Packin’ Up? Some tips for surviving the chaos

How I wish I had put my camera in my handbag and not in some box during our last move. When we rode behind the truck with our belongings, our view was of one of the back doors of the truck open, showing one of the packers sitting on our table (at the very edge of the truck, with his leg swinging out of the truck!), cradling our microwave in his arms! We (and he) rode the 10 minute distance like that!

I have had the not-so-great pleasure of moving four times (so far) within Nairobi in the 6.5 years we have been living here. Believe it or not, this is not what I usually do; we spent our almost five years in NYC in the same apartment. But, when your landlord decides to sell the house you are in, and the new owners want to buy the house only, without the paraphernalia that is you, you really don’t have much choice.

Moving is always a HUGE hassle and an immense stress generating event. Moving countries, of course, involves SEVERAL additional stresses but moving within a city is also cause for tremendous anguish and sleepless nights!

Here are a few hints to help a little, but nothing can make it smooth sailing! As a child, I used to hope and pray that, during my lifetime, science would advance to the level where we could use the ‘beam me up, Scotty’ means of transportation from Star Trek. Even now, my heart skips a beat when I think of it! But, alas, we are nowhere near that happening (I think?!)! So, we have to rely on bubble-wrap and cartons and movers.

In an ideal world, the packers should unpack for you when your container arrives at your new premises (provided you have found a home before your container arrives!) or the truck reaches your new abode, and the number of rooms, cupboards, shelves, etc in your current and future dwelling correspond! But, just in case, you, like myself, don’t live in a perfect world, the following might be helpful.

Packers will at times number the cartons or sometimes they write vague labels like ‘Kitchen’ and ‘Living Room’. Now you may end up with 20 cartons with the same label. So, how do you start looking for that red and blue mug that your 3 year old still remembers having even three months later (which you thought you would carry with you but forgot to remove it from the shelf before the packers got to it) and cries for every morning? How do you know which carton contains the crockery for everyday use?

If the packers are friendly, smiling and relaxed people, you could go around with a permanent marker and ‘excuse me, excuse me’ your way through them and write on the carton itself the details of what they are putting inside. If, somehow, they don’t want you all over the place (I can’t imagine why though!) while they do their job, keep a paper and pen handy and write down the details of what is going in the carton and have the numbers/titles in your list correspond to what they write on the box. The packers might write only ‘Kitchen’ or ‘China’ or ‘Glasses’, but you could write ‘everyday china’ or ‘blue dinner-set’, etc.

You may not be able to get every detail down, but it will help you locate things faster when you are in your new dwelling.

Advice from a friend (thank you, Teresa) has helped me a lot. Before the packers arrive, make sure to label your rooms as well! Write down the name of the room on a paper and tape it to the door of the room. The dining room, kitchen etc. might be obvious but the “Child A’s” room, “Child Z’s room” may not be so apparent. The packers will then know what to write on the carton and which box belongs to which room. Doing the same in the new place you are moving to will save the hassle and time of repeatedly telling the movers what goes where, especially if your language/accent doesn’t correspond to theirs!

How I wish I was one of those people who clean out their cupboards on a regular basis! That really would be very helpful, especially for those who never know when they may have to move. Some of us get a months notice, or less, to pack up and leave! With other matters that need to be dealt with, having fewer belongings to go through will require less sorting out.

So, I had better go clean out my cupboard now and, before my next move, I would love to get your tips and pointers about packing up and moving.

5 thoughts on “Packin’ Up? Some tips for surviving the chaos”

  1. Having international movers in is the household equivalent of a plague of locusts. If its there it will be packed..
    Here are a couple of tips for avoiding resulting disasters(learned from bitter experience):
    1. Put everything that needs to be taken on the plane/packed in your air shipment in a separate place marked clearly as “Do Not Pack” If you have the space, put it in a separate room and lock the door!!
    2. Make sure that all rubbish bins are empty and there are no perishable foods anywhere in your house. I inadvertently left a potato and two onions in a basket in our pantry during the last move. Let’s just say that removal of their liquified remains was not the most pleasant task.

    On a serious note, some other things I always do:
    1. I hand carry photo negatives, a hard drive with a back up of our digital data.
    2. Check whether or not valuables are insured. In our last move, we discovered that valuables such as jewelry, cameras etc. were not covered in either the main or air shipments. As we had cancelled our household goods insurance, they were not covered by that either. We had to purchase special insurance to cover us during the period of the move.
    3. Hand carry any important documents you think you might need in the first few weeks including school reports, immunization records, birth certificates etc.

    I’m sure I have more but you don’t want your blog over-run by my comment 🙂

  2. 3 more tips to add from me:
    1)Label several boxes “open me first.” One should contain one cup, bowl, plate, knife, fork etc for everyone in the house, a kettle, coffee pot, can opener and corkscrew. The others minimal bedding and towels. Mover have a habit of using bedding as cheap packing material. I once slept for 3 nights without a pillow before I found it inside a bookcase.
    2)Make the beds first (including sheets) when you unpack, so you can just collapse into them later.
    3)Do NOT let the movers put all nuts, bolts, hardware for beds etc into one box, you will never figure it out. Put hardware for each disassembled piece of furniture into a small plastic bag and tape it to it with masking tape.

    We should create a Wiki for this! 😉

  3. We share the same pain, you know that. Right?
    So far I agree that how much pain moving is. But unfortunately no matter what you do: these packers always do some blunder with your packing. I almost had a heart attack when I saw my container when it opened in front of my eyes. It was like a tornado just happened there. So you can imagine.
    Anyway about the tip. EMPTY YOUR TRASH. The packers would not consider it trash if you won’t throw it away or put the trash can out side when they are packing.Believe me.

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