Moving during a pandemic? It can be done. Carefully, thoughtfully and exhaustingly.
The coronavirus crisis has gripped the USA since March and shows no signs of abating. And although much of normal life has changed or ceased, there are things that have to go on, like moving.
Maybe your lease is up. Maybe you need to combine your household with others in your family for financial reasons. Maybe you were already in the process of changing homes and you can’t put it off.
Whatever the reason, many of you, like me and my husband, will have to brave this huge life change under difficult circumstances. It was not easy to maintain precautions against COVID-19 while packing, working with movers and combining households. Here are five things I wish I had known before I moved during coronavirus:
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1. Buy more packing materials than you need. A lot more.
I try to minimize single-use plastic and other disposable products for the sake of the environment, but I should have thought more about the risks of last-minute trips to the hardware store during the pandemic. When I realized the day before our move that we didn’t have enough stuffing or boxes to pack our kitchen breakables, we wound up at Lowe’s.
If you’ve done curbside pickup you’ll know it’s a time-consuming process. It took three hours and many phone calls to get our order. And since we would be in close contact with movers and family the next day, we didn’t want to risk going inside the store.
The delay meant that I was packing dishes until 9 o’clock the night before the truck arrived. We did end up with more boxes and materials than we used, but we’re donating them to others who have to move.
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2. Check out the pandemic procedures at local donation sites
Moving usually means sorting through your belongings and shedding items you no longer use. But dropping off a bag of clothes at Goodwill isn’t as simple as it was before.
Wherever you donate household goods locally, check their website to see how and where to give. At a local thrift store, we stayed in our car and a worker grabbed stuff out of our back seat. Goodwill and Salvation Army locations near you will have rules that reflect state and local guidelines, so make sure you check the local site, not just the national one.
3. You might have to enforce mask wearing and hand washing
When searching for movers, I knew to ask about health precautions, and the two guys who showed up to move us were wearing masks when they arrived.
But moving is arduous physical labor, and at one point one of our movers pulled his mask down to get more air in the middle of a tough task. I get it – no one enjoys wearing a mask, especially when breathing hard. But I had to ask him to put it back on, even though it felt incredibly rude to do so.
It was a 10-second interaction that was awkward but worth it. And I hoped the mover appreciated that my husband and I both wore masks for the whole process. If my husband had pulled his down, I would have chastised him to fix it, too.
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4. Hand sanitizer is helpful, but don’t forget regular soap
I had plenty of hand sanitizer on hand for our movers and ourselves but had packed away the soap in the bathroom. But in the three-and-a-half hours it took to load the truck, everyone needed to use the restroom. We still had some dish soap around, thankfully, but anything that kept us inside longer than we needed to be (like rooting around for soap) extended both the move and the time we spent in contact with strangers.
5. Everything is harder during the pandemic. Give yourself extra time and compassion.
Getting up in the morning, cooking breakfast, getting the kids to bed, working from home or on the front lines – every task is just a little bit harder during the pandemic.
I set about tackling this move just like my others: I took a week off work for packing, got out my Sharpie and masking tape for labeling and set to work.
But every stage felt more emotionally and physically draining than before. Sorting through makeup I no longer wear was depressing. Packing winter clothes made me wonder what kind of Christmas we can possibly have. Wrapping up photos with family and friends I haven’t seen in months made me wistful.
I spent a lot of time angry that the process wasn’t going faster or easier. I wish I had offered myself a little compassion, taken more breaks and asked for more help. The job got done, but it was probably a bit more stressful than it needed to be.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID and moving: What I wish I knew before I moved during a pandemic