Building Rome In A Day, or How Not to Move

Somewhere along the way, someone told me something was impossible.

Actually, I know exactly where and when.

It was my first day of seventh-grade art class, and my art teacher told me that the gray in the center of the color wheel, that color representative of what you got when you mixed all the colors, could not actually be made without the use of either black or white.

I said I bet I could do it, and she said if I could, she’d give me an A for the year.

I set out to prove her wrong, mixing colors madly, and ending up with a very nice gray.

Of course, I realized later, I had mixed it all on white paper, so while I got extra credit for the day for having taken on the challenge (and ended up earning an A for the year anyway), I discovered to my chagrin that I had failed to conquer that challenge.

I haven’t tried it since. Some part of me is holding on to the, “Oh, yes, I can,” of that moment, and not wanting to believe it can’t be done.

I hate the word “impossible.” To me, it means both “oh, yeah, just watch me,” and “just one more attempt and I’ll have this.”

So I figured that we could do a quick, painless, efficient move, and I’d be back up and running at full steam in a week. I gave myself two weeks just as a buffer.

Nobody I had ever known had done this, but I was willing to bet I could.


We started the move on February 23rd.

TODAY is the first day that I can actually sit down at my desk and write.

So, for those of you who might be considering a move, here are ten DOs and DON’Ts to help you achieve the rumored-to-be-impossible… the quick and painless move.

  • DO assume that the one thing you need the most when you get where you’re going will be the ONE thing you cannot get done with any kind of speed, no matter whom you tip, bribe, beg, or hire. FOR EXAMPLE: If Internet is your single biggest potential point of failure, scope out every Internet cafe, internet provider, and Internet alternative you can BEFORE you move, and don’t rely on the people you hired to provide it doing so in anything resembling a timely manner.
  • DON’T assume that the place where you want to rent your truck will also have boxes—in fact, figure that you will have to travel to at least five different locations to scavenge boxes because the Air Force Base in your area is in the midst of a major personnel transition, and boxes cannot be had for love or money unless you have a secret source.
  • DO cultivate black-market sources of boxes. Former employers and former employees, friends, neighbors, and places where you notice a lot of Fedex and UPS deliveries but not a lot of pick-ups are all possibilities.
  • DON’T think you’re brain will be able to do anything creative while you’re moving. You’re stressing about bills, mailing addresses, transferring all your catalogues, magazines, and mail, stuff breaking, stuff getting lost, packing, unpacking, throwing things out, work, school, and food. Any plotting you do will be limited to figuring out how to get your house wired for internet. (Or whatever YOUR big disaster turns out to be.
  • DO realize you’re going to forget something major that you need. For me, it was the special ergonomic keyboard tray with which I’d modified my desk. We brought two of the three desks in the house. The one we left behind was mine.
  • DON’T think you’ll be able to replace that major thing you need in a simple or sensible fashion. The keyboard tray I own is no longer manufactured. I did manage to find another one, but whereas I’d paid $30 bucks for mine at Office Depot (about the same price I paid for my desk), I discovered that when you can finally find it, the only alternative that now exists costs $114, which is simply ridiculous.
  • DO have your truck lined up well in advance of your move date. Otherwise you’ll discover that a large military population shift has made trucks harder to find than boxes.
  • DON’T move prior to doing your taxes, especially if the tax deadline is upon you. I spent two days after we got here frantically tracking down all the boxes in which I’d put all my tax stuff, and eight hours a day for three days organizing the mess into something I could take in to my accountant.
  • DO rent a dumpster before you move and throw out everything you haven’t used in a year or more. DO give away or get rid of 5000 lbs of your 10,000 lbs of books. You’re going to have to carry all those suckers down one set of stairs and up another, and if you only keep the books you love madly, adore endlessly, and can no longer replace, your back, your legs, and all those bruised spots on your arms will thank you. DO give Goodwill half your yarn. Are you even going to live long enough to knit up the other half? DO realize that psychic space and physical elbow room are the things you will yearn for most when you are navigating your way between boxes, and the fewer boxes you take, the fewer you have to unpack.

    Less is a whole lot more when you’re moving.

  • DON’T kill, maim, or batter anyone in the first month after the move. Sooner or later, everything will be hooked up and working, and your sanity will come back with it.

As much as you had to begin with, anyway.

So, no, moving is not impossible. Having fun while doing it may be. Doing it in the timeframe you allotted for it may be. But prepare for everything, assume nothing, and remember that redundancy is nature’s way of ensuring survival and have redundant support for everything critical. You’ll get through it.

Finally, here’s my Rome—not built in a day, but worth the effort.

My New Office


My New Window


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4 responses to “Building Rome In A Day, or How Not to Move”

  1. Jeff Avatar

    While in college I had the pleasure of moving 6 times in 4 & 1/2 years, and I think I got it down to a science. Three words. Yard Sale/Donate. Make three piles. 1. Keep 2. Yard Sale/Donate 3. Trash. Take one day to sort, two days to sell and one evening to donate. on the fourth day move – usually a large consumer truck (F-150) can do it. no need to rent a big vehicle. But then again, I’ve never been big on material possessions. It feels so good to purge. Plus getting rid of all my furniture gives me a reason to make myself some more. Rabbit bits and meiter joints and making cheap composite look like hard wood or cheap hardwood look like rare hardwood. Tongue and Groove and slide rails. And doing it all by hand and getting blisters with blisters and splinters. Now I’m rambling. Plus a room feels better when you make the furniture to fit it, instead of spending two whole days trying to cram what you have into a space and trying to make it work.

  2. djmills Avatar

    My big rule is carry coffee and a kettle with you, don’t pack it in with the kitchen items. My last move saw me suffer a headache from coffee withdrawal while waiting over 12 hours for the truck to arrive carrying the kettle and coffee along with everything else.

  3. D.RobertPease Avatar

    I have to chime in here, just to brag a bit about my wife. We did a move about 5 years ago, that in my opinion was the easiest move in the history of moving. And it is all because my wife had a passion for those big plastic bins. First of all she doesn’t let anything pile up. If it isn’t needed it either gets tossed/donated/or stored in a nicely marked bin in the basement.

    So before moving day, we had all the plastic bins, in the garage ready to go. So when our friends got there to help we just backed the truck up, loaded the bins, then loaded our furniture, and that was it. We had the whole house moved in about 4 hours (we only moved 40 minutes away) Then within a week after the move we were actually parking in our new garage, and literally had everything where it should be.

    Unfortunately, my tendencies to hoard and stack have gotten the better of my wife in the intervening years, and if we ever move again, I’m afraid it will be much, much worse.

  4. PolarBear Avatar

    You made that sound way more fun than it was. It probably wouldn’t have been worth the expense, but the ATT dongle (or Verizon equivalent) might have helped. They advertise the Internet can’t hide anymore, and generally (unless you’re in a small rural area outside of Madison, WI) that’s true.

    Taxes. Yeah. Trying to get those done. Wondering if, since we didn’t qualify for the stimulus bonus last year, we might this year due to lower income. That property tax deduction might be helpful, too, since we can’t itemize. But, frankly, our insurance costs more than our property taxes. We’ll find out. Hubby makes the first run through, then I check the figures. He’s just getting started.

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