In our Living in Retirement blog, a recent retiree chronicles the ups and downs of her real-life retirement journey.
There are two ways to move: the easy way and the hard way. The easy way is when professional movers arrive to organize and pack all your belongings before delivering them unharmed to a new home. Usually, a corporate employer has arranged and paid for this easy move.
The hard way is the way I do it. Packing all the lamps, dishes, glassware, books, papers and computers, clothes, shoes and chatchkes into assorted boxes while praying that I’ve hired honest movers who will deliver all my worldly possessions unscathed to my new home.
Most people are in my position and for us moving is one of the most stressful events of a lifetime, reckoned to be slightly less traumatic than losing a spouse. Since I’ve never lost a spouse (except to divorce), I couldn’t say if this is accurate.
What I am certain of is that moving makes me crazy. Although I’m frantically trying to manage a more organized move than the one I handled two years ago, as I’m wading waist-deep in packing boxes, I’m not certain I will be successful.
Here’s a few of the most traumatic events of my previous move:
1. The movers lost my long deceased father’s briefcase. In it were the records and memorabilia of his life in Canada. Two days after the move, the concierge in my building found it discarded and sitting next to the elevator in the underground parking lot.
2. The movers didn’t bother following the labels I had neatly colour-coded and pasted on each packing box. Since some boxes were labelled for storage, others for the condo’s locker, where I was relocating, and more for inside the condo itself, it was essential that the labelling be adhered to. It wasn’t.
3. Neatly labelled boxes of kitchen utensils and all my cosmetics intended for the condo mistakenly went to the rear of my off-site storage locker, behind the treadmill, where they remain today. I assume they are still neatly labelled.
4. The final bill for the move was calculated by the moving company at one-third more than their original estimate. It took me weeks of kvetching to get the price down to the original quote.
I’m anxious about how different it will be this time. True, I have Mr. Wonderful, who is an expert packer, on my side. But even with his chipper attitude, there are too many memories of my previous moving day to keep me securely inside my comfort zone.
My advice for those about to change addresses is to investigate the moving company carefully before hiring them. Don’t just pick the first company that pops up on an Internet search – put any potential movers under a powerful microscope.
Make sure there is a written contract you can point to if disputes follow the move. The kindly older gentleman, in a suit, tie and brown brogues, who originally negotiated the cost of the previous move with me, did not vaguely represent the true character of his company. As a woman in her sixties and on her own, I must admit I found the kindly older gentleman, comforting. Surely, I could trust him? I was dead wrong.
After the move, I discovered that the President and CEO of that moving company was surly and uncommunicative, entirely unlike his well-spoken salesman. The CEO finally backed down from overcharging me when I took pictures of the misplaced boxes. The final bill was $1,400 after he tried to overcharge me by $700. Before you agree to hire a moving company, demand to speak directly with a customer who has recently employed them. Emphasis on directly and recently.
As I rush into the fray of this next move, the one back to Oakville, I have done things differently. Testimonials found in letters and brochures from movers have not influenced my decision. Not in the least. This time I hired movers on the advice of a long-time friend. She demands a high level of service and she usually gets it. I also compared quotes in a more realistic manner.
The quote I chose was a tad on the high side, but I believe it is the most accurate quote. The devil is in the details and in the case of moving it has to do with each half hour of overtime. How many extra hours above the quote will it actually take three men and a truck to move your belongings? Don’t be misled by movers who promise to transport a huge amount your stuff in record time.
Moving also involves making tough decisions about what to keep and what to donate to charity or to transport to the landfill. When I look back, I believe that downsizing from the home where I raised my daughter to the downtown condo I just sold left me feeling damaged. I think I discarded too much good stuff: much of my library, my daughter’s baby clothes and kindergarten paintings.
My advice is not to be brutally hard on yourself. If you can find the room for treasured stuff in your new digs, keep the things you care about. A worthwhile note to self: don’t buy a new home where you won’t have space to keep the things that really matter to you. Downsizing doesn’t necessarily mean getting more creative or feeling free as a bird; it just made me feel sad.
For this move, I’m taking everything with me that I can. No more ruthless pruning of all my possessions. If there is another hard move in my future, I will steel myself to the insanity of the moving process rather than assuming that this is the final one.
Follow Joyce Wayne on Twitter: @JoyceWayne1951