My story with helping a friend move
Recently, I helped my playmate Tammy move. Playmate. Yes, you heard it right. If kids can have playdates, then why can’t adults have playmates? Tammy and I are goofballs around each other. We go way back and we’ve seen it all. If I slipped on black ice and did a face plant, she’d be the first to know. Anyhow, I digressed.
Something you should know about Tammy is that she has a lot of stuff. She lives with her 7 year old son and as a family of two, they filled a mid-size moving truck. You see, Tammy is very creative. Throughout her life time, she has dabbled in snowboarding, cooking, gardening, crocheting and sewing. She’s an extrovert and she loves to throw parties. And of course Trevor has his own stuff too.
All that to say, I was overwhelmed. Even after many trips to Goodwill, it seems like boxes and bags were coming out of the woodwork. There must be organization in the disorganization, but not to an outsider. In my moments of agitation, I learned a few things about helping someone move.
Tip #1: Don’t argue too much
There are some things you’re not going to understand or agree on. That’s okay. This is not your house after all. You can state an opinion about what could work better, but if your friend has a preference, go with theirs. They might already be going batsh*t crazy. The last they need is for you to insist on your ways.
Example: On the day of the move, Tammy wanted me to check all the sockets at the new house to see that they work. The inspector has already okayed the sockets. It didn’t matter. Tammy needed reassurance; I shouldn’t be an ass about it.
Tip #2: Keep it light
Moving is stressful. The steps in locating a new home, packing up the old place, and now finally making the move happen amount to a lot of work. Sure, it doesn’t equate to the stress of someone dying or getting married, but a “major change in living condition” ranks 28 on The Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory. That’s significant. Regardless of whether your friend elected to move or was involuntarily displaced, bring a little humor into the day.
Example: Tammy printed a lot of labels but she ran out of “Fragile” ones. I began drawing the broken glass symbol on boxes and called myself an artist. We had a pretty good laugh about it since it was obvious that between the two of us, she was the creative and artistic one. I’m just the heady therapist, so I'll stick to my day job.
Tip #3: Take care of your basic needs
If you’re going to stay over for a night or two, are the soap and towels packed? Is there a spare roll of TP lying around? Where are you going to sleep without moving in half of your stuff? What are you and everyone else going to eat when you’re in the thick of packing?
Example: I was put on a strict diet a week before the move. Tammy didn’t have any plans for breakfast the day of and I was hungry. I ended up eating out of her limited fridge and breaking my diet. I should’ve packed something from home. Now I know.
Tip #4: Listen to yourself when you’ve been working really hard
You might have been recruited to pack, clean the old house, keep an eye on the movers, clean the new house and unpack. Whatever the tasks, it doesn’t mean you have to do it all. Does it work better for you to pack or help unload at the new house so your whole day isn’t shot? Do you have a bad back and it’s best to let someone else do the heavy lifting? Check in with yourself when you’re pressed up against your limits. It’s okay to say no to requests.
Example: Tammy had a very good agent and he was very detailed, almost to a fault. He wanted the apartment to be meticulously cleaned. He went out and bought cleaning supplies and we were on all fours, scrubbing while Tammy and the movers caravaned to the new place. By the time I arrived at Tammy’s new home 30 miles away, I was hangry.
Tip #5: Take it easy afterwards
It has been a long weekend, a long day. What do you need? Do you need to veg out on your phone, grab some comfort food, take a nap? Do you need to stretch, get a massage, go to yoga? If your body needs some TLC, meet that need. You don’t have to push yourself so hard.
Example: As the move came to a close, I was done. It wasn’t that Tammy said I still had to do this and that, but I wanted to help her unpack her closet and bathroom. I did leave the laundry area a mess. Considering the long drive home, I now know not to schedule an early morning client the next day.
Thanks in advance
Thanks for being a good friend in helping someone move. We do better when we’re together.
Ada Pang is the proud owner of People Bloom Counseling, a Redmond psychotherapy practice in WA. She helps unhappy couples find safety and connection in their relationship. She also helps cancer thrivers and their caregivers integrate cancer into their life stories. When she and her husband moved a few years back, they were grateful for their good friends who made it happen, and Frog Boxes that eliminated cardboard boxes and sped up the unpacking process. She’s sure that if Tammy was reading this, she might say that Ada was an ass on the day of the move. Perhaps that’s just how playmates are.