My number one tip for moving with kids, especially little kids is … don’t do it. But if you must, here are some ideas, learned the hard way as we moved from Virginia to Wisconsin last fall. (With a pit stop in Denver and six weeks in three different timeshares and did I mention my son was 2 and my daughter was six months?) Now that we are finally settling into our new house, I can reflect on what we did right and what we did wrong.
- Pack up the house while they’re asleep (especially their toys!) I don’t know why I kept trying to pack boxes while my toddler was awake wanting to unpack boxes, but it never worked. Leave one box of toys out until the very end, though, so that they always have something to play with.
- Ask for help with the kids, and lots of it. You need more help with the kids than with packing. If friends or family really want to serve you, ask them to entertain the kids in the part of the house you’re not packing. Or ask them to take the kids out of the house so that you can focus.
- Ask for help with packing, with a few caveats. If people want to help you pack, make sure you’re prepared with supplies and a specific category that you can delegate without micromanaging. Don’t ask them to pack family heirlooms or mementos if you’re just going to hover.
- Use color-coded duct tape. The best tip I received from a friend was to color code all of our boxes with duct tape. We were moving before house hunting, so I didn’t know what the new house would look like or how many rooms it would have, but I knew that I could safely label all boxes with my daughter’s items with red tape. Blue tape was for my son; yellow tape for the kitchen; and so on.
- Start months (not weeks) earlier than you think is reasonable. If it now takes twice as long to get out the door than before you had kids, believe me, it will take twice as long to pack up your house, no matter how small it is. I spent so many days inside our townhouse, stressed out to my eyeballs, because the days on the calendar were flying by but my hands were too full of kids to pack.
- Sell or get rid of items at night. Take Goodwill piles to the trunk of your car at night so that you can drop them off the next day without the kids seeing that one toy they never played with. Because they will decide it’s their favorite toy and you’re a monster for giving it away.
- Utilize online yard sale and mom’s groups. Through Craigslist and the Loudoun County mom’s group that I was a part of on Facebook, I was able to sell almost everything I wanted to get rid of just by leaving it on my doorstep, making about $800. Junk gone, money under the doormat. It’s a win-win!
- Pack each family member one suitcase. If you are facing extended temporary housing as we were, allow one suitcase per family member. I packed each child a small stand-up duffel bag with pockets on the outside and put them both into one suitcase, making it easy to separate their items and easy to find things on each temporary stop along the way.
- Have a few new and exciting surprises. Purchase a few new toys for the move and plan a trip to your favorite family restaurant for the very end in order to keep up morale. You may be sad about the good-byes, but there is still a new adventure in front of you.
- Say goodbye to your old house. On the morning of the move, after everything was out, my son wanted to go back into the house. I was going to tell him no, but then I realized that it might help him to take a final pass. So we walked through each room waving “bye-bye.” It was me that ended in tears, of course.
- Give yourself and your kids grace. Moving is psychologically disorienting and emotionally exhausting. I know two families with littles who moved recently and both say it took them about a year to fully recover. You need to find your grocery store, make new friends—and where are those flannel sheets? As one of my girlfriends said, my son’s things are in his new room, but it’s not his room, yet. That takes time.
Roberts is a freelance writer. She can be reached at www.lindseymroberts.com.
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