The worst thing about moving is having to hang shades in all those empty windows.
No, that's not it. The worst thing is not being able to find a knife to spread peanut butter because the silverware is buried somewhere in the mound of boxes still cluttering the kitchen.
No, it's changing the sparkle-plastic toilet seats you can't stand a minute more.
The worst list is endless. Everybody has horror stories about moving. Few have anything good to say, although one woman points out it's the only time your books get a thorough dusting.
"Picking up from one home and going to another is always a trauma," says Welby M. Frantz, who heads the American Movers Conference, a trade association representing most of the nation's largest moving firms.
Unpleasant though it may be, quite a lot of people must do just that. Every year one family out of five moves, some only to a neighboring apartment, others from one coast to the other, according to conference figures. And at least 60 percent move between May 15 and Sept. 15 while school is out.
My wife and I moved just the other day, leaving a ninth-floor Foggy Bottom apartment for an aging brick house in Northwest Washington. Friends joked that we had located ourselves conveniently near two stores that get a lot of business from new homeowners.
They were right. In our first week we made five trips to Hechinger's on Wisconsin Avenue and three to Sears. First it was the brackets to hang those shades, then a trash barrel and eventually a lawn mower, our first. While we were trying to bring some order to the chaos inside, the grass outside just kept growing.
The move itself went smoothly, perhaps because we had done a good deal of advance work. We did the packing ourselves and hired a well-known local mover to do the hauling. It was an eight-hour job (including travel time) for four men and cost $473, including an optional $38 for extra insurance. That was $2 under the estimate.
We had been offered two other options. The movers would do everyting for us, including packing, at a substantially higher cost. Or we could move all the small stuff ourselves, leaving only the heavy pieces for them. We took little more than small house plants and a few other items.
Once, years ago, I had moved myself in a rented truck with the help of friends . . . before the sofa, the book-cases,even most of the boots, the buffet, the desk . . .
Packing and unpacking is only part of Moving Day hassle. The movers had barely left when the parade up our fron walk began.
First, the rug cutters, who trimmed the living-room rug to fit around the fireplace and hearth. So we could get the sofa out of the hallway.
Because ours is an old house, it took two women from the phone company most of an afternoon drilling holes and laying wire to get phone service to the kitchen and upstairs. They were a wonderfully cheerful pair who probably didn't realize how they relieved us with comments on how sturdy our new purchase seemed to be. Maybe we hadn't blundered after all.
Then came PEPCO, Washington Gas Light, a heating oil salesman. Sears showed up to deliver a washer and dryer that wouldn't fit through the doorway. The deliverymen promised to return another day with more help to lower the machines down a backyard entrance to the basement.
Friends advised us to get the locks changed, so a locksmith spent one rainy afternoon with us.
We had made phone calls for weeks scheduling the visits so people wouldn't be tripping over each other. But we had a couple of unexpected visitors.
After all but electrocuting myself trying to hook up an electric stove and blowing out a fuse in the process (apartment dwelling doth not a handyman make), we decided to call an electrician. His visit cost $42 we hadn't counted on. He also was the third person to tell us we'll have to upgrade the electrical amperage. (This is when I began giving up a longtime dream about a backyard swimming pool.)
But the sting was softened when a neighbor woman dropped by with a lemon cake right out of the oven. It's the sort of thing apartment dwellers hear about, but don't believe ever happens.
But moving is never easy, even when it's only a few miles across town.
Chances are you've just gone through the legal and financial rigors of settling and are wondering now how you'll make the higher mortgage payments.
You've probably put a lot of work in the place you are leaving, and now you've got to start all over again. Even if the house is brand new, you've got all those pictures to hang.
When you go into the grocery store in the new neighborhood you don't recognize anybody and you can't find anything because the dairy counter isn't in the vack where it should be. And they won't cash your check because you don't have a card on file.
The bus schedule memorized over the years has to be forgotten. You're on a new route now.
But you cope and adjust, and some things you thought had to be done immediately can be put off until there is more time and more money.
One thing made it easier to get through our first week. On the day before the move (and just hours after we'd signed the check) we carried over a dozen red geranium plants and put them in two second-story window boxes.
When we drove up the next day just ahead of the moving van they were there to welcome us.
Professional movers offer these tips:
Book as far in advance as possible with a mover. Saturdays and the end of the month are their busiest days.
If you live in an apartment building, reserve the freight elevator. It can cost you money in waiting time if somebody else is moving the same day and using the elevator too.
If you are going to do the packing yourself start gathering boxes early.
Tie your clothes hangers in bunches of eight. It's easier to carry clothing to the car.
Pack plates and bowls on their edge in sturdy boxes. Paper plates make good plate separaters, and they can be used again for picnics.
Defrost your freezer and refrigerator and allow them to come to room temperature with doors open to avoid odor damage, particularly for long-distance hauls.
Carry jewelry, money, important papers and other valuables with you.
When you're packing, don't forget to check the attic, basement, garage and yard. They're often forgotten until the last minute.
Be on hand when your furniture is delivered so you can direct the movers on placing it.
Local moves are charged usually on an hourly rate. Anything you can do to cut the time (including rolling up lamp cords) saves money. Long-distance moves are based on the weight of your household goods, their value and the distance traveled. Selling or giving away unused or worn items cuts your weight and costs.
The American Movers Conference on Friday established a nationwide toll-free hotline for persons having questions or problems involving their move. The number is 800-336-3094 except in Virginia. In Virginia, call collect 703-524-7659.
Because moving may be a difficult time for children, the conference suggests that you:
Include children in the plans, for example, take them househunting. Talk to them about the move as a first priority.
Take them for a last visit to places the family is fond of, but also help them learn in advance about their new city or state.
Encourage them to exchange addresses with friends and let them make a long-distance phone call back to the old neighborhood "to relieve post-move depression."
Think about moving during the school term. The child may be able to make friends faster if he meets them right away in the classroom.