The Migraineur’s Moving Guide
We just purchased a house for first time in many years. Like The Migraine Girl, I am filled with high hopes for our new place. This will be our 17th move in 26 years. I am long past “ready” to grow some really deep roots. If I have my way, I will die in my sleep at the ripe old age of 98 and our kids will have to worry about selling this house.
I’ve been dealing with Chronic Migraine the whole time. I’ve also been the family-appointed packing guru for every single move. Granted, I’m pretty worthless when it comes to actual moving, but I can pack a house like a pro.
Would you like to know how I did it even with Chronic Migraine?
Start with the end in mind
Create a Moving Calendar. Start with moving day and work backward. Schedule specific days for each task. Note the hours you are committing to packing. Don’t reserve an entire day, just a few hours. Break up the job into small tasks and designate a specific target date for each one. Set appointments with yourself, too. By starting at the end, you will get a realistic picture of how fast you need to go. Make sure you schedule time to transfer utilities, update insurance, file a change of address, and other important activities.
Before you start tossing stuff randomly in boxes, have a system. Create labels that clearly mark each box’s destination in your new home. Make sure you have enough boxes, packing tape, labels, and markers to get the job done. Running out at the eleventh hour adds more stress than you need.
Start packing the least used items first, tackling one room at a time. Take extra time to pack fragile items with plenty of protective wrapping. Mark those boxes as “FRAGILE”. Set aside anything you think you will need the first day in your new home.
Use your own towels to pad your breakables. If you think you might run out, keep a steady supply of plastic sacks and old newspapers. You can usually pick up extras at a recycling center. Turn them back in when you are finished rather than tossing them out with the trash. If it’s a do-it-yourself move, keep your blankets unpacked to use as furniture pads. If you hire movers, make sure they will pad and shrink wrap all of your furniture.
The goal on moving day is to have everything boxed and labeled with one or two empty boxes to hold your sheets, blankets, pillows, toiletries, toilet paper, paper towels, disposable plates, cups and flatware, and valuables you want to move yourself. Mark these boxes in big bold letters so they don’t get lost in the confusion. The risk of migraine is high on moving day, so if nothing else, you will be able to eat something, take a shower, and sleep in your own bed that first night.
Enlist, bribe, draft, or hire help
Many people are willing to help you move in exchange for food, drinks, and a promise to return the favor. If you don’t have any willing volunteers, you may have to get creative. Depending on their age, your kids may be able to help out, too. When ours were teenagers, we required them to pack and move their own boxes, plus clean up the empty room when the adults removed the furniture. Now that the kids are grown, this will be our first move alone since 1992. It’s also the first time we’ve been able to save up to hire professional movers to move the furniture and appliances. If you can swing it, I highly recommend letting the pros do the heavy lifting. My stress level is much lower now that I am not worried about someone getting hurt or something breaking.
Stick to your schedule
While moving day may throw off your schedule, you don’t have to abandon it completely. In the days and (hopefully) weeks leading up to your move, try to keep your schedule the same as always. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Keep drinking lots of water, eating regular meals, and taking your medicines on schedule. Any sudden shifts in your routine can set off a migraine attack. So keep your risk low by sticking with your routine.
Even on moving day, take the time to eat a good breakfast. Keep healthy snacks nearby in the event that you can’t stop for lunch. Stock a cooler full of water bottles and ice, too. Your helpers will appreciate and you can’t afford to get dehydrated or hungry. If your move will last for more than one day, consider staying in a hotel overnight or at least moving your bedroom last. You need a good night’s sleep.
Schedule down time
Plan to rest. If time allows, I like to pack for 1-2 hours, then rest for the same amount of time. As moving day approaches, I gradually pick up the pace, alternating rest and work at shorter, more frequent intervals. This allows your body to adjust to the increased activity, routine changes, and keeps you from getting overheated or worn out.
Expect the migraine
It will happen. Most likely, it will happen more than once and at the most inconvenient time. You can expect to get an attack on moving day at the very least. At the start of our last move, I got hit with a horrendous cluster headache attack on the second day of packing. No one was home. It was the second time in my life that I have called an ambulance for a headache. Even though I received good treatment, that attack set off a 5 day round of migraine attacks. I stopped packing and took the necessary time to recover. Once the last hangover disappeared, I was able to knock out the packing in short order because I was prepared and organized already.
Keep your toolkit handy
This was possible, in part, because I kept my toolkit available. None of it got packed in a box. That big bag of everything-I-might-need-to-treat-a-migraine-attack went with me everywhere. It was the last thing to leave the old house and stayed in my possession until the last box crossed the threshold of our new home. It will be the same this time. I’ve learned from experience to never pack up a single ice pack or heating pad. It’s more important than clean sheets or toilet paper. For what it’s worth, you should probably keep those handy, too.
Ignore the trolls
Sometimes volunteer helpers are trolls. They might roll their eyes when you get “another headache” or make rude comments about your apparent lack of participation in the heavy lifting. If you’re in a bind and really need their help, just bite your tongue until it’s all done. Once you are comfortably in your new home, then you can dream up some personalized karma, revenge, or sweet justice. If you don’t really need their help, then I would suggest a verbal drop kicking off the front porch and crossing them off the housewarming party guest list.
Plan for a recovery period
Once you are all moved in, your sensitive nervous system will need time to recharge. Stop and take the time to rest. There is no rule that says you have to unpack as fast as you packed. Take a few days to let your body adjust. I always have trouble sleeping for those first few nights in a new house. It doesn’t feel like home yet and my body knows it. I unpack in reverse, getting to the essentials first and then working my way to the less frequently used items. As a migraineur, the priorities are a little different. Ice packs are replaced in the freezer immediately. Drapes and curtains must get hung within the first few days. In fact, if I can get into the new house a day or two before the move, I usually hang the drapes before moving starts. Dishes can wait. We keep a supply of disposable flatware, cups, plates, and bowls for those bad migraine days, so those come out first.
Migraineurs are resourceful and hard-working. We make things happen even when we are functioning at less than our best. Moving is just one more life event. Like everything else in our lives, it takes more planning and preparation. Just remember to pace yourself!