The 5 Ps of Moving

Moving sucks. It really does. Just in general, it’s a sucky thing that usually involves a lot of stress, heavy lifting, expenses, and anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, it’s exciting, too (given the reasons for moving). The thought of relocating to a new place, starting a new life, beginning a new chapter in your life – these are all things to get your juices flowing, as they should. But the physical act of getting there sucks.

There are ways to make moving easier, and when you have to move quickly at a moment’s notice, you need all the help you can get. I’ve broken the steps to moving quickly into five steps (seen here as “The Five Ps”): Preparing, Procuring, Purging, Packing, and Panicking.

Preparing

It’s hard to know where to start when you have short notice. There’s so much that you have to do and figure out that you’ll want to just take a nap and do nothing. This, of course, isn’t the best idea, given the circumstances, so here’s what you should do instead:

  1. Do give yourself some time. Spend the day you actually accept the job offer celebrating. Don’t think about anything moving related or you’ll just overwhelm yourself. Take the day to be excited and congratulating yourself. You deserve it. But starting the next day, you need to get to work.
  2. Know your timeline. Given you’re moving for a job, when is your start date? Put that date in big red letters somewhere and have a countdown going. You’ll be working backwards from here. Do best do this, make a big calendar of every day you have until then. Put it all on one piece of paper for easy access and perusal.
  3. Make a list, check it twice, and then again. This is going to be one of the most extensive lists of your life. Write down everything that needs to be done between now and your start date. Include last meals with friends and family members, days strictly devoted to packing, your apartment move-in day (see: Procuring), one last haircut with your favorite stylist, filling out change of address forms (do these as soon as possible), everything. Write these all into your handy-dandy calendar. That way you won’t run out of time and have to cram everything into your last couple of days while you’re finalizing your apartment, picking up your moving truck, and trying to get out of town.
  4. Know your funds. How much is it actually going to cost you to move? This includes the rental truck, the gas to get there (for the truck and for your car, if you have one), the potential cost of boxes, costs to move into your apartment (See: Procurement), and anything you’ll need to buy before your first paycheck such as groceries, living necessities (ie: toilet paper, trashbags, etc.), and work clothes. Don’t skimp; in fact, overestimate the total cost. Ask yourself how you’re going to pay for it. Is your new job going to give you any relocation funds? Can you get any sort of deal from your apartment? Can your parents help you at all? Can you swing the costs yourself? The answers to these questions are essential to a successful move. You can’t go anywhere if you can’t afford it.

Procuring

You can’t move somewhere if you have no where to move to. But how can you find an apartment quickly? And how can you find the perfect apartment? You start as soon as you possibly can.

  1. Make a list of things you want in an apartment and things you need in an apartment. We decided that we needed a washer and dryer in the unit, a porch of some kind, a full bathtub, and a dishwasher. If an apartment didn’t have these, they weren’t worth pursuing. Also set a price point (a range is even better) and ideal size (studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, etc.) that you’d want to live with. Also ask yourself the question: Is it worth springing for the bigger/nicer place, or should I go low in my budget and save up to move in a couple months? Figure out your own priorities and start looking.
  2. Do you research. Look at all the apartments in your area that meet all your standards. Then start narrowing own areas you’d want to live in. The town we just moved to is home to a huge state university with a huge alumnae and fanbase. Since we didn’t want to deal with the commotion of football season, we knew we wanted to live farther away from campus. Some cities are big enough that they’ll have established neighborhoods that have different personalities. A Google search can help you figure out what personalities jive with you better than others. Also look at accessibility. How close are grocery stores? Where’s the closest bus stop? Are their bike trails and parks nearby? And most importantly: what’ll your commute to work be like?
  3. Start calling. I know, I know, just filling out an application online or even shooting off an email would be a lot less anxiety-inducing, but, in this situation, the sooner you can talk to someone, the better. Online applications can take up to a week or longer and you’ll want to as soon as you can that they actually have a space for you in the next couple weeks. So call. And if you call and something sounds promising, first write down the agent’s name and direct line, and ask them, ultimately, what it would take to get you into that apartment. What is the soonest they would have a vacancy? How does their application process work? Is there any kind of application fee (there usually is to cover your background check – ours were $45 each)? How much would the security deposit be? Is both first and last month’s rent due? When are those due? Add these all to your to do list and list of expenses.
  4. Make sure to tell them that you have to be in as soon as possible. If you’re from out of town, tell them that, too, so they know all correspondence until you move in will be via phone and email. Be upfront with them about everything to make things go as smoothly as possible. They’ll make it work for you if they know what you need. They want your business, after all.
  5. Respond to any correspondence with apartment agents as soon as you can. Did they send or direct you to their application? Fill it out and send it back as soon as you can. Did they email you about anything? Read it and reply quickly. The faster you can get the ball rolling, the better off you’ll be.
  6. Once you’ve landed an apartment, put the move in date on your calendar and work backwards from there. Book the truck so that you’ll have enough time to actually fill it and get there in time. If you can swing it, pick it up and pack your stuff in the night before. It’s worth it so you’re not rushed on your move in day and your body has time to rest between hauling times.
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Purging

Taking time to really and thoroughly go through your stuff before it gets thrown willy-nilly into boxes is essential. If you’re moving from your parents’ house, trust me, there’s going to be things that you come across that you don’t need to take with you to your next place.

First, you’ll want to make three piles (you can probably guess them): trash/recycle, donate, and keep. You’ll also want to keep in your mind the mantra, “When in doubt, throw it out.” Really, just get rid of it. None of this, “But what if I happen to need it for this one thing.” Trust me, you won’t. And if you do, that’s what thrift stores are for. You won’t need your prom dress (instead, consider one of these organizations), you won’t need that fondue pot that your cousin handed down to you, and you won’t need any of the 50-cent VHSs that you got from Goodwill if they’re on Netflix.

Really go through your clothes, too, and get rid of anything that you haven’t worn in six months, except for seasonal wear. Also get rid of anything that doesn’t fit you (one pair of goal jeans aside), unless you’re actively in the process of trying to fit into them. Most clothes can be donated, unless they’re way beyond repair.

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When I moved, my biggest problem was random little things that I had kept around for sentimental reasons. A lot of these are just fine to keep, really, but make sure that you’re keeping them for the right reasons and you are actually attached to them. Evaluate the sentimental value of those types of objects and ask yourself why each thing is important. I’ll let you decide what’s important and what’s not, but I do want to challenge you to be completely honest with yourself on why you’re keeping something simply for attachment reasons.

Once you’ve purged your hoard down to the things you really want and need, you can start packing it all up.

Packing

If you’re in the right mood, packing can go quickly or slowly. Boxes will fill up fast, but you will get distracted by things you find, and you will leave a mess in your wake. You will go through moods where you want to pack everything and leave right then and there. You will go through moods where you’re sick of everything you own and just want to buy all new stuff. It’s a balancing act that you’ll be a master of by the time you’re done.

For packing, I highly recommend plastic storage bins, if you can swing it. My in-laws had a massive hoard of storage bins from their move a year ago, so we raided it for our things. They stack easily, are less likely to collapse, and are sturdy enough to last through your drive. But they are expensive and may be an unnecessary expense at this time in your life. You may even consider a service like FrogBox that allows you to rent plastic storage bins at a reasonable price – it’s good for your budget and the environment.

If plastic isn’t in your budget, regular cardboard boxes work just fine as well, especially if you find relatively new ones. Some of my boxes were on their third or fourth use, so they barely made it and were held together with too many layers of packing tape. There are places to get free ones, if funds are a little tight. Checking in with grocery stores is always an option, especially bigger places like Costco or Walmart. Check in with your local liquor store as well.

You can also – and bear with me on this one – dig them out of dumpsters. Do be careful if you’re doing this: make sure that the boxes are clean and free of any stains or water damage, don’t hurt yourself in the process, and make sure you’re not trespassing. Dumpster diving is tricky and risky and I would only recommend it if you’re really desperate. It’s not as glamorous as Portlandia would like you to believe.

When wrapping your stuff, use newspaper, it’s cheap and easy to get a hold of. Plastic bags also work well. Be sure to also stuff newspaper in the little nooks and crannies of your boxes so everything’s tight and secure.

Getting down to it, there are two really important things to packing:

  1. Label everything – and I mean everything, especially important random things that you know you’ll want quick access to. Be sure to note what room you want it to go in, as well.
  2. Have a staging area for completely packed boxes. The second a box is full and taped up, get it out of the way. This will keep you from getting overwhelmed by the mess.

You’ll want to start with rooms that you don’t use as often and go from there. This is where you’re handy dandy calendar will be helpful. Write in what days you want to pack what rooms. If you need your desktop computer (or something else equally important) until the last day, keep it up until then, but pack up everything else around it that you can. Make it so those last things really are the last things. In regards to the kitchen – it’s best to concede early and settle that you’ll have more than a couple meals that will be take out. Those take-out meals will also be a good time to relax for a little while when the panic starts to set in.

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Pro-tip: Start early and give yourself ample time. It may take two to three days to properly go through and pack a single room. Don’t assume you’ll be able to knock it out in one quick evening.

Panicking

It’s hard to not talk about the emotional side of moving. You’ll go through many different emotional states through the process, all of which are normal, expected, and temporary.

Denial – You will go through periods where you can’t believe your move is real and forget that it’s happening. This can be the most dangerous state as it leads to procrastination and inaction. Get out of it as quickly as you can.

Bewilderment – This is that overwhelming sense that you have so much to do but just want to take a nap because the mere thought of doing everything leaves you exhausted. You’ll have a look of shock on your face for a couple days when you’re first getting started, but once you cross a couple things off your list, you’ll be okay.

Determination – These are the moods that you really want to take advantage of. These moods will drive you to pack up a whole room in an hour and get things done. But make sure that your productivity is properly directed. If you’re spending it re-writing your to-do lists or trying to get through the last couple days of Tumblr you’ve missed, it may be time to move on to something else.

Impatience – There will be more than a few times where you reach a point of utter frustration and anger that everything’s not done yet. You’ll think, “I can’t wait until next week when I’m moved in and I don’t have to worry about packing ever again” and start aggressively packing things just to get them done faster. I know this feeling all too well, trust me. Instead of only having the moments of peace in mind, tell yourself that in order to get there, this stuff has to be done and the better it’s done, the easier next week will be.

Anxiety – While this is related to your bewilderment mood, it’ll show up closer to your move date and, instead of sending you to an early naptime, will put you in a corner, rocking back and forth. These are the feelings that nothing’s going to get done in time and everything will go downhill. Your mind will reel, taking you through the motions of “if I don’t get everything packed up, I won’t be able to move, and I’ll lose my job and end up living in a cardboard box for the rest of my life.” If you reach this point, give yourself five to ten minutes to chill, decompress, drink some water, and re-evaluate before jumping back into it.

Apathy – And then you’ll reach points where you don’t care anymore. You’ll want to just jump in your car and drive off into the sunset, leaving everything behind and starting a new life with a whole new identity. You’ll lose attachment to anything and won’t be able to commit to what you want to do. This is as dangerous as denial as it also breeds a lack of productivity.

Acceptance – This is where you’ll really find your stride. It’ll be a time of realization that you just need to power through, despite everything, and just get it done. This is the best mood to be in because it’s also the most long-lasting and productive.

Moving is a beast, but it is a beast that can be tamed. Moving quickly is harder to control, but if you keep going through the stages, you’ll be able to do it successfully, I promise.