When I was in early elementary school, the American pioneer era seemed to be a perennial topic of study in school. My two besties and I wound up mildly obsessed with Little House on the Prairie and American Girl, and eventually started making plans for our own Conestoga journey out west. (Because cars were not available to second-graders in 1994.) We even published a handy guide to pioneer life with useful information about churning butter and barn raising. Reading the parts I wrote, which contained dire warnings about rattlesnakes and not having air conditioning and CHOLERA, it became apparent that I was *maybe* less enthusiastic about roughing it than my counterparts. Shocking.
So it should come as no surprise that I
went mildly insane did not thoroughly enjoy the final days before loading up the moving van and the first few days in our new home before our stuff arrived. While I am not the neatest person on earth by any stretch of the imagination, physical chaos and clutter put a lot of pressure on my emotional state, so packing up to move felt rather like the world was crumbling around me. There were two full days between the time we left our old condo and the time the moving truck arrived at our new home, and those days were simultaneously liberating and overwhelming. Monkey clearly didn’t know what to do with so much freedom and so little entertainment.
When we first figured out we were moving, I of course asked Pinterest what to do because Pinterest gives the MOST PRACTICAL suggestions ever. I found a bunch of military-precision (literally, these were written by military wives for PCSing) packing and moving and what to bring with you before your stuff gets there checklists, and waved them off as needlessly complicated. I got this.
This was a mistake.
(I really should have listened to the women who, I dunno, move their entire households every 2 years.)
For starters, neither Science Guy nor I had ever hired movers to load and drive a moving truck before, and we both genuinely thought that our stuff would follow us and arrive the next day at the latest. So while I did pack two large Thirty-One totes of disposable tableware, clothing, and toiletries, a large laundry basket of diapers and wipes, two air mattresses and a memory foam topper, a pack-and-play, an umbrella stroller, two crates of cleaning supplies, and a young toddler in a large car seat into my Nissan Sentra, we were still not quite prepared for 3 days of roughing it. (Science Guy’s car was dedicated to transporting a freshwater aquarium and a small jungle of plants so if my car had caught on fire, we would have been SOL. On multiple levels, I guess.)
Spoiler alert: we did survive until our stuff arrived, and maybe I kind of even liked the minimalist life. (Or rather, I liked not having boxes everywhere.) But here are moving essentials we really could have used in the interim.
- Heat-proof spatula. Now I will say, just by way of observation and disclaimer, that had Science Guy been able to get carryout for meals, we probably wouldn’t have needed the first 3 items on this list and I wouldn’t have had to make 3 trips to the nearest grocery store in 12 hours. But because of his dietary restrictions (and honestly, I don’t like eating out constantly either) we needed to make our own food from the get-go. We brought a skillet and rice cooker and thought we were so prepared, until we realized we had nothing to stir our cooked food with. Plastic forks would melt and the one metal spoon that stowed away in the car bag would scratch the Teflon pan. (Science Guy is super finicky about Teflon.) So we dug through our bags and came up with a Gerber Graduates baby spoon that had (what we hoped was) heat-proof silicone on the spooning part to scrape scrambled eggs out of the skillet. (The founders of Sseko, Liz and Ben Bohannon, at one point used a credit card to cook eggs over a camp stove in the early days of the company when they were traveling to promote the product and living out of their car, so I feel like Science Guy and I are in good company.) We no longer use that spoon for Monkey because the plastic/silicone appears to be peeling. Oops.
- Microwave-safe place setting. We decided for the sake of convenience that we could eat off paper and plastic for the first few days until our stuff arrived. I thought I was super clever by getting a few cans of soup as quick meals for myself, until I brought them home and realized I had no way of heating said cans of soup because, apparently, you shouldn’t microwave metal cans or styrofoam. Fortunately, the nearest Kroger is the largest one I’ve ever seen in my life and, because it caters to unprepared college students and moms like me, had an impressive dishware section, so I was able to pick up a plain white Corelle soup bowl. Problem solved.
- Aluminum foil and/or food storage containers. In another flash of cleverness, I bought a frozen pizza thinking that would be super easy to prepare. I even got the organic kind because it was on sale. Yay, organic! Yay, sale! As it turns out, I was missing several important parts for this endeavor, including oven mitts to take said pizza out of the oven and something to set said pizza on after it was cooked. But I made do with a double-folded kitchen towel and the deconstructed pizza box, so that was fine. The real problem arose after I had eaten a portion of said pizza for dinner and realized I had nothing in which to store my leftovers. I will confess that I was tempted to solve this problem by eating entire said pizza in one evening, but I figured I would probably regret that. Science Guy had brought one glass container of food to eat on his drive, and was stuck in a similar quandary for what to do after cooking a package of chicken and a large baked potato for himself. Eventually, I emptied out a plastic shoebox that held a supply of toys for Fire Monkey and stuck it in the fridge with my pizza. We really could have used a couple food storage containers, ziploc bags, or even just a roll of aluminum foil in the three days of frontier life.
- House slippers. Our new home is entirely hardwood and laminate, except for the basement stairs, oddly enough. And the hardwood floors are original to the house which means they have literally decades of dust and dirt accumulated between and on the boards. We don’t wear shoes around the house, so our feet got pretty gross while we were cleaning before all our furniture got here. Plus for whatever reason, the wood floors seem to be really hard on my feet and back, which is a little surprising since our old condo was at least 50% uncarpeted. I guess we were on our feet a lot more than usual in the first week while cleaning and unpacking. I had packed sneakers and a pair of old slide-on sandals but I felt like I was chasing my tail by wearing those indoors and tracking more dirt and dust around. Should have taken a leaf from my shoeless Asian ancestors and brought some indoor-only house slippers. Speaking of floors…
- Floor cleaning supplies. We actually did pack a crate full of cleaning supplies that weren’t supposed to be transported on the moving truck, as well as rags and some new Norwex cloths, and of course our faithful Roomba, but in my infinite wisdom I did not bring any sort of mop or broom. In my defense, I assumed that the house would be professionally cleaned before we moved in and it wasn’t. It wasn’t nasty but just kinda dingy from work that had been done on the house prior to move-in. I ended up getting a cheap-o Swiffer knockoff mop at the nearby Goodwill and putting a Norwex Enviro cloth on it, which worked reasonably well for mopping the entire house THREE TIMES.
- Baby containers. I don’t mean little snack cups or diaper bags. I mean what we affectionately refer to as the baby cage: a large play yard and foam play mat that takes up approximately 30% of our total square footage and (somewhat) limits the amount of chaos our offspring can cause. I will allow myself a bit of mild resentment here because the only reason the play yard didn’t make it with us was because Science Guy stuffed his vehicle full of plants and fish, and we really could have used it the first few days we were here. We didn’t have much around the house for Fire Monkey to get in trouble with, but it would have been helpful to have a safe place to put him down while we cleaned, and I actually think he was a little overwhelmed by his newfound freedom. At least that’s how I interpreted the running-around-and-screaming routine. We brought a pack and play for him to sleep in, but I didn’t want to confine him to that tiny space during the day, so the play yard would have been a good alternative. We also didn’t have any baby gates because we didn’t have any stairs in our old condo. Monkey loves the stairs at my parents’ house, but we couldn’t let him crawl up and down them unsupervised.
- Camp chairs. Or just some kind of seating. We brought an air mattress and memory foam topper to sleep on, but we had nothing to sit on during the day! (The landlord did leave us a dining table and chairs to use, but both needed a lot of cleaning before they could be used.) We ended up dragging the memory foam out of the bedroom and just throwing it down in the living room for us to flop around on during the day.
Those are the moving essentials we really missed before our stuff arrived. Tune in next time for a meditation on what I didn’t miss!