This time, I want to move WITHOUT trauma...
July 25, 2008 2:39 AM   Subscribe

How to manage short, cluttered move solo, with no swap space? I'm bad at planning big projects...

I'm an on-campus grad student, and in just under a month, I'm moving from one end of campus to another. I'm really bad at big projects, and every other move I've ever made (many) has been a horrible traumatic crisis, with me frantically flinging stuff into boxes with the landlord looming waiting for me to get the hell out, etc. I'm really BAD at this. So I turn to mefi...

Here's the 411.

- It'll probably be just me (I hate recruiting friends to do this).

- No major furniture will be moved, perhaps just a couple of bookshelves.
-- but one of the bookshelves might not be movable (I might not be able to get it out of the old place without destroying it), so I might have to buy a new one before installing the books in the new place.

- But I must get rid of a bed first (and replace it with the disassembled university-provided one attached to my old place).
-- which requires finding the bolts and so forth to put it together, which are buried under mounds of stuff somewhere

- I have hundreds upon hundreds of books. Other than books, the major items to be moved are clothes, paperwork (lots of it), and misc clutter (old computers, etc.) But the brunt of it will be books. It's not too much stuff -- maybe 1.5 rooms worth.

- I'll have two days from getting the keys to the new place before I have to turn in the keys from the old place. So I have to transport everything in that period.

- I have no "swap space" -- that is, in the current place, there is approximately nowhere where I can do things like pre-pack things and pile them up. At most, I can find room for a few (like 4 or 5) small boxes.

- I'm just going across campus, so it seems silly to pack boxes and stuff...

- I have to clean the place too, after the stuff is gone. But I can possibly hire someone to do that on the cheap, and I probably will, because I hate cleaning.

- I can't afford to hire anyone to do anything else.

- Every time I've moved before, in my life, I've ended up living out of boxes because I've been so exhausted after the process that I can't bring myself to unpack.

Help? I'm at a loss for how to plan this. The best I can come up with is pack as many boxes of stuff as I can squeeze in, use that to clear enough space to switch beds out, and then leave the rest for a panicked miserable rush in the two days... ??

posted by paultopia to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
buy new bolts for the bed - there's no reason to be looking for things with everything else you have to do.

pack all entertainment things first (computers, videogames, books you read for pleasure). get all means of procrastination away from your fingers.

you say you have no swap space, but you have to have room to at least stand and move from object to object in your place. use ever nook and cranny to store boxes in. disassemble the bed that's moving out. move the mattress right next to the door. this will be your living space until you move. now, use the rest of the space to pack things in. once a box is packed make a rule that you won't open it until you're putting the thing away in the new place. no exceptions.

boxes aren't just to keep things save on long journeys, they are to make moving giant piles of books and heaping mounds of clothes easier. if you have a car, use trash bags for the clothes. pack papers with your books so you don't have all the weight of bound books in one box.

for finding things later (after you move!), over detail the boxes - write everything that's in there.

it really is an exercise in thinking "just one box at a time" and not letting yourself have an distractions. if you're not eating you're packing or organizing for packing.
posted by nadawi at 3:06 AM on July 25, 2008

I think

a) you have to use boxes. You're going to damage your books as it is, but tossing them randomly in a car is going to suck more.

b) you should get friends. I know from experience, moving by yourself takes many more man hours than moving with friends. It's depressing.
posted by sully75 at 3:08 AM on July 25, 2008

Get friends. Seriously. They will help you TONS.
posted by divabat at 3:47 AM on July 25, 2008

Short moves are often the worst because you don't prepare adequately. Take the advice to use boxes. Once you've done all you can in advance, on the day of the move use the space on top of your bed to pack stuff.

My trick for wardrobe moving is to put a garbage bag over clothes on hangers in the wardrobe then move them as is. This keeps them together without having to take them off and put them into separate bags, you can just hang the straight up when you arrive.

Can you throw anything out before you go? Do that if you can rather than taking everything and sorting it out again at the other end.
posted by wingless_angel at 3:54 AM on July 25, 2008

My last two moves have been within the same building, so I feel your pain.

You need a friend to at least come over and keep you on task. Even if you think you're not getting distracted by reading things or whatever, you are. Your friend doesn't necessarily need to pack and carry things; your friend is there to keep you disciplined. (It should go without saying, but make sure you pick a disciplined friend. Oy.)

This also includes helping you make some hard choices about what you're keeping. I guarantee you that you have things that you don't need. Your friend can help you play the "Do you really need this third egg timer and strawberry huller?" game.

You MUST treat this like any other move. In fact, you should treat it like you're moving to another country and can only bring a certain amount of stuff. I know nothing about you personally, but from your post I sense that you either suffer from "don't wanna" syndrome or have a couple other issues. I am saying these things because I do too (oh, how I do), in addition to having ADD (WOW, is that not helpful during a move), and I was married to a guy who had been ABD for five years and had lived in a single room for 7 years as well. Getting rid of things will make you feel so much better. Become friends with Goodwill. Don't keep things if they're broken or not useful. Share things with friends and neighbors. You'll have more time for the things and people that matter -- yourself, your friends, your studies, and whatever else keeps you sane.
posted by Madamina at 5:30 AM on July 25, 2008

I'd grab a friend or two. I've moved many times and it can be hard doing it solo. Just find a buddy or two and buy them dinner or a six pack when the job is done.

Boxes are good, but what I've found works best are plastic bins, the thick solid-color ones not the flimsy transparent ones. These are reusable, stackable and can easily be placed on a hand truck in stacks and tied down with a bungee cable or two.

Now on the issue of "stash space", such bins are stackable to four and five high, so you can get a lot of stuff out of the way.

I agree buy more bolts. Also, double check what the cost of not having the bed in place are. If it's only $20 or so, take the small hit for one less thing to worry about.

Cleaning is a breeze. Just have a broom handy or a swiffer, give the room a once over and then just wipe the dust off the furniture. It sounds like a small place so once everything is out, cleaning should be easy.

Oh, and start early. Like really early. Get up at six if you can and start the day. Get the keys to the new place ASAP and maybe call ahead a few days in advance to see if you can get them any earlier. If the previous tenet is moved out, they may give you some leeway.

Also, not sure what city you are in but some areas have pick-up truck rentals which might be easier than filling the car and would be less trips. I once moved everything I owned (books, computers, clothes games, files and even a disassembled desk) in a Dodge neon and it was a pain in the ass and took forever to pack. It'd be easier just putting boxes in the back of the truck, easy loading, easy unload.

And seriously, grab a hand-truck or dolly (depending on what your word preference is). They will save time because books in boxes are very heavy.

Best of luck mate.
posted by thebreaks at 5:40 AM on July 25, 2008

OK - I don't know what your current place looks like, but it sounds like you should start by de-crapifying. This is to allow you the room to pre-pack.

Get trash bags and start stuffing them with crap. Ask yourself the question repeatedly, "do I really need this?" If the answer if no, throw it away. It's freeing. If you don't find your bolts, buy replacements.

Three weeks before your move, collect (or buy - some moving/packing stores sell used boxes on the cheap) boxes and break them down flat so they don't take up appreciable space. Buy a few rolls of packing tape and a magic marker.

Two weeks before your move, fill boxes with books. Your sorting method should be, "do I need this book in two weeks?" If the answer is no, pack it. Write "books - LP" (low priority) on them.

One week before your move, do all your laundry and set aside laundry for a half week - something that if you have to do a load right away it won't suck. Pack all your dishes and related food prep things except for one pan, one plate, one bowl, one fork, one spoon, one cup, a sponge, a towel or dish rack and dish soap. This is all you need (and is actually fairly generous at that) and it's not much to pack on the last day and can all be transported in the dish rack. This is good, because you might not be unpacked right away and you'll have something to eat off of and to clean it right away.

Every night of this week, you should be filling boxes.

Three days before your move, check the weather and figure out if you'll need a pickup or a van and reserve it. If you have a car, you can move in a car, it will just take a little longer.

On the morning of your move, you should have just about everything in boxes. By tradition, I always packed my stereo last so I had something to listen to while I loaded. Be careful loading up. Take the heavy stuff (books, no doubt) first. You'll be wiped by the end of the day and if you do that first, you'll be happier at the end. Never leave your old place without carrying something out. Never enter your new place without carrying something in. You might want to take a few pictures of the new place so that when you move out you have a sense of how much wear and tear you created.

The last thing you should take with you is cleaning supplies and a few tools. On your last day of tenancy, clean the old unit and put the bed back together. Take pictures of the place in case your current landlord and you disagree about the state of the apartment.
posted by plinth at 5:49 AM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Speaking of pictures, for me it's easier to number each of the boxes (on all four sides and top, in thick magic market writ large) and then to photograph the box when it's 2/3 full. Then you can just put one or two terms on the box (or none) but if you have to find something you can scroll through your pics until you strike paydirt. You can also decide, ahead, where boxes x thru y go and just keep a simple list.

Keep that simple list on a clip board or in a folder that has all the paperwork you need and/or accumulate during the process, e.g., key receipts, rental agreements, etc.
posted by carmicha at 6:09 AM on July 25, 2008

awesome advise here. definitely recruit some friends. when i made a friend of mine help me move four bookshelves of books across town in suitcases (with a car) it was tons of fun! we got slurpees and blasted music and made fun of some of the books i had, and i bought him dinner later.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:50 AM on July 25, 2008

If you can't get friends, do what I do and pay a cousin or two, maybe a brother, to help you (usually lunch or $10-$20 goes a long way)
posted by alcoth at 6:55 AM on July 25, 2008

Different take, after 3 cross-town moves in 18 months with limited resources and space (in 2 of the three cases, I was moving from a single room to a single room: same space limitations. (And 4.5 tall bookcases of books) Limited number of boxes, too, and with almost everything going into the car (a friend with a pick-up helped with the bookshelves and bedframe)

1) Start cleaning and de-cluttering now.

It will not take *additional* space, and may well free up some. Get rid of anything you do not actually want to move, and are not using or going to need again. This includes your closets, your books, your papers, etc.

2) As you declutter, start sorting stuff so you can pack it fast. Pack anything you can possibly pack.

If you're tight on space, you may not be able to pack the books until late in the game -but you can certainly have them neatly on shelves or stacked, so that all you have to do is drop them into boxes.

Likewise, you may actually need access to a number of items (as a grad student, you're likely to keep researching and so on), but there will be some things you won't need. Winter clothes. Formal clothing, maybe. Books you need to keep but that are not currently in use. Pack whatever you can and stack it wherever you can.

3) The couple of days before your move, start staging everything:

Whatever your moving method is (car, cart, etc.) figure out how best to stage what you have so you can pack it, move it, etc. as quickly as possible. Pack anything you can that is non-essential (comments above about dishes are great.)

4) The days of your move:

How I worked was to move a set of boxes, unpack them and stack the books (in a large formation of stacks by the walls, as tightly clustered as I could), take the boxes, and go do another trip.

I discovered I could do 4-6 boxes in my car comfortably, and that these handled somewhere around 80-150 books, depending. Over the course of 2 days, it's quite possibly to do 10+ trips, if you plan them carefully. I also found that the pack-move-unpack cycle gave me a chance to catch my breath. You may work differently.

I found I preferred to move the books, stack them in the corner, and then move in furniture (bed, bookcases), set them up, and then unpack around them.

Stacking the books as an interim seems like it's a duplication of effort in a way that wastes time - but I found it was actually a lot more satisfying: I could move things fast, but I also got to make sure that everything ended up on the right shelves when I unpacked, in the best set-up for my new place (which might not be the best set up from your old place.) Also, it can wait until the end of the day or the end of the move, and is less physically strenuous.
posted by modernhypatia at 7:02 AM on July 25, 2008

My last move was basically by myself. What helped me the most was moving in a long period, i.e. over 2.5 weeks. Because I work fulltime and long hours, this worked out well.

Bubble wraps - I went to an office supply place and invested in a bubble wrap and ended up using 1/5 of 25 bucks worth bubble wraps.

Boxes - You can get really good ones free from grocery stores and office supply store. Call office supplies ahead and ask for free paper boxes, they're sturdy cause they have to support heavy paper. They throw those away on certain days of shipments so you need to call ahead and ask if it's ok for you to stop by. On that day, I'd pick up a thing of bubble wrap so you're buying something from them, and they're willing to open new ones to give you more boxes. I was able to get 7 of them.

Boxes - From grocery stores. Try to get egg boxes. They're not too big and very sturdy. In these boxes, you can put a garage back of clothes, so that if the boxes get wet or if there's something in the box, you don't have to worry about them on your clothes.

As Plinthe said, do lil bit at a time each night or each morning.

Throw away as much as possible! You'll still end up transferring more crap so the more you throw away, the better.

This is also a great time to sort out the clothes that you haven't worn in 2 years, to donate.

I ended up renting a truck to load up my furniture but because they were separated, it was manageable to transfer. The truck rental ended up costing me 60 bucks cause I only used it for one day and got a coupon from the address change envelope from the post office.

As far as cleaning, start cleaning bit at a time. Clean the freezer tonight, then the vegetable/fruit drawers tomorrow, the cabinets the next day, all carpeted floors, etc.

Good luck!
posted by icollectpurses at 7:07 AM on July 25, 2008

The most important things I never have enough for in a move:
* strong, durable, good-quality garbage bags. Tons of them. Nothing sucks more than throwing all your closes into a garbage bag and having it split at the bottom when you're carrying it from the car. Plus, you should be purging crap you don't need now, so you'll need to throw it out somehow.
* Paper towels. Can be used to clean anything quickly, and in a pinch even works as (albeit expensive) packing material when scrunched up.
* Disposable plates, glasses and silverware. Pack your dishes, use these. No hassles about having to wash dishes when you've got so many other things to worry about. Just toss and go. No one said moving was good for the environment! :S
posted by cgg at 8:35 AM on July 25, 2008

I have had some disastrous moves in the last few years! And another one's coming up soon. You would not believe the amount of crap we have - hundreds and hundreds of DVD's, piles of electronics, 2 living room sets, four computers, hundreds of books and archives of magazines from years gone by, more lamps than Times an 800sqf. apartment. And don't get me started on the kitchen or the wardrobe.

This time, I'm going to be ready. What's nailed me all the past times, and what won't get me this time, is organization - I'm compartmentalizing and organizing EVERYTHING. This is crucial, because when all the crap of a certain type is together, then it gets packed and moved together. If you're in a small space, it's possible to do that within a month. Decrapity too; organizing helps a lot with this. If you can't think of where something goes or what to do with it, you probably don't need it. Buy storage solutions, gradually, as you discover a need for them.

As to moving a short distance, yeah, if you've got a car and a hand dolly, you can do this by yourself without too much pain. Back when I was in college it was two carloads tops, then I was done.

Good luck with it all. I'm rootin' for ya.
posted by saysthis at 12:36 PM on July 25, 2008

Don't fill up boxes with books only. They will be way too heavy. Either pack light stuff with them (like pillows) or use smaller boxes. Also check how heavy boxes are as you are packing them. You don't want find out on the day of the move that your boxes are all too heavy to lift.

Another suggestion--hire movers. You can also get them to pack for you. We did this for our move last weekend, and it was nice to not burden our friends and be dead tired at the end of the day. Check craigslist for a local company that will do a small move. It shouldn't be too expensive since you don't have much stuff (ours charged by the hour), and it will probably prevent a lot of stress.

Good Luck!
posted by jenne at 10:26 PM on July 25, 2008

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