Last weekend Cliff and I traveled to Hamilton, NY to watch Tristan and his classmates graduate from Colgate. Historically, 2019 marks the 200th year for this prestigious university. As such, there were several multi-generation alums in attendance - grandfathers, fathers and sons - all extremely proud members of this elite group. (At one point, these hallowed institutions only admitted men.)
In fact, there was NO shortage of smart, successful and beaming individuals in the crowd - both male and female! Collectively, they represent the past and future generation of innovators, movers and shakers. To quote Spock (and prove just how truly geeky I am), "Live long and prosper!"
Still, I couldn't help but laugh when I overheard a slightly terse conversation between a mother and her daughter while awaiting the completion of the commencement ceremony. The day had shaped up to be much warmer than predicted and fairly muggy as a result. As the chairs had been set up on the lawn with hardly a shade tree in sight, we were all looking forward to getting back into our air-conditioned cars as soon as possible. Like most of us in attendance, the family was expecting to quickly depart once the ceremony was over and had brought their large SUV to transport their daughter's belongings home right after the ice-cream social.
"Ummm, I'm not quite packed yet," the young lady admitted, when pressed about her timing. (Gee, that sounded very familiar.)
"What's left?" her mother asked, annoyance creeping in.
"Oh, just a few things . . . " she responded, (meaning EVERYTHING!).
I could relate, Cliff and I had run into the same situation a day earlier with our son who, when asked, had assured us: "I'm almost there," only to discover that not only wasn't Tristan "almost there," he wasn't even close. He had, however, separated the items he wanted shipped home from those he was leaving behind, with the intention of donating the castoffs to the house. (Boxes are shipped by weight, so anything he could do to lighten the load was much appreciated.) At least it was a start . . . .
"Uh, what should I do with these dirty clothes?" our son asked. (You should have washed them.)
Luckily, he has a mother who knows how to make quick work of such tasks, and could readily identify what was required. (I've moved a lot!) We picked up some boxes and packing tape at the Big Lots recycle bin right after breakfast, and within an hour and a half, we had quickly organized, folded, sealed, and addressed five boxes now destined for Oakland (including the laundry which will get washed when it arrives.) A separate bag held Tristan's clean clothes and toiletries for his trip abroad with his dad.
Gratefully, the post office on campus remained open until 1:00 pm on Saturday (This wasn't their first rodeo.) and we drove over to weigh and pay the postage with time to spare. The shipping center is closed on Sunday so those who chose to wait until the last minute, were up the proverbial "creek without a paddle."
My son and his classmates aren't alone when it comes to being overwhelmed with the task of moving. (His big brother was the same.) In my experience, almost NO ONE likes this Herculean chore. Procrastination and underestimating the workload is a common thread among many Homeowners; thus it's not uncommon to go into a house that has supposedly been cleared out, only to find piles of items left behind, especially with respect to drawers, closets, cupboards, papers, and the refrigerator and freezer. Like these college coeds, Sellers often believe they are "ready to go," when they too, are "not quite packed." Sometimes, they're not even close! (Full service? You betcha.)
Years ago, I represented an elderly couple who insisted on moving themselves from their Oakland Hills home - a home they had occupied for more than 30 years - into a much smaller condominium in the South Bay. My Seller, a spry and headstrong woman, and well into her eighties, had hired a moving company to transport their furniture, but decided to save money by moving EVERYTHING ELSE one carload at a time! (Footnote, money wasn't their issue, she was just incredibly frugal.)
More problematic, she and her very elderly husband (he was in his nineties!) were using the same few boxes over and over again, which meant countless trips to and from in their station wagon. The clothes were being moved on their hangers in the backseat, also one trip at a time. Watching their slow, painstaking progress (or lack thereof), I could only conclude that It was a very inefficient way to relocate. They might have saved a few bucks, but at what cost?
On the day the Sellers were supposed to deliver the house clear and clean, they were still packing their kitchen and randomly throwing miscellaneous items into paper shopping bags in a flurry of unorganized panic. In fact, they were still doing so when the new Buyers arrived at 5:00 pm, at which point, the Buyers became unglued and promptly escorted the Sellers out of the house, along with their two dozen paper bags! (It was a terrible way to end what had also been a difficult escrow for these elderly Sellers, brought on unfortunately, by self-inflicted wounds.)
Were my Sellers "penny-wise and pound-foolish?" Most definitely!
When you are moving the entire contents of a house, do yourself a favor and hire professionals, AND if you are overwhelmed or simply too busy to pack, most moving companies will gladly handle that task as well (for an additional fee, but worth every cent.) More to the point, what may take you weeks to accomplish, moving crews can typically complete in 1-2 days. Mind you, packing includes your garage, basement, attic and kitchen spaces, which always have far more "stuff" than you realize.
One caveat, professional movers will pack absolutely EVERYTHING, including junk mail, old magazines, unidentified electric cords, and the like, so the most time-saving task you can perform is to separate out those things you no longer want, use, or need, and dispose of them, prior to moving day. (PURGE, DONATE and TOSS!) Who needs them on the other end? (No one.)
Take it from one who's moved more than her fair share, start with the closets and shelves and go from there; furniture actually makes up a very small fraction of what you own. Packing up the garage should be a priority as it can serve as a staging space to hold and stack packed boxes. Cherished art work should be carefully handled, bubble wrapped, and as you do so, patch any nail holes left behind. Bathrooms, kitchens, laundry and mud rooms all hold a TON, so pack the extra towels, cotton balls, mouthwash, laundry detergent, wrapping paper, winter coats, hiking boots, cupcake tins, loaf pans, canned goods, spices, etc., and leave only the items you'll need, such as toothpaste, reading glasses, and cereal bowls . . . (you're going to eat a lot of cereal).
The last thing to go are the clothes in the closet which are easily transported in wardrobe boxes supplied by the moving company. The items in the refrigerator must also wait as they are often perishable. Almost everything else can be packed well in advance. And if you have a cleaning crew, ask them to join you on moving day and leave the deep cleaning to them. (You've done enough.)
Don't forget to label everything in BIG BOLD LETTERING so the movers can get the sealed boxes into the right locations, which in turn, allows you to quickly lay your hands on the most important items when you get to your new home. You're going to need to identify sheets and towels so you can make the beds and take a hot bath at the end of the day. (You'll have earned one.) And create a box or basket of critical personal items: water, toilet paper, paper towels, scissors, a change of clothes, as well as a few power bars and snacks to keep your energy up during the course of the day. Most importantly, place that basket in your car so you have easy access to it!
So that's the basics of Moving 101; advanced courses can be taught by professional organizers and "moving concierges." (Yes, that's an actual profession for those who not only want their houses packed, BUT unpacked at the new location as well. They're especially adept with valuable art and wine collections. )
As to our recent graduates, maybe our kids' colleges and universities could give them a crash course (or at least a hand-out) in packing their dorms before their parents arrive. (STEP ONE: wash your dirty laundry!) It's likely to be more practical and applicable than Roman Art or theoretical anything . . . (I'm just sayin').
Congratulations to all the grads out there and to all their suffering and doting parents as well. It's time to celebrate. (The next move is on you; you're an educated person now.)
How can I help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.