So you’ve decided to buy a new home? Congratulations! Fair warning, though: moving to a new house with children in tow is just as stressful as you think it will be. Just go ahead and admit it to yourself. Acceptance is the first step.
My husband and I recently purchased our second home together. We lived in our first home for five years (and rented countless apartments before that). When we moved into that first house, I had a two-month-old baby and we were coming to Knoxville from out of state. I remember thinking that it was probably the most stressful move we had ever done, mainly because it was nearly impossible to pack with a little baby who SCREAMED any time he wasn’t being simultaneously nursed and rocked. My husband basically packed the entire apartment by himself, and he and his friends carried our belongings down a flight of stairs and into a POD storage unit.
But oh no, friends. This most recent move was even more difficult, even though it wasn’t nearly as far a distance.
We now have a five-year-old and a three-year-old, and the sheer volume of material possessions that they’ve accumulated in their short lives is astounding. Add to that the process of home shopping (which consisted of my husband and I taking turns chasing the boys away from breakables and clean windows as we toured other peoples’ houses) and readying our own home to sell (which features permanent marker on the walls and stains on every carpet), and the stress level gets pretty high.
I’d like to say that I’ve acquired all kinds of helpful tips to help make the moving process super simple and stress-free, but that just isn’t the case. Like I said, step one is simply acknowledging that this season of your life is going to stretch you, and you and your spouse will pause and look at each other approximately 47 times throughout this process and angrily vow, “We are NEVER moving again.” It’s just going to happen.
But I do have some tips to make the stress a bit more manageable:
1. Figure out if you are financially able to buy your new house before selling the old one.
This is what my family opted to do. This was our first time buying AND selling, and it just seemed so much easier to gradually move our stuff across town into our new house before getting our old house all shiny and perfect and ready to put on the market. I know this isn’t possible for everyone, though. If you have to sell your house while you’re still living in it, consider de-cluttering a bit by getting a POD (a movable storage unit) to temporarily store your items, or bumming some garage space from a generous friend or family member. When you stand back and start examining your old house the way that a stranger will, you’ll realize that you probably need to lose some of the extra stuff that tends to pile up along walls and in corners to help your home look more appealing.
2. Start packing WAY earlier than you think is necessary.
Our family started packing boxes about a month before our actual closing day. While I can remember moving from apartment to apartment back in the day and packing mere days before the move, procrastination is no longer an option when you’re moving with kids. Packing will take you three or four times as long as it did before you had children. I can’t tell you how many times I began packing a box and turned around to find one of my boys UNPACKING the same box (especially if it contained their toys). I began by packing the super easy non-essentials: books, decor sitting on shelves, toys, those linens in the closet that no one ever uses, etc. I tried, of course, to pack my boys’ least favorite toys first — the ones that they never usually play with. My big mistake was packing those toys in front of them. Any toy that is out of reach suddenly becomes the most desirable item in the entire house, and to my frustration, I found myself opening and unpacking boxes that I had just packed in order to soothe a wailing child.
My advice is to pack a few boxes every night after bedtime so that your children can’t interfere or complain that they want the items you’re packing. One of my friends also passed along a helpful tip: using multicolored tape to indicate a box’s destination. This makes it super easy on moving day because instead of searching each box trying to find a label, you can simply tell movers that all of the green boxes go to the kitchen, the yellow boxes go to the master bedroom, etc.
3. Hire all of the professionals.
My husband is quite the penny-pincher, and prior to this move, we had largely done all of the moving ourselves. Back in our early twenties, it was completely acceptable to invite a few friends over to help us load furniture into our moving van and offer them a fresh pepperoni pizza as compensation. Friends, we are in our thirties now, and that is no longer the case. Everyone we know is busy with full-time jobs and caring for their own children. As we have also accumulated furniture over the course of our marriage, it just no longer feels acceptable to ask our friends to help us move. We hired professional movers, and we worked them HARD without having to worry about straining any friendships. Be sure to fully research (a.k.a. Yelp) local moving companies before making your final decision, or go with the recommendation of a friend who has used them before. We initially went with the company that gave us the cheapest estimate (again, we are a frugal family), only to have them cancel on us the day before the move because they had overbooked. We thankfully found another moving company that had a last minute cancellation (and the personal testimony of a friend who had a positive experience with them), so we were still able to complete our move on time, but I could have avoided a lot of stress and tears if I had simply scrolled through the pages and pages of negative reviews for that first company online before hiring them.
You’re also going to need to hire a sitter (or again, impose on the generosity of family and friends) for the actual moving day. Don’t try to move furniture with your little monkeys running around and jumping into boxes to play hide-and-seek. It’s just extra stress that you don’t need.
You will also need to hire a professional cleaning service to clean your old house before you list it on the market. This may go without saying for some, but I just didn’t realize it right away. I thought that I could do touch-up paint and clean and landscape and do everything myself (all while keeping my children entertained and out of trouble), and it just didn’t work. Deep cleaning is labor intensive, and when you don’t have endless hours to spare (because your kids are cranky or fighting or hungry and need your attention), you’ll realize that you need some help. We put our house on the market after I spent three full days cleaning and painting our empty house, and we got comment after comment that our house just didn’t look clean. Finally, we broke down and hired a professional carpet cleaner to shampoo our rugs and a cleaning service to deep clean our kitchen, bathrooms, windows, and blinds. We haven’t closed yet, but we’re getting multiple offers, so spending a few hundred bucks really made all the difference.
4. Take time off.
Moving will strain your family quite a bit. It’s temporary, of course, but it puts extra stress on you and your spouse, and your kids will feel it too. I found myself screaming like a crazy woman at my son when he spilled something sticky on the floor at our old house when we were preparing to sell it, and as he broke down into tears, I realized that I was just under too much stress and I was taking it out on him. We took a day off from cleaning/painting/unpacking and went to the zoo, and it was just what we needed. Make sure that you plan time to hang out with your kids or go on a date with your spouse and leave all move-related discussion behind. Sometimes you just need a mental break.