The New Chapter Is About to Begin!

Tuesday we put in our move-out notice at our rented house. The closing date for our new, first home is set for next week. I booked movers for Weds Oct 30.

Oh my goodness, this is really happening! I have so many conflicting and simultaneous feelings.

There are two “biggest” ones. The first is a bittersweet, pre-nostalgia for this house. We’ve lived here for seven years! This has been our first home; we’ve built our life while here. We brought our babies home here and they have grown and changed and laughed and cried here. We’ve truly settled into this house. Expanding into the basement with our growing holiday decor, and my office space. Changing layouts in the living room several times. Little hardware additions in the bathroom. Bemoaning the jungle growth in the yard and periodically trying to work on it. Our family has inhabited every inch of this house, physically and emotionally. This house feels like it’s actually a member of the family. There’s no way we could stay here forever, so it’s been inevitable that we’d leave and move. But it feels hard and sad and emotional.

The next biggest feeling–maybe the biggest–is overwhelm. We moved here from a one-bedroom apartment. And now we have filled a house with three bedrooms plus garage and basement. There is SO MUCH STUFF. I look around and think, oh my god, how can we ever get all of this organized and packed?! I do want to do some purging too as we go. But that will also take time. We have under four weeks. This is simultaneously a long time and a very short time!

Yesterday I looked around social media for free boxes and picked up three different sets, plus I have one more big set to get today. This is one good discrete task to focus on now and work on, so that we’ll be ready to get started. But how soon should we actually get started? It’s very tempting to start now, just because we could and every little bit helps. But I also don’t want to live with piles of boxes everywhere for four weeks. Of course, at some point–two weeks maybe?–it’s inevitable that our life will become boxes. The boys are excited and eager to start packing (I think that might change though, when it becomes more frequent and necessary) and last night started going through some of their small toys. (It only lasted a few minutes before they got distracted by drawing (M) and writing (E).

We decided to do the big move with movers on a school day with after-school, so that they wouldn’t get bored, restless and whiny. That will be a long day and them being underfoot would make it tougher. It’s going to be a really strange day though, waking up in one house and having to return and go to bed in a different house! I wonder if we’ll really be able to get beds and necessities set up in so little time. And then the next day will be Halloween, to add to the chaos. The boys were concerned about that recently. They want to be able to give out candy at our current house. And sadly it doesn’t make sense to decorate our house this month–but maybe we should anyway? I don’t want to skip the whole Halloween spirit season–the boys always enjoy it.

We have SO MUCH WORK ahead of us! It’s going to be very exciting though–we’re buying a house!!

My best tips for Packing and Moving

First of all–no, we aren’t moving anytime soon. This is completely out of the blue. I was listening to an old Joy the Baker podcast and they were talking about moving and packing. Yet I think I do have some helpful things to share about the packing/moving process. And today marks two years ago that we landed in Portland after our cross-country move from Brooklyn. It seems way longer than two years!

Now–all of my moving experience has been without pets or small children. That is a whole other beast, one that I have no ideas about.

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1. My best tip about packing and moving is to remember that it sucks. There’s no way to make it easy and beautiful and stress-less. Unless you are very rich and have an extra house you can live in while you pack up another one.

2. Are you over the age of 25? That means that you are a grown-up and it’s time to hire movers. The time and effort it will save you is SO WORTH THE COST. I hired the same company the three times that I moved while we lived in New York (Manor Movers). They were so fast and efficient. Plus they wrap/protect big items that you can’t fit in boxes. It made moving day so EASY. (Relatively speaking. Remember, moving sucks.)

The extra-grown-up option is to hire movers to actually *pack* for you. I hear that this is an excellent option for those with small children or babies. Leave the house for a few hours and come back to boxes all done up? Yes please!

3. I don’t know about you, but the idea of scavenging around town dumpsters looking for assorted grungy boxes makes me all anxious and shuddery. How long will it take to find them? How many stores do you have to go to? What if it’s the wrong day and the boxes are all gone? What if you don’t find enough boxes? What if they’re all too small for your stuff? What if you run out of boxes? NO THANK YOU. Buy yourself a pack of actual, new moving boxes from a site like this. They arrive at your door super fast, they’re new and sturdy, and you don’t have to go DO anything to find them. They have sets that include different, coordinating sizes, depending on how big a space you’re packing. Again, SO completely worth the cost. You can then flatten them on the other end of your move and store them for the next move. (I do this. While in Brooklyn, I kept flattened moving boxes under the bed, under the futon, and behind our dresser. And probably some in one of the closets too.)

4. Buy more boxes than you think you’ll need. If you’re anything like me, you are way underestimating how much crap you have. Even though I saved the boxes from the previous sets, I always needed another set of them! I just accumulate stuff over the years!

5. During the packing process, cull as much crap as you can. We stuffed my car completely full and actually stopped at Goodwill on the way out of the city, with another three big bags of clothes plus a few random things like my old printer and maybe a lamp. Books are a really easy thing to start with–you can always pick out 3-5 books each time to see the bookshelf, and put them aside for the donate pile. (Our Brooklyn apartment building had a little library shelf in the basement laundry room–so we could just drop our pile there.) Be ruthless with your clothes–as you’re taking them off hangers and out of drawers, ask yourself if you have worn it recently and if you reeeaaallly need it.

6. Organization…I remember reading someone’s smart idea about numbering each box and then keeping a master list of what was in each box. I was totally on board with that and did that….for about a day. Then I got lazy and/or forgot.

My strategy is generally just using a big marker (those box sets include a marker) and noting not just the room, but the contents. So instead of just writing “kitchen” on three boxes, for example, label one “plates and dishes”, another one “coffee maker and blender”, another one “mugs,” etc etc. Being specific is your friend on the other end.

Then there is this smart idea: tape that is labeled with room names! 4 Bedroom Labeling Tape I saw another tip recently about using these labels on the boxes, *and* labeling the appropriate doorways and entrances, so that it’s kind of a matching game as the moving truck is being unloaded. Easy peasy for you and for any movers who are working with you.

It’s helpful to put the boxes in the rooms they belong in; that way you’re not overwhelmed with unpacking your entire house worth of sixty boxes in one place! And if there’s an unpacked room that’s stressing you out–just shut the door. The boxes will wait. 🙂

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7. The Important Box. This is my favorite packing strategy. You probably already know to keep your suitcase/backpack ready with your toiletries and changes of clothes. But what about small things that you really don’t want to lose in a sea of boxes? Put them all together in one Important Box. That box stays with you, it doesn’t go in the moving truck. I put things like my assorted charger cables, my passport, my main notebooks/planner, a book I’m reading, that kind of thing. So that box is a mess, sure, but I can rest easy knowing that the real stuff I need every day (or that I just need to know where it is), is with me all the time, nice and safe.

8. Take pictures. I learned this the hard way: take pictures of your new place before you unpack or unload your stuff, and take pictures of your old place when you’ve packed it all up. This is evidence of the state of your place before and after, in case you need proof of what you did or didn’t damage.

It’s also a nice idea to take a picture of your street, and your house/building from your street. Just to have as a record, just a picture of where you lived, where you built up lots of experiences and memories. Then of course, take a picture of your new street and the front of your new house. It’s kind of exciting to think about what kinds of experiences and memories you’ll have there.

9. The hardest part of packing up is the last 10%. You’ve got all the books, all your clothes, all the furniture, all the towels. But then…there’s this random assortment of other crap. It doesn’t really have a category, and I never know what to do with it. Half of it ends up tossed in on top of unrelated boxes (the top half of book boxes always end up stuffed with random stuff), and the other half has to get thrown into new boxes and labeled “misc”. The dreaded “misc”! Where does it go? Where do you unpack it? Why do you even have it?!

I don’t have any answers or tips or advice for that. (Other than that I know that if I culled better/more and collected less stuff, I’d have less of these leftovers!) If you do, I’d love to hear it.

10. Other moving options: renting plastic bins instead of buying boxes, driving your own stuff in a rented truck, or using a service like PODS. I think the bins idea is really neat, but you’d have to be moving in or to/from locations that have them. We thought about driving a rental truck for awhile. I looked around online and heard about some U-Haul horror stories and saw lots of recommendations for Penske. So I called Penske and made a reservation just in case, and found their service to be fantastic, and the rates very reasonable. We did decide to use PODS instead and drive my car, though, and it was very simple to cancel the reservation. (I was kind of sad to do it, though!)

PODS was overall a good experience for us. However, apparently there is a special city division that I talked to at one point who gave me a clear window for when to have the POD delivered and picked up the same morning–and then on subsequent calls they had no idea what I was talking about. I was like, DUDE, you can’t drop off a 16 foot storage container on a Brooklyn street for a month! Thankfully it all ended up working out, but just be aware of that if you want to use them in a big city.

We waffled on whether to drive a truck, or drive ourselves (since I had a car) and use the POD. Like I said, we went with the POD. The rental truck was way cheaper, but there were additional costs to consider: would have taken a lot of gas money (moving trucks get TERRIBLE gas mileage, versus my little car that got 30mpg on the highway), it would have been harder to drive/park, and maybe harder to take random side trips on the way. Not to mention: we would have either had to ship the car (which was $1000-1500), or tow the car behind the truck…which would have been possible, but a huge pain in the ass for sure. The total cost difference between the two ended up being only about $1000. Which yes, it’s a lot of money, but reducing the hassle and increasing the adventure was worth it.

11. If you can, make it an adventure!

We got to drive across the country! We visited my husband’s family and some of my cousins, saw a number of beautiful national parks, dipped our toes in the Mississippi, and almost broke down on the side of the road under a blazing western Nebraska sun. Adventuring all over the place. 🙂 It was extra special knowing that our babies were ‘with us’ on the inside, and that it would be a long time before we could do an adventure of this level again, so we tried to soak it up as best we could.

However, as exciting and fun as road trips are….they can be REALLY boring at times. Especially on the Midwest, when the entirety of the directions were “Continue West on I-80.” 🙂DSC_5626_WEB

At some point we’re going to have to move again, so I’d love to know your best moving tips to add to this list, so please leave a comment below!

Big Bad Apple

I lived in New York for eight years. There are a lot of great things about the city, which everyone knows: tons of cultural events, bars stay open really late, it’s really easy to get around via public transportration, great restaurants everywhere, interesting and diverse mix of people, it’s never boring.

However, the thought of New York City life while also the thought of life with two babies…well. I’d been wanting to get out of the city for years anyway, and having twins was my ultimate trump card. We would have had to move out of our awesome apartment and neighborhood to somewhere with more space and less cost. And everything in general would have been a pain in the ass. I’m pretty sure I would be stuck inside all the time, partly because it would be hard to get out by myself with two babies, and partly because we wouldn’t be able to afford childcare.

So the main reason we moved to Portland was for the lifestyle change–to make our lives with two babies easier and more affordable. Obviously plenty of people raise lots of children in NYC and are happy about it…we just aren’t those people. 🙂

We’ve been in Portland for less than two years, and it’s been hard to get to really know the city, since most of our time still revolves around babies (and we haven’t been able to do lots of the fun baby-and-me groups that many singleton parents attend). But no doubt that our lives here are much easier than they would have been in New York!

So here’s a summary of the lifestyles in New York and in Portland.

New York City
Huge, booming thunder and frequent lightning.
Our apartment had a gorgeous view of the harbor and lower Manhattan.
Roof access for photos.
Traffic everywhere you go, all the time.
People people people everywhere you go, all the time.
Hipsters.
The Strand.
Tons of great restaurants.
Lots of activity/exercise walking around the city all the time.
With two babies and a double stroller, public transportation is not possible (not enough elevator stations).
Therefore hard to get out and socialize.
Walk-up apartments.
High rents!
Higher nanny/babysitting rates.
Years-long waiting lists for daycares, preschools, and schools.
Crazy fucking drivers.
Parking difficulty. (Understatement of the year.)
Difficult, time-consuming, expensive to get out of town. Only strip malls to see nearby.
Small living space, no extra storage.
One bathroom.
Dishwasher/laundry not likely to be in-home.
Pain in the ass to do Costco/Target trips.

Portland
Can’t see the sky (from our house).
No good photo opportunities from our house (though Mt Hood is just visible from our bedroom window!).
Hipsters.
Powell’s.
Lots of great restaurants.
Some traffic at certain times/places (don’t ever EVER go northbound on Friday after 3pm, for example).
No through streets.
Most street signs are illegible in the dark.
“Slow racing” drivers who drive UNDER the speed limit, ON PURPOSE.
Green space, right outside our door.
Easy to get out of town; lots to see near by–mountains, coast, state forests.
Easy to get of the house in a stroller.
Easy to find parking.
Parks nearby by foot and by car.
More affordable housing costs.
Childcare costs slightly less outlandish.
Dishwasher AND washer/dryer!
GARAGE!
BASEMENT STORAGE!!
MULTIPLE BATHROOMS!!!
Easy to go shopping and run errands.
Easy to stay inside the house for hours.
Easy to sit on one’s ass all day long (working at home).
Hard to meet new people, what with so much time inside sitting down.

Moving On In

Backing up just a bit, there was a big move! Our POD container arrived on Thursday midday. We weren’t able to schedule movers at the last minute for that day and we were leaving again the following afternoon. Happily, my mom and her friend came down to help us out. And thank goodness, because I was very nearly useless. The POD was unloaded in about an hour, and then everything got moved into the appropriate rooms in the house.

 Our empty living room:

And then with some piles of boxes:

 Our empty bedroom–it’s even bigger than our big room in Brooklyn!

 Office/Guest Room with the Expedit desk set up:

It was a really long, tiring day, even for me not doing that much. It felt great to get into our bed in our new house for the first time…but the bed was really uncomfortable. I realized that I hadn’t remembered or found the foam mattress topper that I usually have on there, which I figured was the reason. At the end of the weekend, I bought a new topper and when we went to put it on, we realized that the bed was upside down! The plush part is only on one side of the mattress, and the bed had been set wrong side up. Duh! It was so very more comfortable after that!

The next morning we refueled with my mom’s waffles topped with fresh blackberries. Delicious!

Our hard-working guests also set up our new media center, desk chair, and dresser.

Me finishing up the back panel:

It was a HUGE deal that they were there. It would have cost several hundred dollars for movers to unload the POD, and then we’d still be stuck with setting everything up. With my belly and my hands, I would not really be able to do much of anything to help, which would mean Andy would have had to put everything together and it would have taken like a week. Instead, we had almost all the big stuff up and ready within 24 hours. Amazing! We were and are so very grateful.

Now that we’ve been here for a couple weeks, and more boxes have been unpacked, things are starting to look more homey. Coming soon, photos of the rooms as they currently look!

What a Difference

People ask me what brought us here and/or why we moved. I usually answer something about a lifestyle change.

Now that we’ve been here for two weeks, there are some things about this new lifestyle that are pretty great indeed. It’s a lot of small things, but the ease of doing so many things is such, such a relief. These things aren’t Portland-specific exactly, but we haven’t really taken advantage of Portland itself yet.

–The dishwasher! The first couple days we washed all of our dishes in turn. And as you might expect after years of handwashing, they have never been so clean and shiny. (And also sanitized!) Also, I can be a little lazy about dishes, so putting things right into the dishwasher is pretty sweet–it does all the work for us!

–We have to drive everywhere. We were in a super, ridiculously convenient location in Brooklyn and could easily walk to any errand we needed to make. Here, we can’t.

–The flipside to that is the garage. Oh holy garage, you are my favorite. It’s a designated parking spot, protected from the elements! And there is storage, so much space! On Sunday evening, we made a run to the grocery store. And then we drove right back, pulled into the garage, and brought the groceries right into the kitchen. I could never go anywhere on a Sunday evening in Brooklyn with a car, because as I learned the hard way, it would take 45 minutes to an hour of driving in circles to find a parking spot.

–This was our Brooklyn Costco experience for the last three years: Go only on a Wednesday, because that’s the day the car had to be moved anyway, and I wasn’t about to move the car on another day in addition, and going on the weekend only makes me homicidal. Drive up to the front of the building and double park. Make 3-5 trips between the car and our lobby, piling our stuff on the front table by the elevators. Once everything was in, put everything into an elevator, and Mister M goes with it upstairs, where he either puts everything in the hallway just outside the elevator, or makes 5 trips between the elevator and our apartment. Meanwhile I go back to the car and look for a parking spot, which could take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes.

Now? Go to Costco any day of the week (though avoiding weekends is still probably a good idea). Drive home. Park in garage. Take everything inside. The end.

–We haven’t done much of it, but being able to do laundry in our very own basement is also pretty fantastic. Any hour of the day, any day of the week, no worrying about machine availability, no counting out quarters, no having to run to the bank to stock up on quarters.

–Bathrooms! Plural! If one is taken, guess what? There are two more! It’s amazing! (Partly because I haven’t gotten into cleaning all three of them yet…)

–We can play music and use hammers any time of day–no one below/around us to be disturbed by noise!

Leaving New York

We did it.

It’s over.

 We’re gone.

Moving day was a loooong day. We got up by 7 to work on some last minute stuff. Movers and POD arrived and got started by 9. They were done between 1230-1. Then we spent two-three hours cleaning up, bringing down trash, recycling, old furniture type stuff. It was probably too much for me, but jeez, I really had no choice, otherwise it would have taken even longer.

I loaded up the car–I had a bunch of stuff I wanted to keep with us, and it was a little too much. We did some photos/video of the empty apartment, and I teared up. Andy returned our keys. We did a final run to Goodwill and then headed out for good at about530pm.

We drove down the main drag past our building again. “Useless Desire” played on shuffle, and I teared up some more. We’ll never live there again; life will never be like this again. I’m sure I’ll be back in NYC in the future, but I’ll never be a resident, we won’t have that amazing apartment and view (top photo), and it will feel different.

I’ve realized that it still doesn’t feel real, that we’re not going back. The next two weeks-ish of road trip are this kind of in-between/transition period, which could just as easily be a regular vacation. But at the end we’ll be in a new house, and maybe then I’ll start really getting used to our new reality. Until then I still seem to tear up thinking about this whole thing.

Firsts of the Lasts

The day we left for house-hunting on the West Coast, I had brunch with a friend who’s also my former supervisor. We chatted and caught up and rolled our eyes about work BS. When we parted I realized that it is very possible I won’t see her again. She moved out of NYC last year (I was jealous!), and I don’t know when I’ll be back in New York even to visit.

Andy will be back at least a few times, for work, and for fun (like the New Yorker Festival in early October, I hope!). I, however, will be unable to travel anywhere after our trip. I’m hoping that we can do some road trips in our new area (coastline to the west! mountains to the east! different mountains to the north!), but I have no idea how comfortable or uncomfortable I’ll be in a car. Once two babies arrive, I won’t be going anywhere at all for quite some time. I figure it’ll be at least next fall until we attempt to go somewhere all four of us on a plane.

So this next week is really the end for me. The end of life in New York, the end of this life I’ve had for the last eight years. I’m tearing up even now, and I’m not exactly sure why. (I could blame hormones, but I’ve always been a crier.)

This is a big deal. Moving across the country. Changing everything. A really big deal. It’s been something I’ve thought about and talked about and yes, wanted for years. (Which has been obnoxious. I’m sorry.) But the reality is different somehow.

When I left home to come here in 2004, it was an adventure, I had a job sort of waiting for me (NYC Teaching Fellows). I didn’t know anyone (the two people I knew both moved away within six months), but it was still kind of exciting and certainly new. Also, I was really freaking busy a lot of the time (which didn’t stop me from being lonely most of the time). But I was in constant contact with my mom and dad, and I visited home at least twice that first year. So leaving home wasn’t difficult, because I knew I would be back periodically, and that things would change (more and more houses where there used to be fields or forests), but the people would still be there and I would still know them and if all else failed, I could go back and still be okay.

But I came here, made a life here, became a real adult here. Made and lost some friends. Found a career and left it. However, there isn’t anything or anyone who will always be here for me if I wanted to visit or come back for good (not like I want to!). Sure, I still know a few people, but the deep bonds I used to have with folks are kind of gone, or the people themselves have left. (For example, I’ve lost touch with my two favorite school friends from First Middle School; they both moved south, got married and had babies.) There will be nothing here for me anymore. New York City will move on like I was never here. Young people will keep arriving with stars in their eyes and empty wallets. Yuppies will continue bleating about how NYC is such a great place to raise children, as they fight for sidewalk space in their posh neighborhoods and heft strollers up subway stairs and wait years for a preschool waitlist spot.

I’ve never felt like a New Yorker. New Yorkers are people who love it here, who think this is the best place ever, who want to live here for their foreseeable future. I’ve always felt temporary and temporal, but I suppose that even I can still feel bereft for leaving the place I’ve been for the longest period of my adult life.

Maybe I’m scared about such a big change? Nervous–I’m sure I am. In general apparently I’m just plain emotional when I really think about it.

I’m starting to feel those “lasts” piling up around me. The last time I go to book club here, even though we’ll keep in touch by email. The last time I see the group of friends that used to be real friends, in a Brooklyn apartment, even though I’ll still see them online. The last time I go to the local library. The last time I take a photo of the skyline from our rooftop or the sunset from our window. The last time I wrestle with the shower nozzle switch that gunks up. The last time I drop by the Key Food across the street for something we forgot. Some of these things are stupid, but by virtue of being the last, I want to hold on to them and make them meaningful and deep.

People have been asking if we/I am excited for the move, and I’m sure I will be once it happens and we get out there. I think I’m a little overwhelmed at this reality of packing up our whole lives to leave everything. There are so many piles, so many boxes, so many memories.

I haven’t been packing every day, partly because I’ve been busy with other things (and television), but partly because even the banality of moving hasn’t made the shock of moving more real. We were talking late last night about how much we need to have done by when.

Our move out date is next Friday morning. I was saying we could just go out to dinner on Thursday night, since we probably will have packed or tossed most food-related things. That Thursday night will be our last night in New York. EVER. For ever, for real. We will never live here again. Our local places will still be there, but we won’t. We can’t randomly decide to go to our favorite pizza restaurant in the East Village or get some amazing black cherry mojitos at our favorite Cali-Mex spot in the Village. Those places will stay, but we won’t. We’ll visit, and we’ll return to our old haunts, but things will have changed, and we will have changed, and it will all be so bittersweet.