There are certain little inevitabilities of life that I hate: House centipedes. City driving. Needles (especially in my mouth).

More than any of those things, though, I hate moving. I know I’ve done less of it in my twenties than a lot of my friends have. I’ve only lived in two states (well, three if you count that semester in Oregon), and I once lived in the same apartment for two years straight! Nevertheless, like many—though certainly not all—of my twenty-something compatriots, I have not settled down and bought a home. I’ve rented and moved around. I moved to Indiana when I started grad school at Purdue, and later this month I’ll be moving to New York City—after getting married, because why not fit a whole bunch of big life changes into a two-week span?

Because I suspect that some among you may also have a move in the not-too-distant future, I’ve put together a helpful to-do list:

  • Research where to find free boxes. Remember the last time you asked at the grocery store and they looked at you like you were insane. End up splurging on boxes from uHaul (those handles are just so helpful!).
  • Haul purchased boxes into the apartment where you will look at them for the next several days (How are empty boxes so heavy?).
  • Look at the boxes.
  • Take a box out and tape the bottom. That wasn’t so bad.
  • Start by packing all the books. Actually label every box.
  • Realize the next day that you need one of the books. At least you labeled the boxes.
  • Still end up opening and unpacking three boxes.
  • Remember that you still have bills and don’t get paid to pack. Try to get some work done.
  • Think about how terrifying it would be to maneuver a moving van into Manhattan. Call moving companies to explore alternate options.
  • Go through closet. Wonder why you owned a maroon lace dress with studded pleather belt in the first place. (Seriously?!) Finally go through the giant pile of sentimental t-shirts that you never actually wear. Donate a lot of clothing.
  • Get quote back from big-name moving company. Think maybe driving a moving van into Manhattan won’t be that bad.
  • Watch several hours of Degrassi.
  • Empty all the stuff from under your bed. You’ll definitely need your ice skates in New York.
  • Decide you need to bake something. At least you haven’t packed the kitchen yet!
  • Wish your roommate hadn’t packed the coffee maker.
  • Pack kitchen stuff. Wonder how you’re going to move two people’s stuff into the smallest one-bedroom apartment you’ve lived in since you were in a dorm.
  • Who cares about square footage? Buy more books. YOLO.
  • Call local furniture bank to take the furniture you were previously unable to sell…or even give away to friends.
  • Get housing assignment: your tiny apartment with its tiny little rooms and tiny efficiency kitchen will be located up four flights of stairs. Begin to look at moving companies again.
  • Encourage fiancé, who hates moving even more than you do, to begin packing.
  • Move boxes to fiancé’s apartment, where they will haunt him until he packs his own.
  • Get fiancé’s help moving boxes. Accidentally try to shut his head in the trunk. Decide to go see a movie instead.
  • Realize that in addition to moving, you have to do school-ish things like fill out a proof-of-insurance form and immunization record. It’s been four years; you’ve forgotten how to do all of this. At some point you should probably keep a signed copy of said records on file somewhere.
  • Know that moving day is going to arrive, whether you finish packing or not.
  • Pour a glass of wine.
  • Finish packing.

Does that seem about right? I haven’t gotten to the final step yet.

The time draws near: I’m getting married on the 17th—in under two weeks!—and we’re moving to New York on the 18th. My parents are helping us with the move, because what guy wouldn’t want to spend the week after his wedding on a road trip with his in-laws? The day my parents leave New York, I have my first orientation event. We’ll get everything unpacked at some point, right?

I don’t know what it is about moving that feels like pulling out fingernails. It might just be all the work involved—sorting and boxing and lifting, oh my! It may be the inconvenience of having to live out of boxes for a period of time.

While these things are annoying, though, I think there’s something deeper going on.  When you stay in one place, it becomes familiar. You know where to find things; you know the sounds and smells of the place. The longer you stay, the more it feels like home. When you move around a lot, you never get a chance to develop a real sense of rootedness. By the time the adjustment period is over and you start to feel settled, it’s time to move again and the whole process starts back at the beginning.

Maybe this will always be a tension I live with—the need to change, to move on, to seek opportunities, coupled with the longing to be settled and rooted.

How about you—have any good moving tips? Any horror stories? Do you feel more rooted or uprooted?


  1. Elaine Schnabel

    I move at least once a year and usually uproot and travel for at least two months of that year. My parents are getting sick of the library of books I have stored in their house. But I now know where you can get good boxes for free: Burger King.

    • Avatar

      BURGER KING! Who knew?

      • Elaine Schnabel

        Right? And so friendly about it too.

  2. Avatar

    It actually may be useful to have ice skates in NYC. Outdoor skating rinks!

    I just helped move some friends from Manhattan to Brooklyn and we were blessed in finding spaces to put the Uhaul, even when we had to double-park it. You’ll be great.

  3. Avatar

    This almost exactly describes my last month.

    I did pack my books first; however, the coffee press went into my purse at the last, it was more than one glass of motivation wine, and Parenthood was the distraction of choice.

    Cheers to you and the new place.

    P.S. A few question-thoughts: Whether you choose roots or not, can you really avoid all in life that may uproot you? And, even on a normal day, don’t you ever feel distant or alien in your longtime home and among people you know?


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