Vanessa's Top Tips for Moving Without Going Totally Crazy

A previous version of my tips, hastily written in the middle of packing boxes (and, clearly, looking for something I needed)

A previous version of my tips, hastily written in the middle of packing boxes (and, clearly, looking for something I needed)

We just moved into a new apartment! Hooray and stuff! And, the moving experience was everything you’d think it was: exciting, annoying, dusty, sweaty, busy, frenetic, and so on.

There was a lot of mental real estate that got hijacked by the move. For example, I spent a ridiculous amount of time measuring things and imaging where furniture would go.  

Since my brain spent so much time thinking about all this that I’m squeezing it all out into a blog post (you’re welcome?).  Here are my top tips for moving without going crazy:

1. Have a regular meditation practice for at least 2-3 months leading up to your move.

Ha! I bet you didn’t see that one coming. Yep, that’s my #1 tip. Ever since I decided to go to my 10 Day Vipassana Course, my ‘outcome goal’ was to develop more equanimity in my day to day life. If you’re not familiar with good ol’ equanimity, it’s “mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.” I don’t know about you, but I usually need more equanimity than I have, especially in a difficult situation ;)

meditation moving boxes.jpg

I was stoked that I did the course, and that I continued with my meditation practice, but what I was really curious about was how much more equanimity I would notice in my day to day life. For the first couple months I’d say the answer to that was “a little more.” Gratefully, I didn’t really find myself in many really difficult situations, so it was hard to gauge.

Then we decided to move. For a few weeks, our moving out / moving in dates and plans were up in the air. ‘Up in the air’ is not a mode I do typically do well in. You could describe it as ‘a difficult situation’ for this Type A, INTJ gal. But I was doing okay with it, so that was good. I focused on what I could do: getting s**t organized, and ready to go, and staying on top of my other s**t so it didn’t pile up.

At the time our actual moving started, I noticed I was way less frenetic and ragey than during our last move. When plans changed, which was almost constantly, I was able to pivot without complaining and stomping my feet. On our final day of moving, when we almost got stuck in the stairwell with a giant bookshelf, and then got yelled at by our new building manager for forgetting to book the elevator, I was pretty upset and stressed. But I didn’t lose it. I didn’t let my feelings splash onto everyone else. I thought, “Holy shit! I think I’ve got a lot of equanimity!”

If you’re ever moved, or ever plan on moving, or are about to go shop at Ikea, or have family drama, or get hangry, or just want to have a handle on your s**t, may I humbly suggest meditation? It’s the closest thing to a miracle cure that we’ve got, and it’s all natural, free as hell, and kinda enjoyable.

2. Anything you think you’ll do later, do now. Like right now. (After you finish reading this blog, though).

The last time I moved I was like, “Golly, I’d sure like to go through these family photos and organize them but there’s no time, so I’ll do it once I move in.” I’m sure you will not be shocked at all to hear that I did not do it at all. When we decided to move. I was like, “Damnit Vanessa, if you don’t do this now, it’ll be another 3+ years before you do.” Not to mention, if you’re going to get rid of stuff, why move it from A to B and then purge? That’s silly!

This time, one of the first things I did was organize those damn photos, even though logically it seemed like a non-priority. And guess what? In organizing my s**t, I managed to reduce my photo boxes from 3 to 2, resulting in moving less stuff, and making it easier to fix / store in the new place #winning

It might seem counterintuitive not to start with the biggest priorities so let me drop some science on ya, from Eric Barker of “Barking Up the Wrong Tree”:


“We’re consistently conservative about predicting how much extra cash we’ll have in our wallets, but when it comes to time, we alway think there will be more time tomorrow. Or next week. Or next year.”


To summarize, human brains are silly, so you’ll always think that you’ll have more time in the future. Bad news: you’re wrong *wah wah*. Good news: If you remember that you’re wrong when you assume the future will be magically full of free time for doing stuff, and then plan accordingly, you’ll avoid falling into that trap. (Also great news that apparently you will have more money than you think  in the future! I don’t know about you, but i’m looking forward to that part!)

3. You can pack up at least 50% of your belongings (probably more!) almost immediately and be fine (Yes, seriously).

Going without is an important thing to experience, in my opinion. You probably have more s**t than you need, and demonstrating to yourself that you don’t really need everything at your disposal is a great way to reflect on what you need to keep and get rid of.

It’s like these guys (The Minimalists) and their Packing Party idea. It’s very ‘all or nothing’ but that approach works for some people. This is what it’s all about:


“So we came up with a crazy idea: let’s throw a Packing Party. (Everything is more fun when you put “party” at the end.) We decided to pack all my belongings as if I were moving. And then I would unpack only the items I needed over the next three weeks...

After nine hours and a couple pizza deliveries, everything was packed... Everything I owned—every single thing I had worked for over the past decade—was there in that room. Boxes stacked on top of boxes stacked on top of boxes.

Each box was labeled so I’d know where to go when I needed a particular item. Labels like, “living room,” “junk drawer #1,” “kitchen utensils,” “bedroom closet,” “junk drawer #7.” So forth and so on.

I spent the next twenty-one days unpacking only the items I needed. My toothbrush. My bed and bedsheets. Clothes for work. The furniture I actually used. Kitchenware. A tool set. Just the things that added value to my life.

After three weeks, 80% of my stuff was still in those boxes. Just sitting there. Unaccessed. I looked at those boxes and couldn’t even remember what was in most of them. All those things that were supposed to make me happy weren’t doing their job.

So I donated and sold all of it.”


If you’re lazy like me, you can just wait until it’s moving time to try your own variation of this experiment. Excuse me, I mean “Party.” (Maybe the key to happiness during a move is to reframe it as a “Relocation Party.” Hmm, I could be onto something there!).


It’s an interesting experience to not have access to every little thing. You either: go without, find an alternative, do something else… you know, adapt. Of course, you can choose how much stuff you want to get rid of, whether or not you’re down with becoming an actual minimalist. But this much is true: if you can purge it before you move, your arms, legs and back will thank you for the reduced volume of stuff to haul, and you’ll have less to unpack, organize and find homes for once you’re moved in #doublewin

4. Take good care of your body when you’re hauling stuff, then power through the unpacking and organizing.

It’s easy to eat s**tty food, lift heavy things unsafely, and generally be stupid with your body when you’re in the throes of moving. It’s worth the extra effort to eat good food, and take the time to stretch and recover. Being tired and sore and full of gastrointestinal upset isn’t going to make your experience any more pleasant. If you’re lucky and you have too many friends offering to help you, ask them to make or buy you some food and bring it over.

On the unpacking side of things, I think there’s got to be one circle of Hell that’s just living in a perpetual state of unpacking. Clutter creates chaos, combined with not being able to move around easily or find s**t, and it’s just unbearable. Additionally, it’s weird to make move from your regular home base into a new one. Sometimes it smells funny or the water tastes weird or you can’t sleep because that stupid outside light is shining through your window.


I advise you to get a bunch of coffee and unpack everything immediately / as quickly as possible. Find and account for all your s**t. Then put it all away real quick. You’ll be SO. HAPPY. that you did! *This* is what makes a new place feel like a home - spreading your stuff all over it ;)

If you have cats or dogs or children or birds or ferrets, they will also be much more at ease when the place looks kinda like your old home did.

5. Explore Your New Neighbourhood


Human brains love novelty, fresh air is hella good for you, and organizing your new space *just right* can be annoying. So get outside for walks to move your body, breathe and take a break. There is a ravine near my new place that I’ve been exploring. I like to walk, run, bike and transit around the neighbourhood to get a feel for it. It makes me feel like I live in the area, and I always discover a cool store or restaurant or something in my travels.

Alright, that’s all I’ve got for now, because I have a new apartment to get down with and make my new home : )

So, what is your favourite part of moving?

Do you have your own tips and #habithacks or #attitudeadjustments for making it easier?

Comment below!