Tips For Moving With Chronic Pain

Moving is a pain.

Moving when you have chronic pain is even more challenging.

Between grad school, marriage, and new jobs, I’ve moved five times since graduating college. Here are the best moving hacks I’ve found whether or not you have chronic pain.

The best moving hacks for a pain free move

Tips For Moving

Start early

The sooner you can start purging and packing, the more organized you will be.

If you have chronic pain like me, starting early can help you avoid a flare up caused by stress or by pushing yourself too hard.

Aim to start about 45 days in advance with purging, and then slowly packing for a month in advance.

Begin by getting rid of stuff

The best moving tip is to get rid of what you don’t use so you don’t have to pay to move it across the country (or even the county).

Start by getting rid of trash. It’s amazing what we accumulate unintentionally.

Get rid of expired items – both food and personal care items. Check your pantry, fridge, and bathrooms for expired stuff. Take medications to their proper disposable places like your local pharmacy.

Give away what you don’t like. That shampoo that made your dandruff come back. Give it to a friend.

That spice mix that’s too hot for you. Ask your siblings if they want it.

That dish soap that dries out your hands. Give it to your church or a local soup kitchen.

Determine what to donate

What have you not used or touched in the last year?

Remind yourself: Do you want the space or do you want the stuff?

What are you holding onto to please someone else?

If you’re moving away, you don’t need to worry about keeping the nick knack your great aunt gave you 3 years ago that you don’t love because she won’t ever see it.

Guilt gifts aren’t worth keeping.

If stuff like this is in good condition, it’s great to donate to your local shelter.

Many animal shelters will take blankets and towels that are in sub optimal shape.

If you determine you have more than a car load to donate, don’t hesitate to arrange a pick up from a local organization. This will also save you time and energy.

Decide to donate (most of) what doesn’t sell

Especially if you’re going to try to sell anything, you must start early because there may not be an immediate demand.

I made the mistake of trying to sell an old chair only a week before the move and had no bites… until 2 months later on Facebook Marketplace.

My husband had already hauled it to the dumpster.

If you’re willing to sell something, you should probably donate it. There were less than 5 items I tried to sell didn’t that I ended up keeping because I really like them but just wanted to see if I could get any money.

Collect boxes and packaging for at least a month in advance

Save money and the planet when you move by reusing boxes and packaging.

Where to ask for boxes and packaging:

  • on your social media page (once your move is public)
  • at yours and family member’s place of employment (and send a follow up email to anyone who does acquisitions with a clear drop off place – like your office or cubicle)
  • in church or club meetings and newsletters
  • ask your grocery store when a good time to pick up wine and alcohol boxes is (they’re the strongest!)
  • community social media pages, Facebook, Freecycle, Craigslist, etc.

Collect more boxes than what you think you’ll need. It’s free to recycle them if you don’t use them.

You may get too many of a certain size so having extra is valuable.

In order to be efficient while moving, do not break boxes down just to rebuild them soon. Ask anyone collecting for you to do the same.

Instead, find creative places to stack them. We had a pile in my office, our guest room, and in our bedroom. If you have a garage or basement those work well too.

It became obvious which brands we were getting the most of so we stacked boxes from Amazon, Thrive Market, and Office Max up to the ceiling.

Just store packaging in the boxes.

Finish eating your non perishables & freezer items

Since many moving companies charge by weight (or you’ll be paying for it in your own gas), eat up all your non perishables and freezer items.

Our lowest grocery budget bill was the month before our last move since we committed to eating as much of our pantry and freezer as we could.

The only downside was a global pandemic started right after our most recent move so I bought a lot to replenish it immediately.

Keeps soft items in their drawers

You don’t have to empty out your dresser drawers when you move.

For unmentionable items, wrap a scarf over the top so no one else can see what they’re carrying.

Avoid garbage bags

Avoid packing items in garbage bags.

Many moving companies forbid them.

And you don’t want someone who is trying to be helpful to throw out your stuff.

If you must use them, only use clear garbage bags and use them for lightweight and soft items that can be stored on top of a pile. For example, a bag of stuffed animals can be squished in the top of a trunk.

Use laundry baskets and (cleaned out) trash bins instead.

The only exception to my trash bag rule is in the next section.

Moving Tips For Packing

Pack by zones

The first time I moved as an adult, I made the mistake of packing by what fit best into boxes.

One thing from the bathroom, part of my desk, and stuff from the front closet crammed into one box.

That took forever to unpack.

Instead, pack by zones.

Here are some zones to try:

  • under the bathroom sink
  • under the kitchen sink
  • night stand
  • toy areas
  • office supplies
  • by drawer (such as a desk or credenza)
  • spice cabinet
  • kitchen utensils
  • sharp knives and utensils – try packing them in oven mitts to avoid puncturing a box!

It will take you less time to unpack and may save you packing time as well when you stay focused on one area.

Pack like items together

Sometimes, like items get separated from each other when you’ve been in a space for a while.

Pack like items together so they’re easy to find. It will also help you store like items together in your new space.

For example, if you use metal shelves in various closets and pantries at your current place, place all of them in a single box so you can easily find them when you need them.

Avoid the temptation to micro organize

For some personalities, it can be tempting to micro organize when you first start packing.

Don’t do it!

When you lose the forest for the trees, you run the risk of not having the time to get everything done.

Putting like items together is enough. Once you move into your new place and have everything unpacked, then you can put some energy into micro organizing, if you want.

But until then, all of your hair stuff can go into a bin. You don’t need to separate your pins from your hair ties from your headbands for now.

Heavy items go in suitcases with wheels

Especially if you are moving without professional help, put your heaviest items into suitcases with wheels.

As a seminary grad, a lot of my thick reference books went into suitcases.

Just be sure to use a long piece of tape and a thick marker to label what’s inside. You don’t want to haul that suitcase upstairs to your bedroom when it belongs on a bookshelf downstairs.

Pack all liquids in plastic bags

I know, I hate plastic too, but it is worse to throw out a bigger item out that gets ruined from leaky goo in the box below it.

Instead of buying new zippered bags, you can pack all bottles and jars in plastic grocery bags tied tight.

Use towels and old clothing as packaging

Kitchen towels can keep dishes from scratching each other.

Pack artwork in old tees and hoodies.

Pillows and towels are the only exception to storing like items together.

Use pillows to take up space in the top of oddly tall boxes. Just be sure to label that if it doesn’t belong with anything else in the boxes.

For example, a wok with a long handle needs a long rectangular box to fit without bending it. Add a throw pillow to fill the odd space.

Label Moving Boxes Well

Don’t let the dreaded unlabeled box pile ruin your move.

You don’t want non perishable food to get thrown in your basement or spare closet for two years.

Be intentional about labeling your items as you go.

What To Pack Last

Save these items for the last week and days:

  • water bottles for the trip
  • water filter
  • wallet
  • computer & work supplies
  • cooler with food for the first day or two in your new space
  • plants

Pack plant pots and saucers in shallow cardboard boxes so that dirt doesn’t spill.

Pack a bag per person to open first

Do this for each person in a suitcase without wheels (so that heavier items can be rolled in.)

You’ll be exhausted after moving and want these items to be easy to find.

If you are using professional movers, try putting these in your own vehicle(s) or tell the movers that they are to be packed last so that they come out of the truck first.

  • one set of bedding
  • pajamas and one set of clothes
  • hygiene items
    • deodorant
    • toothbrush and paste
    • soap
  • phone and device charger
  • children’s comfort item

On one of my moves, I heard a strange noise coming from the passenger side under the dashboard. Even when I stopped the vehicle, it kept rumbling weird.

I was terrified.

I still had 2 hours to go.

I was alone.

I called my dad, unrealistically expecting him to be able to tell what the noise was over the phone.

He wasn’t sure so he told me to restart the car.

But when I turned off the car, the noise was still rumbling.

It was coming from a bag in the passenger foot well.

My electric toothbrush got bumped on and was vibrating on the bottom of the dash board.

Boy, was I relieved that my car hadn’t broken down and I had my first night bag right in the front with me ready for my first night.

Ask For Help With Your Move

If you’re fortunate enough to have help, you want to assign easy tasks that don’t take up a lot of mental work and that you know you won’t be donating items from.

Ask for specific help. It makes it easier for whoever you are asking to know what they are agreeing to. Here are some specifics:

  • Can you help me pack up my books?
  • Can you help me pack up my kitchen items?
  • Can you help me pack up some closets?
  • Can you help me load vehicles?
  • Can you help me unload vehicles?
  • Can you help me unpack at my new place?

When they arrive, state your expectations clearly for how you want things gently (un)packed so nothing gets broken or smooshed.

These are the best tasks to delegate while packing:

  • wrapping plates and cups in packing or tissue paper
  • nesting pots and pans in large boxes
  • packing shoes
  • wrapping chunks of your clothing in the closet with garbage bags (keeping them on the hangers) and number the bags
  • packing a bookshelf in order – labeling the shelf by number so it’s easy to unpack!

Kids can help put their items in boxes too.

If you can, get help unpacking too (and put your kids to work!)

Again, make your expectations for how and where you want things unpacked so nothing gets lost.

For example, state that you want spices put out in alphabetical order.

Explain that books go in color order according to box number starting at the top left and moving right and then down the shelves.

Be sure to emphasize that you’d prefer them to ask you ten questions rather than no questions at all.

These are the best items to delegate while unpacking:

  • dishes
  • towels
  • shoe racks
  • clothes
  • books

Moving Hacks

Moving is stressful but with these moving hacks you’ll be on your way to a pain free move.

Well, we can all hope for a pain free day.

What other moving tips made your move smoother?


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