Moving and preparing to move can be stressful, exhausting, and a bumpy ride on an emotional rollercoaster. Accept that there will be some separation anxiety and fluctuating. Plan for it. The following is a series of suggestions to make the process more productive and less stressful.
Start now and take your time! Build in enough time to change your mind throughout the culling process. Rule of thumb: estimate the time you think it will take to get everything organized, sorted, and so on, and then multiply by two.
Purchase a planning/organizing notebook, a calendar with fat boxes to write in, and file folders just related to the move: for the current home, the new home, movers, storage companies, etc. Allow enough time (for delays and cleaning) between your departure and the new owner/tenants arrival. In the notebook, put the master lists of contents (for example, living room box 1 = Chinese curios, reading lamps, brass holder for kindling) and only mark the boxes with the name of the room to go to and box number. This saves time and saves bending over to write on the boxes. Clear a corner in every room to stack boxes as you work.
Decisions, decisions, decisions.
Take measurements of your new home, sketch a floor plan on legal paper or larger and use an easy scale, such as ½” for every foot. Take pictures of the rooms in the new place to help you visualize what you will need, how your belongings will look in your new home. Are the rooms larger or smaller than your current home? Are the walls usable or do the windows and doors preclude much furniture?
Knowing what you will need in your new home will help determine what you take from the current one. Wilma Willis Gore emphasizes the value of distinguishing needs versus wants and identifying what is essential rather than sentimental.
Once you begin sorting, create three initial piles/stacks and mark as follows:
A. Absolutely keep
C. Don’t want or don’t use anymore, which then becomes one of three action groups:
1. Donate to charity or sell via eBay or yard sale
2. Give to someone else (relative, neighbor, friend)
3. Put in the trash
Give yourself several different blocks of time to sort and make decisions. Many years of collecting have gone into your belongings and stuff. “Decide in haste and repent at leisure.”
If decades of accumulation is too overwhelming, the National Association of Professional Organizers (www.napo.net ) can help you find a professional organizer in your area.
Set aside chunks of time (minimum two hours at a time) so you don’t just get started and have to stop for other commitments.
Upsizing? Taking this time to clear out gives you the opportunity to find new items and create new memories from the experiences you will have in your future home. The 19th century British craftsman and designer William Morris believed that you should, “Have nothing in your homes which is not beautiful or useful.”
Identify possessions that lack a close association versus cherished pieces of furniture.
While you are sorting, be sure to take breaks, eat, even indulge in delivered pizza.
Key questions from Moving On to ask when sorting:
Am I throwing this out because I really don’t want it or because I don’t know what to do with it? Will I use this item? If I throw this out, will I or my children regret it? Am I the caretaker for all our family stuff?
ORGANIZE! Prevent feeling overpowered by the task of sorting. Start with one room and use the MBA approach of breaking tasks into bite-size pieces. Designate specific rooms or areas for the various groupings (save, uncertain, don’t want).
When sorting, gather like items and then keep the best. (I found that I somehow had collected five hammers.)
Distinguish memory box material (year books, wedding pictures, first dog) from utilitarian compared to “stuff.” Hetzer and Hulstrand claim “You can keep the memories even as you let go of the items.”
Believe it or not, the process can bring first a sense of relief, then accomplishment, and finally freedom from “stuff.”
Put truly private and personal things in a special place.
Organize photos and mementos... Archival containers might be appropriate. Sources: www.gaylord.com , www.metaledgeinc.com , www.universityproducts.com and Conservation Resources International at 800-634-6932.
Set a completion date and decide what your reward will be for completing the project. Something you want and don’t ordinarily do, such as tennis lessons or a full body massage, a night at the Ritz-Carlton, etc. But don’t let the creation of perfect albums keep you from sorting and making decisions.
Moving On suggests a list of steps to use to protect your memorable items. Use:
§ Main part of the house (not the attic, garage, or basement)
§ Clean hands, cotton gloves
§ Acid-free papers, unbleached muslin, Tyvek, inert plastics (cellulose triacetate,
§ Mylar polyester, polyethylene and polypropylene)
§ Filtered glass that screens our ultraviolet light
§ Careful handling
Also consider hiring a professional to transfer your memories to DVD, VHS cassette, or CD ROM. This saves your memories while greatly reducing space.
Even if you are not moving immediately, organizing the family photo albums and nursery school art projects will give you an incredible sense of satisfaction. If the thought alone is overwhelming, Creative Memories can help you preserve your memory box material (www. creativememories.com).
For your old home, especially if this is a home of many years, hire a professional photographer to capture your favorite parts, the tree your children climbed, that showcase garden, the kitchen where you learned to cook.
In addition to the practical, such as a sofa to sit on, we all need comfy things to make a place feel like home. For you, what makes a place feel like home? Take those things with you and stay firm about your comfort needs. If the list is too lengthy for your new space, prioritize and pick the top ten items most important to you.
If all else fails, consider a storage rental- especially for items that may not physically fit or match your new décor, but you can’t part with yet. Then they don’t clutter you new home but still are yours. Hetzer & Hulstrand pose these questions: Does this have practical value? Sentimental value? Are the conditions in the storage space appropriate for your belongings? Do you have a plan for the items? Do you have a specific time frame in mind to deal with those items? How will having more time help you?
The American Moving and Storage Association (www.moving.org) provides storage information.
Don’t want or use anymore
1.Yard Sales- Your librarian can identify some of the better books available on the best way to run a yard sale. The benefit is some cash and getting your excess carted off. The negative is the work involved and strangers at your home picking over your
belongings. Another option is selling on eBay. Marsha Collier’s eBay for Dummies is a good place to start before you decide if eBay is appropriate for you.
Consider asking a charity to pick up your items no longer needed and taking the tax deduction. (Don’t forget to itemize a list and get a signed receipt.) Fair market value is the price an item would sell for publicly, which is approximately 40% of the insurance value. Insurance value is the replacement cost. Another method is to take 25% or less of what you paid for an item- a more conservative approach.
Charities that will pick up clothing and furniture:
Salvation Army www.salvationarmy.org
Big Brothers/Big Sisters www.bbbsa.org
St. Vincent de Paul www.svdpusa.org (go to Stores)
Books for America www.booksforamerica.org will distribute to VA hospitals and other groups. Use www.amazon.com to sell individual books, and www.elephantbooks.com for collections.
2.“Find creative and joyous ways to give away your possessions” Moving On
The items you are ready to pass on –consider giving them now. You can visit the items and every time your daughter or your nephew uses your dishes, you grace the table. Identify which relatives or friends will cherish your precious possessions – and ask yourself if they could benefit now from your gifts. Avoid the male/female trap: allow your son to give his daughter your crystal collection and a niece to receive your golf clubs.
With the family home, develop an overall plan, communicate that plan to your friends and family, and set the ground rules for belongings.
Ask if anyone has a special request- you might be surprised who treasures what. For your peace of mind, you might establish one condition: family items stay in the family. While relatives can start to search out options for you and make suggestions, you make the final decisions. Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate? is a handy workbook for these types of decisions. Disputes only arise when people care. To reduce conflict, whatever you decide, let the whole family know. Remember that the stories around the family pieces are as important as the possessions.
If your relatives are out of town, photographs sent through email can refresh your relatives’ memory and let the family know what you want to give to each of them.
Stories and photos are far more valuable to children, grandchildren and other relatives than possessions. Everyone has a different experience of an event. E-mail allows all the family to share stories.
Essentials: be sure to have sealing tape, removable duct tape, and extra blankets and small rugs to wrap around delicate furniture, if you are not using a professional mover.
For safety’s sake, use the post office postcards and forms for friends and subscriptions but put them in envelopes so the curios don’t see your information/move dates. Be pleasant to the new owner/ tenant and give them your new address – so that once the post office six month forwarding order expires, key items find you.
PS. The post office permanent change of address is effective for 12 months.
Add pets to the equation – moving and their comfort- put new address& phone tags on them before you move- and help dogs learn the new scent of the new home and keep cats in an enclosed territory for three days to acclimate. Take pictures in case the pets escape in the first few days at your new home. However tattered, take your pets' beds with you to your new home- they need comfort too!
Tips: Do not turn off the utilities at your old location until the day after your move is scheduled and arrange for the utilities at you new home 1-2 days before you move in. That way workmen, lost movers, and others can reach you.
To help you get new services established, request the Yellow Pages from your new neighborhood. For post-moving follow-up, take a copy of the current neighborhood phone book with you to the new locale. Arrange phone referral service for your former number and ask if it can be renewed and for how long.
Pack what you use least often first. And pack last what you use daily or almost daily (because unpacking may take more time than you think at the other end). Books are a good place to start and less emotional than other items for many people.
A good way to keep what you use regularly at hand: imagine the alarm clock has just gone off- what do you need to shower? Grooming essentials? Standing naked, what do you need? undergarments, slacks, sweater, and at the end of the day- pajamas. What medications do you take daily? Pack as if going away for a long weekend. Remember comfy clothes for both ends of the move. Don’t forget to leave cleaning materials for either you or a crew to close up your current home. Keep toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates and paper cups for the last day or two.
Movers can pack your computer – but you must save or hire someone to save your valuable data on diskettes or zip drives or memory sticks. Often the computer department of you local community college has people who will help for a reasonable fee.
Insurance- because things in life do happen. Verify with your movers what they will cover and what they must pack to insure (often delicate china).
Plants will not survive a moving truck – and water them when you arrive, not when you leave.
At your new home, who will be there to receive the movers? And before you pay them- check to make
Sure the van is empty or delegates that task to a trustworthy one.
Often forgotten: to register to vote in your new community. This is especially important if key local issues are on the ballot.
A period of your family’s life in that home is ending – mourning that passage frees you and your family to embrace your new home and the ensuing changes.
Sources: Just Pencil Me In, Your Guide to Moving and Getting Settled After 60
by Wilma Willis Gore, Quill Driver Books, 2002.
Moving On, A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home
by Linda Hetzer & Janet Hulstrand, Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2004.
The New Retirement, The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life
by Jan Cullinane and Cathy Fitzgerald, Rodale, 2004.