Moving cross-country as a physically disabled person
June 3, 2013 8:07 PM   Subscribe

This summer, I'll be moving 2000 miles across the country for a new job. I have to hire movers to load my things into my pod, but I'd like to save money and pack things myself. But that's difficult because I have a degenerative joint condition that makes even simple things like standing, leaning forward, or doing the dishes very difficult.

I have a new job 2000 miles away, which I'm very excited about! I'm moving this summer, and I'm planning to use a pod (ABF or U-Box), delivered door to door, with movers to load and unload on each end.

Moving is complicated for me because I'm physically disabled. I'm physically unable to do a lot of things that able-bodied people take for granted, and I also have to minimize my total exertion level.

That said, I'd like to save as much money as possible and pack up many of my things myself. I have a few friends who can help, but I already impose on them a lot to help me with physical tasks. It's not fair to ask them to be my laborers/carers, and it's important for me to be as independent as possible.

So: Have any of you found any great ways to make packing easier on your body? Any good tools or strategies? Especially for people with arthritis or other disabilities, but anything labor-saving would be welcome.

For example, I can't bend over to put things in a box that's on the floor, but I also can't move a packed box (even a very, very light one) from off of a table. Is there any easy way around that? Any assistive devices that I and my occupational therapists haven't heard of or tried yet?
posted by petery to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

quick thoughts on moving across the country (which I have done 4 times now).

only pack essentials. If you have dishes that you don't love, leave them behind. guess what? the world is packed full of used stuff pretty much wherever you go. starting with less is awesome.

for assistive devices, I highly recommend a convertible dolly

covert it to a cart, put 3 medium boxes from U-Haul on it, fill, tape and make another row of boxes.

call a friend to help when there are 9 on the cart.

you can also use your dining room table to stage 6 to 9 boxes... have someone move the when they are full.
posted by bobdow at 8:16 PM on June 3, 2013

What if you line up a lot of empty boxes on the tables and wherever and spend the day filling them as you can and then have a neighbor kid or friend come and put the boxes all in a stack and set up new empty ones? That'd only be a few minutes of work a day for someone else. (I'm thinking a next door neighbor stops in after work.)
I moved with a newborn, four weeks after I'd had a C-section, and one thing I ran into was that I'd fill up boxes without trying to move them and then no one could lift them. We'd have to take stuff out. So small boxes for books, for example.
posted by artychoke at 8:18 PM on June 3, 2013

Definitely, first of all, get rid of as much stuff as possible. It's amazing what you can get rid of when you think of how much time/money it will take to pack, move, unpack.

Really though, I think the trick to saving as much time/energy/money as possible is to be as absolutely organized as possible. Actually, everyone should be more organized about moving! Here's what we did for a cross-country move:

- Printed out labels with name, address, phone.
- Printed out labels with numbers
- Printed out colored labels according to destination room. i.e. all blue labels said "kitchen," all pink labels said "bedroom," etc.
- Created a spreadsheet (I used Google Docs because there were two of us sharing, and then you can also access from anywhere) that lists the box number, destination (with color coding), and contents.

Each box got a set of labels on the top and side. I didn't have to worry about awkwardly writing the contents on the side with a sharpie, or changing my mind and moving things around and crossing things out. If I later wanted to know where something was, it was as easy as ctrl+f in the spreadsheet.

My fiance thought I was crazy until we actually moved. It was super easy for the him, as he was physically moving the boxes, because a quick glance made it obvious which box was going in which room. It was also helpful when, unfortunately, our storage unit got broken into (this was after we moved and were living with family in the interim) because I knew very quickly exactly what was missing.
posted by radioamy at 8:18 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

As an able bodied person, I've used a rolling office chair as a make shift dolly.
posted by oceano at 8:29 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

We just moved (and have moved a bunch in the past).

One thing I did was use the boxes themselves to make packing a little easier. For example, I used one full box that came up to about mid-thigh as a sort of packing stand, where an empty box placed on top of it would be the perfect height to eliminate a lot of reaching and bending. Once that box was full, I could put it on the ground and have another "packing stand" ready to go.

Another thing was when I was working on a room, I'd pull everything out and put it in a pile somewhere. Like in the kitchen, I'd pull everything I was packing that day out and put it on the counter, which cut down on all the up and down and stretching and rummaging. Once everything was out, it was just putting it in the boxes. And it also provides motivation to finish if you want to use the counter!

Another thing was sort of a process adjustment: Since we knew we were going to be moving for quite a while, we could do things slowly, which meant I could do things like break objects down into groups of things that could be packed up right away and slowly cut our stuff down on a weekly or monthly basis rather than just having a frenzy of packing. On the weekends close to the move, I'd pick a room or two and work on that, then keep a few boxes open and just pick up stuff and drop it in as I finished with it or it seemed unlikely we'd need it in the next frame of time.

So, for example, 2 months before we moved (we moved in late May), I went through my closet and got rid of everything that didn't fit. 1 month before we moved, I went through my closet and packed everything I still needed to own but didn't strictly speaking need in the next month. Like I have a full week of suits for business trips but I didn't have one coming up, so I could keep one out for emergency funerals or whatever and pack the rest. 2 weeks before we moved, I packed up all the out-of-season stuff like the winter clothes and coats and long sleeves and sweat pants and so on. 1 week before we moved, I packed myself a suitcase with everything I'd need for the move and a few days after clotheswise. Then I left out a week's worth of clothes and could safely pack the rest. Over the course of those two months, I'd leave boxes open and when I stumbled on a clothing item I wouldn't need, I could toss them in the boxes.

It does mean more time with boxes everywhere since the process is much more drawn out, though and, obviously, you have to figure out where everything's priority lies, but worked well enough that our last packing day only took til noon and we were kind of baffled because everything was done.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:52 PM on June 3, 2013

As an able bodied person, I've used a rolling office chair as a make shift dolly.

Please don't do this, putting heavy boxes on a wobbly chair is a really bad idea for somebody that already has serious physical limitations.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:52 PM on June 3, 2013

I am in the process of getting ready for a move. I have limits mostly related to fatigue. I use my table for the boxes and I do one small section at a time. I am ruthlessly purging. When I have one box or bag for donations I get rid of it as fast as I can. Having stuff like that around makes me feel overwhelmed.

The other option might be a local HS student who needs to do community service to graduate. They could be your body. I have used them for yard work and it has really been a great experience. They usually wait till the last second to get their hours so they tend to be grateful for the opportunity. You could call your local HS to see if they have that kind of program.
posted by cairnoflore at 9:18 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

To be honest - at least get a few quotes for them to pack and unpack to see how much this would really cost you. Because you will be stressed and exhausted enough as it is and having 2-3 people pack your house up in one day and unpack it again the other end is worth the money if it is not completely out if reach. With the added stress of the new job and your physical limitations I'd seriously give it some thought because I detest living out of boxes for weeks and months at a time first to pack and then the other end until you've unpacked and found a new home for all your stuff.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:49 AM on June 4, 2013

I hired a student who needed summer work to pack my books. When moving, use big boxes for pots, pans and large unwieldy things. Clothes are not terribly heavy and can go in big boxes, too. Use small/ medium boxes for books. If you have good boxes, they need just 1 strip of tape on the bottom - run it about halfway up the sides, and it's plenty of strength. With mobility issues, you may be best off making up several boxes at a time. To find qualified volunteers, call the United Way, maybe they will know an agency who can help.
posted by theora55 at 7:04 AM on June 4, 2013

When a friend moved I appointed myself the donations chauffeur. She could text me on Saturday to ask me to pick up her giveaways and drop them at the charity shop. I also volunteer to unpack boxes after people move.

One of my friends hired a recent retiree to help her sort & organize before she moved into a much smaller retirement apt.

If you have a neighborhood email list, your neighbors might also be happy to help in smaller ways.
posted by MichelleinMD at 8:46 AM on June 4, 2013

I am medically handicapped, with a lot of physical limitations. I am also a former military wife, so I have moved a good bit. My favorite way to pack was to throw things out and donate. "Less is more."

With every single move I ever made, I found my needs were different in the new place and I would get rid of things after having packed, moved and unpacked them. And then I would buy different items that worked better for my new life. Over time, we became a lot more aggressive about pitching stuff out before packing. It just saves a lot of energy and hassle. It always felt dreadful to pitch things out after moving and unpacking them -- like having some of my life vampirically sucked away for nothing.

For me, something that helped was fresh, new boxes and purchased clean packing paper. It is common for people to try to save money by collecting used boxes and newspapers. Those make me really sick, from germs and from ink on the newspapers and possibly other things I am unaware of. Having fresh, clean packing materials meant packing made me less tired. I had more stamina for it.
posted by Michele in California at 12:58 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

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