"Mommy look for diapers? Mommy no find the diapers?” My bare-bottomed two-year-old daughter repeated this soundtrack of questions as she followed me through a maze of boxes and stacks of bins. I balanced my saturated five-month-old on my hip as I peeked through bags, alternately berating myself for losing track of the diapers, and praying my sort of potty-trained toddler wouldn’t christen our new home with an accident on the carpet.
Let’s face it, moving is never easy. And when you’ve got young children in the mix, relocating feels downright impossible. You can prepare your family and plan all you want but the truth is, settling into a new space and making it feel like home takes time.
But there are ways to speed up the process and ease the transition for your little ones. If a new home is in your future, keep these settling strategies in mind to make your move go as smoothly as possible.
Set up systems
No matter how frazzled you feel at times, you’ve probably developed some systems that work for you. What’s a system? Basically any process or procedure that helps you get things accomplished. This could be as simple as having diaper change stations on two floors, or storing sippy cups and plastic bowls in low cabinets so your kids can reach them.
Most people have developed systems like these without realizing it, and most family members participate in them without knowing it - until moving day.
The beauty of systems is they are functional, and they also provide comfort and independence for kids. Even young children like knowing where to put their dirty clothes or where to put their wet boots.
Do yourself a favor and reset your systems and routines as soon as you can. Start with the ones that help you and your kids meet basic needs such as diaper-changing, accessing food and drink, and enabling self-care. Then work on systems that make your household chores like laundry and recycling easier. On our last move, it took days to find a permanent spot for the First-Aid box full of Dora the Explorer Band-Aids (a necessity for all that ails a toddler), and several meltdowns occurred as a result. Don’t let this happen to you.
Some children may love tearing through a new home to claim a new bedroom. But the uncertainty of a new environment and loss of familiarity of an old home can be alarming for others. This doesn’t just go for bedrooms. Losing the comfort of a kitchen or the surroundings of other common areas can be especially unsettling, and empty spaces filled with boxes don’t offer the best welcome.
If you can, try to dedicate at least one safe, familiar space on your first day. If it makes sense to have this be your child’s bedroom, spend some time in there with them, and quickly bring in their favorite toys and make their bed. If there is a living or family room that feels friendlier, do the same there. Settle your little one in with some crayons and paper, and let them have some quiet coloring time.
If your kids are a little older, try involving them in the settling process. Ask, “Which spot will work best for the sofa?” or, “Where do you think you’d like to put your bed?” Giving your kids some ownership about how the new space flows will not only clue you in to what makes them comfortable, but also make them feel like they are invested in the new place and their opinions are valuable.
For some reason, lighting and window treatments are often the last things people tackle after a big move. This time, make the effort to deal with them earlier. Why? Easy. Lighting has a huge impact on how welcoming a place feels. Sure it all seems great during the day when the sun is streaming through the windows. But at night when you’re blindly fumbling for the right light switch or you don’t have blinds to close for privacy, well… you may wish you’d shed some light on the space.
Handling lighting actually sounds a lot more complex than it is. One easy remedy is to make sure that each person’s room has a good lamp with a working bulb (sounds simple yet so easily forgotten). For the adults’ rooms, it’s nice to have the lamp within reach of the bed in case you’re up during the night. In children’s rooms, for safety, try to figure out which outlet is activated by the light switch and plug the lamp in there.
For our family, blackout curtains are a must in the kids’bedrooms. They keep early morning light from seeping in (and waking disoriented little ones!). But if you don’t need them, do take the time to cover the windows with something for the first night, even if it is a temporary fix for privacy. If you can tack up the window treatments from your old house, that’s even better as it provides a familiar decorative touch.
After a day or two, you can focus on lighting up the rest of the house but be sure to take measurements. Also, it’s always a good idea to have extra bulbs on hand, (note the type and size in bathrooms and the kitchen too), so you don’t get stuck in the dark!
One of the most disruptive parts of moving can be the take-out rut. During a move, there’s a shortage of home-cooked meals that is hard to avoid. Fast food is a temporary fix, but nothing says welcome home like yummy smells of a home-cooked meal wafting from the kitchen.
While it would be nice if everyone’s new neighbors welcomed them with a homemade casserole, it’s not something you should plan on. Once your kitchen is (mostly) unpacked, think about your easiest go-to meal solution and get cooking. If you’re not the chef in the family, shop for your partner and offer to assist or clean up.
Breaking in the new kitchen has multiple benefits. It will bring your family together at your new table, and help you get a feel for your new cooking space. And your first meal doesn’t have to be fancy. If breakfast works for your family, grab a box of instant pancake mix, throw some bacon in a pan and voila! You’ve got a meal.
While adjusting to a new home will never be instantaneous, it can be easier than you think. Just take it one step (or room) at a time, and soon you’ll feel at home sweet home.
Beth is a freelance writer who has moved more times than she cares to count. She lives with her husband and three children.
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