The Evolution of Moving

As someone who spent 12 years going to University I have moved around a LOT in my lifetime. As a student it’s not so bad: most of my belongings fit in the back of a pickup and my Ikea furniture could be flat-packed almost back to the state they arrived in when I first purchased them. Moving meant buying pizza for as many True Friends as would show up on moving day, with extra beer for the guy who owned the truck (saved for after the driving, of course).

When I finally finished school and moved across North America for my first “real job” I also went on the cheap. I left most of my stuff in storage (read: my Mum’s basement), put what few articles I couldn’t part with in my suitcase, and bought what I needed after I arrived. I still shake my head at my financial ignorance and folly back in those days: I purchased a studio-apartment-full of furniture from Ikea and other places, racking up almost $2000 on my credit card in doing so. I was so sure I was going to be a highly-paid successful career woman, and soon, that I dove into this as if it were the most normal thing in the world…but I digress.

The next move after that was when I married my husband and went to join him in Boston. We gave away my studio apartment’s lot of furniture (which I still hadn’t paid off) to a co-worker who had just arrived with his family from Switzerland. We packed what was left in a small U-Haul trailer that we drove across 3 states with my Mazda Protege. Thank goodness my husband had the good sense to insist we rent places that came fully furnished, because over the next 3 years we moved cross-country three times, in the same manner (I still can’t believe my little 4-cylinder Mazda pulled a U-Haul, even a small one, over the Rockies 3 times!).

Our most recent move was 2.5 years ago when we moved into our current suburban abode. By this time our situation was much different. We had two young children and husband was working full-time outside the home. All our friends were folks with young families like ourselves and a day spent helping a friend move was time that just could not be spared. I decided we were grownups and should move like grownups so I hired movers. I was even contemplating hiring professional packers when I came across a new concept: reusable moving boxes.

Beth over at Fake Plastic Fish recently wrote about these in this blog post. Aside from the environmental benefits of using plastic moving boxes, there is a whole lot of practical benefit as well. First, I can tell you from personal experience that hunting around for used cardboard boxes is a time-consuming activity best reserved for those without young children. You can’t just hop out of your car, run two blocks to the alleyway dumpster, and grab those fresh clean boxes you just saw being put out while your children are strapped into their car seats. Young kids also have a very small window of “errand running tolerance” so you must plan and execute your missions with the skill of a seasoned professional. Spontaneous trips to the liquor store for boxes generally do not factor into your version of reality, and yes I have actually been told that I cannot enter the liquor store because I have minors in my company (darn, and little Johnny SO wanted that bottle of Merlot to wash down his mashed banana…!).

Packing with young children underfoot is also an activity reserved for the brave. You cannot pack any toy or favoured stuffy without being assured that your child will, within the next few hours, suddenly NEED that item to the point of desperation. Then you have to hunt through your boxes, turning them this way and that to find the black jiffy marker scratchings you made among the several black printed captions, hopefully giving you some clue as to what is inside. After you finally find the box-cutter that you so carefully hid from the children that you need a stepladder to retrieve it you must cut away the packing tape, wrestling with the bits that stick to the blade, and then undo several precious long minutes of packing time while you hunt through bubble-wrapped knick knacks and other non-identifiables. Kids also have this love affair with boxes (and who can blame them, really) – just when you need that wardrobe box you will learn that it is actually a Spaceship on a special mission to Jupiter and the tears that fall when you suggest it has other purposes will make it seems like budget-cutting time at NASA.

Reusable moving boxes are exactly what any busy mother needs. They come in tall, sturdy stacks that the children cannot tip over. They all look alike, meaning that any one of them can serve as a distracting (and, importantly, unbreakable) play item while the others are put to good use. They are easily and clearly labelled with index cards that fit into a special slot welded to the box. They are easy to move around since they stack when full, too, and all the labels are on the same side. So when Daughter suddenly NEEDED that purple felt pen that she found at the playground two months ago, I could simply go to the box labelled “kids art supplies”, remove it from its stack, fish out the marker, and then dump it back in when it had been used and once again forgotten.

Not having to put boxes together and wrestle with rolls of packing tape (and may I say that those razor-edged wheels they come with aren’t the best things to have lying around when you have little kids) saved me oodles of time. I could not believe how fast and easy it was to pack. I could actually have several bins going at once so that like really was packed with like, rather than trying to find a specific object to put in a box based solely on its size and shape and ability to maximize the efficient use of space.

The bonus came on Moving Day. After the furniture and large items had been loaded the rest went in lickety-split. The movers loved that the boxes stacked and were easily moved with the dolly provided by the moving box company. They said it literally saved them hours of hauling boxes down by hand, or trying to precariously balance as many as they could on a dolly when all were different sizes and grades of cardboard. They were easy to place in the truck in the most space-efficient manner, too. The amount of time I saved on labour more than made up for the cost of renting the boxes.

The best part was when it came time to unpack in our new home. The empty bins stacked in neat piles and the company came and hauled them away when we were done. I vowed I would never move without them.

And so tomorrow our moving boxes arrive. I’ve chosen to go with FrogBox this time. Since we are not doing a local move we’re going to have to return the boxes ourselves and these guys were totally cool with that arrangement. Importantly, they offer discounted pricing for extended weeks and I knew we’d want to give ourselves at least 3 weeks to pack, move, and unpack before needing to bring them back. This made the price very reasonable. Finally, what’s not to love about their cute Frog mascot and the fact that they donate 1% of their profits to frog habitat restoration?


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