Monday, June 17, 2013

Packing Panic

We move in 15 days. Our first container arrives in 9 days. I'm pretty sure I should be putting things in boxes at this point. I should probably definitely at least have boxes at this point, right?

I don't know.

Ugh. That's the problem. I just don't know. 

I'm a novel-writer, which means I love tackling big projects. But this is a totally new sort of big project. I should probably have lists and a plan. I've made a lot of lists, but I don't really know how to make a plan. I've been doing this pretty much by the seat of my pants.

I figured there were three major elements to moving across the country:

1. Finding a place to live, which I also totally didn't know how to approach at first. So I did a general survey of my Facebook friends and asked like how far in advance we should go to look for a place. They said a month, so we planned to spend a week in Seattle, a month before our move date. Since a couple of people mentioned getting a realtor, we looked into that, but they all wanted to charge us like a grand for what basically amounted to searching Craigslist with us. Yeah, eff that. So we went to Seattle for a week, did a lot of Craigslist searching, stressed quite a bit, but went back to Chicago with a signed lease and keys in hand. Find a place to live--check.

2. Finding a job. This is it's own animal. At least for me. For my mechanic husband, it also just meant search Craigslist, send resume, walk into business, walk out with job offer. Hey, at least one of us has a job. I'm still "networking" and sending resumes and waiting for responses. But there is a routine to this that at least makes sense to me, that can be plotted out in to-do lists, worked on in chunks like I do my writing. And we  have enough savings to survive for four months with neither of us having a job, so I'm trying to reassure myself with that.

3. Getting our stuff across the country. I've lived in the same house for nine years. A house that is too big for me. I've accumulated a lot of stuff. My previous moves involved a U-Haul and my car for all the precious things like records and my stereo. At 33, I really wanted to move like a grown-up. Like with dudes who bring your stuff in and out of your house. Dudes that you don't know and pay with money not pizza and beer. Also, driving a U-Haul and towing our car through a couple of mountain ranges with two whiny cats sounded awful. Like if-this-is-my-only-option-maybe-I'll-just-stay-in-Chicago awful. So more research/investigative work was done. That phase was fine. I'm good at research and investigation. It's part of my job as a writer.

Of course there were complications. 

Complication #1 As I mentioned, my husband is a mechanic. Before marrying a mechanic, I did not realize that they buy their own tools. Thousands of dollars of tools. And then they also buy their own giant toolboxes. Toolboxes that also cost thousands of dollars and weigh thousands of pounds. Scott's tools and toolbox are, like, as essential as our bed. If anything is moving with us, it's that stuff.

Complication #2 We live on a busy street. I did not realize this would be such a complication until the middle of the research and investigation phase. When after exploring ABF U-Pack and PODS, two non U-Haul options friends had used to get their stuff across the country, I decided I wanted to go full-on Grown-Up Move and at least price Actual Professional Movers who put the stuff on and took the stuff off a giant non-U-Haul truck. Also, Mayflower just happened to pop-up in our Google search to compare container prices, but instead of entering our information for a quote, they wanted our phone number, so I gave it to them and then they called me the next day and wanted to send a person to our house to assess our stuff and present us with our options. This estimate was free and would help us figure out how much space we would actually need no matter which company we went with, so I went for it. And, even though it was at the highest end of our budget, I really wanted those Actual Mover Guys and was so ready to go for it when the Mayflower Assessor Lady said, "Hmmm, that's a pretty busy street. Will they actually let you have a semi parked there for loading?"


So I called and asked and of course they said no. Of course, they next day, I saw a semi parked down the block on part of our street where no parking is allowed for ANYONE EVER and I took a picture of it and texted it to Scott, who told me, "They only said no because you asked. If we'd just done it, it probably would have been fine."

I'd been too afraid to just do it, though. Mainly because we're moving during Mercury Retrograde already (and I'd seriously considered picking another time because of that, but my very logical, non-superstitious, non-astrology reading husband did not understand my objections, so I've just been planning very carefully). But also because of Complication #1. It added all sorts of expense to an already expensive van move to have my husband's tools moved to a storage facility where they would have to live until he got a job. (We did not know then that he would find a job before we moved.)
Mayflower also offered container moves--big 16-foot containers that ABF did not have. The containers came with a month of free storage, so they could just hold the one with Scott's tools until we were ready for it. PODS also offered these big containers, but with Mayflower you could actually get movers. My husband chose to go the pay friends with pizza and beer on the loading end in Chicago because he has friends he can rope into that here, but in Seattle, our few friends have kids, so we went the Grown-Up route there. It was an excellent compromise.

Plus Mayflower worked with us to figure out Complication #2.5: We live on a busy street and only have one parking spot. They would stagger our container delivery so the one for Scott's tools comes on June 25th and is swapped out for our other container on June 27th.

Of course, they were mildly concerned that they would not be able to FIT the container into the parking spot and encouraged me to ask a neighbor to use the driveway between our building and their house. This took a lot of bravery on my part since I'd only really waved hello to those neighbors before, but of course they were super nice and said they'd lend us their driveway for a week, and also, they have boxes from when they were thinking about selling their house.

I called and left a message this weekend to see if I could look at those boxes and haven't heard back yet (trying not to be nervous about that and whether or not now they do not want us to use the driveway for some reason). Since, as it turns out boxes are also INSANELY EXPENSIVE and when you are moving like a grown-up you have to get stuff like "wardrobe boxes" because apparently putting your clothes in garbage bags is Not Okay, I really want to see what I can get from them first.

Or maybe I'm making excuses.

But really I just don't know WHEN I should start packing. I mean, until we get those containers, I'm not precisely sure how much will fit, but I've already done a lot of purging. (That is it's own post, since this is already too long.) All of this went to a community garage sale and Goodwill:

And we listed a bunch of stuff (like my elliptical, sob!) on Craigslist this weekend.

My husband doesn't finish working until the end of this week, and technically neither do I, but that's a night-time bartending job. Since I'm not working on a novel and my freelance assignments are handed in, my days are free. I plan to spend today doing Practical Things like going to the dentist, the bank, and the DMV. But um, what about after that? Do I keep job hunting? Visit with the people I love that I'm leaving behind? Suck it up, buy some boxes and start packing? Write long blog posts about the process of moving?

I feel like maybe I can do the visiting thing because I seem to remember packing in a weekend for all my previous moves, but since those weren't grown-up moves, I'm not sure if that is how it works when you have to special boxes for your lamps and your artwork (Holy hell, I am so freaked about all of the framed artwork. And my records. This is the "precious" stuff that always went in the car with me, but now with 2 cats, 3 plants, and supplies for the ten days we'll be without the rest of our clothes, dishes, etc, there is no room.) If you have advice, feel free to share it. Consulting the hive mind has served me well so far. And I guess (strangely, since I'm usually such a planner), so has just rolling with it and trusting things will work out, so I'll do that, too.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Our New Seattle Apartment!

We found an apartment in Seattle!!!! We've been in Seattle for almost a week hunting for places to live and going to job interviews. It's probably been one of the most stressful parts of the move/my Seattle dream so far. I was forewarned that the housing market here was competitive and I knew we were at a disadvantage since we are coming from out of state with two cats and no jobs yet (my husband, an auto technician actually landed one while we were here) aside from my freelance writing and online teaching gigs. On the advice of friends (and a friend who is a realtor), I made these spiffy little packets with our current bank balances (we did save about 20K to make this move. Given our situation and me being a worrywart it was the only way I felt comfortable. It's been a nine-year dream so we've being saving a long time), our credit reports, a letter of reference for the cats from a vet, and our resumes and a letter of recommendation from my husband's current boss. Since we've owned our home for so long and don't have landlord references, I got a letter from the woman who lived with me (my roommate/tenant) before my husband moved in) as well as some letters to show we are good community members. I serve on the Forest Park Library Board, so I was able to get a letter of reference from the Library Director as well as the MAYOR OF THE TOWN. I felt pretty good about these.... until we walked into our first open house with like 20 other couples. Our packets might have stood out a little bit, but still how would they choose! We were looking mostly at houses at first. I really wanted green space and my mechanic husband wanted a garage or driveway. We looked mainly in the south part of Seattle--Columbia City, Beacon Hill, Seward Park, Rainer Valley. Central District would have been our ideal spot, but we didn't find anything listed there. We also looked in West Seattle a little bit, but were told by several folks it would be a rough commute. Since we only have one car and I am looking for both online and in-person work, we needed something on a good bus line or near the light rail. I'm not sure why we focused south. I think the transportation just seemed easier. My friend who lives in the CD said she hoped she hadn't biased us, but I think we are South (and West) side loyal in Chicago anyway.

By Monday night, I was panicking. I knew we didn't really stand a chance at any of the open houses. We had a couple one-on-one meetings with landlords renting houses, one in particular that was my TOTAL DREAM HOUSE and I thought I made a good connection with that landlord. When we didn't hear from him after a day or two, I got nervous, though. Then we saw a house in West Seattle that was a solid second place for TOTAL DREAM HOUSE and she liked us (and was one of the most straight forward people we met), but had some other folks she'd promised to show it to later in the week. I was afraid of not signing SOMETHING before we went back to Chicago. I mean, that seemed like a near impossible thing to do from afar. So my husband started making appointments for apartments. I really didn't want to go from owning my own townhouse for 9 years back to apartment living, but A. all utilities plus Wifi are included in the rent. B. the landlord was very cool, went through our packet then and there (he was the first one who did that) and told us that if we wanted the place, it was ours. C. IT'S BIG AND GORGEOUS!!! It has brand new appliances in the kitchen, a huge living room and master bedroom/suite, an adorable little space for an office, washer and dryer in the unit, a guest bathroom with shower, and an INCREDIBLE view. Ohhhh and so many closets, which helps because I'm a MAJOR packrat. The only downsides are that we have no green space (but there is a community garden near by that I can join) and it's mostly carpeted (we are not a fan of that, but we'll deal). We don't have a garage, but we've got a parking spot and a storage shed and it is close to a couple of bus lines. It's on the north side of Beacon Hill so fairly close to Downtown, the Central District, Capitol Hill, etc (like it's the equivalent of going from one side of the 2 mile suburb I grew up in to the other. At worst.) So, it's not a dream HOME, but as my husband wisely pointed out, we should not be renting our dream home, we should be saving to buy it, and with this place we can and enjoy a damn fine living space in the process!

Here it is, starting with the most important part, the view from my office :)

The office itself:

The too-big to see in one picture living room:

 The kitchen (long view, but there are tons of cabinets, great appliances, like the great stainless steel fridge my husband is investigating and a dining area):

The Bedroom/master suite

 And the view from there!