This is going to seem like a very self-serving post, because yes, I am moving house this week! But that means that’s all I’m thinking about. I’ve moved a lot, both before and since I got sick – on average once a year, so roughly 30 times (yikes).
I’m going to share some of the things I’ve learned. There is a lot to organise when you move – so many details to take care of. And when you throw being sick or disabled into the mix, it gets ten times as hard.
This is a list that might help both people who are chronically ill or disabled, and their friends and family. Some of it will probably seem pretty basic, some of it may not have occurred to you. Either way, I hope it’s useful!
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN YOU’RE LOOKING
– Accessibility. Depending on the nature of your illness or disability, you might have to consider how accessible the properties you’re looking at are. Are there steps into the house? Inside it? Is it easy to get to the front door? Would it be easily located and accessed by an ambulance and medical team, if you needed one?
– Warmth. If you’re like me, you probably need somewhere warm (arthritis, yay). Does the house have north-facing windows for sun? Is there a fireplace, and if so, can you use it? Is there a heatpump? Is the house insulated?
– Pets. If you have a pet, you’ll need to check they’re A) allowed, and B) the property is set up for them – a fence for a dog, for example. This is especially importance if you have a service animal. In New Zealand, landlords are not legally allowed to deny you a property because you have a service animal, so know your rights.
– Location. Is the property close to a supermarket? A hospital? Your regular GP? A pharmacy? Think about the things you use on a daily/weekly basis, and how you’ll be able to access them.
– Who are your neighbors? Ideally, it’d be great to have neighbours you can call if you need assistance.
– Take measurements. You might need to figure out if your bed is going to fit through a door, or if your fridge will fit in the fridge nook. When you visit places, take a measuring tape and don’t be afraid to use it.
BEFORE YOU MOVE
– Hopefully, you have at least a week or two before you need to move. That gives you time to get quite a bit organised ahead of time.
– Check whether the electricity is connected at the property, and what company it’s through. You definitely want to make sure it’s connected by the time you move in. Most companies will organise the connection and changeover themselves.
– Internet – another thing you’ll ideally want connected before you move in – good luck if you’re in New Zealand. For every move I’ve ever done, getting the internet connected has been way more hassle and time that I ever expected. Now, it’s even more important I have internet access, so I put this call in before any other.
– Packing things ahead of time. There’ll probably be lots of things you don’t need, that you can get boxed up ahead of the actual moving day. Things like bathroom draws, spare linen etc. Every box done ahead of time is one less, even if you go at a snail’s pace like me.
– See what you can get rid of. There’s no more point in moving things if you don’t need or want them. I’m going through clothes this week to donate as much as I can.
– Start asking who might be available to help, now and on the day. If you’re anything like me, this’ll be the most painful part of the whole process. I fucking hate asking for help – but obviously, moving is just not something I can do on my own. Luckily, I have amazing friends and family who will be there for me. If they can help shift some boxes ahead of time, even better. They might also have tips for things you haven’t thought about, or be willing to make phone calls to power and internet companies for you. Every small bit will be something that is off your plate.
– Think about what things you might need to buy. I’m setting up a new house, so there’s quite a few things I need to buy – from pots and pans through to a fridge and washing machine. It’s super costly, so the sooner the better. Obviously, lots of stuff can be gotten from second hand stores and opshops, and they will often deliver for a small fee.
– See if there’s any grants available to you. For example, in New Zealand you can get a loan from Work and Income to buy whiteware (I’m probably doing the application for that this week).
– See what other help might be available. For example, in New Zealand some people qualify for in-home assistance, to do vacuuming for example, which is so painful for me. I’ve never pursued this in the past because I am stupid and have too much pride, but I’ve decided to accept that I do need help, and I’m also starting the application for that this week.
– Draft a new budget. Your move might mean your budget looks a little different (especially if you get some help as above, or if your rent has changed, etc). Take into account your income, and then outgoings such as power per month, internet, groceries, Dr’s visits, prescriptions, transport. Having all this info on hand might help your applications for grants too.
– Pets. One of the things on my to-do list is ringing a bunch of companies to get quotes for getting a cat door installed. It doesn’t need to be done immediately, but the sooner I have it booked in, the better.
– Remember: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You do not need to do all of the things at once, on the first day. (Please someone remind me on this on Saturday. I will need to be told Many Times).
– If someone else can and is willing to do it, LET THEM. You don’t have anything to gain by forcing yourself to move heavy boxes or trying to put together furniture. Again, I recognise my privilege in that I will have people there who are able to help with these things. But even if you don’t, again: marathon, not a sprint. It’s very important that you don’t hurt yourself or make yourself more ill.
– Write a list of priorities. Realistically, what do you need set up on that first day? My first one is always: make the bed. Even if nothing else is set up, as long as I have a bed to get into, I can get through. The second one is unpacking the kettle, a mug, and the coffee.
– Move pets last. They’re probably going to know exactly what’s going, and they might be stressed (mine certainly is already). Keep them in the same comfortable environment for as long as possible, and make sure you have whatever they need at the new place – bed, litter tray, usual food and food bowls.
– Make sure you know where your phone charger, your medication, and all the light switches are.
THE FIRST WEEK
– If it’s safe to do so, introduce yourself to your neighbours. It looks like I totally lucked out with this, the new house is in a quiet cul-de-sac with three hours, and my landlord said both neighbours are older. Plus, I’ve seen a car with massage signwriting parked out front, so when I go introduce myself I’m totally going to be inquiring about massage – imagine having someone who can help with my pain right next door!
– Try to restrict yourself so you don’t burn out – you could aim to set up one room at a time, for example. I am really going to have to remind myself of this advice. I tend to want everything done, perfectly, right away. I have to accept that this is going to take time!
– Pets. There’s different advice around this, but I tend to keep the cat inside for at least a week, otherwise they can try to return to their previous home.
– Orient yourself with your house and your neighbourhood. There’s no huge hurry for this. It’s sort of a slow absorption and integration, in my experience. I’m hoping to take very slow, short walks around the block, for example. Once you’ve had a few showers, sleeps, and meals, you should start to feel more settled!
A very specific section for those wanting to help:
In case you’ve come across this post and you’re a friend or family member wanting to help, rather than the person with an illness or disability, here’s a quick rundown of things you can offer to do.
– Pack and carry. This is the absolute main one for me. I can’t carry anything lighter than a pillow, it’s indescribably frustrating. I’m going to need a lot of help just getting my stuff from A to B. Luckily, I don’t have a huge amount, but I still have plenty that I cannot move on my own.
– Make phone calls. Some calls you might be able to help with. It can be extremely exhausting if you’re a sick person and you have to fight with the internet company on the phone for 45 minutes. This also applies to getting the router set up.
– Getting appliances set up. I’m thinking specifically of the TV, which I always find is a nightmare to tune, and you really want to be able to turn it on that first evening. But other things might be help too like fridge/freezer, microwave etc.
– Help with applications. Applying for the grants and things I mentioned above can be lengthy and it can be good to have someone available, even just for support and to help you remember what was said.
– Someone to stay. Not everyone will want or need this, but if it’s their first night in a new house, and they don’t have any flatmates or anything, they may really want someone to stay with them – for a night, or two.
– Or just check in. It can feel very stressful and lonely moving. Texts, tweets, and emails might be welcome. It can also be exciting, so people may have good news they’d like to share. Either way, they might like to hear from you.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully some of it might have been useful. Please feel free to make other suggestions!