Our family has moved seven (yes, seven!) times in the past six years. That’s a lot of moving, friends. BUT the good news is we have developed a system that is tried and true and we want to share that system with you!
*Special tips for families with children on the spectrum are marked in italics :)
Order gently used boxes from a cardboard box “rescue” company like www.usedcardboardboxes.com. Their boxes are both inexpensive and in great condition. And the best part is your order is delivered to your doorstep. We have ordered boxes from them for several moves and really like them!
If you have friends who have moved recently and have gently used boxes, borrow them! Or offer to purchase them at a discounted rate. Either way, you will save money ;)
*Shopping can be an overwhelming experience for a child with autism. The sights and sounds, hustling and bustling can lead to sensory overload. By borrowing boxes from friends or purchasing gently used boxes that are delivered to your doorstep, you can save both money and peace of mind for you and your child!
Label, label, label and be specific. Rather than simply writing “appliances” or “movies” on a box, write out details: “Cuisinart, serving spoons, mixing bowls” and “DVD/VCR Player, Kids CDs and DVDs” etc. Though it feels like you will remember what you’ve put in each box, trust me you won’t. I have learned the hard way that it is worth the time and effort to label each box on the front end because it means time saved on the other side of the move!
Color coded moving labels are helpful as well. You can make your own, or purchase them (here are some from Uhaul). When we moved to New England, I printed out matching, color-coded pages and taped them (with painters tape so it didn’t strip the paint upon removal) at the entrance of each room. That way, the movers needed only to look at the color on the box to put it in the correct room and have no excuse for putting boxes in the wrong place ;)
If you purchase room labels like the ones from Uhaul, “Open First” labels should come in the pack. If they don’t, make your own! I always pack a few boxes with kitchenware that we will need right off the bat and put these labels on them, then mark an area of the new house with a print out just like I did with the room labels so that those boxes would be separate from everything else and super easy to access when we first move in to our new place.
*To make the move and transition a little easier and more fun for your child, make special boxes just for them! Let each child pack a small box of their things (toys, books, etc.) and as he packs each item say “Yay! We will get to open this in our new home!” Then label the box with an “Open First” label and when you arrive have your child unpack his box. Cheer as he pulls out each item from his special box. Jack always loves this!
*Another idea to help with the move is to create a “Moving” Social Story. We created one for Jack when we moved to New England and it was such a huge help! The key is to keep the story super simple: “I love my home. What makes my home so special is that my family lives with me! I love my family. Next week, we will move to a new home! I am happy about our new home because Mommy, Daddy and Baby Sister will be there and there’s even a special room just for me!” You can take photos of your child’s new room, talk about his special box that he gets to bring with him, whatever you want! Though moving is a big transition and can be difficult for children on the spectrum, taking opportunities to make moving to a new place feel fun and comfortable is a big help.
Pack suitcases even if you are moving just across town. I found this to be the best way to organize clothing, toiletries, and medications for each family member as we transitioned to a new home. Rather than putting everything in a big box and digging through it when we arrived, we each had a suitcase with our things neatly packed and super easy to find.
*Make packing your child’s suitcase feel like you are packing for an adventure! Apply the same thinking for packing her special box as detailed above to helping her pack a special suitcase.
Delegate responsibilities ahead of time. Moving day will inevitably be stressful and have unexpected needs pop up, so plan ahead as best you can to reduce stress. Jeff and I divide up our responsibilities like this: Jeff is in charge of driving the truck, coordinating the packing and unloading of our boxes and furniture to and from the truck. I am in charge of watching the children, ordering and picking up food for everyone, and offering direction as to where things go in the new house should any questions arise.
*If your child likes to be involved or is a sensory seeker, have him push packed boxes from one stretch of your old home to the door where they can be loaded onto the truck. If the move will upset your child, take him or her (or have a friend take him/her) somewhere fun nearby- a local park, icecream, a playground. Somewhere they feel comfortable and safe.
Moving is stressful. Make a concerted effort to be kind to each other, especially your spouse. Remember, you and your husband are friends and when things feel stressful, say “I love this house, I love this decision, I love my husband and he loves me!” Then, at the end of the day, treat yourself to a cocktail, a hot bath, or whatever relaxes you after a long day. Kiss your husband and say “We did it!”
There you have it – 5 moving tips for families! How about you? What moving tips work for you and your family? Share in the comments below!