Tips from a seasoned mover

moving van

By Martha Chambers

I just finished reading After the Boxes are Unpacked and wish I’d known about it 10 moves ago! Instead, I had to learn by trial and error. I’m grateful to a friend lending me her copy after we moved to Spain as missionaries. 

At the end of the book, you say you want our survival tips. Here are a few that have helped me and my family:

  • One gentleman wisely advised us not to constantly think of what we were leaving, but rather on where we were going.
  • “Pretend” you’re going on a vacation. Check out fun places to go and things to do. (This one is good for the kids!)
  • Every time we moved I was pleased that I could again “start over” and prioritize my time.
  • One friend reminded me that crying is good for you – and if you need to cry anyway, remember to cry for all those things you never allowed yourself to cry for, but you probably should have.
  • In finding new friends, look for people who are also newcomers, they won’t have the overfilled social schedules like the old-timers do.
  • I found an awesome new friend in the grocery store. You’ll need to ask someone where things are – don’t look for an employee, look for someone not in a hurry. The gal I met in the grocery store knew where the soy sauce was; she loved to garden, cook, and quilt – and she needed someone to practice on for her new technique in massage… aww!!!
  • For children, make sure they have something to really look forward to. One daughter said she “wasn’t going to move unless they had Spanish language classes.” Guess what? We phoned the new school and they did have Spanish classes! One new school had an awesome climbing wall. 
  • In getting our children to try new things, we would insist they go once, then they could decide if they liked it.
  • In finding a new church, do think of the children. You can find a Bible study at a different church if you need it, but the children need a place to belong. One church didn’t have a Sunday School class for 12-year-olds. We found a different church. In one town we really didn’t enjoy the music at the church the children were most comfortable with – now the children have grown up and we can find whatever music we like! We never felt at home until we found “our” church. And do pray about it!
  • When you’re unpacking, as best as you can, have one room with no boxes. One room that is a sanctuary in your mess. Could be the living room or den. One room where you can have a cup of tea and it’s “okay” and you can’t see the mess. If you can’t close a door, at least have a chair to sit in that faces away from the mess.
  • Hang some pictures before the boxes are all unpacked.
  • I always knew when I was “okay” and done unpacking when I could bake a batch of cookies. In Spain that was a little more difficult. The ingredients aren’t the same, so you need to add more flour… and the oven doesn’t have a thermostat so it’s hard to get the temperature right… but you know, they say you won’t get Alzheimer’s if you keep your mind active by learning another language and doing puzzles….  They didn’t tell you that you won’t get Alzheimer’s if you keep moving. I’m sure that’s worth a few Sudokus!
  • People wonder how we can leave our children (in their 20s and not married) and live overseas. Well, some people won’t ever leave their house and visit their neighbours across the street. It’s always easier to do something if you know God wants you to do it. I’ve never been more content than when I’m where God wants me to be.
  • After enough moves we can look back and see God’s reasons for many of them. We don’t always know all the reasons, but there is one: there’s never a place I want to stay if God wants me somewhere else. One time we moved, my husband moved about 6 months ahead of the rest of us because we didn’t want to take the children out of school. I learned to be very independent of my husband. When the rest of us caught up with my husband I didn’t work right away and I would meet him every day for lunch by the river. I’d pack a lunch and we’d sit and talk, or we’d just sit. Some people joked that we were being “so romantic,” but we were really doing what was necessary to reconnect. Some days we had nothing to say. We had to learn to work together again. The next time there was a job change in the middle of a school year we didn`t wait until the summer to move. Even though one child threatened to “run away from home.” I knew we needed to move together as a couple. And God was good. The child who wasn`t going to come with us is the one who told us two months later…. “I probably shouldn`t tell you this, but I`m sure glad we moved!!!“

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