Confessions of a Serial Mover


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Daffodils, tulips and forsythia blooming used to get my wild oats moving, now sadly; the sweet smell of spring jump-starts my inner sense of change to a new home. Visions of fresh beginnings in a new home motivate homebuyers and renters to make the leap and sign the documents. But, the reality soon sets in, how are we going to get all our stuff edited, organized, packed and moved to the new place? Not to worry, Mark Nash author of 1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home, a confessed serial mover shares his tried and tried advice and tips for getting through the grunt work and into your new digs.

I didn't start out to be a serial mover, but evolved into one over time. Buying fixer-uppers, rehabbing handy-man specials or building new construction homes as a business long before “home flipper" was coined sent me down the road to serial mover. I couldn't take any profits from my last project until it was sold, and I always lived in my project (just one at a time), so moving was the chore that delivered the money. Being single and childless provided flexibility and never any serious discussions of the pros or cons of this vagabond lifestyle. After all, I thought it was a business, this American mobility.

My friends retroactively in whispered dinner talk qualified me in the mid-1980 as a serial mover. At least it was relatively safe, behind my back gossip. They all proudly chided me for being their only friend that was never entered into their address book in ink, only pencil. The pencil entries started for my first home, 2 years, home two, 3 years, third home, 2 years, number four and five, six months each (that was some year, why I unpacked either time is still a mystery), number six three years, and my soon to be not current home, six years. I'm proudest of this time in my soon to be ex-house, according to statistics compiled by The National Association of Realtors(R). I'm now like the average American for length of time in their current home. And, my friends were just starting to think I was due for ink.

My moves have entailed down and up sizing and a few laterals. I am a self-identified purge, just with my physical stuff, not my physical body, so moving is a great way to exorcise sentimental woes, awful gifts, dreadful artwork, mistake purchases, and hand-me-downs. As a bonus for all the hard work, it creates many new shopping opportunities. Moving allows you to redefine yourself and your living environment, and analysis aside; it's been rewarding to spurn anything that floods me with melancholy. I must admit, this current move is no longer an American Adventure (sorry U-Haul); it’s a downsize from hell. But, with years of experience I'll make the best of it. I have daydreamed and implemented the most efficient way of packing a box for the last two decades of my adult life.

The major purge categories are:

Paperwork and document files. Boomers are guilty of hording income tax returns, phone bills, and credit card statements from the Nixon era. And those fading Polaroid photographs should go too. Out, but shred them, one thing that hasn't changed is your social security number. Maybe the boomers will be remembered as the over-archived (originally the Pepsi) generation. I like the X and Y's, they truly do save trees by having their files and folders stored electronically.

Cassette, eight-track, record albums and VHS tapes. I never did have a disco ball, but I still have a significant collection of Donna Summer cassette tapes, which replaced the albums I purged, but I haven't listened to them since I moved in six years ago. Now, I boogie-oggie to Donna Summer on the oldies station in the car. While you're at it, purge those ugly cassette tape storage towers that don't look like anything, and the cheap plastic boxes that are filled with knock-off copies of Dallas and Dynasty. I like the X and Y's because they have all these cool compact file cards, I-Pods and watch television shows on their cell phones, so neat and tidy.

Paint. This goes hand-in-hand with serial movers. The old adage that paint is the cheapest way to redecorate is true and my collection of left-over and disasters paint is huge. Ralph Lauren had a collection of metallic finishes a decade ago, they were expensive, and even though they never looked good on my walls, I couldn't throw gallon of excess away. Now's the time. Paint and other chemicals need to be disposed of properly. Old bed linens, how many drop clothes do I need? I like the X's and the Y's because we have something in common with them, they love earth tones and natural colors in decor (, remember the 1970's?) and they can buy a home in many parts of the country that feature this decor in it's ‘original" state, which is so, green, and thus, move-in condition.

Kitchen stuff. Julia Child made us believe that we all could be French chefs. My cupboards are full of beautiful flan cups that every time I used them, the topping was burned (by that flame thrower that was fifty bucks), odd coffee mugs from significant birthdays I'd rather ignore, the bundt cake pan from the 1980's, I know they'll come back into food-style, but when? Plus, all those seasonings and cake decorating supplies that I know I'll never use, but they were so expensive for just one use, and paper coffee filters to fit any and all coffee makers, even the ones I no longer have. I like the X's and the Y’s; they are firmly entrenched in the belief that a kitchen is for reheating take-out and throwing out empty Starbuck's go cups.

Clothes and shoes. Imelda Marcos isn't the only one guilty of indulging in over-consumption of shoes. And guys, you're just as guilty; it's about time you come out of the shoe-for-every-outfit closet. The problem with being a serial mover is that it's amazing how much my waistline changes between moves. When I moved in six years ago I was a thirty-five, then I ballooned to a thirty-eight, but now I'm back to thirty six, so purging all those thirty-eights is a joyful rite of moving. Don't forget to take the boxes of used dry-cleaning hangers back to the source, and I love to use the clear protective bags, double bagged as purging receptacles. Boomers are addicted to dry-cleaning, and having midnight blue-black as the new black feeds the addiction, dust, lint and hair doesn't go with any shade of black. I like the X's and the Y's, they enjoy clothes, but synthetic fibers and an Abercrombie & Fitch look are not iron-friendly.

Hardware and duct tape. Even if you're not handy, you have picture hanging hardware, screws, nuts, bolts and twenty Allen wrenches that fit twenty different pieces of something you had to assemble. Add in door-stoppers from your last house, those dreadful beige wall switch plates you took down, but are worth something, and surge protectors, cable TV wires, computer coaxial stuff, and your first, second and third cell phone. Duct tape, don't you wish you invented it? From what I hear, it's a home run for either gender. It's in a drawer in every room in my house and it's great for putting a band-aid on any household problem. Some of my rolls are so old; the adhesive has co-mingled from multiple layers. I like the X's and the Y's, they've never heard of Architectural Digest or This Old House. So what if the switch plates are faux Mediterranean or the recycling basket is coming apart from being over-stuffed, chill out.

It just dawned on me, that as much as we're a nation of consumers, we're also a nation of savers. After all what are, attics, basements and garages for? But, I've always had a saying that I use with clients who are just starting the daunting task of preparing for a move; ‘when in doubt, throw it out". It works. It's easy. And, it doesn't wait around to be picked up by a charity, so you can re-decide to keep it. Being a serial mover has taught me some hard lessons about preparing to lift up my worldly goods and take them on the road again. A road for me well traveled.

Copyright 2007. All Rights Reserved. Mark Nash

Mark Nash is a Chicago based residential real estate author, broker and columnist. His advice, analysis and tips have been featured on: Bloomberg TV, CBS News, CNN, Fox News Channel, NBC News, The New York Time, The Washington Post, Business Week, Parade, and Smart Money Magazines, The Library of Congress, Washington, D. C. ,, and Nash's annual survey “What's In, What's Out with Homebuyers" is utilized by more than 500 news organizations in the U. S. and Canada.


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