With less than four weeks until my cross country move, I have been sifting through my belongings, determining what is worth moving (all my issues of Sassy, the seminal 90s teen magazine… obvi) and what to donate (old college text books… seriously, how do I still have some of these?). While I’ve pondered setting the whole place on fire rather than go through this time consuming process, it’s nothing compared to saying goodbye to friends. This is especially true of saying farewell to my friends at The Laurel Foundation, where I have had the great fortune to work for ten years. At The Laurel Foundation I honed my professional skills while working to support the needs of kids living with HIV/AIDS. But what this really means is that I got to go to CAMP!! Camp, for those not indoctrinated into this crazy world of songs, costumes, and wigs, is first and foremost a family. The staff of camp counselors and medical professionals are all volunteers. And miraculously, they return year after year to create consistency for the kids and each other. Camp is an emotionally and physically intense experience, but its magic combination of heart and camraderie creates an incomparable sense of friendship and family. I am proud to be part of this family. Over the years, I have been fortunate to meet and befriend some of the most inspiring, encouraging, loving, patient, loyal, genuine, creative, intelligent, and fabulous people on the planet. Friends from camp have become my confidantes, partners in crime and costume, and inspired me take this journey with my family in New York. After attending every single one of the 37 camps that have occurred over the last ten years, it hurts to leave. And while I have a new family to discover in New York, it doesn’t make saying good-bye any easier. Where else can I wear a giant afro wig with a bird in it and be accepted? Most of all, I can’t imagine wanting to be accepted any place else.
To you, my fabulous camp friends, I dedicate the great GOLDEN GIRLS theme song, Thank You for Being a Friend! I hope to see you at camp very soon.
Most days I’d rather throw a lit match into my apartment than deal with carefully packing all of my stuff. While that may be the quickest approach, it isn’t the most productive. So, I’ve resigned myself to the sorting and packing process. With 3,000 miles to travel, I need to find a way to ensure my vintage barware, ceramic poodles, Millie, the buppy (yes, she is half baby/half puppy and no, she is not creepy), and other treasures survive intact.
As I am apt to do, I’ve done some obsessive Google research on packing best practices and present to you some of the fruits of my research.
Moving Boxes & Bins for Packing
Cardboard boxes are great for packing anything not super fragile or sentimental, such a books and DVDs. The absolute best prices are found at Home Depot. You will overspend by copious amounts at U-Haul, Amazon, or basically any other place. Sure, you can get free boxes at the grocery store, but don’t come crying to me when your moving truck opens to reveal a hot mess of collapsed boxes. I’ve read plenty of cautionary tales online! Sturdy boxes in uniform sizes allow for easy stacking and prevent any leaning towers that lead to tradgedy.
For the really special things, like family photos or fragile items, plastic bins are best. They stack better than boxes, while preventing dents and water damage. Better yet, no assembly is required! The only downside to plastic bins is their price. I looked everywhere for an affordable 18-gallon storage bin (a great size, not too big and not too small), but most options were just crazy expensive considering I need about 20! However, Wal-Mart delivers the best price on plastic bins– a pack of eight for $39.76… that’s just $4.97 each! Crazy. I’m not typically a Wal-Mart shopper, but in this instance I made the trek to buy these bins.
Now you are going to need some serious packing material. Not just stuff to wrap your breakables in, but to cushion things that can be damaged. Bubble wrap is great, but it’s expensive if you actually buy enough for a full move. Packing material can be 100% totally FREE!
You can use many of the items you are already planning to pack, including blankets, pillows, clothing and fabric. Basically, anything soft and cushiony makes a great packing material. Don’t waste space packing these items together when they can be used as packing material.
And, if you’re like me and work in an office, you probably have access to a heavy duty shredder. The one in my office would shred your fingers if you stuck them in there. Don’t try that. I collect and hoard every single piece of paper not needed in the office to save for shredding. I now have shreds for days! You can probably accomplish this with a shredder you have at home; it might just take more time. The criss-cross shredders only give you confetti, so they won’t be helpful. You need thick shreds like these that provide lots of cushion.
In addition, save any packing materials that come from online orders. Places like Staples and Amazon include those inflated balloon-like packing materials in most orders. Save your newspapers or ask a friend who subscribes for their old newspapers. Lastly, check the free section on Craigslist, where you can find people giving away bubble wrap and packing paper. You can score free boxes on Craigslist as well, but I prefer to purchase mine so I am in control of the exact sizes and shapes of my boxes to create ideal stacking conditions in the moving truck.
Packing Boxes & Bins
Cardboard boxes should be packed so they are completely and totally filled to prevent the lid from bowing under the weight of items stacked on them. This keeps the leaning tower of boxes from happening in your moving truck. Plus, a properly packed box will prevent your items from shifting around. You might not be worried about your books breaking, but they can be damaged if they are packed too loosely. Say you’ve got a box that isn’t quite full, add shreds or other packing material until all the nooks and crannies are filled. You are now ready to tape up your box.
When packing breakables in your bins, start with something cushy at the bottom. This could be a bunch of shreds, a pillow, some clothes, or a blanket… anything that will prevent your items from touching the hard bottom of the bin. Next, put in a layer of wrapped breakable items making sure they don’t touch each other or the bin itself. You want to put packing material all around the edges and between items. You might be thinking that this is an inefficient use of space by including so much packing material, but now your items are safely nestled and unable to bump into anything that could break them.
(Could this photo be any less interesting to look at? It’s just a sea of white, grey and clear!)
Next, place a thick layer of shreds or other soft material on top of your items. Continue layering in this way until you get to the top layer, which should be a thick helping of packing material. Put the lid on and you are now a professional bin packer!
Of course, I haven’t actually moved yet, so these tips are totally untested. Everything might arrive in a heap of broken glass and ceramics. I wouldn’t trust me if I were you.
I’ve decided to make a cross country move from Los Angeles to a small, country town in upstate New York so I can get to know my dad. I’m known by friends to dramatize and exaggerate pretty much everything, but to say this is the biggest decision of my life is not hyperbole. I have enjoyed the mild weather of Southern California for 25 years and I assume that I loved city life even in utero. With a community of friends and a fulfilling career, I never before considered living anywhere other than Los Angeles, let alone making a cross country move to a small, rural town. Then, in October, the blank space under “father” on my birth certificate was filled in. As it turns out, I did not just gain a name for my birth certificate, but I won the dad lottery. No one could dream up a dad who is more caring, kind or thoughtful as the one I got.
My dad during a trip to Los Angeles
In the beginning, I envisioned our lives filled with endless Skype chats and countless cross country visits. That seemed like a sufficient method to get to know my father. But when your dad leaves you notes like this, how do you say no?
I certainly tried. It seemed too dramatic, too fast, too scary a move to consider. I resisted and avoided thinking about it until it was all I could think about. Somehow this cross country move came into focus as the only possible option. While it still feels risky and terrifying, I know not leaning into this experience with my dad would go down as the one great regret in my life.
Now, I find myself in this strange space in time between the decision and the move. It’s sort of an angsty limbo. Life in Los Angeles is coming to an end, but it hasn’t quite begun in New York either. It’s hard to make plans when I’m not sure where I’ll be living or what my life will be like. There are so many yet to be answered questions– Where will I get my lattes? What if I don’t make any friends? How will I handle the snow? When will I feel settled?
In movies, this limbo is conveyed with a well paced montage with soaring music. Sure, there might be some pratfalls, but it glosses over the uncomfortableness of change to the point that it seems amusing or glamorous.
It’s like in Dirty Dancing when Baby learns the mambo routine in a scant 3 minute and 30 second montage, which conceals the enormity of what she is under taking. Baby is not just learning a dance, but also developing the strength to stand up for what she believes in. She is defying her father (not to mention the law) in helping Penny. That’s got to require more frustration, anxiety and self-doubt than is displayed in this sequence.
I would love to skip the angst and live out a light-hearted, glossy montage of preparations for this cross country move with breezy moments of boxes being packed, celebratory drinks with friends, my last day at work and loading a moving truck. But then I wouldn’t earn the change or the growth that this experience will allow. So, I’ll stick with real life and hopefully survive this cross country move!