Warning this is long but worth it! Useful tips and images to follow.
Well, here we are! It’s the first week of May, and we’re moved and sort of…kind of…okay, not really settled. It’s pretty much chaos. You wouldn’t think that two people in 1-bedroom apartments (one each), could possibly accumulate so much stuff! And we pitched tons of it before we even left Illinois!
A year ago we finally had the resources to make the move from Illinois to Wisconsin. We’ve wanted to do it for eight years, and it finally was going to happen. We thought we’d move May 1, and started packing 6 months in advance. Our first problem was supplies. It’s been 10 years since I moved, and 25 years since Craig moved. Back then, we just went to stores and got empty boxes. We saved newspaper and bought some packing tape. That doesn’t work anymore. Most grocery stores break down and crush their boxes, and who uses newspapers anymore?
The solution was to start saving all those stupid advertising flyers we got in the mail. You would not believe how much paper we accumulated that way! We then got two 10lb boxes of packing paper from U-Haul ($11/box), figuring it wouldn’t be enough. In conjunction with the flyers, it was more than enough. Then we really started searching hard for empty boxes. We lucked out in that Woodman’s Food Stores put tons of boxes in temporary bins while stocking shelves before they crush the boxes. That got us what we needed.
The next problem was unusual items. When you move anywhere, even a few miles, if you have everything in boxes you can stack a truck, trailer or van all the way to the roof. Otherwise, you waste space; things get broken, and it’s frustrating to try and pick up single items. So everything in boxes! That meant some strange sizes and shape. Lots and lots (and more lots!) of things are 15″ or 24″ long or high. Standard moving boxes are 12″ or 18″ long/high. Not so good. On the other hand, with plenty of lead time and the sizes we needed in mind, we did find even those boxes at Woodman’s, and sometimes Target.
We still needed big boxes or specialty boxes, and that’s where we spent our limited money amounts. We used Two Men & a Truck to move the big stuff, and they have good-quality boxes. We also got many odd sizes at U-Haul because we could shop online to find exactly what we needed. The U-Haul boxes aren’t as good unless you go with the expensive double-walled items. For the most part, our 12″ small and 18″ mediums were good enough. We got a 28″ big-ass box for one item, and some big “dish barrels.” Not for dishes, but because they were big enough for some of our stuff.
Another problem we had we lamps. The first box we got was a lamp box, where you can put the whole thing in it upright, then seal the lid. You need an 18″ box for the shade, and it got expensive. Then we realized we could unscrew the harps from most lamps, in which event they fit into a typical 18″ box. But how to protect it all?
Here, U-Haul provided a terrific solution! They have a corner in their stores where people drop off used boxes. If they’re in good shape, fine; otherwise, we can cut them up for cardboard and use that as filler. Using cut, folded cardboard replaces TONS of crumpled paper! We bought two, 2-lb bags of peanuts from UPS, and thought that wouldn’t be enough. But we also saved all boxes from online orders, all packing material and that included some bubble-wrap and air-pocket plastics. Together with bent cardboard, we did just fine.
We might have spent about $800 or more on packing supplies, but we ended up maybe around $200. The tape was the most expensive, and we learned quickly that the clever dispensers were useless. Better to just buy the plain rolls and invest in a box-cutter to cut the tape. Then put a toothpick under the loose end and press a bit, to keep the end accessible.
The two coolest things we bought were what seemed at first to be gimmicks: the Forearm Forklift, and the Shoulder Dolly straps (As Seen on TV). We saw them on the rack at the U-Haul store and figured they were dumb. Not so! They really, really work! We didn’t want to spend $45 for the heavy-duty Shoulder Dolly, and found a copy from Teamstrap for $20. These things are incredible! Craig is 63 and Kathy is 21 (sort of), but feels a little older these days. Between the two of us we used the Forearm lift to move a tall bookshelf that sat on a furniture dolly, out the apartment; down the hall; down a flight of stairs; out the security door; out the main door; down the front walk to the street; and over to the dumpster. And neither of us was even out of breath!
Having moved in, the movers put an antique deacon’s desk in one place. It’s five feet long and three feet wide, and Literally weighs 90,462 pounds! I mean, like…literally! Nah; just kidding, but it’s a super heavy desk (guessing around 200 lbs). Well, it turned out to be in the wrong place, but with the Shoulder Dolly, we were able to pick it up, move it across a room, turn it 180-degrees, and put it back down. Un-be-expletive-deleted-lievable! Get those, even for just moving stuff around the house. They work!
Back to the boxes. The big problem was buying 10 boxes, or grabbing 20-30 from the grocery store. Trying to carry even 1 broke-down box to the car is a big chore. Carrying many is a serious problem, particularly in wind. The solution, invented by Craig is a rope-loop lasso. We took some 1/4″ rope (we have lots to string our banners), and measured the width of the larges box when it was flattened. Figure that was about 30″ across. Then multiplied by two (front and back, flat on the ground). Then doubled that for a loop. Take about 120″ of rope and tie the ends together to make a plain loop.
Lay a pile of flat cardboard boxes on the ground and slide one end of the loop under them so it pokes out the other side. It’s like two lines of rope, lying next to each other with the bent end of the loop at one side. Then slide the other end of the loop through the end sticking out from under the boxes, pull tight and presto!…instant cardboard suitcase! The lasso puts a handle on the boxes, and we were able to carry 30-40 boxes at a time across parking lots, up stairs, in wind, or whatever else. Boxes (empty) don’t way much at all, they’re just bulky.
So that’s mostly how we solved our biggest headaches. The price? Oy-yoi-yoi-yoi-Vey! We budgeted what we thought was A Lot Of Money, then added in another thousand. Just about everything cost more than we figured! We realized we needed a 10×10 storage shed for packed boxes (instead of leaving them in the corner of Craig’s apartment). Wall hangings, knick-knacks, pictures and “stuff” take up a lot of floor space! Then we figured on a 12-foot truck, only to realize as we got to around 30% packed, we’d have a “Jaws” moment: “I think we’re gonna need a bigger truck!”
A 16-foot truck comes with a ramp; the 12-foot truck doesn’t. We went with Penske, on user recommendations and are glad we did. The truck rode like a dream, and with a 200-mile drive that mattered. The two of us packed up the entire truck on the 15th at 1am, with a hand-cart Craig already had, and a wood furniture dolly we bought ($20). Another invention of Craig’s was to put another loop, this time with 5/16″ rope around the bottom axle of the hand-cart. That not only held boxes in place to tip the cart back, but also held them securely going down stairs. Took us about 4 hours to pack the truck.
Next day we drove to Oshkosh and unpacked into the garage we were lucky enough to have. We never thought we’d need a big garage, but we do. Good thing this house has one! We were going to spend the night at a motel, but with the Forearm Forklift, it was easy to move the mattress (not the box spring), and we put that on our truck. Unloaded it, put it downstairs and slept on the floor. We drove back to Illinois and went nuts packing the last stuff for the movers. They said they’d take whatever we “missed,” which we figured wouldn’t be much. Wrong…! It was a lot!
On the 18th, they guys (Rich and Keith) showed up around 3pm, and lightning-fast moved out all the furniture. We rushed around trying to put things in boxes while it was vanishing, but they were done in about an hour. That desk was a miracle of muscle to behold, let me tell you! They took off, expecting to meet us the next day up in Wisconsin, and we figured we finish up and leave in an hour or so.
By around midnight, we finally had every “last minute thing” packed. The apartments were a mess, but we didn’t care; we were too tired. Our plan was to drive to Richmond at the border, take a 1-hour nap, then drive the rest of the way. Instead, we barely made it to the motel at 2am, with a dinner at Mickey-Dee’s, and left a wake-up call for 7am. Got up, had caffeine, then drove the last 3 hours, arriving around 11am in time for the two guys and the truck to show up by 1pm.
For the past three weeks, all we’ve done is tried to FIND whatever the hell we packed. We labeled the outside of each box with just about every item in that box, instead of just; “Living Room,” or “Bedroom,” or “Kitchen.” So we knew where things were, but we still can’t find things! Craig had another idea to use the Medical Offices color-coding system. We bought colored Duck Tape and had red for tight-packing that would support 4 layers of boxes on top. Yellow tape meant somewhere in the middle of stack, and green was light-weight and would go on top.
We then coded various major categories: Navy blue for kitchen, sky blue for IB Designs, white for bathroom and drugs, electrician’s tape for tools and so forth. Then we used hot pink for “Open Immediately!”, a sort of rainbow colored tape for “This is Useful Stuff we Probably want right away.” With the mufti-tiered colored strips (about 2″ long, one on all four top edges) we can see across the entire garage what’s where. And with boxes on top of boxes, we at least know “That’s kitchen stuff,” even if it’s buried under three layers.
With all that, we took two weeks just to find the basics! Then we moved into a somewhat smaller house than the combined two apartments; and there’s WAY less closet space. So we’re having to consolidate and then pitch what won’t fit. AND we have lots and lots of boxes! It took a lot of work to get all those boxes, and if we ever move again (maybe never!) it’d be nice to have them. But we can’t fit them. Then there’s all the crumpled paper in 40-gallon trash bags. We use that to start our Safari BBQ grill to make burgers in 3 minutes!
All in all, it’s utter craziness! But the reward is we’re out in the country in the middle of farmland and it’s really quiet! We can see stars at night, and hear birds in the mornings. Turns out we’re about 5 minutes from the shopping we want, and 10 minutes from just about all the other resources. And Most Importantly; we have about the same mount of fishing water as Long Island Sound on the East Coast! No kidding; Lake Winnebago is 12 miles across, and 30 miles long. And that’s only the larger of three lakes (in addition to Butte de Mortes, and Winneconne). Then there are the creeks, ponds, streams and Fox River.
Can you say fishing heaven? Below is some images from Batavia and then some in Oshkosh. Click each image to enlarge.