I have gotten a few emails requesting information or tips on how to move from place to place without losing your mind. Like everything else, what works for me might not work for you, but since I have moved three times in the past three years, I thought I might have some insight to share.
Get your bearings. Your bearings are different than mine, but these are the points on a map that make you feel like you're at home regardless of where you are. Before I move to a new place, I sit at my computer, go to google maps, type in our new address and then figure out where my local post office is and where the nearest Target, hardware and fabric store are. I also figure out our closet grocery store and where there is a Trader Joe's. If I have those six places figured out, I am good to go for a least a few weeks. The other stuff - plant store, hair stylist, speciality shops, favorite restaurants - will come in good time with exploring. But "my bearings" I need to locate right away in order to feel like I am home.
Determine your unpacking priorities. The day you move into a new place you cannot set up every single room and have a fully functioning house, so you have to figure out your number one priority. For me, this is always the kitchen. If I get the dishes unpacked, the pantry stocked and food in the fridge, I feel like my head is above water. The rest of the house can stay in boxes while the kitchen gets completely unpacked. After the kitchen, I move onto my office. The way I like to work, it's difficult for me to sit at my desk and write a coherrent blog post or deal with email if a pile of junk is staring at me from across the room. My bedroom, other than having sheets on the bed, is not a priority. Having the TV set up is not a priority. Obviously, your priorities are going to be different than mine, but you have to know what your unpacking order is to help you stay sane.
Plan on donating a bunch before you move and after you move. About a month before we know we are going to move, I go through every single room and every single closet and purge. I'm ruthless with what stays and what goes and usually end up with a huge donation pile at the end of the month. I know from experience that there is nothing worse than unpacking a box at a new place and seeing junk you don't want. The most difficult part of this is mental and it's about getting over denial. It's hard to give up a dress you spent a lot of money on but that never quite fit right, but I promise it's worth it. I saw a great quote from Jordan Ferney on A Cup of Jo the other day - "When you have a small home, your stuff is worth more to you out of your house than in your house." Regardless of your home's size, I think this is SO TRUE. And I promise that no matter how much you get rid of before you move, you'll want to plan on another run to Goodwill once you get to the new place.
Change your addresses in one swoop. Before we move, I make a list of everyone that we pay each month for the household (gas, electric, insurance, internet, credit card, etc), everyone I pay for the business (typepad, e.junkie, stamp makers, etc) and everyone that pays me (paypal, affiliate programs, freelance projects). These are all the businesses that I have to get in touch with to switch out our addresses. Then, I plan on one long day of email and voicemail jail to get it all done. It takes forever and it's boring work, but if I know that going in, I am so much less frustrated. Obviously there are going to be a million more places that you have to make sure your new address is recorded, but if you have all the money transaction places taken care of, you'll be set for awhile.
Forward your mail. USPS.com makes it super easy to have your mail forwarded for up to a year after you've changed addresses. I go online about a week before we move and get the new address set up so I don't miss a day receiving mail. This is probably the easiest thing to do on this list. ;)
Plan on spending a lot during moving month. Our movers are hired through the military, so we do not spend a dime on actually transporting our household goods. This is a huge blessing and something I am grateful for. However, I have learned that our credit card bill the month of a move is usually way higher than normal. There are always hotel stays, new stuff to buy (last time it was appliances!), handy men to hire (this time it was an electrician and a locksmith), more meals out and more filing up the car with gas. I tend to cut back on spending the month before a move in anticipation of this and make a point to watch spending the month after.
Make the new house yours. I get a lot of questions about how I decorate (hang stuff, paint) in rentals and I don't really know how to answer the question because I just DO IT. I don't ask permission to put holes in the wall. I don't ask permission to paint. I just go for it. This is bad advice - I know. But here's the deal: Paul and I are great tenants. We're quiet, clean and pay our rent early. We don't cause trouble or ask for extras. And when we leave a space, we patch the holes in the wall and repaint where necessary. We also leave a really clean unit and in some cases leave new curtain rods and new shelving that enhances the space. The bottom line is, I don't think the owners or property managers really care what we do while we're there as long as the place looks as good as it did when we moved in. If you really can't do anything then use command hooks which are totally removable to display art. Hang tapestries with tiny nails instead of adding color through paint. Bring in bright rugs and bold accessories. Think outside the box or you will feel like you're living in one.
Believe it's worth it. We lived in San Diego the first time for 18 months. We lived in Oxnard for 15. By many accounts, this is a short amount of time to stay in one place and could be considered not long enough to really decorate or spend money on a space. Once upon a time, it was really frustrating to me that we'd be moving constantly with the military and I would always have to start over. "What's the point?" I remember lamenting to Paul. ELISE. I want to say now, Pull yourself together. The point is that FOR YOU, making a house a home is an important part of feeling like your life has stability. It's about being able to enjoy where you are even if it's for a short while. It's also a chance to experiment with your style and see what works (or doesn't work) for you and your family.
Remember that this move isn't something that's happening to you. This is just a mental framing thing, but it has helped me to remember throughout all of these moves (starting with that first one in 2007 when I moved to Maryland to live with Paul) that WE are moving. The move, even if we don't want to make it, even if it's to a place we don't really want to live, and even if we are leaving a place we really love, is still something WE are doing. A flood is something that happens to you. An earthquake is something that happens to you. A fire that destroys all your personal property is something that happens to you. A move to a different city, state or country? That is something you are doing. You get to make decisions about what furniture goes and what stays. You get to make decisions about where you can afford to live and what sort of neighborhood you want to be in. You get to evaluate the pros and cons of a long commute versus good schools. YOU are in control of this move, not the other way around. Keeping that perspective has helped me immensely, even though I realize we really won't get a final say in where we live until Paul is finished with the military.
I can say with certainty that moving across the country to live with Paul was the best decision I ever made in my personal life (starting the blog was the best I've made in my business life). Our three moves since have strengthened us as a couple and the fact that I have made two with him halfway around the world have empowered me more than I thought they would. Every single time we move it gets easier - not because we avoid setbacks, but because I am better equiped to deal with them now. Practice makes - well, not perfect - but certainly good.