True story time!
Once, I agreed to help a friend move. I had just helped her and her roommate had just moved into their place a few months before but had a lot of problems with their landlord. He had covered up holes in the foundation, so there were bugs creeping into the house, and he refused to fix anything. Basically, it turned into a hellhole pretty damn fast.
I showed up the morning of the move ready to move boxes and lift heavy things, maybe even corral cats (she had a bunch of them) and keep them calm while we moved shit. Instead, I walked into a house that had barely packed.
Now, when she moved in there she noticed problems right away, so they didn’t unpack everything. There was still a bunch of stuff in boxes all over her living room, and they just rearranged their lives around that. But that was stuff that she didn’t need at the time: baby books, Christmas decorations, childhood memories, extra plates. Everything else in the house had been unpacked, and a good 75% of it wasn’t packed up yet the morning of the move.
Now, we only had the truck for a few hours, and the guys helping with the move had an event they had to attend that night. We had a very set amount of time to get things done in and weren’t counting on nothing being packed. So instead of just loading shit onto the truck, bringing the truck to the new place, unloading the truck, and then repeating this, we had to completely rethink our plan. We wound up breaking into two teams: one on the truck moving shit, and the other back at the house packing. I got stuck on the fucking packing team with one person who insisted on sorting and organizing clothes hangers for an hour, and another who cut out super early. We were all stressed, snapping at each other and fighting, trying to just get a shit-tonne of shit done in a small amount of time.
This totally could’ve been avoided with a bit of planning. I’m super fucking anal when it comes to planning and organizing shit for moving because I’ve been through and helped with some pretty fucked up moves. I wrote once before about looking for a place to move to (and I’ll probably make an updated post like that again soon), but there’s so much more to it than just finding a place.
So here’s some tips and shit to help you get through your move, and prevent you from having The Move From Hell.
1: Figure Out What The Hell You Need — Dorm Room
For a lot of you out there, moving into residence or dorms at school is the first time you’re going to be moving out on your own. There are a shit-tonne of lists out there on the internet, like the one above, telling you every little thing you’ll need to bring with you.
Please, ignore these lists.
Most lists will tell you that you need to bring cutlery with you when you move into a dorm. I know someone whose parents went over a list like that with him and decided he needed cutlery. Like, ALL the fucking cutlery. They bought him enough cutlery for like 8 place settings, PLUS a giant knife block, PLUS multiples of all the utensils you can think of (ladles, vegetable peelers, spatulas), PLUS like 4 cutting boards. Thing is, the kid lived in a dorm room in a residential tower, had a full meal plan, and had to share a 10’X15′ room featuring very little storage space with a roommate. They each had a desk, bed, and dresser, and that was it. Where the hell was he supposed to keep all that shit?
There is a tonne of stuff on these lists that you probably don’t need, like my friend above. And there’s a lot of stuff that’s not on the list that you will probably need. It’s all about you, where you’re going, and what you’ll be doing. If you’re heading down to Florida for school, you’re not going to need a parka and snow boots. If your dorm room is some tiny little rinky-dink space that you have to share with another human being, then bringing a mini fridge, floor lamp, area rug, and a bunch of stackable drawers is probably a really shitty idea.
You’ve gotta think about what you fucking want and need, too. Do you want monogrammed towels and mugs and socks, so you always know when someone else is using your stuff? Then fucking do it up! Maybe you want to bring your annoyingly cute Emoji pillows to decorate your bed or your favourite stuffed lion you’ve had since you were 2 (yes, I have both of these things in my room at this very moment). I’m comfy just sitting around the house in sweats and flannel shirts (ALWAYS flannel!!!!), and just switch into some old jeans with the same shirt when I need to go anywhere. I can honestly wear the same sweats for days. I’ve had friends who just CANNOT do this, and need a fresh outfit every day. They need a hell of a lot more clothes for their week than I need with my two pairs of sweats and my cozy flannels.
You’ve just gotta know yourself a bit, bring what you think you need. And if you forget something stupid, there’s always a dollar store somewhere. Need forks? Loofah? Socks? Ramen? Pens? They’ve got all of that at the fucking dollar store. Don’t stress yourself out too much about packing every single little thing you may possibly ever need.
2: Figure Out What The Hell You Need — Apartment
Ok, moving into an apartment is a bit different than dorm life. You have things like a kitchen and a bathroom that isn’t shared with 30 other people. You’re still going to need all the things you’d bring to a dorm, you’re going to need so much more than that too though.
The first thing you should do is talk to your roommates. Most young people today can’t afford an apartment all of their very own, so there’s a really really good chance you have AT LEAST one roommate. Hell, I have 4 roommates and a cat to help pay the bills around here. You NEED to talk to the people you’ll be living with to figure out what you need.
Figure out what you guys will need. Is someone bringing a TV? Anyone have a couch? Does your place have a microwave? What essential items are each of you bringing? I mean, it makes no sense for you to have three roommates, all four of you bring a microwave, and no one has a lamp. If you don’t want to go off of one of the lists online of everything anyone could ever need for their apartment, then at least look around you where you’re living now.
Do you have books? You’ll need somewhere to put them. Do you like to eat ever? You’ll need shit to eat off and with. What is your morning routine like? Some people need a single cup coffee maker, while others need a 12-cup pot, blow dryer, straightening iron, and lighted mirror to apply their makeup in (and there is NO shame in that, we all do it at some time!). Figure out what you need for your day-to-day life. Then figure out the things you’re used to that don’t seem all that important. Seriously, I didn’t realize how much I loved a squishy bathmat until I had nothing but an old towel and a cement floor. Then figure out who can bring what.
You’ll probably have some shit that no one just has lying around to bring. So start pricing shit out! Bathmat, microwave, cheap-ass dishes, a big-ass shelving thing for the kitchen and/or storage area, Tupperware that isn’t already full of your mother’s casserole….. it all adds up. Figure out what you really really need, buy as much cheap shit from dollar stores and second-hand stores, and check out things like yard sales and free online ads.
While we’re talking about talking to your new roommates, make sure you’re not bringing duplicates of things you have no room for. I have a large love seat that converts to a sofa bed. It was my grandma’s and she gave it to me before she died. It is very dear to me, I throw on slipcovers to match my roommate’s furniture, and it fits in fine. Fortunately, I only had a regular couch and big comfy chair to compete with for space in our living room. In the past, I’ve had to fight for room in my own bedroom, because a roommate had enough bedroom furniture to furnish a few rooms. She thought she was doing me a favour by displacing my stuff and letting me use her crappity-ass furniture she collected off the side of the road on move-out day the end of last semester.
Are all four of you planning to bring microwaves? Toaster ovens? Stereos? TVs? Figure out who has the best of what for where you’re living. As long as no one bought their shit brand new (which, to be honest, I have known only very few students and first-time apartment dwellers to be able to do), sell off what you don’t need to buy what you do need. If you have four TVs coming in, write up some paperwork saying you can all own it equally, and sell off the other three. Then use that money to buy other things you can all own equally. If, when you all move out, there is any dispute over who takes what (usually it’s the original owner taking the shit, unless everyone sold off really expensive shit), sell everything off and divide the proceeds.
But that is for Future You do worry about. Right now you have better shit to think about, like……
3: Pack Up Your Shit So You Know Where It Is
Don’t throw everything into one giant bag or box. You’ll wind up having to unpack EVERYTHING before you have to go to bed, and that shit fucking sucks. Even on my family’s ridiculous Move From Hell, we had the basics all separated: there was one bag with emergency underpants and all the hardware for the bed frames in mum’s van with the cat; we each had a backpack as an overnight bag (toiletries, jammies, change of clothes, my stuffed lion Pokey) with us during the move, and there was a box of stuff marked “First To Unpack” with shit like toilet paper, cleaning stuff, towels, and a shower curtain in it. Believe me, after the day we had, we needed that.
——-Ok, really long story short, my family’s move from hell back to my home town involved the movers bringing a van 1/3 the size we needed, calling extra family members from 2 hours away to come help us, some of mum’s good China being thrown under dad’s power tools in the moving van, bugs getting into almost ALL of the liquor (except what 18 year old me took for her own stash), and a day starting at 7am and going on until almost 2am. To top it off, our rental house we moved into had mold (which I turned out to be super allergic to), my parents’ bedroom had no heat, the laundry shoot emptied onto the furnace, and the dishwasher was plugged into an extension cord pulled through a hole in the floor that also had the washer and dryer plugged into it. It was fucking paradise.
Your move should be as painless and stressless as humanly possible. Moving to a new place itself is rough enough. Having to deal with misplaced shit and unpacking EVERYTHING just adds to the chaos. Take a few simple steps to help things go smoothly.
First, pack a box labeled “FIRST”. This should be left out in the open, where it’s plain to see that it’s the first box that needs to be opened. It should have essential shit you wouldn’t pack in an overnight bag, like toilet paper, bed sheets and blankets, cleaning supplies, extra towels, and maybe even a few dishes. If you know you can’t function without coffee in the morning, then pack the coffee and fucking coffee maker in there too. Whatever will make that first night and morning in your new place easiest should go in there. And don’t get into the trap of thinking, “Well, I’ve planned everything out, and the move should be done by 8 pm, which gives me plenty of time to unpack a few things”. That Move From Hell my family did was all planned out too. We didn’t know the truck would be too small. We didn’t know the movers would have only their newest employees working. We didn’t know there would be accidents on the highway extending out 2 hour drive time. There was a whole tonne of shit that extended our day. Our simple, “Get the cat unpacked into the bathroom upstairs, and get everyone’s basics unpacked and bedrooms set up before 10 pm” plan was WAAAY off. I stayed up until almost 2 am because I’m fucking stubborn and wanted the bed frames set up and sheets on the beds. And this had all been carefully planned to be done by 10 pm AT THE FUCKING LATEST!!!
Basically, plan for the worst first. Pack one bag as a weekend bag: all the things you’d pack for a weekend away at your folks’ place. Throw in anything you seriously are worried about too. My grandma always put a special wedding bracelet in her bag, because it was supposed to be passed onto every woman in our family on her wedding day. I used to pack my laptop; now that I use a desktop computer I backup everything to an external and pack that along with my iPad and chargers for EVERYTHING. Then, back extra shit you know you’d need for the next day or two in the FIRST box. You know you’ll need a shower, need to wipe your ass at some point, maybe need a fucking drink or four, so pack all of that in there. I like to pack snacks, cat food (for Bowser, not for me), a fresh flannel shirt (it’s calming, I’m Canadian), a book, and enough caffeine and coffee for a week’s worth of Irish mornings.
#3.1: Pack Shit Up Logically
Everyone has their own methods. I’m not here to give you 97 different methods of packing up to move to a new apartment. You want to know what I do, or what I want to do, you read my fucking blog. Don’t like my advice? Tweek it, or look for some more advice online somewhere.
From what I’ve found through my dozens of moves (both my own and helped) is that colour coding really helps if you’re moving somewhere with multiple rooms. Moving into a dorm? Just pack like shit with like shit, label the boxes, and you’re done. Have shit going to the kitchen, living room, bathroom, and possibly multiple bedrooms? Use a different colour Sharpie (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) to designate rooms. Red is the kitchen, blue is the bathroom, purple is the living room, and so on. You can even grab a piece of bristol board from the dollar store in each colour and throw it on the wall or door (whatever you would see first) so everyone knows where to go. And fill people in on your colour scheme: you never know when a colour blind person is amongst your helpers, or someone just didn’t notice the blue paper outside the bathroom and decides to put a box in storage.
Don’t want to colour code for whatever reason. Then just label the shit out of your boxes! “Beth’s room, last door on the right” gets rid of any confusion as to where shit goes. Even labeling something a little more than just “kitchen” can make a world of difference. “Kitchen – spices”, “Kitchen – bulk foods”, “Kitchen – shit to eat off”…. all of these little add-ons to the box label make your life just a tad bit easier. Chances are you’ll want shit to eat take-out pizza off of before you want your 10lbs bag of rice.
#3.2 Check Your Fridge and Freezer — Before AND After
So when we first left my home town, my aunt decided there was no possible way we could leave behind all the veggies in the massive vegetable garden in the back yard. Seriously, this thing was bigger than the room I pay almost $400 a month for in a shared house. We had corn, three types of peppers, cucumbers, pumpkins, tomatoes, potatoes, radishes, lettuce…… picture the world’s biggest salad bar, and we could fucking stock it.
My aunt decided we need tomatoes as memorabilia.
So, she took those tomatoes and threw them in the cooler with the frozen food left from the freezer in the kitchen. Her job for the move was “cleaning supplies and food”, and she was on top of things. When we moved stuff into the kitchen, she started putting food into the fridge and freezer to keep it from going bad. Those fresh tomatoes went into the freezer.
Months later, when I (the oldest of three) was babysitting, we found half a dozen rock hard frozen tomatoes in the freezer. The only logical thing to do was to whip them at each other. We had a frozen tomato fight until I whipped one really hard and high, hitting the low-hanging beam in the kitchen. I fucking dented the metal studs on it with a tomato.
When my parents finally noticed the damage (a few years later), they asked what the hell I hit the beam with to cause such a big dent.
“One of Judy’s frozen tomatoes from the garden”
When we left that house, they fucking took inventory of EVERYTHING. They knew what was coming out of the freezer, and exactly what would be going back in. There were no stray tomatoes freezing into rock hard murder spheres at this house. There also were no forgotten chickens hanging on a hook on the wall by the basement freezer (dad did this once when I was a kid. Took us weeks to find where all the flies were coming from, since I was the oldest and couldn’t climb up on the freezer to see what was behind it). Keep track of your food, all of it.
In the week or two leading up to the move, stop buying food as much as possible and just eat what you have (I try to do this once or twice a year, just because I tend to stock up on shit when it’s cheap and then run out of room in the kitchen). Eat as much of your frozen food as possible. Treat yourself to frozen pizzas from last month’s sale for breakfast on Saturday. Eat frozen corn with every meal for a week. Whatever the hell you have to do, do it. I like to make stew, chili, and soup with just whatever is laying around the kitchen. It’s a hell of a lot easier to transport, keep track of, and unpack three or four Tupperware containers of chili and stew than it is making sure your massive fucking collection of chicken breasts stays cold enough to not thaw on moving day.
If you’re moving in with roommates and you all do your own grocery shopping, then it might be a good idea to inventory EVERYTHING. Like, write down what food you’re bringing into the house with you, so you no one “accidentally” takes any of it while you’re unpacking. I had a roommate who would take my food “accidentally” all the time. She even had the nerve to steal my cheese (repeatedly) and use it to make dinner for “everyone”, meaning she made tacos and shredded all of my new brick of cheese to hide in the back of her fridge for when she wanted it. I did what any rational, normal adult would do in that situation: I wrote a passive-aggressive poem about my cheese running away (which I just spent a good hour digging through old notebooks looking for), and left it on the fridge for her.
#4: Pay Your Fucking Movers
Most people use their friends to help them move. The universally acceptable method of payment for helping a friend move is pizza and beer. You don’t have to get all fancy with craft beers, but don’t pick on the vegetarians for wanting no meat on their pizza. You’d be a real asshole if your friend busted his ass all day moving your shit, and you piss all over him for his food choices. Unless he wants mayonnaise or pineapple on his pizza, shut your damn mouth and fill his with copious amounts of ‘za.
#5: Unpack Your Shit Logically
Now, after you spend all that time with the colour coding, and the “First” box, and an overnight bag, don’t fuck it up now. Get your bed set up. Put your furniture where you want it. Then start unpacking the stuff you’ll need first. Get your clothes in the closet, the food in the cupboards, and cleaning supplies under the sink. Plug in the coffee pot, and put the coffee grinds and filters by it. Get anything you’ll want to use early the next morning out of the boxes and on the shelves.
Don’t start with your books, or DVD collection, or anything that will take time to sit down and organize because it’s on display. Yes, your shit is going to look pretty rad once it’s all unpacked. But things like eating and properly caffeinating are a bit more important deciding if you’ll group your DVDs by genre, alphabetically, or by colour. Maybe get things like your closet and your kitchen set up first. Then you can curl up in your nicely unpacked clothes, make a drink in your unpacked glasses, and work on your stuff.