The holidays were a blur for me, and not for the usual reasons. I recently moved into a temporary 7-month rental while we do some much-needed home renovations to our home. And oh boy, after 13 years in one spot, was it a doozy of a move.
Not only did I have to pack up an entire life accumulated through the birth of my two children (i.e., the years when you have no time to organize, purge or clean anything thoroughly), but I also had to be a present parent for two kids who were leaving the only home they’ve ever known.
So, yeah, there was a lot going on.
Through the process — learning from the things I did wrong and a few that I did right — I gleaned quite a few simple, but total sanity-saving tips for moving homes when you’ve got kids.
And I couldn’t be more thrilled to be sharing my moving tips for families on behalf of our sponsor — and my moving company of choice — FlatRate Moving.
Praise hands emoji!
The truth is, there is no way in the world that my husband and I would risk nearly all of our worldly possessions on behalf of a brand partnership. With all due respect to our excellent roster of brand partners! It was our personal research that was the number one factor in making a decision to go with FlatRate.
When I learned that FlatRate offered some truly lifesaving services, had a stellar reputation among friends and family I spoke to, and displayed reliable professionalism from our very first phone call, FlatRate was the obvious choice for us.
PS I couldn’t be more relieved that they will be moving us back home again…in August. But that’s another story.
Here’s the tips I learned through the process of moving with them, and I really hope they help you! Because we all know moving is stressful enough.
1. Take the opportunity to clean house… like, really purge.
The absolute hardest part of my move was the fact that like so many people I know, I used it as an opportunity to go through everything we own.
I had no choice, really. I refused to move things we didn’t want or no longer needed into a new home, and so I embarked on the deepest of all deep purges. Like, Konmari times a million.
In the end, we literally filled an entire room with boxes and bags of stuff for donation from furniture and decor, to toys, clothes and book.
While the process was long and painful, I cannot tell you how relieved I am that we did it.
Even better? Everyone in my family agrees.
My Home Purge Tips:
– Plan in advance and give yourself plenty of time. I started weeks before it was time to start packing which allowed me to feel (fairly) relaxed with enough time to think, organize and plan.
-Begin with the deep storage stuff in files, closets and drawers. That means important documents, kids’ art, sentimental family artifacts, old files or memorabilia.
-Move onto the stuff with less emotional resonance so you can be cut-throat about getting rid of it. That means board games, toys that haven’t been touched in ages, Pokemon cards under my bed that the boys had lost track of, clothes I haven’t worn in three years, books from college, Pokemon cards in the couch cushions that the boys had lost track of, and so on. (So. Many. Pokemon. Cards.)
The blue notes from my purge: storage, donation, pack. Everything had a place — and a ton was given away.
-Order items you’ll need like art storage tubes, file boxes (maybe even nice permanent ones if you’ve been living out of boxes), plastic storage boxes, and so on.
-Get yourself a good paper shredder so you can get rid of old bills, taxes more than three or seven years old.
-Obviously, use whatever system makes sense for you (like the Konmari method) and if you aren’t someone for whom organizing comes naturally, consider hiring a professional organizer. It may be worth it.
2. Give your kids meaningful jobs, and not just on move day.
Moving is very stressful for adults, and it’s very stressful for kids, too. No matter how old your children, they’re likely soaking up your stress in addition to feeling their own. Even very young kids have big emotions about change, even if they don’t show them right off the bat or can’t identify them on their own.
Involving children in your move and giving them a sense of agency throughout the process is important to helping them move through the complicated emotional landscape.
If you have older children, they can help you with the process of organizing and purging, though you may have to test the waters a little bit. I was honestly very surprised at how mature my 11-year-old son was when it came to going through his things. He really adopted a less-is-more attitude and was more helpful than I expected.
My 7 year old, on the other hand, came up with reason after reason to keep all of those aforementioned Pokemon cards when he caught me throwing them into recycling bags .(Damn that clear plastic!)
But I honestly believe your kid’s ability to help — or not — has as much to do with their personalities as it does their ages.
My little guy helped make labels while our FlatRate Movers organized what we’d be storing and what we’d be moving.
Ideas for Putting Kids to Work:
Jobs can be simple or complex depending on your child’s level of responsibility and readiness. Consider:
-Packing their own small backpack for the first night in a new house.
-Finding all of the toys under every bed and couch cushion.
-Helping to organize their own artwork, including helping to decide what to keep and what to toss (or photograph first!)
-Packing the pantry, the bookshelves, or other non-breakable items.
-Taking pictures to document the house before it’s packed up
-Designing moving announcements
-Setting up your change of address with the post office.
-Planning out their new room in the new home.
Whatever the job, be sure they know how helpful it is to have them pitching in. Oh, if they gripe about helping, don’t give in. It’s important for the whole family — including them — that they help. So put on those parent earmuffs, assign them a task, and know that despite the fact that they’d rather be on a tablet, know you’re doing the right thing.
3. Take advantage of your mover’s packing services! Do it!
If I had to pick one tip on this entire list as the most important, this would be it.
This is also the service that finally put my husband and I firmly in the FlatRate Moving camp; they are known for their professional white glove service, which proved to be competitively priced and an absolute lifesaver for two extremely busy working parents.
Look, I know it adds some money to your move. But I think if you can stretch your budget, this is totally 100% worth it. After all, moving is widely considered one life’s biggest stressors, right up there with coping with death and divorce. Throw in the kid factor during the mayhem of a move and you’ve got the makings of a parental nervous breakdown.
In other words, if your moving company offers help in the packing department, take it!
We were so happy to have the fantastic FlatRate Moving team pack and unpack our home, so we knew they’d be up on exactly where to put everything. So smart!
I know, I know — you can always ask friends or family for help. But having family around during an already stressful time (anyone have a mother-in-law who’s going to make comments about every little thing in your pantry?) can add to the burden. And frankly, they’re not professionals.
Being able to rely on paid pros makes life so much easier: no baggage, no favors, and if you pick the right movers, no watching over anyone’s shoulder for hours.
Best of all, it gave me time to spend more time with my kids when they really needed me most. And I needed them too.
About our sponsor
As the largest moving company in New York with over 25 years of experience, FlatRate Moving guarantees expertise, customer service, and accountability with their Moving Made Simple and Door to Door Full Service Storage services.
They offers an all-inclusive moving experience that truly eliminates moving day hassles — at least the ones having to do with packing and moving all of your belongings.
This way, you can be free to focus on your family.
4. Closure is important — make time for it.
Photo: Trinity Kubassek
Saying goodbye to a home is never easy. Even for us, and we were only moving a seven-minute walk away!
How you handle saying goodbye is really up to your family — there’s no one size-fits all solution. What’s most important though, is that you set aside that essential time for closure and give kids some choices.
Your kid may want to visit every single friend and neighbor in person to say goodbye. They may want to make cards for their friends and teachers, have weekly playdates with one pal at a time or plan a party or pizza night with all their friends at once — it’s up to your kids.
I really suggest you keep offering ideas for your kids to get some closure right up until the last minute, because plenty of kids won’t process the magnitude of the change for a while, and when they do, it can be hard. Even my little guy had a really hard time with goodbyes, and we’re only moving a 7-minute walk away. If you’re moving to a new town or new state entirely, that’s even bigger for kids.
Tip: Set up a Google form or an account on a site like Postable to collect addresses; and let your kid get involved in designing change of address cards or picking out a digital design to give to friends.
5. Set aside the night before your move for family fun.
Were we home, stressed, the night before our move? Nope!
The night before move day is just weird. Everything is packed up, the house feels strange, and there’s only one way to handle it: set a celebratory tone around embracing change.
We decided to spend the evening out of the house seeing a movie at the fanciest theater we could find in NYC (hello reclining seats and table service!) — but you can just go out for ice cream, or have a pizza picnic on your living room floor, or leave out a favorite family card game to play.
Whatever you do, just make sure that it’s a good time for all.
Besides, if you’ve gotten everything done in advance like I suggested, you can just relax and enjoy your time with your kids and try to avoid some of that night-before stress. Because you know the next day is going to be an exhausting one!
6. Loosen up on family rules on moving day.
Photo: Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash
Here’s how I think of it: what happens on moving day stays on moving day.
It’s quite possible that my boys played four hours straight on the iPad, which is pretty much unheard of in my house. If you have to ply them with lollipops and goldfish crackers, or plop them down in front of a streaming video, then you do what you have to do.
You are in survival mode and honestly, you will just need them happy…and out of the way.
By the way, I did not ask my kids for help during the move; their help all was put to use beforehand. Moving day is really for the grownups.
Tip: If you know your kids will be underfoot when they shouldn’t be, or asking for more tablet time than you’d like, consider getting them out of the house somehow. Call a sitter, a grandparent, a neighbor. As for us, I made I made afternoon plans for both boys to hang at friends’ homes — which is is where that friends and family favor was invaluable!
7. Unpack and set up your new home with intention.
Photo: Jerry Kiesewetter via Unsplash
Unpacking is a drag. Let’s just be honest here.
For this reason, I totally suggest seeing if you can afford having your movers extend an unpacking service to you. If your movers are as fantastic as FlatRate, they’ll be able to do this for you.
Here’s why I think it’s a massive help.
Even if you’ve successfully purged, unpacking is the one aspect of moving that can drag on — and nothing will make you feel less settled than having boxes around for months (or, ahem years) on end. Having professionals unpack for you means getting everything in a place — if not the exact right place — and all of the boxes, paper, and packing material out of the house within 24 hours.
That makes a massive difference.
With garbage, clutter, and boxes out of the way, with dishes in the cabinet, food in the pantry, and clothing in the closets, you can start to settle in, organize, and make your new house feel like a home — which will in turn help everyone, and especially the kids, feel more centered.
If you would rather not pay for unpacking help, I highly suggest you create your list of rooms and spaces that need to be set up and then prioritize them.
Your goal should not be having a “perfect” looking home, or even one perfect room at a time — but being able to run your routines smoothly. That’s what keeps kids feeling calm and settled, and ready to ease into a new routine with less friction.
For me, I knew that meant my main priority was not a common room, but youngest son’s bedroom. He needs that cozy, personal space to feel at home and function at his best.
(My older son, on the other hand, loves to travel and is super flexible about where he sleeps so I knew he could handle a few days in a bedroom that wasn’t entirely set-up.)
Our second priority? The kitchen! I am the food editor of Cool Mom Eats after all, and happy mama who can cook means happy family.
Your priorities are probably different and that’s fine. Maybe you need the space around the TV all ready, or the living room set up for socializing. Just try to acknowledge the needs of everyone in your family and you’ll know just what to focus on first. Especially because you can’t do it all at once. And that’s okay.
You’ll get there! Promise.
Thank you so much to our sponsor FlatRate Moving for making moving with families so (SO) much easier. If you’re moving in the NY area, I can’t recommend them enough.