Moving is stressful. A recent survey found that forty-five percent of us find it more stressful than divorce, more stressful than having children, and more stressful than sending those children off to college. The packing, the sorting, finding a mover, figuring out how you’re going to pay that mover – it’s all just right up there with contracting a major illness or injury, or losing your job.

I am in the middle of a move. The picture on the left is one corner of my apartment at the moment. I don’t have the heart to show you the rest – it’s just too depressing. It probably doesn’t help that I didn’t really want to move; it wasn’t my choice.

For the past five years I’ve been renting an apartment in Coquitlam. I like it – it’s near my kids – there are good walking trails and shops nearby. In Febuary, the unit was sold. They gave me four months notice, which I think was very fair of them, and that allowed me enough time to suss out a new apartment. It also gave me four months to lose sleep thinking about moving. One of those nights, unable to sleep, I counted all the moves I’ve made in my life. Thirty-two, beginning with the first one I can remember, when I was five. My life has been one long moveable feast, so when I tell you I’ve learned a few things along the way, you can assume you’re in the presence of an expert. Here are my seven moving tips, from years of moves that went wrong and some that actually went right:

  1. Start packing now. I mean, right now. The minute you’re told you will have to vacate your apartment/house/whatever, start putting things in boxes. The time will pass like that and if you don’t want to be up till three in the morning the day before the movers arrive, start now. I mean it.
  2. Don’t blow your budget on boxes. If you’re doing your own packing (I always do – it saves a lot of money if you do it propersly) get onto your local Facebook community group and put out the word that you’re moving and you need boxes. People are moving all the time and one of the most tedious tasks after moving is getting rid of the boxes. Flattening them, recycling them – it’s a big job and many people would be more than happy to have you come and pick up their empty boxes. Whatever you do, don’t buy someone else’s boxes. You’re doing them a favour by taking them, just as they’re doing you a favour by giving them to you. It’s called paying it forward and it works.
  3. Do invest in bubble wrap. Yes, you can wrap things in towels, sweaters, blankets and so on, but you’re going to run out of those things. Porcelain ornaments, good china, glass figurines – good old bubble wrap will keep them from getting broken. And you can let your grandkids pop the bubbles the next time they’re over. So much fun!
  4. Be ruthless. Do not let sentiment affect what you take and what you decide to get rid of. If something has sat in a box in your storage closet since you moved in five years ago, you do not need it. You are never going to use it. If it’s worth something, put it up for sale on Facebook Marketplace. Or give it away. You may not use it but somebody else might. And be reasonable: how many tupperware containers/jam jars/sandwich bags/twist ties/decorative coasters does a person really need? The answer is not many. Get rid of them.
  5. Make your kids take their stuff. I realize that it’s hard for young people to find room for the things they collected over the years, and it’s reasonable for them to assume that Mom and Dad will hang on to their comics, bikes, skateboards, and stuffed toys for a few years once they’re out on their own. But there should be a statute of limitations and I would say thirty is reasonable. Once they reach that age, it’s up to them to reclaim those items from their parent’s garage – or storage closet – and do with it what they will. Yes, they don’t have room but neither do their parents, in many cases. Unless you, the parent, have hung out a shingle offering your services as a Self-Storage Company, you should not be lumbered with the cost of moving boxes of things that belong to your grown-up children.
  6. Read the movers’ reviews. I’m an optimist by nature. I like to think that the moving business is populated by honest, well-meaning, capable men and women who have your best interests at heart. I like to think that when they give you a quote for moving your household effects they plan to keep to that quote as closely as is humanly possible. I also like to think they will always be careful with boxes marked “Fragile” and “This Side Up” and you will not open one of those boxes and discover shards of shattered glass that used to be a favourite objet d’art. However. I have moved often enough that I’ve learned to go online and check out every mover within a  twenty km radius and read every one of their reviews, keeping in mind that some people love to complain and even the best moving company will have an unhappy customer here and there. Forewarned is forearmed. Caveat emptor. And so on.
  7. Books. There are times when getting rid of your books feels like abandoning your children. Or your pets, at least. It’s no secret that books weigh a lot and they can take up a lot of room. Which makes them expensive to move. Give as many of them away as you can bear, especially if you don’t think you’ll read them again. Friends, family, used book stores. Some books are a lost cause: no one wants your old encyclopedias, or your textbooks from first year Chemistry. Depending on the age of the books, you may be able to donate them to your local library and there are some charities that will take them. Contact your local theatre group; they might want them as props for a play. If you have time, organize a yard or garage sale and sell them for cheap – I suggest fifteen to twenty-five cents for paperback, twenty-five to fifty cents for hard cover. But if someone is willing to take a pile of books, give them a deal for the lot. If none of this works and you end up having to recycle some books (the very word chills my spine in reference to books) remember, you can’t dump hardcovers in the recycling bin. You can only recycle the pages of the books, not the covers. So you have to remove the covers first and then recycle the leaves. The whole process is so exhausting I’m going to leave it there. And get back to my packing.