7 Ways to Preserve Sanity When Moving

"The hardest day of my life was saying goodbye to my daughter her freshman move-in day. The second hardest day of my life was when she asked me for help with move-out day."

Jayne, the mother of two recent college graduates, is an expert on the moving process. Millions of parents are. And all would likely echo the same sentiment—the physical and logistical burden of moving their kids out of their college dorm is often just as memorable as the emotional burden of helping them move in. The only bright side of this story is that families can view the experience as bonding time.

So, how to not get bogged down in it and get the most out of everyone's help? It's an imperfect science. But even if there are hundreds of ways to move, and thousands of ways to complain about it, these issues can boil down to several key solutions.

1. Don't overbuy in the first place. Imagine this: it's move-out day. You're finally clearing out the space under your kid's bed. It's apparent no one in their right mind—with the exception, of course, being you—has explored that chaos since August. Amidst candy wrappers, beer bottles, and your son's trusty pet mouse who lives under the heater, you see a layer of dust obscuring the once-new coffee maker you thought would make a "homey" addition to his room. After one use, it's caked in coffee residue, mold, and dust. That's not to say some people wouldn't treat their coffee pot—a sacrosanct tool for some—with better care. But know your kid. Don't needlessly spend money on items that end up locked away for months, often only to be thrown out or given away anyway.
Hack: Budget your move-in day spending with an exact figure or set a $100 range. Create your budget solely around the essentials (pillow, blanket, hamper, mirror, hangers, etc.). Don't create a budget mid-shopping. You can always think of uses for products in the moment, but once you leave the store, it's hard to justify why your kid needed a disco lamp. This prevents waste on move-out day, avoids clutter, and saves you money.

2. Take pictures of important plugs, pieces of jewelry, and smaller valuable items. Especially if your son or daughter is tech-savvy or has a bunch of electronics in his or her room, it's easy to forget which plug goes where. That makes life a lot harder come next move-in day, and means special attention must be played to plugs on move-out day because one plug could mean the difference between a TV turning on or being a sad, space-filling decoration in the dorm room. Smaller items like jewelry, pins, hair accessories, ties, and wallet clips are easy to lose during move-out. Taking photos of where they are (I'd suggest in a pill case, segmented Tupperware, or formal jewelry cases) makes your life a whole lot easier down the line. There's nothing worse than losing something of value—monetary, sentimentally, or otherwise.

3. Don't pack by size or a "what fits where" mentality—categorize. Even packing by function (i.e. "bathroom") isn't nearly as effective as packing by function and relative size (i.e. "bathroom toiletries" or "bathroom towels/rugs"). This ensures that no smaller items will be broken or hidden by larger items, and keeps next move-in day simple and efficient.

4. Pack clothes first. Chances are, your son or daughter has been living in the same two pairs of pants and five shirts all year. If they're in their sophomore slump, they probably haven't changed their college-brand sweatpants and sweatshirt since they came back from winter break. That's why it's the easiest item to pack first—it's the least invasive. But perhaps even more importantly, after a year of cycling clothing, it's easy for your son or daughter to see what they actually wear and what they would be ready to donate or sell. I guarantee that, if it means not folding clothes, your child will be happy to get on board with donating. Get some tax deductions, avoid waste, and do an amazing act for some amazing people who could really use your help. (Note: There are several apps that will allow you to directly donate and sell your unwanted items, even pack and deliver it for you!) You can also sell your textbooks this way.

5. Label everything. This is a no-brainer!

6. Start packing three weeks before move-out day. It may seem like overkill, but even if your kid is just packing a few shirts here and there, it gets him or her into the mindset that move-out day is quickly approaching. It hedges against the "procrastinator" attitude. By setting an assigned timeline for packing—say, Mondays for miscellaneous, Tuesdays for towels, Wednesdays for wall items, etc.—you'll leave very little work for the last minute. Every parent's dream.

7. Don't forget these key packing tips. Roll your shirts, put your necklaces in straws, bag your toiletries and medicines, get smaller moving boxes from your local liquor store, pack non-essential decorative items early on, save space and money by using towels and clothing in place of bubble wrap, and make use of containers, hampers, and other storage devices to cut-down on paper waste through boxes.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Iva Teixeira is Co-Founder and CEO of Nestead. Her favorite space is the kitchen breakfast counter. Julia Lauer is a Harvard University student pursuing an honors concentration in government, a secondary in economics, and a citation in Chinese language.
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