Moving: Prioritizing Tasks at a New Home

Moving out is arduous enough with all the packing and the clean-up, but moving in takes so very long. 

Homes aren’t one-size-fits-all. Every home layout needs to be executed completely differently, and it takes a while to really figure it out once you’re in the new digs.

Then, like recipes, most homes are designed with a “common denominator” in mind — what does everyone need, what appeals to the widest market? But if you’re not the common denominator and you want it right for you, well, you gotta season and flavor it to suit your palate (and palette, as it were).

moving house snail

Odd-job incidentals really add up

Take my new home, for example. The cute little kitchen I love has only one drawer. There are two large drawers intended for pots and pans, but most of the storage are in deep-corner cupboards one must be a svelte contortionist just to reach the back of, while on their knees, of course.

Well,  I have to customize that for a number of reasons, but it’s just one out of dozens of little problems needing solutions that add up and up and up — in not just money but time, effort, and, yes, grief.

It’s the nature of the Move-In Beast.

Moving has a zillion little incidentals the experienced mover just KNOWS tallies up to a couple hundred bucks or more, whether it’s for cabling  damaged in the move, new hooks to install, a couple gallons of touch-up paint, picture-hanging hooks, new furniture protectors, new tools for an odd job, extra garbage bags and cleaning agents, screws, nails, caulking, shelves to install, organizers to buy, cable clips, or some missing piece of furniture in the spot by the whatsit that could “really complete” the space.

Getting perspective

Beyond the costs and time it takes to complete these tasks, there’s the physical and mental toll too. How on Earth do you a beginning point when it’s so very overwhelming?

It’s times like these it pays to remember grand cliches like Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither will your perfect home be.

In fact, you don’t want it all done at once. Unlike what they tell you with test-writing, I find that oftentimes first instinct on placement in new homes tends to be less-than-perfect.

It’s in living in our spaces for a couple weeks that we start seeing what we expect of it — Where should X be stored? What should that weird space become? What’s lacking? Where’s most frustrating? What’s the daylight like as the day progresses?

Wow, yeah, that’s a whole lot to take in. That’s why it’s good to take a deep breath after the first round of stuff is done and recalibrate. Tell yourself, it’s okay if this takes awhile. It’s good to go slowly, deliberately, and really get it done right. You could Spackle holes and redo things later, but do you really want to? Slowly, grasshopper.

Prioritize, people

So how do you make that choice? What do you do first?

Basically put, your deciding factors are: Budget, time, ability, and reward.

What can you afford to fix right now? What do you need others’ help getting done? What projects require you to spend money, and how much money are you talking? Make a list. Obviously if you can afford it now, have the tools, can do it yourself, it stays in the hopper for the present. If you can’t, you’ll need to live with that temporarily. Do what you’re able.

What can be done quickly and cheaply? Note these projects, and evaluate their reward level. Quick, cheap, and big sanity-inducing quality-of-life pay-off? It moves to the top of the list.

moving unpacking priorities

Baby-steps and coping mechanisms

Lots of things, like the kitchen and entertainment area, can be made “functional” with minimal effort, so it’s best to wait to do it properly later in your move-in. Months down the road, you’ll not want to return to clipping your entertainment cables or doing little organizational things in the kitchen, so get it done right the first time. Set these aside for when you can really take time to do it right. Plan easy food, music, and make a pleasant, patient plan to attack these tough projects.

Is there stuff like painting? That’s a do-first task, because you don’t want to work around furniture and such. Do early and keep stuff packed until after painting, as it’s less likely to get sullied.

There are slow, free, big pay-off tasks like organizing bookshelves and other knickknack-heavy spots. Getting these areas done early so all the little bits and pieces orphaned all over the place are organized, that’s what frees up space elsewhere.

When tasks are cheap-but-intense with big pay-off, those too are high-priority, such as my installing kitchen hooks for a total of $8, enabling me to hang all my pots and pans on walls, giving me 30% of my kitchen storage back for other purposes. Time spent? One wrist-punishing hook-twisting hour. Big pay-off, little investment.

Other early business here was finishing off my herb room, because I had a clear vision that just needed some paint first, and it’d give us a store-all space until we found order in chaos elsewhere.

Repeat after me: It’s temporary

If you remember this madness is temporary, and that almost every project done will incur mess elsewhere despite solving the area you’ve been working on, you’ll probably survive moving intact.

Moving seems to take forever, but slow down, don’t rush. You don’t often get to reboot your life. Make this new space something amazing, something right for who, and where, you are right now. Don’t blow your chance by giving up on the messy status quo to stuff it all aside to “finish one day”.

Go slowly. Pace yourself. Get more done every week. You can balance life with a slow move-in if you lower expectations, accept living in chaos for the short-term, and remind yourself it’s just a phase, a journey to endure before reaching your promise land.

Really, grasshopper. Go slowly. You can find your move-in Zen if you prioritize.

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