Thursday 21 July 2011

Guest post by Seph : how to survive moving house

As you will have noticed, this is a guest post. Assuming Ms Disabled Medic approves it, this will be my first guest post, but I hope to write a few more in time.

So who am I? I'm a medic, although I have now completed my studies and I'm about to start work as a junior doctor or FY1 as it's known. I have just (as in two days ago) moved about a hundred miles, which was, er, interesting.

I do not consider myself disabled, but for a long time I have had an undefined depressive illness. Medical school presented some interesting challenges which I hope to discuss at some point - tips for surviving final exams, special circumstances in MTAS, starting work and so on.
This post talks about moving house, because it's something that medics tend to do a *lot*, and it can use an awful lot of spoons. It's commonly known as one of the most stressful life events to go through. My partner is dyslexic so he and I both tend to get very tired when trying to do certain things. I also have a quite limited capacity for stress and things going wrong before I lose the plot. This post comes from our collective experiences over the past couple of weeks.

1. Know your limits. Figure out what you can do and what you can't. Ask people for help, pace yourself, and if you can, pay removal companies to do some things. If you know you can't shift your worldly possessions up three flights of stairs, don't try. You'll only end up knackered and that doesn't help. Don't feel bad about not doing everything. Everyone has limits.

2. Rest appropriately. If you tend to get fatigued you probably know your limits pretty well anyway, but this can go out of the window when you're trying to get so much done, particularly if you're working alongside someone who has different limits to you. Don't feel guilty if you need to take more breaks. You might feel like you just want to get it over and done with but you know the reality is it will get done faster and better if you're not exhausted.

3. Make a "home" space early. Pick one room – bedroom, living room, whatever you want (although it needs to be comfortable, so maybe not the bathroom!) - and make it as homely as you possibly can as fast as you can. This means unpacking that room first, arranging some of your bits of artwork, photographs, books, cushions, birthday cards or other familiar, homey items, and moving most of the boxes out. This way, even if the rest of the flat is total chaos, you have one area where you can go to rest and relax a little. When you're freaking out because the place is a madhouse and there's loads to do, you can go to your “home” space, take a few deep breaths and feel a bit better. A plant or some flowers might also help, plus your stereo or tv or even just a clock for some friendly noise.

4. Talk. If you have a roommate or a partner, sit down with them well before the move and talk about it. Even if you know each other well, moving will raise unique issues and it is worth going through them. Try to make a rough list of tasks (changing addresses, organising particular rooms, etc) and decide who could do each one. It won't work out exactly that way, and there will always be things you miss, but having a rough plan and a good idea of each others' abilities and limits will help.
The picture shows a variety of cardboard moving boxes taped shut
and stacked up in piles. By skrewtape on flickr.

5. Take your time. Start packing in plenty of time before the move (more than three days. Oops!) and don't expect to have everything sorted out the day after. Be realistic.

6. Figure out what you need. Is your support network largely on the internet? Do you need to have a working phone line for emergencies? Do you need to set up clinic appointments, blood level monitoring or counselling? Whatever it is, make sure you have it in place well before you move. (I suggest looking into these things at least a month in advance because it always takes longer than you expect.)

7. Figure out what you need (part 2). If there are any items you absolutely need - splints, meds, hot water bottle, whale song CD, blanket, cat, whatever - make sure you know where they are and that they're not at the bottom of a huge box (particularly the cat).

8. Arrange food. The last thing you want to do after a day's unpacking is cook, so make sure you have something sorted out. You'll be hungry and tired and you need something good to eat that will give you energy, not just junk food. Make some sandwiches or just put some tupperwares of food where you can find them. This is particularly important if you have a specific diet.

9. Get your prescription. If you take any medication, regular or PRN, make sure you have *at least* three weeks' supply before you move, from your old GP. It might take you a wee while to find a new GP and you don't want to run out. Also make sure that you have a copy of your repeat prescription, any relevant clinic letters, and if necessary (e.g. if you take opiate painkillers or odd doses of things) a letter from your old GP explaining your medication regime. Anything which makes it easier for your new GP to give you your medication is good. Your notes will take a while to come through, so don't rely on the new GP being able to access them.

10. Go outside. Being surrounded by boxes is overwhelming and unpacking creates a lot of dust. Go outside at least twice a day. Explore your new area or just sit outside the house and breathe the fresh air. At the very least, open a window. It will help, I promise.

Moving is hard work and it's stressful, but you'll get there.

Have you moved house recently? Did you find that it presented you with any particular challenges? What tips do you have?


  1. I reckon that's a great list for anyone moving house, irrespective of dis-ability.

    I heartily agree with making one bit of the new house/flat home and then doing all the other stuff. In my line of business people move quite often too. One of the best pieces of advice I had was on unpacking, which was to stick at it - even if only half a box a day - until it is all done, otherwise you will still be surrounded by the past few boxes when it's time to move again. Of course if you didn't need to open the boxes, maybe you didn't need that stuff anyway?

    I'm quite keen on labelling boxes for house moves - coloured labels saying which room it's from or to (whichever works for you). This means they get to right room straight away rather than being shifted round endlessly. Just stick the right colour label on the right door and get you slaves to carry the boxes in...

    Re: item 7, I always put the absolute must haves in a bag, in the car (or bus or train) with me.

  2. Thanks for this great post. I am totally agreed with you. And thanks for sharing these knowledge how to survive while moving to new house.

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