This week is the culmination of a year and half of effort to move our family a few counties away. While the entire timeline is hard work, endless prep, semesters worth of research and study, and the coordination and cooperation of dozens of individuals, things don’t really get crazy until the end. The month before you move will affect your long-term mental state. Here are some milestones and things to consider if you’re planning to move in the near future.
30 days left – Once the contract is signed, your old house and its attendant issues are someone else’s problem. But fear of bad Karma and crapping on your buyers motivate you to weed your yard by hand since the lawn service was dropped weeks earlier and the grass is being overrun by countless alien sprouts.
24 days left – You start to look at your spouse as a co-worker at a moving company. All of your time is spent planning logistics, stacking, and restacking columns of boxes. You have detailed directions on where every item in every box will go in the new home and you wonder, since every other waking moment is occupied by another task, if your wife is nesting in her sleep.
20 days left – You invent creative recipes to thin food from the pantry. I suggest crock-potting all of the cans of beans you have with the freezer-burned Boca Crumbles sitting on the Antarctic top shelf of the freezer, topped with fried onion straws, and maybe a handful of petrified Bac-O’s for zest.
17 days left – You are on a constant quest for boxes, sometimes driving miles into the country working from a tip given by another gas station (“Mary’s Market may have boxes”) You score a box from Mary and it somehow seems worth the time and gas money. Though infinite in their supply, you find that boxes from the liquor store are small and you’re lucky to pack a single, newspapered shoe in one of them.
14 days left – The house that you’re moving into sits out there like a faint, not quite affordable, mirage. You pull the address up on Google maps often and study every curve in your new road and squint at the satellite images of the houses of your new neighbors to see what clues you can deduce.
12 days left – You survey what’s left to do in your house and see things in 15 minute increments of time and amount of boxes each space represents (e.g., Alice’s closet will take 45 minutes and 4 boxes to pack.) At this point you realize there’s not enough time to do it all so you start the wholesale trashing of irreplaceable family possessions.
10 days left – It’s amazing how well beer helps the packing process, so amazing that your belly sloshes at all times. Three beers is the magic number, anything beyond that slows you down and makes you spend the majority of your time retrieving lost items that you set down somewhere, especially the black Sharpie and the packing tape, which should be secured to your body at all times during the two weeks leading up to the move.
8 days left – To avoid yet another logistical task or phone call to a service provider, you wonder if you can manage okay without cable, trash pick-up, or electricity at your new home.
7 days left – Weird moving logic peaks when you consider buying a fifth of gin to make martinis so you don’t have to move or pour out the half bottle of vermouth still left on the liquor shelf.
5 days left – Due to the numerous idiosyncrasies of your old home, you realize the rest of your time should be spent on drafting an Instruction Manual for the new owners. Article 4, Section 2: Handle of kitchen faucet must be returned to the 12 o’clock position to stop leak; Addendum 2b, Appendix XII: Do not stand fully upright in the attic or you will puncture your head on roofing nails driven from the other side.
2 days left – Since you’re taking your kids to the grandparents while you and the wife suffer through the last grueling days, their countdown is on a faster track that yours. Even though they’re young, you feel the need to tell them it’s their last day and to take it all in while they can. It’s your own nostalgia forcing the issue but you can’t stop yourself. Once you’ve driven them from the old house for the last time, dropped them off, and are alone in the car, you put on your shades and finally play Patty Griffin’s Useless Desires and Jackson Browne’s Looking Into You (songs you’ve been purposefully avoiding until you were ready) and let that nostalgia really stretch its legs.
The End – There’s no reason to divide the last two days into separate units since they run together and are a blur of backbreaking toil, military maneuver-like logistics, and misplacing more stuff. This is the period of time when you count on family and friends to voluntarily agree to haul all of your earthly belongings from one roofed compartment to another. This is when you sweat in brand new places and reek like someone from a life raft but still find yourself in clean, sterile law offices signing documents. Your sense of place is turned upside down and memories and new worries come tumbling out. You wander through your old empty home one last time and recollections fly past like a DVD rewinding on 4x speed; meanwhile, entering your new house as homeowner brings out many large and small imperfections – like the last owner was a hardcore smoker which will require priming, painting, and recarpeting so your young daughter doesn’t get lung cancer the moment she enters her new room – but it’s just Day One of a brand new timeline. And you can hardly wait to get started.