9 Tips For A Happier Easier Move

As a single mom struggling to make ends meet in Southern California, I’m contemplating a move back to Colorado…the exact opposite of 4 years ago, when I moved as a married woman from Colorado to California for my husband’s job. The universe, she has a funny sense of humor no?! Now that the kids dad isn’t here anymore, there’s really no good reason to stay in a place with such crazy high cost of living. My goal is to balance taking care of the kids and I financially while also keeping our unschooling lives going. Here I pretty much need to work full time to afford basic living, while in Colorado I can work nights, pay half as much for everything, and still be home adventuring and learning with the kids during the day.

If you didn’t know me back then, I blogged every day during the month it took me to purge, pack, and clean my 5000 square foot home. It was a more transformative experience that I knew at the time, and is a pretty good look at the mind of a woman going through lots of accumulated shit in order to streamline her life. Literally and figuratively. Grab a drink and some popcorn! It goes chronologically backwards, so scroll through to day 1 and go from there.

Moving isn’t anything new to me, I’ve done it 10 times in the last 20 years. So, I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve that I’ll share with you. These work equally as well if you aren’t moving but are just trying to declutter and simplify your life. You can share them with yourself or with anyone you know going through it. Like death, packing and moving comes for us all eventually. And like death, if done right it doesn’t have to be scary and traumatic.

1) DON’T PANIC.

When faced with the thought of having to deal with something like my garage, the first impulse is to run away in terror.

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I am having a panic attack just looking at that. It’s just one part of an entire house that I have to wrangle into submission. I can feel the anxiety rising and the thoughts running wild. “I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this. How did it get this way? Why wasn’t I more organized before? What kind of person am I?” So, OK, maybe panic a little and use all that adrenaline to propel you into action instead of propelling you into a fetal position in your bed with a pint of ice cream. You got this. And when it’s over, your shit will never be more together and you will feel amazing.

2) START DAYDRINKING.

I did 8 of the last 10 moves stone cold sober. Never again. If I could go back in time I would tell myself that wearing neon green for 4 years in high school doesn’t make me look like Madonna it makes me actually look like I’m losing the fight with emphysema. And then I would tell myself to start drinking wine before every move and to not stop until I was done. Add baileys to your coffee, and sip on a glass of wine as you sift through your clutter. Slightly tipsy is what you’re aiming for…too sober and you feel overwhelmed in every moment, too drunk you’ll end up passed out on a pile of broken furniture that you saved to fix but never got around to doing. Your mind will be slightly dulled and unable to fixate on all the things you still have to do, and even more giddy with the thought of finally weeding out everything you don’t need in your life.

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3) SCHEDULE YOUR DAY.

I’m not much of a planner, preferring instead to see what the day holds for me. But when I start packing, I have a default schedule. I get up early so I have a few hours to myself while the kids are still sleeping. Everyone knows that kids cut productivity by at least 85%. I’m up at 7, run for a couple miles which acts like revving a car’s engine for me, eat a protein filled breakfast, have some coffee (with baileys!) then go to a room and organize the shit out of it. This allows me to slack off in the middle of the day when the kids are up and I lose some momentum. I hit it hard again after dinner and go until either the wine or my exhaustion get the better of me. I’d rather go to bed early than sleep in late. It’s just what works for me…figure out your optimal rhythm and maximize the hell out of it.

4) MAKE A PLAYLIST.

Music makes everything better. That is all.

5) PURGE FIRST.

Don’t even think about packing yet. The first 2 weeks is all about getting rid of everything you don’t want to pack. I have 3 piles that I start in every room. 1) Things that are broken. 2) Things to donate. 3) Things to pack. Everything in the 1 pile goes immediately into a garbage bag and is thrown away. Everything in the 2 pile goes immediately into a garbage bag and gets put into the back of my car. Everything in the 3 pile is dealt with later. I know that sometimes it’s hard to choose between giving things away or holding on to them, so think of it as if every box that you pack is going to cost you $20 to move. Is it really worth that much to you? Free your mind and your wallet by downsizing and simplifying. It’s the gift of moving! Also, find a good charity. I was holding on to a lot of baby clothes for sentimental reasons while packing up my house in Colorado. Then the earthquake in Haiti hit and suddenly it felt right to send them to families in real need rather than keep them in a box for the next bazillion years. It’s easy to give things away when you are emotionally connected to a cause. Find a women’s shelter, or homeless shelter, or anything that you connect with. Then give give give. It’s also the gift of moving!

6) INVITE FRIENDS TO COME OVER.

Especially if they have kids, because then everyone plays while you guys sip wine and sort through stuff. Give them incentive to help by promising they can have anything from your house that you don’t need anymore but they do. Kids toys you’ve outgrown, kitchen stuff you never use, old clothes you don’t wear anymore…open your house up to your friends like a showcase on Wheel of Fortune. This was my favorite thing about moving from Colorado…how happy I was to have the help and company of my friends and how happy they were to walk away with something they’ve always wanted!

7) FIND AN OUTLET FOR YOUR EMOTIONS.

Moving puts you into a state of temporary insanity. Find something you can do when it gets too much. I run in the morning and hoop during the day. Just 10 minutes of hoop dancing to my favorite songs goes a loooooong way towards clearing myself of lingering anxiety/boredom/stress. Plus, I can do it while sipping on wine (#2!).

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8) DON’T WORRY ABOUT YOUR KIDS.

Let them run their show while you devote your time and energy to moving. Take them grocery shopping and have them pick out what they want to eat and snack on…make sure it’s things they can make for themselves. Loosen up on your standards a bit. Froot Loops for lunch? OK! Video games all morning? OK! They will be just fine. Put out art supplies and snack foods. Take them to the library and get shit tons of books/videos. Let them explore what it’s like creating a day that they’re happy with so that you don’t have to micromanage them while you’re also tackling pile after pile of accumulated possessions. This is how I started unschooling, actually. I had mono really badly one winter, their dad was traveling for his job, so they pretty much raised themselves while I just tried to stay coherent in bed. I expected them to become feral, sickly monsters and was amazed at how responsible and well planned they were for their own time. Even after I got better, we kept that same level of their own individual personal responsibility. Lighten up a little, and let your kids do what makes them happy while you work at taming your materialism.

9) DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE MESS.

As you are opening every drawer and cabinet to purge and organize, you will create a godawful mess. It’s ok. This is just the storm before the calm. It’s the puke before the feeling of health. Like vampires, you have to get everything out into the light of day in order to kill the monster. For my own peace of mind, I try to keep the living room/kitchen/bathrooms spotless…but everything else is in total chaos until I’ve dealt with it. It’s a process that lasts until you are done moving. Embrace your mess, knowing that you are going to tame the beast and walk away 99% more organized and streamlined than you were before.

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My life in the next month is going to be devoted to steamlining, purging, killing the clutter, and simplifying. Even if you’re not moving, I invite you to do the same in your life! I’ll be sharing what space I’m tackling and you can dive in yourself. Because, come on, I know I’m not the only one with a garage like that…


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1 Comment

  1. This is amazing and I could not have read it at a better time. I’m not moving, but I have dreams/plans of doing so once I’m gainfully employed again. My entire apartment basically looks like your garage and every day it overwhelms and disappoints me, especially when I go for fetal instead of powering through it. Your suggestions are great and I think they’ll be a lot of help. :)