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  • Emily Tse

Every Closet is a Clown Car: How to Survive a Quick Move

Hi readers! It feels great to post after a bit of a hiatus. The last year has been what I could only really describe as a tornado of fresh hot chaos and exciting progress. In a nutshell, my husband and I decided that Calgary was where we wanted to be as we move forward in our lives. Edmonton had been OH so good to us and the choice was tough, however the time was right so we took the leap! In my logical, plan loving brain, I thought to myself "well now… houses don’t sell overnight. Surely we have at least a month or two before it actually sells! We can make a peaceful, gentle transition from Edmonton to Calgary." The universe heard this logic, cackled like a Disney sea witch, then sold our home in less than 72 hours from the moment it hit the market.

Trying on my empty moving boxes as turtle shells for research purposes, not procrastination.

Our poor, sweet realtor called us (thinking she was delivering happy news) and was met with an interaction that went something along the lines of “Your house has sold! Congratulations!” to which I replied “What?! Oh good lord… how?! Why?!" Were we grateful to sell our home while the market was still strong? Heck yes. Did I go into shock and wrap myself up like an emotional burrito in a weighted blanket for the 48 hours following that phone call? Also yes. The weeks that followed were a blur between packing, sharing the news, and preparing for what would happen next in Calgary. I learned a few things that I hope will be helpful if you find yourself faced with a sudden relocation of your own.

1. Every closet is a clown car

Know that cheesy comedy bit where dozens of clowns get out of one tiny car? Every closet and drawer you have is one of those. I was only in my home for three years but it still baffled me how much could fit into each nook and cranny. Don't let it scare you, just be realistic about how much you own and don't leave your hidden storage spaces for last.

2. Sell the big stuff EARLY

The first thing I did once I came to terms with the horror... I mean blessing of our house selling so fast was to start posting ads for furniture and other big items that I didn’t want to bother moving across the province. By setting up posts for things like this early on, we managed to get a decent price for our excess furniture. This turned into cash we could use to offset moving expenses or put towards furniture in our new home. When you leave the big stuff for last, you’ll be desperate to get rid of it and possibly end up giving it away for free.

3. Don’t be a hero

You WILL need help. Organizing is my passion and it felt ridiculous for me to ask for assistance, yet when I looked at the timeline and sheer number of logistical steps required to get things ready on time, I decided to suck it up and accept some help. When friends graciously offered to pop by and help me box up things I had already sorted, I said yes. Dinner and beer in exchange for help and good company can make an overwhelming task a heck of a lot more manageable. It can also help keep you motivated when you run out of steam and want to fall asleep in the pile of linens you just emptied in the hallway.

4. Embrace the FREE pile

If you find yourself moving during a mild season of the year (Canadian friends, that’s any season where the air outside doesn’t hurt your face), then the free pile will be your absolute best friend. I stuck a large sign with “FREE” across it on the front lawn and simply kept a box underneath that I filled with items that I decluttered as I packed. It made the decluttering process a lot more fun when I could see neighbours pass by and excitedly find treasures I had no use for. Cookware duplicates, dishes without matches, yard tools, decorative items, shoes, anything. Yes, I could donate it all, however, when you’re in the process of moving, you need to be mindful of your time. If I could give it away all from my lawn, I could make fewer trips to donation centers. At least 90% of the items I put out were picked up, and I put out SO MUCH STUFF. **Note: Do not put out anything that could be dangerous to pets or children walking by such as sharp tools or cleaning products.

5. Do a simple cost analysis for your stuff

Depending on the distance of your move and whether or not you have to downsize, make mindful decisions about how much it will cost you. If your couch is worth $400 but you need to spend $500 per month on a storage unit to store it, then you’re spending more than it’s worth. Sell what is going to cost you more to store or transport and replace it instead. With furniture prices being quite high, we decided to hang on to pieces we loved that would be expensive to replace and items that were sentimental. Due to the short timeline of our move, I still kept more than I would have liked initially but we did our best.

5. Use the opportunity to shed the excess

Don’t look at your piles and say “what should I get rid of”? Instead, use this as a chance to pull out your things, group them together, and decide “what do I love enough to pack up and bring with me?” Anything that doesn't feel worth packing can go. Start with a clean slate and bring only what is truly enjoyable, functional, or special.

6. Be kind to yourself

I wasn't expecting this move to be hard for me considering how much I enjoy decluttering and simplifying. When the overwhelm did set in it became clear pretty fast that I needed to practice what I encourage my clients to do, which was to give myself some compassion and recognize that moving is rarely just about the stuff. Processing memories, new emotions, stress, and imminent change is overwhelming no matter who you are and how you slice it. I accepted that it need not be perfect. I needed to purge and pack what I could, and the items that I wasn’t ready to tackle could be easily faced once the dust settled and I was ready.

It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t graceful, but with some planning and the help of our amazing friends and family, we finally got ourselves settled in Calgary. Though I have some emotional and literal scars (thanks for nothing, sharp cornered plastic tote…), this whole crazy journey reaffirmed much of what I know is important when helping others survive big transitions. Kindred Spaces is now up and running in Calgary and I can't wait to see what this next chapter has in store! Please share and get in touch if you or someone you know could use a little support on their upcoming move!

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