Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Ten Commandments of Moving

I woke up this morning ready to launch into the second half of the summer, until it was pointed out to me that there are only three working weeks of summer left. School starts the last week in August, and there is Vacation By The Lake for ten days before that.

Sigh. Now is the time for triage: figuring out what can and cannot be done, re-negotiating deadlines if necessary, planning a very busy fall, realizing that I have only made a dent in the reading I meant to do, since this is what happens when a person writes too much. So maybe I can just finish reading the journals....

And yet there are two things I am not doing. One is packing -- the other is moving. But you are: all you post-docs and one-year visitors on the move, packing while you try to finish your dissertations at the same time; people moving to Real Jobs in Real, and sometimes not so Real, places, maybe just beginning your careers or maybe beginning them all over again elsewhere. Then there are all you newly Distinguished Chairs, flying down Just for the Closing, and flying back to close on the house here before you head off for a glorious three weeks in Bellagio. You are all either packing or beginning to pack. You are renting U-Hauls or getting bids from movers, movers who will drive around the country in circles and figure eights with your belongings while you sit in your empty apartment or house in New City and weep, camping out with the pillow, coffee cup and towel you had the wit to bring with you in the car.



N. and I once figured out that in our time together, which now spans over twenty years, we have moved about a dozen times, and this does not count the end of summer flurry that a commuting relationship produces (otherwise known as the Mini-Move), an odd phenomenon in which you calm your anxiety about commuting by filling tote bags with the things you know you are going to need in September because there is no point in putting them away again at the end of July. Due to the peculiar circumstances of my life I have, in over two decades of constant motion only recently come to a halt, developed the Radical's Ten Commandments of Moving, which you can either read here, or you can go to a field in upstate New York and receive them on Golden Tablets, which will authorize you to begin a polygamous evangelical religious sect that will move constantly for several decades until you get somewhere and say: "This is the place."

It's your choice. So without further ado:

1. Let no trash day goeth unremarked. Every night before the trash trucks come, fill bags, barrels and bins with everything you can think of that can be recycled or tossed. The trash on the last day before you pack the car will still be overwhelming, of course, but you will know that you tried.

2. Setteth thou a deadline of two weeks before the move as the last day anyone in your house is allowed to put something on Craig's List. The amount of energy that goes into selling your old computer is simply not justified by the $50 you will get for it as people make and break appointments with you.

3. Giveth the clothes you are saving for when you are thin enough to wear them again to the Goodwill. You will never be thin enough to wear them again. It is a brutal truth, but someone had to tell you.

4. Arrangeth for all pets to go to the kennel, or stay with a friend, for the last two or three days before you really move. The last thing you need while getting ready to go to a new job is to wonder where, exactly, in the U-Haul, Kitty is, and whether she will dehydrate completely as you cross Death Valley. And your dog -- oy. Dogs suffer from moving more than you can possibly know.

5. Stoppeth taking books out of the library now and return any you have. In the last couple days of packing, you will be so insane that it will seem easier to pack library volumes along with all the other books and then mail them back when you get there. And you know, it really isn't. And those library books will haunt you the rest of your days. When you are pulled over for a speeding violation ten years from now, you will find yourself chanting, "Please don't let them check the computer and find out about the overdue books."

6. Shouldst thou haveth movers --if you can possibly afford it, pay them to pack too. None of us can resist packing randomly in advance, but that last day or two is hell. Packing things like dishes, lamps and pictures is something professionals do particularly well. They are also really good at packing Mystery Items: imagine the fun when you get to your destination and realize you paid $3.50 for a cardboard box and packing paper, and when you open it you realize that the movers have carefully packed your catbox, with sand and cat droppings, and a jug of Drano, lovingly wrapped.

7. If there art two of you, only one person is allowed to be upset at a time. I suggest you reverse roles once in a while.

8. If you haveth children, and you are getting rid of all kinds of toys and kid things that they will never play with or use again, do not put them on the street for the trash man. A relative of mine once found his children howling inconsolably at the window as their discarded, forgotten belongings such as games, broken car seats, befouled crib mattresses -- transformed before their eyes into Precious Things -- were being scooped up into a dump truck on the special pick up scheduled prior to moving day. Such things must be spirited off in the dead of night after the children are in bed or when they have been sent off on a sleepaway. Or there is freecycle.

9. Do not taketh any furniture you bought at IKEA. If you have already moved furniture from IKEA once, do not do so again. Longtime readers of this blog know that the Radical is a huge fan of IKEA, but furniture made of pressboard and wooden pins is not designed for being banged around in vans, regardless of how well padded and packed the items are. They will come out at the other end looking -- distressed. There is a reason they send this stuff from Sweden disassembled and wedged into place with blocks of styrofoam.

10. Seeth your friends. Everyone will want to see you before you leave. There is a reason for this, even though no one will say it: about half of the people you now know in the place you are leaving you will speak to again a few times, and that will be it, except for conferences, birth announcements, political email lists and such. Five years from now, that list will be whittled down to two or three that you really keep up with. So have a party. Honor your friendships. Swear undying affection, and make a mental note to put the whole dissertation group in your acknowledgements.

Then click your ruby slippers and go. Good luck with your new life.

33 comments:

Lesboprof said...

Love the rules, esp. about only 1 upset at a time. I would add some additional moving rules in our house:

1. Decideth who rules which rooms and divide and conquer the unpacking. The gf is the cook, so I stay out of the kitchen unpacking and setting up unless help is needed with high cabinets (I am taller).

2. Have a discussion about moving philosophy with your partner. In my family, we do anything to keep calm during a move. In the gf's family, anger gives energy and outbursts are frequent. Figure out a way that works for you both.

3. Break down boxes as unpacking goes along... Create a deadline for unpacking in each room.

4. Get out of the house and see a movie, eat an expensive dinner, or something.

anthony grafton said...

TR has the scoop, as always.

Especially good is the advice about paying movers to pack. They do it faster and better than you can (and once, when we were moving, they packed all but one of my shoes, a joke we still savor).

I'm still waiting for that Bellagio gig, while spending this summer (like most before it) deep in wonderful but unromantic archives and libraries. Well, Marsh's Library in Dublin is pretty romantic . . .

Sisyphus said...

Brilliant rules! Don't forget, if you are renting, to have a talk about how much cleaning of the place are you going to do before leaving --- do you want your deposit back, and therefore need to budget the time to practically lick the place clean? Or will you just give it enough of a once-over so as you're not embarrassed? It sucks to be up at 3 in the morning the night before driving off, scrubbing furiously at the bathroom tiles while your SO is having a snit in the other room.

GayProf said...

I know that I have not mentioned it much, but I think moving suuuucks.

Bardiac said...

Rule 11. If you have little kids, send them for a visit with someone else. The packing and throwing toys away thing is difficult to do only at night, and needlessly exciting. Someone else can entertain them for a couple days, so you can run errands or whatever in one third the time.

And the spinster aunt likes to have them visit! /nod

Anonymous said...

Professor Potter, what are some good techniques and strategies to employ while conducting archival research? I'm new to this, and I'd appreciate all the help you could give.
- former student of yours

Susan said...

I'd add one more rule to these great words of wisdom:
There is always one more closet to pack, usually the closet of doom, which includes lots of random things you didn't know what to do with before.

Of course, it's even better not to move : ) Though I'll take the gig at Bellagio.

Edward Carson said...

TR,

I have discovered that if you really like a community do not leave it. I left a wonderfull small community for a better academic position, but in some ways I wish I were still in that community. Advice: take down the rear view mirror if you move. It can be dangerous.

Zach said...

I'm moving in a week, and so far all I've learned is:
1. Free boxes aren't such a great deal when it's raining outside.
2. Staying up all night reading Harry Potter makes it hard to get up early and pack some book boxes.
3. On that note, I should give away most of my books after I've read them. Then other people have to move them to their 4th-floor walkups.
4. Fudgesicles help everything.

more knowledge to come, I'm sure. I've always wished I could enjoy minimalism.

Ancarett said...

I adore these rules. I only wish they'd been posted a few weeks earlier while we were preparing for our move. Fourteen years in one house had me sadly out of practice!

PPB said...

Perfect advice.

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Notorious Ph.D. said...

Thanks for this, TR! I moved furniture from *Target*, I tell you. But I was a poor grad student going to the first job, so I think it could be excused.

Now, do you have a version for one-year temporary cross-country relocations from which one will be returning to one's apartment and furniture? Becasue I could seriously use one of those.

Anonymous said...

I moved eight times in nine years in grad school and afterwards (so far), thanks to academic life + cities with high rents. Hoping to be in one place for a while now though, finally.
-A Wes faculty member

Anonymous said...

What a f##cked up way to live. Academics: do you realize that this is really really sick--look at the five (which is a generous estimate) friends thing that you will keep in touch with part--it is systemic and makes everyone little sick power mad jerks, or sad.

Tenured Radical said...

Whoa anonymous 4:04! Don't you think you are overreacting a little? Most of these comments are just as laid back as the post. Chill, man, before you return to Radical Land.

TR

Keri said...

This is a brilliant list of rules!! If I were moving again (and after the 10th move in 10 years I'm most certainly not...well, not any time soon...), I'd print these out and stick them to the fridge!

Clio Bluestocking said...

These rules are so incredibly true! Being just about to embark upon my fifth move in as many years, I've noticed that frequent moving streamlines the process a tiny bit. You haven't had time to accumulate too much new crap, and you've dumped a lot of the non-essential old crap. That said, the whole deal is still pure hell.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Coming to this late, but oh yes, yes, these are rules of brilliance (except that we could never put the cats in a kennel while packing because LDH would have a heart attack. They get shut in the bathroom with their various necessities.

I do have one tiny quibble to offer. I have two floor lamp/torchiere things that I bought from IKEA. Original price? $2.99 ea. They have moved from the east coast to the middle of the country to the south and look as good as the day that I bought them. (They're plastic, so it's not that hard.) I'm actually giving them away, but I was tempted to move them again just to see how long they'd hold up.

(I totally agree about IKEA furniture, though.)

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