Moving is not for the faint of heart, or back, or knees, or anyone with budgetary restrictions. And believe me, hindsight is 20/20. Sure, we made mistakes that were unavoidable and understandable due to the bum’s rush our now-former landlord gave us. When we were given—out of the blue—two months’ notice, we thought he was truly a man with a mission to right the wrongs that the termites were inflicting upon the house by the minute, and that he had no choice but to get in there, gut, replace, and repair with haste. We rushed our search for a new forever-home—and our business suffered as a result—not to mention a gazillion other things and people that were put on hold, so we could pack ‘round the clock. Then it sat empty for a month and counting, as termites continued to feast.
So, this is a cautionary tale to those who rent or are looking to rent, and to all house-owners: termites are your number-one enemy. But with this said, the remainder of this missive is “Learn From Our Haste,” or “How to Apartment Hunt and Move Your Shit into It.”
Stay within your budget. Yes, rents have soared and will continue to, yet there are affordable ones to be had if you do not restrict yourself. And do not assume that No Pets means No Way. I have had some good luck in the past with talking my way into a change of heart from potential landlords. Letters of recommendation from a former landlord and/or your veterinarian and the offer to pay an extra deposit just might sway the landlord. Also, we were lucky in requesting a rent reduction for the first year—not a lot, but it was encouraging to see that our new landlord was open to working with us and happy to have us at a reduced rent over other applicants. Is it still more than we can afford? Yeah. But it is in our neighborhood (emphasis on the word neighbor) that we have come to love over the past 10 years, and this made moving a little less painful. We lost our home, but not our neighbors.
The following are my tips for packing. And it is a given that every individual, circumstance, and timetable makes it difficult to give a blanket blueprint for disassembling and re-assembling your life. First, do not buy boxes. Go to Rouses or Winn-Dixie and ask the produce man if/when you can have his empty banana boxes (he will be happy not to have to break ‘em down—he saves time; you, money). These boxes, with lids and built-in handles, are the strongest ones you can get and just the right size (any larger and you’ll overpack and break your back). Check them for roaches before using—the good news is that out of the 400 we’ve gotten (free) for business- and house-moving, only one had the fruit-hungry buggers in it.
If time allows, wash, dust, and spit-polish your possessions before packing. Use newspaper, bubble wrap (most businesses toss it and don’t mind saving some for you), and pillows/blankets (to cushion glass-framed art). Label your boxes on all four sides. Downsize whatever you can bear to part with. This was extremely painful for Boyfriend and me. Between us, we had decades of collected art, antiques, family memories, letters, photos—personal treasures. Sitting on the porch with the recycling and trash bins, culling the herd of old love letters, birthday cards from parents, and photographs—this ain’t purging; it’s hemorrhaging memories.
Of course, by the last day, with the U-Haul due back and the deadline to be “out” eight hours away, you start tossing shit everywhere—still finding clothes under the car seat and prescriptions packed inside shoes. Any hoot, this brings me to the U-Haul recommendation. Great prices and pretty great customer service at Tulane Avenue—call and reserve, then confirm by phone twice to make sure all your ducks are in a row.
The biggest thing to deal with is finding that house or apartment. We began packing as soon as we got the boot, but where to move those boxes to was the most important thing. If you are like us and tend to make your rented house your home, you really need to try and find something that you will feel good about, because you can’t—at least, we couldn’t—afford to up and move again. So, when you go searching, have a list of deal-breakers with you and set your goals in advance. Do not be wowed by granite countertops (wine glasses commit suicide upon them), Jacuzzi tubs (they malfunction), or ceramic-tiled floors (those pristine white tiles will never be white again and your feet and knees will hate you); be cautious of laminated wood flooring (some have formaldehyde issues), and google signs of Chinese drywall (which was a big safety and health issue after Katrina).
Okay, it looks pretty good: the price is within your budget, the landlord is pet-friendly (and make sure his dog is not cat/dog-aggressive), and he/she is cool with any gardening or painting you might wish to do on your dime. Now, check out the neighborhood both in the mornings and evenings to see if you like the vibe. Flush the toilets and make sure the water pressure in the shower, sinks, washer, etc., is what you want. Try out the air-conditioning system. Give special attention to the refrigerator and stove. AND, measure your rooms—not just the floor space, but the height (we were so mistaken about how much room or lack thereof our new place had. We would have still taken the house, but with less “buyer’s remorse” had we paid better attention).
My word count is running out, and I still have 50 boxes to unload, so I will say, “Good luck, and make that house a home.”