The inevitable day has come. I'm moving. Again. Next weekend, and for the third time in as many years. This is what happens when you are a live-in home stager.
As I pack, I ruminate like Plato on the good question: Why am I doing this? Oh yeah, no mortgage or lease. I have ultimate housing flexibility, and I get to live in really cool houses for a lot less than what I would have to pay if I owned or rented them.
The deal sounds cushy until packing day hits. Then the glamour of the gig disappears like the allure of a posh night club when the house lights come on.
So, as I once again Bubble Wrap baubles and box books, I give myself this pep talk: “Myself,” I say, “as long as I've signed on to this vagabond life, I might as well embrace the process, find the Zen in packing and turn moving into a serious sport, where the goal is maximum speed and efficiency, and minimum inconvenience and cost.”
I stiffen my spine, find my most determined inner voice and say: “I am going to become a moving machine!”
To find the best short cuts and cost-saving tips, I call U-Haul International spokesman Dain Howell. U-Haul pretty much owns the do-it-yourself-moving market.
Howell starts by letting me know I am part of an American tradition: “Nearly 20 million Americans move between Memorial Day and Labor Day,” he said. “Almost half the nation's moves take place in these three months.”
“Oh, I love a parade!” I said “especially being in one!”
“That's not how most people see it,” he said.
“Hey, attitude is everything.”
Here's how Howell, who confided that he has moved six times in three years, so has me beat, said we can move faster, smarter and cheaper, while taking some of the heave out of upheaval:
• Start early. No matter how good you are, packing always takes longer than you think. Start two or three weeks before moving day. Pack items you use least first. I always start with china and books.
• Pack strategically. Mark the boxes you know you will need first with a star or other symbol. Put belongings you will want day one — sheets, towels, toiletries, change of clothes — in a suitcase or clothes hamper for easy access.
• Have a packing room. Choose a little-used room or corner of your house to serve as the packing station. Build boxes of assorted sizes so they're ready to grab. Momentum is key. Keep a stash of good thick markers, packing tape, and packing materials such as Bubble Wrap, popcorn or unprinted newsprint there.
• Save on boxes. Get used ones. In a move to be greener, U-Haul started a “Take a Box, Leave a Box” program, Howell said. After a move, drop off still good boxes at the nearest U-Haul; there others can pick them up and re-use them for free.
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