form of donations or trash. You have to go through every cabinet, under every sink, into each closet to see what’s there and what has to be packed or otherwise disposed of( see below). This is not hard but it is very time consuming. The sooner you start the better. Also: gather up all your personal and important papers and valuables and keep them together, in one briefcase, special box, or backpack. You need to know where this stuff is at all times for personal and security reasons, so sort it out, pack it up, and secure it. You’ll thank yourself when it comes time to pack up and leave.
- Don’t move it twice. A key mistake lots of people make is to pack up and move stuff with the idea of going through it once they get re-settled. Don’t do it. Why delay the inevitable: it’s expensive. A move is a chance to edit out the stuff that is no longer essential to your life. So…do the edit before you load the truck/van/SUV and don’t move something with the idea of sorting it out when you get there. What goes on the truck is what stays in your life. Everything else gets left behind, literally. Do not MOVE IT TWICE.
- Keep, Donate or Sell/Toss. We’re not going to the existential argument of “does it bring you joy” promoted by Marie Kondo. That implies a lot of philosophy that you don’t have time for if you’re moving.
You need an action plan and here it is:
Keep—If you love it, it’s necessary for your life, enjoyment of life, sentimental or a part of your life or work. Keep it. This should be about 40% of your stuff.
Donate or sell—An object that does not have value to you, but might have to someone else, can be donated to a good cause, given to a pal, or sold to someone else who might cherish it. Into this category go all kinds of goods, from tools to clothes to Christmas decorations. Your obligation is to clean the object up, price it to sell very quickly or match the no-longer-necessary stuff to someone who will really be glad to have it. This will turn out to be 20-30% of stuff. It applies also to clothes (as does the Toss category).
Toss—The clutter, the seemed-like-a-good-idea at the time Halloween costumes, excess gadgets purchase from infomercials, plastic no-longer-functional anything, unwanted toys, books that do not deserve a place in a serious library (“Fifty Shades of Grey” or “The Art of the Deal”).Toss. Sometimes the local schools will have a book drive and need books to sell. Donate your books. A lot of them. There’s a hospital or retirement home that would love to have them. Make some calls and give. Books are great and impressive for visitors but they are heavy, heavy, heavy, so keep only your cherished first editions, coffee table showpieces, and the childhood favorites (“Rabbit Hill”, “The Long Winter”, “Lord Chesterfield’s Letters, Sentence, and Maxims”).
Dump and toss ruthlessly. If it’s Incomplete or I’ll-get-around-to-it stuff, toss it. Remember: the less you have to move, the lower the cost to move. That should be enough of an incentive to really clean house. This should be between 40-30% of your previously prized possessions.
- Dump the mismatched sets of anything and obsolete electronics. If you have a set of mis-matched pots and pans, donate them. They’ve served their purpose and you’ve learned to cook. Reward yourself with a nice set of All-Clad from Williams Sonoma. You deserve it, they work great, and you can replace and/or add pieces as necessary. And someone else can use your old cookware and will be glad to get it. Keep the cast iron frying pan…it’s season and has a future. As for older electronics (that Tivo project?). Dump it or give away. It is not coming back.
- Beware of computers (and office equipment): they get obsolete faster than ex-NFL football coaches. Don’t keep them around. The dirty little secret of the computer world is that even if the computer still has a working life, the software often doesn’t, and sites you need for business and personal activities (i.e. banks, brokerages, etc). often won’t take anything but the most recent browsers and operating systems. There are entire sites devoted to what to do with an old laptop (repurpose as a media center; use it to control the security system, etc.) but if you don’t want to deal with all that, just do this: back up the data to a standalone hard drive and then wipe the computer of all data, personal and otherwise, delete all specialized(and often expensive) software that shouldn’t fall into unauthorized hands; give it a good clean up and then donate it to some organization in your community that is providing computers to kids who need them for internet remote learning classes. Streaming is one of the least digitally stressful actions that a computer can perform and what was a PITA for you will be a godsend for some young student. And you’ll feel very good about it.
- Also—now’s a good time to rethink your media system. It is no longer necessary to have a large collection of CDs to hear the music you love—Spotify and iTunes and Pandora and Amazon music can fill that function. The most modern, and flexible setup today is not a stand alone hi-fi system, with big speakers and 200 watts/channel amplifiers, but something that’s almost as good and takes up a lot less space: a flat screen TV, a fiber optic internet feed, an AppleTV or Roku TV or Firestick, and a sound bar with two or more speakers and a sub-woofer. The sound is astonishingly good (for physiological reasons that we won’t go into here, but just remember that you typically lose a little hearing ability each year,) and takes up little space. By going full-in on modern digital music and video, you upgrade the experience and downgrade the amount of space required.
- One size does not fit all: what vehicles to use for the move. If you have a household full of goods you’ll need a moving truck of some type. If you’re moving across town, you can make multiple trips with a panel truck or mid-size truck and a small moving crew and do it over a couple of days. If you’re moving across country, you’re going to need a moving van, one of the 40ft long variety. The moving pros should handle the big stuff: furniture, fridge (if you’re taking it), appropriately boxed (and cushioned) dinner ware, etc. You, the movee, should take some things yourself in your car, SUV, or, more appropriately van or small moving truck: all of your art, current computers, electronics, papers or anything that’s personally important and/or valuable. If you don’t have a big SUV (I’m partial to the Suburban for these type of missions), rent it.
The philosophy for this is simple: keep the important(Personal papers), breakable, irreplaceable stuff with you and under your care; move the bigger, not-so-breakable stuff goes via moving company/van. Sometimes, this requires a couple of trips but…so be it. You spend a couple of extra personal days on the road but you’ve assured yourself that the stuff that is important..the stuff that really makes a new place your place…arrives intact and ready .
- You don’t need it. One of the great benefits of moving is the chance to edit and re-set your life. It’s just like re-starting a computer: you get a fresh start on everything from where to go after the game for a beer to finding a new jogging trail. With all that you leave behind (literally and psychologically) you can now live a life that’s more about the experiences and less about the stuff. You’ll be surprised at how little you need to live a really terrific life and how much smoother everything seems to run when there’s a lot less to keep track of, put away, organize.
Moving is a major life event. It requires a lot of physical effort, thought, and emotion. When you pack up to move, you glide through the items and times and places and people of your past and make decisions about what continues on with you and what gets left behind.
It’s not easy, can actually be quite stressful in unforeseen ways, but it is, at its most basic, a growth experience. You get a new life. So grab yourself some good attitude, take another shot of courage (tequila works just fine), and hop to it. The sooner you get the move done, the sooner you move into your new life where new adventures, people, experiences and yes, stuff, awaits. And that is certainly a pretty great reward.
Good luck and remember one thing: when in doubt, toss it out.
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