In April of 2015, my husband and I embarked on a multi-state move from Iowa to Indiana. We did many things right in our relocation – unfortunately, we also made some mistakes. This week, I’m sharing those mistakes in the hopes that you can learn from them!
1. We moved separately. At the time, it made sense. Our move came during one of my busiest travel and speaking months of the year. I was already committed to several Administrative Professionals Week events, plus a conference. I knew I didn’t want to rush the move and then fly off to an event before getting settled. I also knew I didn’t want to return from an event and immediately have the moving truck show up. We pushed our moving date back to the end of April to allow me to meet my obligations and have a bit of breathing room while coordinating the final move details.
However, my husband was due to start his new job in Indiana, so he needed to move first. This meant we needed to do some careful planning to figure out the bare essentials he would need for three weeks on his own. It also meant that a lot of the final details fell to me, which significantly added to my stress level.
It turned out okay in the end, but if you can avoid moving separately, I urge you to do so!
2. We underestimated our expenses. We knew there would be unexpected expenses during the move. We even budgeted for them. But we didn’t realize just how quickly those hidden costs and one-time fees could add up, and our estimation was off by much more than we would have liked. Moving is expensive any way you look at it. You can minimize your expenses as much as possible – just be aware that going over budget comes with the territory!
3. We didn’t research as thoroughly as we should have. When we left Iowa, we assumed that our national bank would have branches in Indianapolis. We were wrong! This left us scrambling to figure out which unfamiliar bank would best meet our needs. If we had done our research, we could have transferred our funds and signed the documents together during a pre-move trip, rather than trying to navigate those murky waters separately and on the fly.
Another sticking point was our phone/internet/cable provider. The manager at our new apartment complex made a single recommendation, and I took it without question, believing that it was my only option. Had I researched a bit more, I would have learned that the company they recommended was simply a “preferred” provider for the complex — not the only provider!
4. We underestimated how long things would take to get set up. Everything we did seemed to take twice as long as expected. To add insult to injury, the aforementioned “preferred” provider had our installation orders wrong. (A fact we didn’t discover until he had almost finished a four-hour installation!) It took more than three months and 30+ phone calls to get it corrected. Setting up the bank accounts and cell phones was just as painful.
Whatever you need to do, add about two hours to the time you think it should take, and you’ll be closer to the truth!
5. We didn’t time the commute correctly. On one of our pre-move trips, I drove my husband’s morning and evening commute at about the same time he’d be making the trip each day in an effort to time it. However, my calculations weren’t spot on, and I didn’t account for things like accidents, traffic, and weather. Our apartment also ended up being about 10 to 15 minutes further away than we’d hoped. We should have made more thorough test runs to get an accurate picture of the time he’d spend driving back and forth to work each day.
6. I didn’t immediately engage in networking. At the time of our move, we only had one car, and wouldn’t get another for almost a year. Fortunately, I work from a home office and was lucky enough to live near one of my sisters, who helped me out many times. But the lack of transportation severely impacted my flexibility, scheduling, and ability to network. I needed to connect with others in the area to find support.
It’s ok to give yourself time to settle in. But set a goal that by month four, you’ll have found at least one or two networking groups, and continue exploring your options from there. It’s way too easy to get into the habit of not networking!
7. I made rookie packing mistakes. Since this was a corporate move for my husband, we had the considerable benefit of professional movers at our service, and I grew a bit complacent in that knowledge. I should have done more of the packing myself. Fragile items were broken, clothing was dumped unceremoniously into trashcans and boxes, and my computer monitor was packed loosely into a box filled with wire hangers. Had I taken pains to pack the important stuff myself, things would have gone a lot smoother.
I also didn’t follow the movers around the house like I should have. Any time you have someone else doing the heavy lifting, you have to give up some measure of control. But I could have done a much better job labeling boxes and communicating my expectations to the movers.
8. I underestimated unpacking. I can’t say that I really thought unpacking would be a snap, but I severely underestimated how much of my time and energy it would consume, especially since we got rid of a ton of stuff before we moved! I’m not the world’s most patient person, but the one thing unpacking taught me is the need to pace yourself. It won’t all get done in an afternoon. In fact, you’re looking at a good three to four months for the first round, and you’ll probably hit the six to eight month mark before you feel that “ah, I’m finally done!” relief. Set reasonable expectations for yourself.
One of my team members recommends the “divide and conquer” approach. She and I both have a problem with boxes lying everywhere, and since we work from home, the temptation to unpack (when we should have been working!) was pretty intense. Unpacking schedules can do wonders in these situations — prioritize what needs to be done, set a reasonable timetable, and try not to get too overwhelmed with it all!
The challenge of moving is reasonably assessing the disparate areas you have to manage: your old residence, new residence, old job, new job, family members’ jobs, and related family matters. It’s a lot to keep track of. It takes everyone working in concert to make it happen as productively as possible. Going into it without reasonable expectations of speed bumps and mistakes along the way is only going to set you up for disappointment.
And don’t overlook the massive impact that situational disorganization plays throughout. You cannot avoid it. So learn to deal with it as you go through it. I wrote this about it in my book, The Organized Admin.
Situational disorganization happens to even the most organized people. It occurs when you find yourself thrust into a new situation (such as moving) that upsets the systems and habits you normally use to stay on top of things. During these times of transition, you can expect a certain amount of clutter, chaos, and disorganization to occur. It’s not permanent, but it can be disruptive and frustrating if you aren’t prepared for the effect it has on your organization.
During the move, I was trying to work on my book, keep my inbox clean, and keep my home office organized so I could continue working – and everything was a disaster! I felt like a total failure, especially since I was writing a book on getting organized. I couldn’t even keep myself organized! That was when my business coach, Maggie, reminded me that this was temporary. “This is called situational disorganization,” she said one day. And she was right. It took a few months for me to get myself back on track. But I did. The situation passed, and I implemented many of my previous systems in my new office with the same success as before. I also had a chance to review and refresh some things that were different about working in my new space. I took advantage of this opportunity to tweak a few things to make them work better for me moving forward.
Moving is stressful and relocation mistakes are easy to make. You’ll probably do more wrong than you’ll do right. But when you go into it with your eyes wide open, you’ll come out the other side with a new place to call home!
This is part two of a two-part series on relocation tips for administrative professionals. Click here to read part one.