How to Move Without Going Insane

Moving sucks. This is a scientific fact. And unless you've got the money (and willingness to part with it) to hire someone to do all of it for you, you're stuck with performing the unpleasant task yourself. Here's how move to a new place without losing your silverware— or your marbles.

In an ideal world, it would be possible to change addresses by putting your clothes and treasured personal trinkets into a duffel bag and just leaving all of your Ikea furniture for the next person who occupies your place. But we don't live in an ideal world; we live in a world where our possessions attach to us like barnacles to the hull of a ship or like the pots and pans attached to that human garbage lady from Labyrinth. And so, in the process of moving over the course of the last week or so, I've grown to rue the day that I brought home a complimentary cup from a baseball stadium, a free tee shirt from a dorm event that happened in 2001, that really awful sweater I've had around for years and never worn because I thought maybe someday the universe would change or I'd get desperate and wear it.

A few weeks in advance, let the people who send you bills in the mail know that you're leaving. This includes phone, cable, internet, student loan companies, credit card companies, etc. And change your address on the US Postal Service's website so you don't continue to receive mail at your old address weeks after you've left.

The less crap you have, the easier it is to move that crap. And so, if you see a move coming, prepare for it early by keeping as little crap around as possible. Banish those fantasies of one day presenting your future daughter with a closet full of clothes from when you were in high school (circa 2000 clothes will not be cool in the year 2035, because they weren't cool in the year 2000) and cull your clothing herd often. Stick 'em in your parents' attic or in a rented storage unit if you insist on hanging onto them. Make a preemptive promise to yourself to never collect anything, especially nicknacks. Only take books that you really, really like. Donate what you don't need. In the months leading to your relocation, implement a strict one in, one out policy for your closet. Throw away everything that doesn't fit.

If you're moving to a far away city, seriously consider how worth it is for you to bring your furniture with you, or if it makes more sense to just say fuck this couch and buy all new stuff in the new place. Getting rid of stuff is easy, especially if you offer it for free to whoever wants it. Some charities will come and pick up donated furniture, too, so check to see if there's such thing in your area. If you live in a major city and are planning on leaving your furniture but can't get it to a donation center, you could put it off to the side in an alley and trust that someone will just come by and assume it's there for the taking (this weekend, I took an old defunct TV and left it in the alley behind my place in Chicago and within 5 minutes someone had taken it. Magical, but unsettling).

Moving supplies can be a bit of a pain in the ass to come by, but I've had good luck finding boxes for the taking by asking very nicely at bookstores and liquor stores. And rather than buying packing peanuts or bubble wrap, just raid the nearest free newspaper stand and use a stack of your city's most bar ad-heavy free daily or weekly rag to protect your fragile belongings.

The longer you've lived in the place you're planning on leaving, the more your shit has permeated the corners of the place. That's the bad news. The good news is that if you've forgotten you had it, you probably don't need it. Repeat this mantra to yourself as you pack and be merciless with the "to give away" or "to throw away" pile.

Plan out a room-by-room list of things you'll need in your new place, and divide the task of packing up your old place into rooms so the whole thing isn't completely overwhelming. Draw out a schedule if you have to. And try to keep packed boxes to under 30 pounds apiece, to prevent hilarious but tragic box failure. Label boxes clearly and in gigantic letters, but resist the urge to draw sexually explicit doodles on the cardboard, even though dicks look extra hilarious when they're rendered in magic marker. And even though the mattress may feel light, don't try to move it down stairs by yourself. Moving a mattress is like moving a giant, radioactive Jello jiggler that hates you. It needs to be a team effort.

Pack a suitcase — or, if you prefer, a comical bindle like the type hoboes carry in cartoons — for yourself when you first get to your new abode. It should contain everything you'd need for a weekend away from home, including a few basic outfits, pajamas, clean underwear, hygiene products, your phone charger, any daily medications, any and all voodoo dolls or talismans you require to keep your space spiritually fit for inhabitation. Live out of that for the first day you're in your new spot, so you don't have to unpack like five boxes before you find a pair of clean underwear.

And, in a worst case scenario, remember: your sanity is worth the cost of a new set of dishes. Don't kill yourself trying to keep all of it with you and intact.

Source photos by Rob Wilson and Quang Ho/Shutterstock