Two young kids (3 years old and 8 months old), two big dogs, one 16-foot moving pod, two cars, one U-Haul trailer and 946 miles to go.
The math was stacked against us, but my wife and I decided to take the leap and sell our home in Denver and upgrade to a larger home — closer to family and friends — in Minneapolis.
We haven’t finished the move yet; my parents in the Twin Cities have generously let us live in their basement for a month until we close on our new house. But we’ve already learned many lessons about how to pull off a cross-country move with kids. Here are my tips to maintain your sanity:
Pack early and often: However long you think it’ll take to get everything packed, double it and get started ASAP. All of those little projects add up and working around kids makes everything take longer. Break big projects into smaller tasks and chip away whenever you can.
Ask for help with the kids: When people ask to help with the move, don’t ask them to pack boxes. It takes way too much effort to get the packing process organized enough to be able to hand it off to someone else. Instead, ask them to come watch the kids so you can work on packing. Bonus points for folks who will take the kids outside the home for play time.
Get the kids involved: To help your kids feel like they’re part of the move — instead of something happening to them — try to find ways to get them involved. Our 3-year-old went through all of his toys, with our help, to decide what would come with us and what could be sold or donated. Older kids can help pack boxes, fold linens, label boxes, clean and more.
Talk with your kids: Before the move, share what you’re excited about, what you’re going to miss and what challenges you might face along the way. Change is hard for everyone, but knowing what to expect can lessen the stress.
During the move, narrate what’s happening and why, check in with your kids regularly to see how they’re feeling and try to carve out pockets of quality time to reconnect.
After the move, continue to provide a listening ear and extra hugs as your kids adjust to your new home. Support them as they navigate the changes, including making new friends, learning the new neighborhood and more.
Stick to a routine: There are times when the usual schedule is absolutely impossible, but young kids in particular need structure. Find ways to incorporate or build a new routine to make their day-to-day as predictable as possible.
Twenty-eight years: That’s how long we lived in our beloved family home on five acres southeast of the Twin Cities. There we raised three kids, two dogs, one cat and two guinea pigs. We tended a huge garden and apple orchard, and I had a private work space above our garage.
Even our neighbors were wonderful! Our roots were deep and we thought we’d live there forever, but in 2012 my husband accepted a job that required us to move north of the Twin Cities. Knowing how much I loved our home, he bribed me: “If you move, I’ll buy you all new furniture.” And so began our adventure of middle-aged moving.
Preparing to sell: We asked around, and found a good realtor who recommended we work with his colleague who was a consultant in feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of creating harmonious surroundings. She made recommendations about decluttering, painting, decorating and curb appeal (bye-bye basketball hoop).
Her most intriguing advice was to write a letter to our current home. She suggested we thank the house for all it had done for our family, bless it and release it. As hokey as it may sound, my husband and I did this and immediately our relationship to the home changed: We let go.
Decluttering: We gave away much of our furniture to needy college students (remember the bribe?) and made countless trips to Goodwill. This move provided the perfect deadline to have our grown kids retrieve their left-behind items like drums, bikes and golf clubs.
Listing during the holidays: Contrary to some opinions, our realtor said listing over the holidays was a solid plan: The inventory of houses was low and only serious buyers would be looking. He was right and we received five offers, accepting the highest bid, which was well over asking price.
Our new home: Meanwhile, after touring a dozen homes with our realtor, we found a home that magically checked all our boxes. We loved both the house and property on a beautiful lake, so we made an offer, which was immediately accepted.
Moving day: As middle-age movers, we knew our backs would be better off if we hired a couple young guys with muscles and a large truck. They hauled everything out of the old house and our sons were strategically placed at the new house, ready to unload.
Lessons learned: Packing takes longer than expected. One tends to run out of packing supplies, especially tape, bubble wrap and boxes. It’s best to ask for and accept help from friends, family, neighbors and co-workers.
Moving is an emotional rollercoaster. With help, however, even middle-age people can pull off an exciting move — and with any luck, get new furniture!
Mary Rose Remington, a baby boomer grandmother, and her daughter, Laura Groenjes Mitchell, a millennial mother of two, are documenting their parenting/grandparenting — and life experiences — together.