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Tools for Transitions: Preparing to Move

moving I am in the middle of the first real move of my adult life. While I’ve been in and out of dorms and apartments, I’ve never ventured far from my home state for long, and much of my stuff has been accumulating in the same room for twenty years. I’ve been unearthing papers from grade school, papers from graduate school, over-sized clothes, under-sized clothes, books that are falling apart at the seams, unread books, and the occasional unclaimed student project. Being a Profhacker-type, I initially hoped that technology could somehow bring order to the chaos of the process. However, I instead found myself using technology primarily to procrastinate and come to terms with the scale of this process. For instance, making a game out of my move was cathartic and helped me come to terms with my stuff, but it didn’t get me any further towards the door.

There are a few cool apps that promise to promote order after moving: Libib, a system for tracking a home media library based on smartphone scanning, tempted me with the promise of knowing exactly what made it into the boxes and presumably onto my future shelves. However, the process is pretty labor intensive, so if you have a lot of books (or, like I admittedly do, an obscene number of books) this sort of record can be hard to face. Taking it a step further and actually inventorying every box seemed like an even more impossible consideration, although if you are so inclined apps such as Moving Van and Moving Day are great for keeping complete records. For me, moving has turned out to be one of those things where a simple, lo-tech process has served me best. Here are the steps I’ve been following to get through:

  • Donate everything possible. With more time and resources, I might look into selling items with value on eBay or Craigslist, but academic moves often happen fast. Finding the right charity for each type of item is important: I used this list as a starting point. If you’re in the right area, there might be easy drop points for certain goods, like the Better World Books boxes I visited many times over the last few weeks.

  • Adopt “good enough” labeling. If you have the time and mental stamina to embrace an organization app, I envy you. For me, I settled for labeling boxes based on the 3–5 most essential items inside. I’d like to say that the boxes are thematic or room-based, as is recommended, but they quickly became about what fit where. Having the essentials clearly marked on the outside labels will at least save me some hunting through Rubbermaid bins on the other end. Billie Hara has a good list of suggestions for making sure these items survive the trip.

  • Keep your first-day boxes separate. In her guide to moving for wayward academics, Wendy Christensen suggests keeping suitcases, kitchen stuff, cleaning stuff, and other immediately-required things in their own clearly labeled space–along with books and research materials for current projects! After all, who knows when some of the other boxes will get opened?

  • Prepare your technology. Forget fragile kitchen-wear or glasses: the only things I need to survive my move unscathed are my many devices and my desktop computer. And of course, some of these are the least likely to make it. Alan Henry has some great tips for moving your desktop computer–if you saved your original boxes, packing it like the manufacturer would gives you better odds of survival. I threw those boxes away a long time ago, so I’ll be backing up everything and moving it myself.

As I finish up my own packing, I’ve been keeping in mind some good advice from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Don’t Panic. Share your own tips and strategies for packing in the comments!

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