How To Move Across The Country With Limited Homicides

Many of you have moved. If nothing else, you moved from your mother’s womb to a new place when you were born. Some of you never really did, but that’s the topic of another blog.

Your next big move probably came as a child. Another kid came along, or you were the other kid, and Mom and Pop decided that two bedrooms weren’t going to cut it. So you got a bigger house.

Odds are that you stayed there until you:

  1. Joined the military and Uncle Popcorn provided a nice new place for you.
  2. You went to college and practiced all the stuff your preacher told you not to do.
  3. Your parents announced that since you had finished high school, were of legal age, and had no special needs requiring you to stay home, you had two months to get a job and get gone.

Let us presume that you did the above. Your next move was likely a simple one. You didn’t have much stuff after college or the military, and if you got booted from the family home you most likely struggled to acquire stuff but mainly spent money on staying fed. This next move was probably in with a roomie, a new spouse, or just a place where the bill collectors couldn’t find you as easily. It was a four hour move, close to home and done in the back of your crappy Prius and your friend’s beater of a pickup. (Military members had their crap delivered by Uncle Sam as a farewell present for their service, so that one is a bit different.)

More likely than not, you settled into this next place for a long time. Decades perhaps. You may have moved early on, but probably not very far and with the help of your still vibrant and strong friends. I will, however, bet that most of you made “The Big Move” around age 30 and then stayed there for decades.

That was us. When we got out of the Navy, we moved back to Minnesota and the Navy dropped our crap in Eagan at an apartment. We stayed there 3 years and moved to Saint Paul. That was where we were going to be at the end of time. The move was fairly easy, and we got it done in a few weeks: we overlapped mortgage and rent to allow us to paint and stuff.

Fast forward 30 years and we have the story for today. We had had enough of the People’s Republic of Minnesota, the lockdown, the terrible winters, and yearned for brighter days. (I am writing this from the Lanai (expensive back porch) of my new home, which makes for brighter days.)

Thus the move to Florida. We bought a house without ever seeing it, and contracted for movers and car shippers. We had, we thought, really done a good job whittling down the amount of junk we’d take with us. We knew there’d be no attic, and no basement. Those are ancient Mesopotamian words for “storage space without consequences.” For five months we ruthlessly combed the house and donated literal truckloads of stuff to the Salvation Army. We filled the trash and recycle cans each week (and those of our neighbors – with their consent) and smiled broadly with our amazing accomplishments.

Here we give a caution: you didn’t get even close to all of it. Start over. Eye every shirt, pair of pants, little figurine, coffee mug, decorative blanket, and ream of office paper. Throw ½ of it out before you move. Otherwise you pay someone to lug it across the country so you can throw it out somewhere else. We did that upon arrival (yes, I know, this is not chronological) and have so far donated 3 SUV loads of stuff to the Salvation Army in Florida. Seriously, be utterly ruthless. I had so much cold-weather gear left that I could have outfitted a Norwegian Special Forces team for work above the Artic Circle. I now have 2 full sets in the event I go back to snow shoe race down the road. I also have just 2 pairs of snow shoes – I managed to give all the others away before leaving. The point is, you have too much crap and if you haven’t worn it in the last year, you should donate it. Same with that coffee mug your employer gave out during the 4th name change 4 years ago: you don’t need it.

Once you have done that, hire movers to box all your stuff and move it. Trust me, at anything above age 50 you don’t need the hassle of packing. Do, however, pack the really important stuff like computers and printers (with the cables) so you can identify the boxes immediately upon arrival. Put all your important papers in a backpack and never let them out of your sight.

Before the movers arrive, remove all trash from your house and put it in the backyard where nobody can mistake it for anything vital. We had our trash make a special appearance in Florida. I should have planned that better.

Next, go around your house with that Crown Royal bag on your liquor shelf and remove all the knobs and handles from everything you own. Screw the screws into the knob or handle and deposit them in the bag. This will be going in the car with you to your new home. If you do not do this, the movers will move them for you. You will spend two weeks unpacking EVERY SINGLE THING YOU HAVE just to find the knobs to your computer desk.

In a larger bag, round up all your remote controls and wireless devices. You will need these when you arrive. You will be so sick of unpacking crap that you will want to watch those DVDs you put in the coffee maker box – which also went in your car – so you can sit down in your living room and watch old episodes of MONK, or a Sinatra movie. You will still be surrounded by junk and boxes, but you will be able to do something other than unpack at night when the lights are not yet installed in the ceiling.

Make up a box of small tools you will need. A wire cutter, electrical tape, zip ties, some screw drivers and a few wrenches (or a vice grip, which does many things including hammer.) You will need them all, and a couple you didn’t pack – so pack a Leatherman to be sure.

Now, put a sign up outside each room with a number. This number is the number of the room where you want the stuff to go when it arrives at your new home. So, room 3 and 1 might be adjacent in your current home, but set apart at the new place – the new place counts.

Clean everything somewhat. Not spotless, for it will pick up paper dust on the wrapping expedition. But get the dust bunnies off the rug – they will otherwise be rolled in for inspection upon arrival – and clean the dish drainer before it is packed. You will find that all of your stuff is disgusting when you arrive, but this will eliminate the need to spend 4 days just cleaning stuff as it comes out of the box.

Moving day have your go bags loaded in the car. If it isn’t in the car, you will not see it for 25 days. Just count on that. Yes, they promised to try, but if there’s a blizzard, strike, anything, the contract reads 21 days (working) in transit. That gives them a month. So throw some sheets in the back of the car you drive and a couple of blankets – plan on a Walmart air mattress the first week. They are $40 with the air pump. Sheets, on the other hand, are expensive.

Have beverages and lunch for the packing crew. Your small act of kindness is repaid in their handling of your stuff. A case of bottled water and a dozen Big Mac’s goes a long way toward your collection of questionable household cleaners making the trip intact.

Hire Got Junk to come and do your house when you leave. Leave behind the crap that isn’t moving (that doesn’t get boxed up by accident) and pay them to make it go away.

We did that, and scheduled professional cleaners to come in and scrub the house, including the attic and the carpets. Now, you might think that’s excessive, but the 700 bucks got the rugs cleaned and the wood polished, in addition to all surfaces cleaned. I don’t even kid myself that I would do that good a job. The goal was to make it shine for prospective buyers. The pictures of the cleaned house were amazing. We got ten times the value of that expenditure out of the increased appeal of the house. Money well spent.

The drive. Plan your stops out ahead. Make sure you have a hotel for every night you are in transit. Reserve them. Make sure they take pets – check the location against local crime maps. Seriously. Nothing is worse than pulling into the hotel lot and having to wait for the crackheads to finish before you can park your car and your family. Also, and most importantly, you may be able to drive to Arizona/Florida/Connecticut in 2 days if you take turns, but it’s a mistake. Drive time for us was 8 hours a day. We got to our destination, let Chewy wander and poop, and had a shower and dinner before 8 each evening – and we never left before 10 in the morning. Just wake up when you wake up and don’t drive past 8 hours. Your body will thank you. I did the long-haul stuff as a young man, but it isn’t in the cards anymore. I’m very glad we took our time driving down here and didn’t have to sweat delays.

Unload the car every night. If you don’t, it will be stolen. Just plan on it. If they can see it through the windows, it’s theirs. A couple of trips in and out of the motel is well worth not losing your stuff.

Snacks:  you must have snacks in the car. Including beverages. Don’t argue, just get a four day supply of your favorites. You will eat them all in 2 days and resupply at a gas station.

Meals. Zounds. Chewy will survive on kibble and some McDonald’s French fries. Kip, on the other hand, is a tougher problem. I am a breakfast person. She is not. We compromised on a meal each day around 1400 at the drive through. Same meal each time. The COVID restrictions meant we ate in the car, most dining rooms were closed. Plan on driving and dining. It saves time. But get out and walk around every two hours for gas and water. Otherwise, at the end of the day, everything hurts even worse.

Arrival. Well, our stuff showed up sooner than we expected. We camped out in the house for 4 nights, and the stuff showed up day 5. There was a 3 day period of non-stop unpacking and Aleve. That is hard work. We hadn’t cleaned going out, so we had to clean it all coming in. But in a week, we had over 50% of the stuff unpacked and in it’s final storage place.

Now, 3 weeks later, we’re down to the last 5 boxes. We know what’s in them, and until we get some lights up and shelves assembled they stay as is. I think that unpacking and sorting a whole house in 3 weeks is really good. We actually had 95% of it done in two weeks exactly. If we hadn’t been so exhausted and muscle sore from the work we would have been done. But we started taking days off to recover. Wise move. I met my goal in spirit. Besides, I’m retired and who cares how long it takes.

Now to the homicide part. You will want to kill everyone in sight at least once in any major move. If your spouse is worth a hoot, they are their own person. They will disagree with you about where stuff goes, or when to hang towel racks, or something. You cannot kill them. They cannot kill you. The contractor who helps with whatever is also not a candidate for homicide. That means you have to hold your tongue, let them have their way, and hope they return the favor. We managed that. It is very stressful to move. It is physically hard work. Doing jail time on top of it is a real downer. Just be nice.

Well, Chewy and I are about done with our breakfast of grapes. It is almost noon, and I have a ceiling fan to hang before I can do other things. I hope this has helped you with your impending move plans.

Oh, another thing: hire competent people to wire/plumb/grade/fence. You may be good at all that stuff, but if you do it all yourself you will learn to hate the end result and resent the time. I’ve been hiring it out, and I honestly think it will cost less in the end than my doing, and redoing, some of these things badly. Straight lines are worth a lot of money.

Be well, and I’ll be back soon with some other observations on a new life in a new place.

Joseph Courtemanche

About Joseph Courtemanche

I'm a conservative Christian author who's been happily married for over 30 years. I am a Veteran of the United States Navy, Naval Security Group. I speak a few languages, I have an absurd sense of humor and I'm proud to be an American.


How To Move Across The Country With Limited Homicides — 3 Comments

  1. Truly happy for you three. Good advice. We did our move 5 years ago and thought we’d cleaned out truck loads and got it all. Not even.

    May your time in Florida be blessed and productive.

  2. Thank you Joe for this entertaining account of your move to Florida.
    Keeping the driving to organized hours was a real plus I’m sure. I’m an early morning driver and am up at sunrise to get on the road. Then my day ends no later than 4 PM and I would take my bicycle to the nearest store to get dinner makings, go back to room, clean up, fix dinner, watch the news and get to sleep.

    So I really appreciated how you maintained a schedule for driving and sleeping.

    The only thing missing from your adventure was having me in my F-150 close behind to add to the trek!

    Oh well, there’s always another day …