Tip #1: moving with kids is NUTS. OK, we did survive and are SO much happier now in our new house. But it was not easy. It was probably one of the hardest things I've done actually, just so much stress, feeling overwhelmed, very very busy, something every minute it seemed. But here we are on the other side of it and I'm so pleased. We did it! You can, too!
I hope this post shares with you some helpful ideas and suggestions for surviving your own big move with your family.
Moving with Kids:
- Start packing sooner than later. We agreed to put our house up for sale on a Sunday. Monday and Tuesday there were snow storms, but by Wednesday we'd had four showings and the house was sold that evening, full asking price. What?! I was shocked. In fact, the only reason I'd agreed to put the house up for sale at that crazy time in our lives (I'd just gone back to work after 3 months maternity leave, had a 3 month old, juggling three kids and working again, etc. Not ideal time to add another stressor to the mix!), was because I thought we'd have time, months worth of time to adjust. But when you get an offer, a full price offer, you cannot refuse. Thus, we packed right away. I tell you to start packing right away because 1) your house could sell that quickly, too, but more importantly 2) you NEED all the time you can get when you're packing up a house full of kids and their stuff. It takes so much longer than packing without a family.
- Break it down. Do one room at a time. Pack one box every single night before bed. Make lists, timelines, put ideas in your phone's calendar. But work on it, consistently. Make it more manageable with small goals: This weekend we'll focus on the basement, or the kitchen cabinets. Tonight I'll pack just the kids' bookshelf. It can get overwhelming pretty quickly. Break it down as much as you can. I know you're tired, but try to do something when the kids go to bed. It's so much easier to work when little ones aren't underfoot.
- Label the boxes. Listen, I get it, you have half a brain cell left post-kids, but you need to focus on this one thing when moving: Label your boxes! I know you get going, swiftly moving room to room filling things up, and that's great, but don't get carried away. Write down on a piece of tape or something whatever is in the box - even if all you say is "kids crap," write it down. It makes the unpacking process soooo much easier.
- Get more boxes than you think you need. You will go through way more boxes than you did the first time you moved into this place without kids. Believe me, you will. So get tons. Home Depot boxes are awesome. Tupperware plastic tubs are even better and great to re-use later for kids outdoor toys or clothing storage.
- Toss it now. Do you really want this item in your new house? Does it work well, look presentable, make you happy? Do you even use it now? If the answer is no, get it out of here! Someone else will love it, so donate it. You don't want to get carried away getting rid of everything, because that leads to a bigger headache down the road to having to spend money to purchase new things again. But get rid of things you aren't using, don't need, or just clutter up your life. You don't need to move more than you have to. We donated at least 5 carloads of stuff to Goodwill. I'm a big consignor, always taking kids' clothing and toys to consignment shops. I didn't have time to do that with the move, so instead dropped it all at Goodwill, and told myself I was helping lots of people in the midst of downsizing our stuff. It is a win-win.
- Ask for help. We just rolled with it and did 98% of packing ourselves. It was quite the process. But, if you have people around you, ask for help. For us, what we needed help with was our kids. The packing and moving was fine, but we needed people to feed the baby or distract the big kids so we could get things done faster. So call a grandma to take the kids to the movies or out to breakfast, or ask a neighbor's kid to play outside on the swingset with them while you clean out the garage.
Looking for a house... what a process.
- Eat whatever you can. I know we're supposed to be all healthy, and that's great but when you're selling a house, packing every chance you're not at work, moving boxes, loading up trailers and PODS and storage units, going to house showings every few nights, ETC. YOU HAVE ZERO TIME. And that's OK. It's temporary. Remind yourself of this often. So buy frozen meals. Eat peanut butter sandwiches. Eat pancakes for dinner. Go to McDonald's (we did this far too much and I hate that, but it is what it is). Just get through. When you get out of work and pick up kids at 3 stops and it's now 5:15 p.m. and the realtor says they have a great house to go look at, you have to drop what you're doing and go. So it's oftentimes fast food so the kids cooperate when you are at said house. It's short term. Just get by, it's OK!
- Get help during house showings. If someone can sit in the car and entertain your kids for you while you go to a house to look through it, AWESOME. This is a major decision. Take the time you need, without kids stressing you out.
- Pack ahead. I kept a fully stocked diaper bag, extra big kid snacks and water bottles, ETC. in my car at all times during the house process where we would be going to a house viewing every few days, as things would come on the market during the day, the realtor would text us in the afternoon and we'd have to go right after work. It was busy and stressful, but made it much easier when I had prepared ahead of time just in case. iPads and movies and books help during this time, too, for when you have to bring kids into the new house.
Remember the Kiddos:
- Don't talk about it alllll the time. Kids need a break from the stress and change happening around them with a new house. I know it's all that you think about, it consumes you... but remember they are little and don't quite understand what mortgages and inspections and 45-day closings are all about, nor should they have to understand it. So do your best to run your family as normal as possible during the move. Keep routines as normal as possible like dinner time or talking about your days. Talk about how exciting it is to move, but don't talk about all the little details of how you'll get there.
- Give them some control. Do you want to pack up your stuffies or your books first? Do you want to donate this toy that you don't need, or do you have another toy you can give away instead? Do you think your bed should be packed up now or should we wait until next weekend to pack up the bedframe? It's scary feeling some changes sometimes, so giving them choices and control helps give them back some of that safety feeling.
- Let them pack, too. I gave both my kids their big LL Bean tote bag to pack whatever was most special to them, things they wanted to take with us when we moved into a temporary location between our house selling and buying a new house. We did this first, before packing anything else in their room. They put the most random things into those bags, things I would not have considered, but they said they "needed" with them. I supported every item, letting it be their thing. Then my son got very into packing boxes, taping them up, writing his name on them so we knew those are his toys, so they don't get lost, etc. It was cute. It took longer packing this way, but it's important to include your kids in this process, especially if they are of the ages my kids were - 5 and 7- where they really get it.
- Read books about moving. Make it interesting, fun, and spark their curiosity. Taking a trip to the library during the moving stage to find books about moving might be a nice break for everyone.
- Get them excited. Talk about all the cool things the new house may have. Ask their ideas- should we have 2 bedrooms or 3? Should we get a white house or blue? Do we want to get a swingset at our new house, one with a slide? Point out houses when driving and ask what kids think about them.
- Take their opinion into consideration. Our kids were 5 and 7 when we bought our new house. We knew we'd buy it, it was perfect. But when we visited it, we asked the kids their opinion, what they liked or didn't like. Could they see us living there? We "voted" by asking who wanted to buy this house, once me and my husband agreed to it. The kids were in favor. Had they not been, we'd have toured it again and done more talking. It's important to hear them out, making them feel like this is something they are a part of, not some big change being done to them without their say.
- Embrace their phases. My daughter went through a sort of "hoarding" phase during our move, where she collected treasures. These could be things that she found outside -rocks, shells, flowers, rubber bands, etc. Or they were things that did not belong to her- things at the temporary housing place we stayed at like jewelry or blocks or books, and things that were clearly not hers like my earrings and her dad's papers. It was challenging, it didn't make sense at the time, but once we moved into our forever home these behaviors stopped completely. It makes sense to me now: she was confused with everything being packed away, not having access to her special things at all times, and so she collected things that mattered to her to keep them safe, to make herself feel better, perhaps. Our son had a hard time sleeping in the temporary place because he now was sharing a room with his chatty sister. This made him full of attitude because of being so exhausted. They both needed more love and patience than typical, at a time when our patience was running low. Just remember this: it's hard for kids to go through change. They certainly adjust and survive just fine, it's not a bad thing, but have patience with whatever phases they exhibit.
Moving to a temporary location:
- Set up the kids' space first. Make their beds, including their stuffies, just like they like it. Ask their opinion on which bed they want, where they want their pillow to lie, etc. Set up the bathroom the way you had it, their stool and toothbrush in place if you can.
- Packing for two moves. It was hard to have a set of items we needed short term until we found a new house, after moving out of our first house. I had to predict 3-6 months of not being in a new house yet, which meant keeping out snow boots and getting out the summer attire in the middle of winter, just being unsure where we'd be and what we'd need with several kids. I over packed for sure, but I was not positive what we'd need so it worked out ok.
- Keep routines in place. Even though it's a new table, make sure you sit similarly to where you used to sit at your own house. Even thought it's a different place, possibly with new people living with you like family members, etc. try to keep up the same routine of brushing teeth right after dinner or stories before bed, etc. Routines help kids feel safe in the face of changes. It helps them cooperate more, too.
- Establish rules. It's like a brand new playground in a new setting! Kids running and jumping, things they'd never do at your old house. They just need the boundaries and structure set up for them. So lay it out. Talk about the new rules here, letting them create rules themselves. Write them down even. Plan to repeat yourself a lot in the first few weeks of living in this temporary place.
- Take the time you need to set it up. I had to take a day off from work, one single day in this entire process, which was super hard after returning from maternity leave. But I did it. I needed a single day to myself to establish routines, processes, and set things up that we needed to function every day. So if you need to call out sick one day or send the kids and husband away for an afternoon movie so you can really focus and get settled, do it! It'll be so worth it in the long run.
Moving into your new house!
- Set up the kids' rooms first. Get their input. Get new sheets or bedding if it makes them feel better. Ask where they want their bed facing, etc.
- Set up the main areas second. Bathrooms, kitchens, TV, etc. Get these areas functioning, and then go back and organize other areas later.
- Start getting into your routine, find your new normal. This is so important with kids. Our routines change when we move into a new setting, so start figuring out what's going to work in this new space, and make it consistently something your kids can start getting used to. It helps them with the transition.
- Ask their opinions. Do they think the cups should go in this drawer or that one? Should the pillows go here or there? It helps them to have a say in what's changing.