Monday, August 18, 2014

Make Yourself at Home - Part 1: The House

I just reassembled our patio furniture ALL BY MYSELF! Woo hoo! For some crazy reason, I had it in my head that this was a job for my husband. I guess because he had put it together in the first place and taken it apart for the move, I assumed that this was a task that required brute strength. After he wasn't able to get around to it again this weekend, I set out to try it myself, and TADA! Another thing on the moving-in check list complete.


I not only feel triumphant because I did it myself; I also feel a huge sense of relief that we are another step closer to being TOTALLY MOVED IN.

The moving thing stinks - I'm not gonna lie. I love our Air Force life and all of the people we've met along the way. But I hate moving. I look forward to new adventures, new cultural experiences (yes, even within the U.S., where we've been fortunate to stay), and making new friends. But I hate saying goodbye to old friends, and I hate the chaos that moving brings to our otherwise well-organized household.

Part 2 will address the making friends thing - that's really the most important step you can take to truly feeling at home. In this post, however, I'm going to touch on a few things that go a long way toward making your house feel like a home.

Unpack.
Duh.

But seriously, the sooner you can get rid of the cardboard, the sooner you'll feel at home. Sometimes it's tempting to wait until you find "just the right spot" or "just the right storage solution," but those cardboard boxes are depressing. Get rid of them. We've been in our house for about 7 weeks now, and just the other day I finally opened the box that had been sitting in our bedroom with our mirror in it.  We couldn't hang the mirror for weeks because of a wall that needed to be put back in. (Silly us: We didn't care for the open-concept BATHROOM situation in this rental house that we're in for a year. Thankfully, our landlord agreed to replace the wall.) Anyway, our bedroom looked SO MUCH MORE INVITING the second I took the mirror out of the box, leaned it against the wall, and adiosed the cardboard.

Sadly, you can't instantly unpack the whole house at once. I'd recommend the following order:
  1. Beds (because you've gotta sleep)
  2. Kitchen (because you've gotta eat)
  3. Kids' rooms (because they have an even harder time coping with disorder than we do, and seeing their favorite toys, clothes, and treasures helps them to feel more secure in their new home)
  4. Living room/TV (because when everything else is in disarray, it's nice to kick back and relax at the end of the day)
  5. Everything else


Decorate.

Again, it's tempting to leave things undone for fear of wasting money or time or just having to look at something that isn't absolutely perfect. However, naked windows make a room look sterile. No pictures on the walls make a house lack the personal touches that make it feel like a home. Guess what: If you don't love it, you can change it! Go ahead and do some decorating in the name of feeling settled sooner than later.

On the same day that I unpacked the mirror in our bedroom, I finally hung some curtains in there. (Don't worry, there were already mini-blinds. We weren't putting on a show for the neighbors.) Suddenly it ceased looking like an uninhabited dorm room! It was the only room in the house that didn't have curtains, didn't have anything hanging on the walls, and still had awful cardboard in the corner - no wonder I had been hating our bedroom. And what a terrible room to hate. Your bedroom should be a warm, cozy, welcoming oasis. I have been so much happier since I remedied that situation! And I think I've actually been sleeping better since then, too.

I get it that money is tight when you're moving (boy, do I get it), but try to put buying/hanging curtains towards the top of your spending list, even if what you choose isn't something you think you'll love for the next 15 years. After all, you can replace them later. In the meantime, it'll be good for your soul and calm your nerves to soften and warm your rooms with some fabric. And go ahead and hang pictures on your walls, too. Those 3M Command adhesive products are great if you're already planning to re-hang them later.

Get some plants.

Another way to add life to your house is with plants. They are great house-warming gifts for a reason! We had to leave all of our houseplants and all of our outdoor plants (that adds up to all of our plants) behind when we moved, because we ran out of room in our cars and the U-Haul trailer. I was happy to know that our neighbor friend was going to give them to her daughter, who just moved into a new house, but still... We had no plants.

What we do have are hooks. You may notice that there's a green (copper) wind chime hanging behind the umbrella on our patio set. Even after my husband tried to gather all of the wind chimes that were left here, he still missed at least two. One of the remaining hooks near our front door is the perfect place for a hanging basket (which you can see in the foreground). Not only does it add life to our front porch, but as my mom said, it shows the neighbors that we are the kind of people who care about our house and are probably friendly, too. (Good thing it didn't die when we were out of town a few weeks ago.)

Have a black thumb? A few houseplants that are easy to keep alive include the following, all of which are readily available at Wal-Mart, Lowe's, Home Depot, etc.

  • Philodendron: This includes a huge variety of plants and is probably my favorite, because they are pretty, they're great for putting on top of kitchen cabinets and things because of their meandering vines, and they will grow under just about any conditions - they'll live in a glass of water, or they'll survive in dirt that you forget to water for weeks on end. If it starts to look a little wilted, give it some water. I probably wouldn't put one in a room that gets zero sunlight, but other than that, they're easy-peasy.

  • Sansevieria (a.k.a. Snake Plant a.k.a. Mother-In-Law's Tongue): This slow-growing plant requires little watering and is a good choice for a planter that will sit on the floor. We had one for about four years that probably only grew an inch during that time. I think I bought it at Lowe's for about ten bucks.




  • Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum): We were given one of these as a house-warming gift when we moved to Oklahoma, and even with the distractions of a puppy and then the birth of our twins, we kept that thing alive for three-and-a-half years. It sat on our hearth, getting very little sunlight and even less water, and only died because it was unloaded from our U-Haul into a non-temperature-controlled storage unit in January in Missouri and forgotten for several days in the sub-freezing temps. Go figure. As a houseplant, though, it was terrific! Would definitely buy one of these again.

Here's to being moved-in!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kindergarten Mom's Survival Kit

As you may remember, I had a rough time when my girls started kindergarten. I never thought I'd be one of those moms, but I was.  (Click here to read more:  Kindergarten from August 2013)

I definitely "got by with a little help from my friends." A group of first-time kindergarten moms went to breakfast together after drop-off on the first day of school, which provided much-needed group therapy for us all.

And when I got home, there was a gift bag sitting on my doorstep. Though unsigned, it had all the markings of my awesome, thoughtful friend, Jen, so I knew right away that she was my Hang In There Fairy.  I will be doing something similar to boost the spirits of kindergarten mom friends soon!


The note reads:

Head inside
Cry for 6 minutes
Open whichever of these will help the most
It's a 9 am no judgement zone!


Thank you again, dear Jen!


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Seven Strategies for a Smooth Move


Well, folks, we have moved again!  Home is where the Air Force sends you, and this time, we're "home" in Tennessee for a year.  The good great news is that we are much closer to our home state of Georgia than we have ever been before.  The bad news is that we still had to MOVE in order to get here.

It had been 4 1/2 years since our last move, and I had blissfully forgotten some of the ins and outs of the whole process.  In the past several weeks, it has all come screaming back to me.  Here are a few things I wish I'd remembered:

1. Clear your calendar as much as possible in the months leading up to a move, and avoid an ER visit.
  • Moving is stressful. Researchers' lists of "life's most stressful experiences" always include moving in the top 10. Like a {well-meaning} fool, I took on three different volunteer positions this past year.  (In another post, I'll have to reflect on the end of my girls' year in kindergarten!) I had so many odds and ends to wrap up for these volunteer jobs that, compounded with the stress of a move looming on the horizon, I found myself in the ER with heart palpitations--which the cardiologist diagnosed as stress-induced (and, thankfully, benign). Do not make the same mistake I made! 
2. Start packing early.
  • The good thing about Air Force moves is that the military pays for the move.  Packers come in, pack all of your stuff over a couple of days, and then movers load it up and drive it away.  However, there is always stuff that you have to pack yourself. And the packers need close supervision, not so much because they might steal stuff (although some might), but because they are packing machines and will pack anything in sight.
    • Think about whatever you plan to move yourself (including the long list of hazardous materials, houseplants, checkbooks, birth certificates, jewelry, your computer, wedding pictures, etc.) EARLY. Go ahead and start packing the things that you know you won't need to use between now and your move date.
    • If you have photos that are not digital (like our wedding album and some of our girls' baby pictures), choose the ones that you couldn't stand to lose, scan them, and save yourself having to carry all those albums yourself.  (I need to do this before we move again in a year.)
    • There is a high likelihood that you will run out of room and/or the will to pack those bottles of motor oil, houseplants, etc.  Be realistic, and give some of that stuff to your friends and neighbors (or properly dispose of it) ahead of time.
    • Clean out your pantry before the packers show up.  I teased our kitchen guy about packing our trash (which they sometimes do!); he didn't pack our garbage, but he did pack our bread.  I was less than thrilled to unpack those squished loaves a week later. At least they weren't covered with mold.

3. Think about what you'll want on hand right away when you arrive, and move those things yourself. If you're moving everything yourself, put the essentials on your truck last (last on, first off) so you'll have them right away.
  • Toilet paper
  • Coffee maker & supplies
  • Stereo--if you're like we are and want some tunes while you're working
  • Cleaning supplies (including vacuum cleaner)
  • Paper towels
  • Bath towels
  • Hand soap
  • Box cutter
4. Take good care of your packers/movers, and they'll take good care of your stuff.
  • Even if they do pack your bread, they're working hard, especially if it's 96 degrees outside. Generally speaking, if you take good care of your movers, they'll take good care of your stuff.  It should go without saying to be polite and kind to them.  Also have plenty of bottled water and some Cokes on hand, and offer it to them often.  Providing lunch is a nice gesture, too, especially if you're going out to get something for yourself, anyway.
5. Get your kids out of the house as much as possible.
  • God bless my friend, Holly, who took our girls for a whole day when the packers were busy in our house! Besides not needing to be under foot, as Holly pointed out, your kids do not need to watch someone pack up all of their toys and special things. And God bless our neighbor-friends, Sonny & Mary, who not only fed us and let us live in their guest rooms, but let the girls veg out in front of their TV while the movers were loading the truck.  (I think I'll have to do another post about mitigating the stress of moving for children.)
  • And God bless my parents for keeping the girls for three days so we could unpack!  My sister, Allison, came to help us, so we had three adults working all day, every day, for three straight days, and we put a considerable dent in the moving-in process. The day that the movers were unloading the truck, we would have been hard-pressed to even find a corner of the house that would have been an out-of-the-way spot for the girls to sit still and color or watch movies on the computer or something--we were so thankful that they had somewhere else to be that day, with someone else giving them the attention and freedom that we could not have given them. Once the girls came home, my productivity was cut in half--at least their room was set up, and they could play, but taking care of their needs zapped my ability to get nearly as much done. Next time, we may not have the luxury of family close-by, but I'm so glad we could take advantage of it this time around!
6. Plan to do some shopping, or plan to do without.
  • Thank goodness the Air Force pays for these moves--anyone who has moved themselves knows how expensive movers are, or even renting a truck and buying boxes and supplies if you are a pure do-it-yourself-er. Every move prior to this one has been up-sizing for us, but with this move we've down-sized into a home about half the size of our last one. Consequently, we thought, "At least we won't have to buy all those random extra trashcans for additional bedrooms or hand towels for bathrooms we didn't have before!" You'd think that on our 6th move in 13 years, we wouldn't be so naive. We left all of our curtains with our old house, and the windows at this home were bare, so I've bought several sets of curtains. And the backyard here is basically dirt and weeds, so I've invested in microfiber door mats to help reduce the dirt that our dog tracks in.  And the bathroom cabinets do not have shelves in them, so I've bought containers to help hold the stuff under the sinks. And there's nowhere to wall-mount our TV in this house, so we've bought a TV stand. And...  And... And...  Below are a few things you may spend some money on:
    • Packing materials (boxes, tape, wrapping materials)
    • Moving truck and/or trailer
    • Eating out for a few days while your kitchen is packed-up and being unpacked
    • Moving truck and/or trailer rental
    • Gasoline/diesel fuel
    • Hotel room(s) when your beds have been packed and haven't yet arrived--plus any nights that you're traveling. (So thankful we could relax in the homes of friends along the way!)
    • Random stuff mentioned above--there will always be random stuff to buy when moving.
7. Make time to say goodbye.
  • We didn't want our girls' last day of school to be a tear-filled last day they'd see their beloved teacher and friends, so we planned a going away party a week later and invited their friends, as well as ours. We thought about holding the little event at a local park, but decided to have it in our backyard, instead. We were touched by how many people came, and our girls had fun playing with their friends one more time before we moved. I think everyone needs to feel a sense of closure when leaving a place, so make time to say goodbye to everyone before you go. It's inevitable that you'll miss someone on your list, but do your best. You'll be glad you did.
The anticipation is the worst part--know that once you have moved, it'll all work out fine.

Between the sadness of leaving cherished friends, the to-do lists spinning in your head, and the sense of the unknown looming ahead, anticipating the move is the worst part. I got to the point that when people asked if we were ready to move, I would respond that I wasn't ready to go, but I was ready to "rip off the band-aid." Even with the work of unpacking, I find that the stress of moving is much less as soon as we are heading out of town. Hang in there! Before you know it, your new house will feel like home.

What would you add to this list? Share your comments below.

Next up: Make yourself at home!