Best of Both Worlds podcast: Moving FAQ

I spent my first night in my new house exactly four weeks ago today. In four weeks, things are much more settled. For instance, nobody is sleeping on air mattresses anymore, thank goodness. The heat goes up in the right zones at the right times. The kitchen is mostly unpacked. Each weekday has a fairly set routine.

Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done, and the past four weeks have not been easy. Nor were the weeks before that as I was moving stuff over here, decluttering, etc. Plus the renovation has been a year-long project…

Sarah is also moving to a new house (likely in the next month of two after they do some light renovations as well). These are both local moves, but moving 5 people or 7 people and all their stuff, and figuring out where it goes in a new place, is always going to be a production. Plus, life doesn’t stop while you move. So in this week’s episode of Best of Both Worlds, we talk all things moving.

We address the why: more space for my family, and in Sarah’s case, her rent going up by enough to change the rent vs. buy calculation. I address the question of why renovate a house (since everyone talks about how painful it is). The short answer is that if you have specific requirements (like 7 bedrooms in a certain elementary school district), it is going to be very hard to find a house that is exactly what you want. Theoretically you could build a new house, but there aren’t a whole lot of available plots of land in this district either. That pretty much limited our choice to finding an existing house that we could turn into what we wanted.

We talk general contractors, budgeting, and decision making (try to become a satisficer!) And we talk paying movers to box things up and some practical tips (keep out anything you’re going to need in the first 2-3 weeks. I was told “first week” but when you have enough boxes, it can take longer than that to find everything…). We also talk about thinking through new routines. And we talk about living in your home while selling it.

In the Q&A section, we talk through the “cry it out” method of sleep training. So there is a lot of ground covered in this episode! If you’ve moved recently, or are thinking about it, please share your tips or questions. It was good to do, in our case, but I am glad to be on the other side of it!


19 thoughts on “Best of Both Worlds podcast: Moving FAQ

  1. Can you please write a book on how to become a satisficer…currently in the middle of renovations and I hate the decision paralysis (and then feelings of deep regret when any little thing goes wrong and I self-flagellate on making the “wrong” choice).
    I actually do satisfice in a number of areas (clothes, makeup, food; most things, really). But the things where I’m a maximizer are just so frustrating…

    1. @Elisabeth – that comment was a bit tongue in cheek because I’m not sure there is a great way to become a satisficer – but I guess my mantras are “nothing is ever perfect” and “most things can be changed.” I didn’t like a paint color so we did a different color as the second coat. I don’t love the tile I chose for my shower but oh well. It’s sort of growing on me and I don’t hate it so much it bothers me – we get used to most things.

    2. I don’t have a great answer to this but someone many years ago once gave me this nugget of wisdom: nearly every choice in life is reversible. A few aren’t, obviously – you can’t un-become a parent and you can’t un-do a fatal choice for yourself or someone else. But NEARLY everything else, including purchases, design choices, which job to take, even which person to marry, are reversible. As a person (probably a maximizer in some ways?) who frequently has decision fatigue and agonizes over minutia, this was comforting for me to hear and I think about it pretty often.

      (this is essentially exact same as what Laura said; I just really like how whomever told it to me had it wrapped up in a nice little phrase!)

      1. Another good summary of this approach is Jeff Bezos’ (Amazon) approach of differentiating “type 1 vs type 2” decisions.

        “If you walk through and don’t like what you see on the other side, you can’t get back to where you were before. We can call these Type 1 decisions. But most decisions aren’t like that – they are changeable, reversible – they’re two-way doors. If you’ve made a suboptimal Type 2 decision, you don’t have to live with the consequences for that long. You can reopen the door and go back through. Type 2 decisions can and should be made quickly by high judgment individuals or small groups.”

        Note that type 2 decisions should be made by a smaller group. So, something like the decision to buy a house is done by only the parents, but something like couch choice can be done by the whole family.

  2. My husband and I have renovated 3 houses together and while it can be a pain, in the end you have a great space that meets your needs and tastes. Hiring a great contractor ideally with a project manager is a great help with all the decisions and coordination. Pinterest and Houzz are great resources for the decision fatigue – find some pictures you like and enlist the project manger/designer to help you recreate the look. For joint decisions, we came up with a system where we would each pick 3 of whatever (light fixtures, cabinet hardware, tile, etc) and then compare results. We almost always had at least 1 overlapping “top 3” choice and would just go with that.

  3. As someone who did a major re-build of our house in 2017 (we had to move out) – it was a lot of work. Many decisions, tons of money, etc but it has been completely worth it to have the home we wanted – as Laura talked about in the place we wanted. Lucky for us (i think) our market has been hot for 10+ years and so it was definitely financially worth it over buying something else (which would likely need renos anyway). I mean, that nitty gritty decision making – like, did i realize I cared about grout colour?? – gets super tedious but then it’s done in the long run … and we’ve been so happy living through the pandemic that we just did it when we did.

    1. @Jen – Our decorator chose all grout color. I care about counter tops but I’m fine to go with whatever the generally accepted theory of grout coordination is. Like you’re not going to put yellow grout in the middle of a gray stone, so it’s basically going to be another shade of gray. Someone who thinks about these things can choose that 😉

      1. We did not end up hiring a designer. It was not in our budget and we did mostly keep our design decisions pretty plain but that is a piece of advice is if the budget allows and the decisions are overwhelming then definitely hire a designer!! (It does turn out the contractor did not have a design eye – he did call when i said i wanted black grout with white tile and would have gone with white) There were a few times where i was overwhelmed looking for things like bathroom mirrors. There are a million and one choices but i decided to do that satisficer thing where ultimately i chose one of the options at Home Depot because as you say it’s not the end of the world to get a new bathroom mirror later if i hated it. Whereas i was really sure what i wanted for the ensuite bathroom tile and spent time finding it and getting what i really wanted. And i really love it still. 😀

  4. We just finished living through a massive renovation. We liked our house and LOVED our location, but it had last been renovated in 1990 and needed work to make it more functional. Moving to another house in the area would also likely have required a renovation. Houses in our area are typically 100+ years old and turn over every 30 years or so.

    Due to rents in our area, moving out would have blown our budget…so we (me, my husband, my 4 kids and our au pair) lived in our not-huge house during the renovation. I wouldn’t recommend it, but in some ways I think it sped things along. At one point I told part of the crew that breakfast at our house wouldn’t be the same without them.

    My big take away is that limiting choices in any way possible is helpful. We really focused on materials that were readily available (sure that toilet that is in stock will do), except where it REALLY mattered. Our biggest hold ups (a particular countertop and a custom hanging shelf) are also the pieces people comment on the minute they get to our house. Also, choose a trusted contractor and follow their lead. If I wasn’t sure about something or had no opinion I would ask our GC and go with whatever he recommended. He has so much more experience than I do! Also, plan, plan, plan and then plan for things to go wrong. If you are renovating a kitchen, don’t forget to include take-out dinner in your budget.

    Anyway, we are done. The chaos was temporary and we are very happy with the results. It was the right choice for us.

    1. @Gillian – yep, sometimes you just have to picture yourself on the other side. We redid our kitchen and master bathroom in the old house four years ago and they were really so much better – it made me realize sometimes it’s a good idea to change things. It’s a pain for a bit but then they are *much* better. We could not have lived in this house (gut reno in many places…) during renovation, so at least we missed that pain, but took the pain in the form of maintaining two houses!

  5. As a fellow mom of five kids, I am so surprised your kids each have their own rooms! We have four bedrooms – one for us, one for the 3 girls, one for the 2 boys, and one is a combo guest room/office. We have plenty of living space so it’s not an issue at all. We are planning to have at least one more child and our bathrooms are fairly small, so we do think about moving to 5 bedrooms eventually. But then we remember that our next-door neighbors have 9 children in the same floor plan! We live in a very Catholic suburb of Pittsburgh where big families and room sharing are totally normal.

    1. @Caitlin – I’m very sure it can be done. I also know that we weren’t doing the room sharing particularly well. Not just the kids– the toddler and me weren’t doing well on room-sharing!

      1. Room sharing with a toddler is hard!! They are the most important people in the family to have their own room! Before our youngest started sharing with his big brother, his crib was in the guest room and my husband was working from home (pandemic imposed, he will eventually be back at the office) in the big brother’s room! Now that the youngest is sleeping well, his crib and my husband’s desk have swapped places.

  6. We also recently bought a house, and we have hired a designer to do the renovations and find contractors for us. Given the labor and material shortages it seems to have helped us get things done within the time frame needed for us to move (our rental lease ends June 40). It also has helped us make decisions about things that previously paralyzed us, like what color should we paint the walls. The designer only is costing a fraction of the price of the renovations, so it has so far been worth it for us.

  7. I appreciate your attitude about renovations. We are getting ready to renovate most of our first floor & will be living through it. I’m budgeting an extra 25% in both timeframe and money to try to keep myself from going bananas.

    We’re in a similar spot in many ways. We loved our location & finding something that fit our needs within this area was $$$$. Even with a six figure reno budget we are coming our WAY ahead over buying or building. This is our only “major” project, but we will likely have a couple of smaller projects over the next few years as budget allows.

  8. I am the outlier here regarding renovations. But I knew it would be an awful experience given the personalities of me and my husband. My husband sounds similar to how Sarah described Josh. It took us over 2 years of house hunting to find out current home, though. We probably only went into 10-15 houses during that 2-year process so it wasn’t awful but I was so glad when it came to an end. We were looking for a home in a very small area of Minneapolis which features early 1900 homes, so many of our ‘must have’ items were not possible, like a main floor powder room or a 2-stall garage. But the cost of homes is so high here that even a home that needed worked was pretty pricey and we felt the price of a house that needed work + the cost of the renovations would exceed what we were willing/comfortable paying. The house we ended up buying was flipped in 2008 so a lot of work had been done to modernize it.

    As far as moving goes, we had a totally different approach. We bought our new house a month before we moved, so we gradually moved things over. We rented these plastic green moving boxes that were amazing. They self-closed so did not require taping them shut. We moved on a Friday and we had the company pick the boxes back up the following Monday. We only had one child when we moved so that simplifies things a bit – but I think we actually have less stuff now that we have 2 kids and the youngest is over age 1 because that meant we got rid of a ton of baby stuff that takes up so much space, like the bouncer, bassinet, infant seat, etc etc. It’s obviously a different situation when you have 5 kids as that is a lot of stuff!! But for a family with 1-2 kids, a move doesn’t have to be a super stressful weeks long process. The movers arrived at 8 am that Friday morning and said we were the most organized couple they’d moved. They had everything moved in 3.5 hours – the new house was a mile away so that helped. Had we not moved some things over gradually, it probably would have added maybe another hour to the move? Our son was about 18 months at the time, so I was motivated to unpack as much as possible while he was at daycare that day and I managed to unpack the majority before we did pick-up and then finished it up over the weekend.

    The CIO thing is a hard call for some couples but wasn’t for us… it was not tenable to be up so often and work full times jobs. If you can function on poor sleep then it’s less of an issue. But unless you get really lucky, most couples do not sleep train just once. We got our son sleeping through the night at 8 months. Then he got sick with a string of ear infections so I was up with him 3+ times/night for months until he got tubes at 13 months. Then we had to get him weaned off of night feeds again, but getting him to STTN took only a couple of days and was much easier than the first round of sleep training at 8 months. But there will always be something to throw sleep off, whether it’s illnesses, teething, etc so babies seem to have to re-learn STTN multiple times!

  9. I’m in the process of moving & enjoyed this ep! I know there are a ton of moving scenarios (& family sizes!). I wanted to add one tip that worked well for my family while selling prior to moving. We vacated our property and stayed at a local hotel suite equipped with multiple bedrooms & a kitchen. With the current market, we were able to have more than a dozen showings and multiple offers over a weekend.

    It was much easier than getting our place ready to show multiple times per day and cleaning up from meals at home, etc. This solution wouldn’t work for months, but was well worth the extra $ for a weekend or even a week or two.

  10. We just did a cross-country move with 3 small kids; selling a house, buying another sight-unseen, & living in a hotel for a month because closing in the new location took twice as long as in the old location. It was a rollercoaster, & for the most part we just had to hang on, imagine ourselves in the new place, & laugh as much as we could. My best tips are to get a small storage facility so you can move any clutter out of the house your’e selling so it will show better & you can get a head start on the moving out process, pack stuff you’ll need right away in large plastic totes that are easily identifiable (the moving company will tape them just like boxes, or wrap them in paper & tape it up, but you’ll still be able to find them easily & get to all your important stuff). I also took a bunch of my kids’ old toys to consignment right before we left & got them all something new to play with/keep them occupied, & hid it until I needed it most.

    As far as sleep training goes, check out The Happy Sleeper by Heather Turgeon. I can’t recommend it enough – it’s all about working with your kids’ patterns and developing their ability to self-soothe starting from birth – it’s science-based & it works. They will still cry, but it’s a more controlled/compassionate method and works just as quickly as the Ferber-based methods. After using it to sleep train my almost 2yo who had not slept through the night since birth (worked in 3 nights), I used it on my 2nd & 3rd kids and had them sleeping through by 6months (2nd kid) and 10 weeks (3rd kid). It’s seriously useful & I give it at every baby shower!

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