Moving as a Solo Mom
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Six simple steps to moving with less stress
I am closing on a new house, and my current humble abode looks part hoarder, part federal-disaster zone. But it’s all good. I got this . . . probably. No, I got it, I got it.
Moving is like an unofficial hobby for me. Due to job changes, lures of a better apartment in the city, and one life-changing, cross-country leap into the suburbs, I have moved seven times in 15 years. This will be number eight.
I’m like a nomad, but instead of traveling with sheep and goats, I’m a single mom hopscotching around with a toddler and two dogs (one of whom is 14-and-a-half years old, blind, and nearly deaf).
This time, we are moving into a beautiful Georgian colonial in a great school district. While I can’t promise we will live there until my son is ready to cart me off into an assisted-living facility, I know this will be a happy place to raise him into a young man.
With my moving days soon to be behind me for several years (knock on wood), here are a few tips I’ve learned about moving over the last decade.
1. Every box counts. You will spend a lot of time counting boxes for a few reasons. First, set a goal for packing those boxes. I like the two-boxes-a-day rule: every day leading up to your move, pack at least two boxes. It will give you a sense of accomplishment to see them start stacking up and, if you can pack three, four, or even five boxes in one day, you will feel that much better for beating your goal.
Second, moving companies count boxes, too, and 20 boxes cost more than 10. So grab as many extra-large boxes as you can and fill those instead of smaller boxes you may have been saving from your Amazon or Zulily purchases.
You often can find big boxes for free by hitting up Walmart or Target during its restocking days or by checking in with your realtor or local moms’ Facebook group to see if anyone has some to get rid of after their own move. If you need to pay for boxes, I’ve had great success with UsedCardboardBoxes.com, which will deliver quality boxes of varying sizes based on the number of rooms you are moving. It even throws in packing tape, permanent markers, and box cutters if you buy a package.
2. Get rid of all that stuff you don’t use anymore. You pack one box, look back at the shelf, and realize it looks exactly the same as it did before you packed the damn box. Nothing shows you how much crap you have as much as moving. It seems your things breed every time you turn your back.
Now is a great time to weed out the extra items you’ve accumulated. Throw away old paperwork you don’t need anymore, sell or donate clothes that don’t fit or you haven’t worn in a year, and go through your kids’ stuff. Purge, baby, purge—but do so while the kids are sleeping or out of the house because God help you if you do this while they are watching.
3. Stay organized even when your house looks like total chaos. You don’t want your new homeowners insurance policy in one folder on your desk, your mortgage broker’s business card tossed on the kitchen island, your to-do list stuck on the fridge, and your moving contract in another folder in your bedroom. Find a place to store all your documents, lists, receipts, and business cards, and keep them all together in one folder or file system. That way, when something unexpected comes up—and it always does—you know right where to find your information. This is a good rule of thumb for both before and after your move. And remember—if you are relocating for a job, it can be tax-deductible.
Also remember that, even in the throes of packing and moving, the little ones are still very curious. Moving will make them even more so, since nothing is in its proper place and the world around them seems to be changing. So continue to keep cleaning products, medicine, batteries, and anything of the like locked away or up high. I find it’s best to pack them dead last—like getting ready to hand over the keys to your apartment and drive away—and unpack them first at the new place so you know your child is safe.
4. Talk to your kids about the move. Moving is a very adult thing. We move because we are aiming for a better life for our family—whether it’s for a new job or school, because of a divorce, or for downsizing or making your real estate dreams come true. All of those reasons are far above your little one’s head.
Older kids and teens obviously understand more, but they should be part of the discussion just as much as your 18-month-old. Remind kids often, and in language they understand, that you are packing up your things to take them to a new house that will be better because [insert your reason for moving here].
Books on moving may be helpful for the toddler to elementary set. Look up “Boomer’s Big Day” by Constance W. McGeorge about moving from a dog’s perspective. Or “A Tiger Called Thomas” by Charlotte Zolotow about a shy tiger who worries how he will make new friends until a very successful Halloween night spent trick-or-treating.
Also, try as much as you can to involve your kids in the process. As a Solo Mom, I find it is so much easier to visit the new house without my almost three-year-old in tow, but I try to remember that this is his move, too. If you live close enough, take the kids as often as you can while you measure or meet with contractors or home inspectors. My son calls the new house “the empty house” and so we talk about how we will bring our toys and beds to the empty house.
5. Get some help. Solo Moms rule—hear us roar. But we don’t need to be masochistic about it. Enlist the help of friends or babysitters so you can do the big stuff—signing documents, being there when movers load your things on and off the truck—without little helpers. Pay the babysitters in cash, and pay your friends in pizza and beer.
Once you are in the new house, playdates are a fabulous idea. The kids will be occupied exploring and rediscovering toys, and the adults can get to work unpacking and hanging pictures.
If your child is in school and you work, use a personal day (or two, if you can) to settle in—get projects done, run errands, and paint. Put on some comfortable shoes and upbeat tunes, and get it done.
6. Drink. Or eat a pint of ice cream or get a massage or have lunch with a friend or spend a night or two on the couch watching 1980s horror movies—whatever you need to do to de-stress. Because no matter how well prepared or experienced you are at this, moving is a perfect recipe for stress.
Enjoy the fun stuff, and be kind to yourself.
Sarah Netter, ESME’s Adoption Resource Guide, is a single mother by choice to a fabulous little boy and two neurotic Italian Greyhounds. She is a full-time journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and ABC News.