AdviceHelp Me Rhonda

We’re Moving This Summer. When Should We Start Packing?

My girlfriend and I are moving out of town in June, and it’s already causing some friction in our household. We’re relocating to be closer to family and because she found a better job (yay!), but we’ve been living in our current house for about five years and, as you might imagine, have a lot of stuff. I’m of the belief that we need to start packing, like now, but she thinks there’s no rush, and we’ll have “plenty of time” in May and June. Neither one of us is a student or professor, so I don’t see how this magical extra time is going to appear later, but she insists it will. It’s really starting to stress me out.

She’s right that not everything is going to need to be packed, because we have some things we can probably sell and some things we’ll probably give away, but we’re still going to have a s*** ton of stuff to move.

I’d start packing on my own, but it’s not easy to do when she’s not on board, and our day-to-day detritus is all over the house. Am I wrong about this? Will it be easier than I think? If not, how can I get her to see we need to get started now?

Pack Rat

You’re not wrong, PR. I’ve both moved and watched people move, and there seem to be four distinct stages. Stage I usually occurs three-to-four months out from the move and is characterized by a persistent, low-level but ever-present and ever-increasing level of panic about the upcoming event.

Stage II is a direct response to Stage I. In an attempt to quell the panic, the soon-to-be-relocated person spends one-to-two hours packing the most easily packable, least likely to be needed items. In my case, it was books off the bookshelf. They slid right into those boxes so neatly and left such a gaping hole on the shelf that it felt like 75 percent of the work of moving was done. I watched a friend go through this stage as well; she boxed up all her winter coats in April, taped those boxes shut, addressed them to her parents’ house (where they were to be stored), and loaded them into her car to take to the post office.

Stage III is a long period of inaction. It extends from the end of Stage II until usually about a week before the absolute final moving date. There is no panic during this time, because you’ve already packed your books and winter coats, so most of your work is done and the move is still weeks or even months away.

Stage IV begins between five and seven days prior to the end of your lease, the date of closing on your house or the start of your new job. Stage IV is characterized by high-level panic, a frantic throwing of items into whatever containers you have available (I like laundry baskets and reusable grocery bags) and the enlisting of everyone you know who has a truck. It’s not a pretty picture, and it rarely leads to a serene start to life in your new residence. Stage IV concludes not when you’re fully moved and comfortably settled into your new place—oh no—but at midnight on the night when you must be out of the old place or into the new city.

BUT! Just because this has been the way in the past, PR, does not mean it has to be your future. I hold out great hope for you and your girlfriend. You can make this move in a better way. You’re currently in Stage I (and your girlfriend is pre-Stage I) so you have some time. What you must do is simulate the panic of Stage IV now. To have a successful move, you need to play a mental game called “We’re Moving Tomorrow.”

In this game, you spend maybe an hour or more packing each day, but during that hour, you imagine that you are at Stage IV and the move is happening tomorrow. You pack accordingly.

People who are moving tomorrow do not hold on to things “for a garage sale.” People who are moving tomorrow do not “put things over there because we’re going to call Audrey and see if she wants the cake stand.” People who are moving tomorrow ruthlessly cull their things and make daily—sometimes hourly—trips to Goodwill to get the extras out of the house.

Get your girlfriend on board with 60 minutes of packing each day. If she won’t pack with you, pack alone. Be ruthless about what you get rid of, and get it out of the house immediately. Each hour of packing ends with a trip to Goodwill and then to the home of any friends to whom you need to return items. If you have anything you intend to sell on Craigslist, photograph it and list it before that day’s trip to Goodwill. If you can’t or don’t list it before Goodwill closes, that item goes to Goodwill with you. Remember, the house needs to be empty, because you’re moving tomorrow.