Moving On: Tips For An Organized Move

Every year, one in five American families makes a move --- and this year, it'll be your family on the road.

No doubt about it, moving can present the organizational challenge of a lifetime.

Every habit, every routine, every tiny piece of the mosaic of your life is tossed at random into a huge, cluttered van, to be shaken out and reassembled at the other end. 

It's a daunting task--but you can get organized and cut stress when the moving van arrives.

Moving on? Try these road-tested tips for an organized move.

Establish Move Central, and Make It Portable

Moving has more tentacles than an octopus. Between wooing The Amazing Disappearing Handyman at the old house and penetrating the layers of voice mail protecting The High-Tech Realtor at the new, you're making more calls than an old-time switchboard operator. It's easy to lose your mind along with your train of thought --- not to mention all those little business cards that will come your way.

Enter Move Central: a notebook dedicated to the move.

Even if you never use a planner at home or on the job, a business planner or moving notebook is more important to a move than boxes and tape. Find one at the local office supply store. Get one with big pages, one for each day, and throw in some business card holders, zipper pouches and receipt envelopes.

How will you use it? Let me count the ways. During the crazy pre-move house-hunting days, you'll track phone calls, make notes on houses you've toured, and gather phone numbers for the gazillion new close friends you'll make --- all those realtors and rental agents and mortgage people and moving-van guys and handymen you'll come to know and loathe quite intimately in the coming weeks. Tuck all business cards into their own little slots for easy reference. Make notes of the seventeen consecutive days you've spent trying to track down the Tile Man (after he's gotten your money but before you've seen Tile One go up on the kitchen wall).

Cram snippets of flooring and wallpaper, paint swatches and drapery goods into a see-through zipper pouch for at-the-store decorating reference.

Dedicate one receipt envelope for those fix-up-the-old-place receipts. Another receipt envelope holds receipts generated by house-hunting trips and travel to your new home. Stuff everything in there, and you'll thank yourself at tax time!

After the move, you'll use Move Central to schedule appointments to turn on your lights, water, cable and other essentials of life. If a neighborhood mom mentions a good pediatrician, note the name and you're ahead of the game! Tuck a local map into a flap or pocket, and you'll always be able to get yourself where you're going --- even if you don't always get there very directly.

Treat Move Central as just another body part --- it should be with you always. Handles and outside pockets let it replace your purse. Yes, you'll develop a permanent list to one side from the weight, but like that caused by a hip-hugging toddler, it's temporary. Having all your information in one place right at hand is key to a smooth and sane move.

Pack the Essentials Last

The concept of the "Survival Box" is one dear to the hearts of all moving advisers and organizational experts. You know what that is, right? It's a box containing the essentials of life: coffeemaker and children's nighttime loveys, bed sheets and blankets and pillows, an alarm clock.

Paint it red, plaster it with Little Mermaid stickers, do something to it so it stands out like a sore thumb, and put it in the truck last, so it's first out in the new house.

Your Survival Box should contain all those items you'll need for the first day and night in your new home.

With small children, think about including dishes, cereal and the paraphernalia of a family breakfast.

As a mid-lifer, I've honed essentials of life down to a very individual list: traveling coffeemaker and supplies, portable computer, and Perry, my teddy bear.

Your Survival Box will reflect your own family's needs.

Don't stop there! Think bigger than a single box. Those same small children can be entertained quite handily if you pack the boxes containing television, DVD player and disks at the back end of the truck! Will you need cleaning tools and a vacuum? A tool box to assemble furniture and hang art? Think about your immediate needs, and hold those essentials back until the bitter end.

First shall be last and last shall be first, so to speak.

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