Over the last three years, I’ve moved alone with my four kids twice — once long distance, once pretty much right around the corner — and hey, I survived. And so did my kids. All of us with our sanity intact. Well, mostly. Of course, there were plenty of challenges, but there were a few simple tricks I picked up along the way to make the whole process a lot easier.
It’s too bad that at the time, I didn’t know about our newest sponsor CableMover, a free, customizable online resource that can help save you time, money, and some of the hassles that tend to accompany the whole moving process.
CableMover actually helps you create and customize your own free moving guide by choosing topics that are most important to you, whether it’s expert tips, helpful timelines, decorating suggestions, even checklists.
(I seriously lived and breathed by my checklists! So I know how valuable that is.)
So on their behalf, I’m really happy to have the opportunity to share my own tips with you for making a move with kids easier. If you’ve got a change of residence coming up, or know someone who does, hopefully my experience — painful though it admittedly was at times — can help make your own move seamless.
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1. Get the kids involved from the very beginning.
If you’re moving a family, then I think it’s essential to have your whole family involved from the start. With both of my recent moves, I got the kids together over dessert (which garners their attention way better than dinner, I’ve found) to talk about the changes ahead. Then, I allowed them to ask questions and share their feelings — whether they’re happy, excited, anxious, or sad.
It’s important for kids to know that all of their feelings are valid, whatever they are, and that you’re there to help them manage them.
Once you’ve broken the news, enlist their help based on age when it comes to the entire moving process. I’ve found letting kids browse through catalogs, websites, yes, even Pinterest over your shoulder helps them envision their new space and can give them a sense of ownership — whether it’s total redecoration or just picking out a new poster or a new set of sheets.
Each of my kids drew a picture of their new room, and while I haven’t yet constructed a giant slide that connects my son’s room directly to the kitchen (ha), I was able to get him the hockey wall decals he loved.
Kids can also help pack up their own stuff, and labeling boxes, or even scribbling pictures on them if they’re too young to write. I find if you can create positive experiences during the moving process, the transition for all of you will be significantly smoother.
And you know what’s really fun? Let them pick out the moving announcements, like this cute “Up, Up and Away” card designed by Penelope Poppy on Minted. Kids love anything that feels like a party.
2. Purge. Then purge again.
I always look at moving as a chance to start fresh, and even though I’m a high level purger compared to a lot of my friends (ahem, Liz), we all accumulate stuff that we probably don’t need. And so, instead of feeling overwhelmed by all the packing, look at it as an opportunity to cut down your possessions to only those things you really need and love.
Maybe a pre-move Konmari tidying session is in order for some of you?
Both times I moved, I actually did my purging in two stages. The first stage, or what I call, the light stage, took place early on, long before the movers were coming. This is when I simply cut down on items that I immediately knew I wouldn’t need.
The second stage, or the heavy stage, involved going deep through all those boxes, files and trunks throughout my closets and attics. This is the stuff you may have to think about more — maybe there are even books you’ve been dragging with you move to move to move since college. When you stop and think about it, you may be bringing it all with you out of habit and not necessity. This is the opportunity to purge it.
I find that by breaking up the purging, when you get to the actual packing process it will be far more manageable, whether you’re hiring someone to pack for you or you’re doing it on your own.
Important tip: You should gauge whether your kids can be involved in this process or not. I find it’s always a good lesson for my kids to learn about weeding out things they don’t use any more and donating them to kids who can use them. But I realize that parting with books, clothes and toys can be harder for some kids than others. You know your kids best, so if you think they’ll have a hard time, do the purging when they’re sleeping or away at school or other activities.
3. If you decide to save stuff, make sure it’s organized.
If there’s ever a time to actually get the stuff you are saving in order, this is it. If you’ve got those random boxes around your house that say “junk” or “papers” and you really do need to keep them (do you really need to keep them?), get a filing cabinet and find a place for them.
It’s also a great opportunity to go through your old photos, your kids’ artwork, yes, your CD collection, and figure out a better way to store and perhaps, display everything. You’ll find lots of services that will digitize all your old photos, like ScanCafe for example, which allow you to safely send over your precious photos (and videos, slides, you name it) and have everything turned into digital files.
If you’ve been accumulating CDs over the years, you can ship them off to sites like Murfie, which will digitize and store your music for you, allowing you to access it whenever you like. So smart.
When it comes to all your kid’s artwork, consider unique ways for displaying the very best pieces, and digitize the rest. We all are big fans of the Artkive app which lets you digitize and organize their artwork — or send a box of it to them and they’ll professionally photograph it and turn that artwork into cool keepsake books that take up way less space than the originals.
And here’s a unique way to “organize” your baby keepsakes: Turn them into a beautiful quilt. I had this done with each of my kid’s special blankets and clothing items, and I cannot tell you how glad I am that I did.
3. Ask for help. Don’t be shy.
If there’s any time in life that it takes a village, moving with kids is one of them. Although my most recent move was fewer than two miles away, I could not have done it without the help of friends.
Friends with a sense of humor.
So many of them were generous enough to offer help, and I not only took them up on it, but I asked for more. Really. I didn’t hesitate to call them up to see if they could spare a couple of hours to help me pack up my kitchen and that alone was a lifesaver.
However it may not even be the actual packing and moving and adult company that you’ll need help with. I was so thankful for friends and neighbors who took a couple of my kids for an afternoon playdate, or offered up a free night of babysitting so I could get out and breathe for a couple of hours.
Yes, sometimes the most essential part of packing is taking a break and not packing at all.
4. Speaking of packing, there is a method to the madness.
I actually didn’t have a lot of experience packing myself, since I hired professional movers and packers for my previous move. That meant when I had to pack for this most recent move, I made two huge rookie mistakes; though thanks to a smart friend, I quickly remedied before the movers came.
Turns out, they’re pretty common mistakes that can be easily avoided, so let my failures be your triumphs.
The first huge mistake I made was just buying super big boxes, thinking I could use fewer of them. As I soon learned, you rarely need big boxes. Not only are they harder to lift unless they’re filled with your bedding and your sofa pillows, but they require more items. That means you might feel obligated to mix items from different rooms to use up the space, which makes unpacking really annoying. Otherwise, you need to stuff them with packing materials to secure smaller items and that can be expensive and wasteful.
Instead, be sure to buy more smaller boxes for heavy items like books, files, collectibles, glass and small artwork, and save the bigger boxes for bedding, coats, and large, lightweight items.
My second rookie moving mistake was in how I labeled the boxes. Sure, I knew to write the room on them, but it really helps more detailed as to what’s actually in the box. While it takes a little more time, you’ll be so glad you did later. Now, all the boxes that ended up in my attic, for example, are very clearly labeled with “winter coats” and “girl size 7 hand-me-downs” so I won’t spend tons of time searching for those specific items in a few months.
But even stuff you’re actually going to use right away should be labeled well because it helps you if you need to determine what needs to be unpacked right away, and what you could leave sealed in a box for a few more days. (Or um, a week. Shhhh…)
Important tip: A smart new moving trend is to rent crates or bins rather than boxes, can be a more eco-friendly alternative. While companies like BinIt or EZBins are not available in all areas just yet, it’s worth looking into them or similar options.
5. Technology is your friend. In so many ways.
I’m not quite sure what I would have done without technology. (How did our parents ever move?) Of course, there’s the obvious use of tablets and smartphones to help keep the kids occupied when all their toys are already packed away and you still have an extra hour of cleaning or packing ahead of you.
As for me, I listened to my fair share of audiobooks and podcasts (Spawned, anyone?) while I was packing. It was great feeling like I had actually accomplished two things — both packing and getting through a book! Plus, you can use the computer to order stamps, order moving announcements, order new winter coats for the family when you’re moving from Atlanta to Philly. (Ha.)
Technology helped me in other ways too, like taking advantage of online options for mail forwarding; making billing changes quickly with all my service providers; even using companies that can help do a lot of the switching over for you, like our sponsor CableMover which is a totally free service.
Head over to their site, enter your new zip code, and they can help you disconnect the cable, TV, and phone service from your old house and even schedule an appointment for the day you want your new service connected. They can even connect you with the DMV in your new city so you can change your license easily — the kinds of things you often forget to do when you’re swamped with everything moving entails. And wow, there are a lot of packing tips on their site from experts.
Plus, you can find special cable offers in your new area right from the CableMover site. Handy!
6. Closure is very good. And very important for kids.
As hard as it can be to say good-bye — oof, it’s really hard — it’s so important that you have closure and give it to your children, too. Use your family’s own temperament as a barometer for whether you throw a fun “See You Later!” party or you just do quick door-to-door goodbyes around the neighborhood. Also be sure to leave time for your kids to trade phone numbers, addresses and emails with friends — and give them the space to feel sad if that’s the case.
Rituals are so essential to our human experience, and so I have found that in making cards, giving hugs, even throwing a little goodbye gathering, it really helps my kids to process the change in a more positive way.
7. Take your time putting together your new home.
They didn’t build Rome in a day, friends, so do yourself a favor and keep that in mind when you set out to unpack your new home. I’m the kind of person who wants to have everything unpacked and set up in one gigantic long sitting, and if you’ve got kids around, you know that’s nearly impossible. So temper your expectations and set a plan of attack.
I strongly suggest getting the essentials unpacked first — the kitchen supplies, bedroom boxes, the television (ha). Then aim for one room a morning, or heck, even one room a day if that’s more your pace. It will give you the time to get everything set up to your liking right off the bat and get organized from the start.
When it comes to the kids’ rooms, however, I’d put them at the top of the list, because if your kids feel happy and settled in, well, everyone is happy and settled in. Also, get them involved with unpacking the same way you do with packing; you’ll be amazed at how well even your preschoolers can help.
(They’re opinionated about everything else, so why should this be any different?)
Gorgeous handmade biplane shelf for kids’ rooms via upwarsaw on Etsy
While they might not be able to determine where the furniture should go, give them free rein to decorate with their knick knacks and collections, or tell you where they’d like their artwork. You might even pick out one new special piece that makes this new bedroom of theirs feel like something they want to come home to every day.
It is their new home too, after all And giving your kids the opportunity to make it feel that way will help all of you settle in before you know it.
Thanks to our sponsor CableMover for helping to make moving with kids (or without) a whole lot easier.
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