Moving Mayhem: Tried and True Tricks from a Mom Who’s Been There and Back


I’ve actually lost count of the number of places I’ve lived. I once had to fill out a legal form that required all of my addresses from the past decade. I had to dig out old address books and enlist the help of friends who wrote me snail mail back in the day. My head hurts thinking about it right now. We moved for various reasons while I was growing up, and I made several moves throughout college and afterwards. And then I married a foreigner and we bounced around from his country back to mine until we ended up in Chattanooga.

While I’ve moved a ton, I haven’t always had a literal ton of stuff to move.

My college roommate and I rented a Penske truck after graduation to haul our student surplus 1,300 miles from Texas back to the Northeast. Our junk wouldn’t fit in a car, and the truck company was giving college students a better deal in any case. Once we packed our few boxes of books and clothes in the truck, we realized our life looked pretty sad by the measure of our possessions. Hours before we drove off, we canvased campus like vultures, searching for more stuff to haul in the truck, so our boxes wouldn’t shift around during the trip.

I kind of miss those days when I only had enough junk to barely cover the floor of a moving truck. Somehow over the past few years, I’ve become a responsible adult and at some point, I’ve also accumulated some serious stuff.

Nothing gives you a wake-up call about all of the junk you own like moving.

I have this weird obsession with bags, mainly because I didn’t own any furniture until my mid-30s. Now, I have enough furniture to fill a small house, and while I love the excitement of living in a new place (even within the same city!), I’m frankly ready to sell everything, because I’m physically exhausted from actually moving it.

Moving is no doubt exhausting, so here are a few tried and true tips to make your next move a success:

:: Marry a strong man. No seriously. This will save you a crazy amount of cash. Who needs a moving company when you have a husband who can single-handedly carry at 70lb. grill up a flight of stairs? Bonus points if he’s a ship’s captain — he’ll be used to doling out instructions and he can direct your move like a boss. If you throw your back out, there is no shortage of chiropractors in the Chattanooga area who can readjust your spine into tip-top shape. Who cares if you’re full of bruises for the next week because you used those handy furniture straps to move the crazy heavy bed and headboard you HAD to have from IKEA? Tell people you tried out for American Ninja Warrior and the course won.

:: Be sure to move every few years, sometimes even annually. This keeps you in shape and fresh for the next move. Oh, and have a baby in between moves. Acquire even more junk for said baby. Wonder why you bought so much stuff for such a small person. (Pro-tip: you probably don’t need all of that stuff.)

:: Move to and from a place with stairs. Say goodbye to your gym membership. Bonus points if you and your spouse have step competitions while wearing FitBits.

:: Make sure you wait until the last minute to call EPB. This will ensure you have no Internet service for a while. You’ll need that time to unpack and find the router and TV remotes in any case. Chattanooga has a ton of coffee shops offering wifi that you can utilize instead. Now’s your chance to stare at your spouse instead of a screen.

:: While you’re at it, wait until the last minute to change your address. (No seriously, this one is legit.) When we first moved to Chattanooga, we had a place ready to go. However, after viewing the actual dump of an apartment, we politely declined, losing not only our security deposit but also our sanity, as we were stranded in town with a moving truck. (Okay, stranded is stretching it.) Nevertheless, I had already changed our address. Now, I wait until we have both a signed lease and keys in hand before actually announcing our change of address and having our mail forwarded.

:: Stash bubble wrap throughout the year. You’ll need it for items like your vintage Pyrex: sturdy, durable and HEAVY. Plus, it’ll match your vintage 1950’s style kitchen. Think of the arm muscles you’re building up while you move if from the boxes onto the high shelves.

:: Forget the packing paper. Moving sucks not only the life out of you, but also the money straight out of your wallet. Use newspapers collected from your family and the recycling bin. Sure, your hands will get full of black ink and you’ll need to wash ALL of the dishes after you move, but think of the few bucks you’ve saved. (Actually, you’ll probably need to spend those few extra dollars on soap, since your hands will be so filthy, so just buy the dumb packing paper.)

:: Leave the Sharpie where your toddler can find it. Or the spackle brush. Better yet, teach them how to use either the Sharpie or the spackle brush, first. That way, when they find both unsupervised, you can find marker streaks and spackle spots all over the place. Buy more Magic Erasers, since you’ll have already packed yours.

:: Speaking of toddlers, pack up their toys FIRST. That way, you’ll need to open 14 boxes of stuff to find the ONE book they want to read before bed on the night before the official move. Chances are there is something else in one of those boxes you’ll need in any case…like a pot to actually use for cooking because you’re already over your Dinner Delivered budget. Thanks, Llama, Llama. I knew you’d come in handy someday.

:: Be sure to choose the hottest week of the summer for your move. You’re going to sweat while moving in any case. What are a few more degrees when the heat index is already over 100?

:: Plan to leave for an international trip days after you move. Moving is chaotic enough — why not combine the exhaustion of a move with jet-lag?

:: Finally, get rid of junk. For real. We all have way too much stuff. Just get rid of it. You only really need Chacos, a Kavu rope bag, and a coffee shop here in Chattanooga, and you’re good to go. Also, check out Stephanie’s post about being Move Out Ready, for more moving tips.

Happy moving! Be sure to share your own moving advice in the comments.

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Brenda Steffen
I spent my twenties and a good chunk of my thirties living and working in various countries. I met and married a South African sailor and I was quite content to keep traveling without kids. We landed in Chattanooga in 2013 and our son arrived over the summer of 2014. We haven’t really slept since. Sometimes jet-lag gets the blame. Or Daylight Savings, or even a good book. Usually though, it’s the Peanut. You can often find me charged up on caffeine, chasing after my son at Coolidge Park, the zoo or the library. You can also find me online on my blog.


  1. Skip packing paper and newspapers. Use t towels, bath towels, t shirts, sweaters and other clean clothes. 🙂 I also advocate balls of yarn in the cups, mugs and pitchers to prevent breaking. .

    • Oh my goodness yes! I couldn’t find half of the bath towels after we moved, because I’d stuffed them in another box. And of COURSE I used my yarn stash as padding. 🙂 Excellent tips!

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