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8 Sanity-Saving Tips for Moving With Kids

Photograph by Rebecca Woolf

If there's one thing in this world I feel like I can competently give advice about, it's moving. I've lived in Los Angeles my entire adult life (coming up on 18 years this summer) and in those 18 years have moved 11 times. 4 of those 11 times I had kid(s) with me and 2 of the last 4 moves, I had FOUR kids with me, along with a husband who is amazing at helping in certain areas (He does all the grocery shopping in our house, for example) but not so great at moving.

How not so great? He didn't pack A SINGLE BOX. He also didn't unpack a SINGLE BOX. Literally. Not one. Not even half of one box.

Anyway, I just want to make it crystal clear that in one weekend, I unpacked 140 boxes all on my own and put everything away while also wrangling kids, which is PRETTTTTTTY damn superheroic if I do say so myself and yes, I am saying so myself. I AM SAYING SO MYSELF.

RELATED: On Moving With My Kids to the Other Side of the World

Of course, it has taken me years of trial and error to nail down the formula for moving (somewhat) seamlessly from one house to another and I still don't think I will ever master the emotional ability to pack and go—I spent the two weeks leading up to our move sobbing uncontrollably which is probably what caused my "stress stye" which I had for two weeks as I was packing up the house.

So FYI, this shit is hard AF. Even when it looks, from the outside, to be easy.

That said, I am quite certain I have some unsolicited advice to offer when it comes to moving with children. And some, if not all of it, is worth sharing, so here goes:

1. GO THROUGH EVERYTHING FIRST

If you want to unpack quickly, you have to commit to spending a lot of time to packing. Perhaps this isn't rocket science, but I'll tell you what, more people have been like, "Just throw stuff in a box and go," to me so I'm just going to come right out and disagree wholeheartedly with that statement because that is actually a terrible idea.

Here's the thing: The whole point of packing is to make unpacking as seamless as possible. The more junk you bring with you to your next home, the more junk you'll have to unpack and sort through. The only silver lining to moving is the inevitable purge that you wouldn't otherwise spend the time and energy doing. I got rid of close to 100 trash bags of unnecessary stuff—most of which was kids' stuff they no longer needed—and I wouldn't have been so meticulous about going through everything had we NOT been moving.

My advice is to commit to packing/sorting one room a day before you move and go through everything, sorting Keep/Toss/Donate in neat little piles. (Pro tip: Give yourself two days for the kitchen. The kitchen seems to become a catch-all of strange objects in drawers.)

We used to live on a very busy street, so we were able to get rid of a lot of our stuff by putting it on our front lawn. We also were able to give lots of stuff away to friends and friends of friends who needed stuff so hooray for that.

2. DISCARD THINGS WHEN KIDS ARE NOT AROUND

Every time we move, I make the same mistake of asking my kids if the enormous box of build-your-own-laser-labratory-set is something they would like to bring them to the new house. And every single time they decide that the giant build-your-own-laser-labratory-set is actually the only thing they care about in the entire world even though they haven't touched the thing in five years.

In short, almost every single thing I put in the "donate" pile ended up back in my kids' bedrooms. Even the clothes they had long outgrown, so do yourself a favor and do the sorting when kids are either sleeping, at school, at friends' houses or all of the above.

3. HIRE DAY-BEFORE-THE-MORE HELPERS

Those last 10 boxes of things that need to be packed paralyze me, so for the first time ever, I hired two amazing guys from our moving company to help me get everything stacked and packed so on moving day, every single thing in the house would be done and done and ready to go.

And, yeah, my kids ended up wearing the same clothes two days in a row and nobody brushed their teeth because sorry guys, we taped it all up, but it made all the difference. Come morning, the movers arrived and immediately took to loading the truck. And by 5pm, everything was done. A miracle in and of itself.

It is a heavy thing to experience for anyone at any age and it's important for all kids to experience proper closure when it comes to leaving their old space and welcoming new ones.

4. ... AND DURING-THE-MOVE MOVERS

This may be totally obvious, but we did our first few moves on our own and literally everyone got injured. It's not worth it—the money saved to break your father's back trying to lift a couch onto a U-Haul.

5. DUMP IT ALLLLLL OUT. LITERALLY. ALL OF IT.

I call it "sh*t soup" but go ahead and call it what you will—the point is, if you take every single box in your house and dump it upside down on the ground, you will find that you have no choice but to put everything away.

I do this every single time we move.

The movers move the boxes into the appropriate rooms and I dump all of them out as soon as humanly possible. Sometimes this means I'll be up all night unpacking, but you know what? I can do that. I can stay up all night putting things away if it means a full night sleep later on knowing it's all done.

RELATED: 10 Life-Changing Tips to Make Your Home So Much Cleaner

6. ASK FOR HELP WITH THE KIDS

I truly think that including kids in the moving process is important. It is a heavy thing to experience for anyone at any age and it's important for all kids to experience proper closure when it comes to leaving their old space and welcoming new ones. For example, we always visit our new house several times before we move in so the kids can get acquainted with their new digs, plan where their beds/wall art/etc, will go, and use the new toilets. (Don't forget to bring toilet paper in your purse!)

But it also comes in majorly handy to have someone to take the kids for at least half the day when movers are trying to move heavy furniture down hallways full of children. It can be dangerous—not to mention, extremely annoying—for everyone to have too many kids blocking doorways and the like.

7. ASK FOR HELP FROM THE KIDS

This last move, my son had his best friend over and they were in charge of breaking down all of the boxes I was dumping. They were also on twin-entertainment duty which is indeed a job. Little jobs like putting clothes from Box A into Drawer A or choosing what stuffed animals you want where or putting all of your books on the shelf are doable jobs for kids of all ages. I also like to give my kids jobs that help me by keeping them occupied a.k.a, "Please draw a series of pictures I can hang on the blank space in the hallway."

8. STAY PUT FOR AT LEAST THREE YEARS

Or four. Or ten. We have yet to take this advice but I'm hoping that this time will be different.

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