How To Move With A Baby (Without Losing Your Stuff Or Your Sanity)
We are officially moved into our Vermont homestead at long last! I’m immensely delighted (super delighted? supremely delighted?) to write this from our porch, gazing out on our apple trees–which are just beginning to blossom–listening to the distant sounds of a hooting owl, running streams, and Frugal Hound chasing squirrels in her sleep (some things never change).
Although spending weekends here for the past five months gave us a taste of homestead life, being moved in full-time is yielding a level of peace and happiness heretofore unknown by us. I have to say, it’s amazing. And we are so thankful to be settled!
Since moving is everyone’s absolute favorite thing to do (right????!!!!), I want to share how we made this decampment from urban Cambridge, MA to rural VT in one fell swoop with all babies, hounds, and boxes accounted for.
While, naturally, our goal was to complete this move as inexpensively as possible, thriftiness was not our chief concern. There are times in life when it makes good sense to spend a bit more money and for us, moving is definitely one of those times (for more on the time v. money conundrum, check out this). Hence, you might be surprised to learn that we hired movers to execute this interstate move. But you might be equally surprised to know that this cost us only $700 more than conducting the move ourselves.
Get Multiple Estimates
After we purchased our homestead property in January and commenced planning for our May move, we weren’t sure whether we’d hire movers or not; thus, the very first step was the age old, and oh-so-important, price comparison exercise! I contacted no fewer than 10 different moving companies in the Boston area to gather bids on our move. I received a wide range of responses, from both a price–but also a pricing strategy–perspective.
Some moving companies charge by the number of hours it takes them to load the truck, others charge by weight, and still others offer a flat rate. I personally was a fan of the flat rate option. I frankly had no interest in sweating it out as they loaded our truck, hoping they’d hurry up and nervously calculating how much our dining room table and various dog costumes weigh. I wanted our movers to take the time they needed to load our possessions with care. Our stuff may all be second-hand, (or sourced from the trash) but it’s still our stuff and I have no desire to buy/procure new furniture. Frugal sidenote: a new house does not automatically = new furniture!
Further, I wanted to know the cost upfront. Fortunately for me, the absolute lowest bid–$2,415–came in the form of a flat rate quote by a highly rated local company, Intelligent Labor and Moving. I’m name dropping because we were immensely satisfied with their work and I’m happy to recommend them. In addition to offering the lowest price, they didn’t cram our stuff onto a truck with someone else’s household ephemera and the same crew that loaded the truck in Boston unloaded it in Vermont. In light of this, it seemed highly likely we’d wind up at our new house with our stuff arriving on time and in (mostly) one piece.
Price Compare the DIY Route
Being frugal weirdos ever on the alert for money-saving possibilities, I did indeed price out renting a truck and loading ourselves. Helpfully, U-Haul, Penske, and Budget truck rentals all offer an online interface for gathering pricing data. I was rather surprised to discover that by the time I tallied up the costs of not only the truck rental itself, but also mileage, gas, labor (aka people to help us), furniture pads, and dollies, this DIY option came in just about $700 cheaper than the lowest moving company estimate.
Let me tell you what, I was thrilled–THRILLED I tell you–to spend that $700 to not have to load and unload a truck myself. There are plenty of things I’m happy to insource, but moving is honestly not in that category. In addition to the stress and unpredictability of moving, furniture is heavy. Really heavy. Although Mr. FW and I moved the vast majority of our furniture into our house (since we purchased it from Craigslist/found it on the side of the road after moving in), we did it one piece at a time. Not all at once. On two consecutive days. Along with 90 billion boxes of dishes, dog food, dungarees, and doughnuts (ok, no doughnuts were actually moved, but I wish they had been… ).
Yes, Mr. FW and I are capable of team lifting every stick of furniture we own, but just because we can do it doesn’t mean we should (sidenote: yesterday we carried a 100lb toilet up the stairs together… more on why we need a new toilet in a future post… ). Additionally, shout out to frugality here as it enables us to make concerted decisions to sometimes spend more. Back in the days of our halcyon youth, pre-baby, pre-dog, and pre-furniture, moving ourselves was no problem at all. Now? Big problem.
Choosing to pay for movers is consistent with our lifestyle of luxurious frugality. We’re not out to save money in every last aspect of our existence; rather, we’re out to create the most fulfilling, non-consumption focused life possible while still enjoying what we do and how we live. Extreme frugality is pointless if it causes you to create a life you hate living. As the movers loaded and unloaded our earthly possessions, Mr. FW and I remarked to one another–every 5 minutes–how very, very glad we were that we’d hired them. Oh so glad.
After making the wonderfully liberating decision to hire movers, it was time to get packin’ (packing is one of those words, and activities, that lends itself nicely to the colloquial “in'” abbreviation, which deludes you into thinking it’s an enjoyable and folksy past-time. Much like banjo pickin’).
How To Pack
Easy. Just put stuff in boxes. Oh but wait, what if you’re….
Packing With A Baby
Slightly less easy, but much easier than the next stage, which is the dreaded “packing with a toddler.” But since she’s still a pre-crawling little being, Babywoods and I did pretty well with our packing parties. The key was to create “safe baby zones” in every major packing area of our house, so that she could tag along and hang out with me while I flailed around like a demented gazelle flinging random objects into open boxes while screaming “We’re never EVER moving again. EVER.” Just kidding. I usually yelled “This packing will NEVER be done!!!”
Just kidding, since I was packing with a baby I couldn’t yell, so instead I belted out deranged versions of nursery rhymes such as: “Old MacDonald packed a box then realized she packed the tape gun in the bottom… Old MacDonald unpacked a box and retrieved the freaking tape gun…” And on it went. Other favorites included “Baa Baa Breakables, Have You Any Bubble Wrap?” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Box Cutter.”
My “safe baby zone” plan panned out well and the key is that I had them set up in advance. Since I could accomplish approximately 7.3 minutes of packing at a time, I didn’t have to waste time arranging Babywoods’ toys and blankets–we’d simply jet down to the basement or upstairs to the bedroom and viola: a safe baby play zone awaited us! Packing invariably entails dangerous objects flying about (bubble wrap, scissors, and the teeniest, tiniest pieces of everything you’ve ever owned), so having a spot for Babywoods to safely put everything in reach in her mouth was crucial.
Perhaps the most pivotal element of getting the house packed is that I started early. Waaaaaayyy early. Like 2.5 months early. This turned out to be an excellent decision illustrating my immense genius and foresight (hah). Because anything you do with a baby takes roughly 10,569 times longer than doing said activity without a baby.
By initiating operation pack-a-house so far in advance, I was able to systematically pack one room at a time. This allowed me to sift through all of our possessions and target objects for removal. I practically spammed my Buy Nothing group with all the
crap lovely items I decided we didn’t need to move with us: everything from my bicycle to business suits to home improvement project parts made their way to new owners. An organized move is a happy move and not moving junk is positively peachy.
I also labeled each box for a destination in our Vermont house. Instead of randomly jumbling items together, I had the master bedroom segregated from the kitchen from the basement and so on. I do not enjoy living in disarray (to put it mildly) and so I wanted to set us up for as smooth an unpacking process as humanly possible. It took me for freaking ever to pack the house, but I will say that nothing broke, nothing got lost, and just about everything made its way to the right room on the first try (except, of course, for the ridiculously heavy bookcase that Mr. FW and I had to carry down two flights of stairs after discovering that it doesn’t fit in Babywoods’ new room… 15 minutes after the movers departed).
Packing ourselves also saved us a good deal of dough. We could’ve hired movers to pack for us, but, we’d pay handsomely and then probably wouldn’t know where anything was, and, all of our aforementioned junk would’ve make the trek to Vermont instead of being given away in Cambridge.
I also phased our packing such that I first packed stuff we don’t use often or don’t need to use (like board games, off-season clothing, decor, and wall hangings). Next, I targeted current use items that we could survive without (such as lamps, extra plates, and cooking implements)–this commenced our week of “camping out in the house.” Then, a day before the move we packed everything else and lived out of a suitcase. Thus, we didn’t have a totally mad scramble of tons of things to pack at the bitter end (the scramble was only partially mad).
Buy A Tape Gun Dispenser
A tape gun is the packing person’s best friend, confidant, and dearest advisor. Don’t pack without one. I’ve done both ways and trust me, the tape gun way is the superior road. Armed thusly with a tape gun, one can smooth tape onto a box with the ease of polished veneer. Sans tape gun, however? Woe betides ye with the tape all stucky to ye fingers and not on ye box.
Don’t Buy Boxes (or packing materials)
As adamant as I am about the efficacy of a tape gun, I’m equally adamant about not buying boxes. I began collecting free boxes months before our move and was able to amass a collection large enough to cover our move with some leftover. I then gave away our excess box inventory through the Buy Nothing project on the day of our move (kudos to the guy who came to pick them up amidst our melee!).
Moving boxes–much like maternity clothes, baby gear, and Christmas trees–are a thing you want GONE as soon as you’re through with that phase of life. In other words, people give them away for free! Folks also give away their used bubble wrap and packing paper, which I happily took and reused. These packing accouterments can most certainly be used more than once.
P.S. if you live near me in Vermont and are in need of some moving boxes, I have a stack in the barn waiting for you!
conned bribed invited Mr. FW’s parents and younger sister to come help us out with the move, which was a godsend. They watched Babywoods, walked Frugal Hound, and even cooked for us (!!!). Thanks to their incredible assistance, we were able to finish packing, coordinate with the movers, and–crucially–clean our Cambridge home from top to bottom in preparation for our tenants to move in.
I scrubbed the bathrooms and Mr. FW vacuumed like a fiend while Babywoods played with her grandparents–ideal! And my sister-in-law kept Frugal Hound out of the house for the day, which was key since we had the doors propped open and the movers darting in and out. Although she’s a calm beast, FH does not do well with disorder or unusual circumstances. Huge thanks and adoration should be showered on my in-laws for all of their loving assistance!!
Why A Flat Rate Was Great
I’d thought a flat rate sounded like a good idea and wow, was I right (love it when that happens). Why, you might wonder? Well, as it turns out, apparently we have a lot of stuff. The movers showed up with 1 truck (ok, it wasn’t huge so we don’t have that much stuff) and, uh, our worldly possessions did not all fit. Circa 5pm, after a herculean effort (which entailed disassembling everything that had a screw or a bolt) to cram it all into one truck, they made the determination to get a second, smaller truck. And since we had a flat rate quote, we didn’t incur any additional charges. Whew.
Reason #9,082 why Movers are Awesome: They Made It Down Our Driveway
You all know about our driveway situation, right? Well, let me tell you: it’s a quarter mile long, made of gravel, and very steep. In other words, it’s a typical rural driveway; but for us city slickers, it’s still rather daunting. And there is something to be said about offloading uncertain liabilities onto a third party. There are known unknowns and there are unknown unknowns and driving down our driveway in a 26′ truck falls into both camps.
While I bet my handy, problem-solving Mr. FW might’ve (probably?) navigated it, our movers managed it with aplomb and like the pros they are. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so relieved as when that truck smoothly motored right up to the house and then, just as smoothly, ascended our driveway and departed for the open road. The movers did comment that our driveway was a “doozy,” but hot damn if they didn’t roll up and down it like butter on a hog.
The ‘Plan Ahead’ Box
Since we’ve been weekending here in Vermont, we had the immense fortune of having the necessities already here at the house. Things like toilet paper, soap, plates, coffee, and diapers were waiting for us. In previous moves, when this advance team-style prep wasn’t possible, we packed a necessities box of just such things: necessities. Easy access to this box is a fine component of a smooth move.
Is nearly complete! While my fabulous in-laws were here, Mr. FW and I took advantage of their kind baby and hound-sitting services and unpacked 95% of the house in about a day and a half. We started at the top (in the bedrooms) and worked our way down. Similar to my packing strategy, we systematically unpacked one room at a time and relegated any unneeded or random items to the basement. This is good because the house is now all set up. This is perhaps bad because now there’s a pile of random items in the basement… which I will deal with someday. Like maybe next year.
We wanted to unpack as rapidly as possible because there’s a whole farmyard of projects awaiting us. I didn’t want to drag out the unpacking and still be hunting for things in weeks or months. Better to blitz through it and be done. Now, we’ve turned our attention to the countless projects that await our attention on the land. In fact, as I write this (from my new office!!!), Mr. FW is out mowing the two acres that surround our house. Also this week: asparagus harvesting, garden bed weeding, figuring out what to do with a gigantic crop of rhubarb we uncovered, culvert repairs, and tractor lessons! Sounds like another post in the works right there… and on that note, I bid you adieu.