It’s been quite a while since my last post. I was absent from the blog due to an unexpected death in the family.
New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings – Lao Tzu
Life is full of beginnings and endings. Some years, there are too many to fathom. My brother’s untimely passing marked the end of a life that was so dear to so many. He was 39. The loss has forever altered the dynamic of our family. It made for a poignant holiday season. I had planned to spend my last Christmastime in Germany, exploring local Christmas markets, and writing about the lovely Christmas traditions we’ve included in our family holiday celebrations. Instead, I made the long trip home, and spent the holiday season walking through the now empty corridors of my childhood memories, writing eulogies and obituaries for my little brother.
As I returned to Germany, it dawned on me that we were truly close to the ending of this chapter of our story. Another ending was upon us. Last summer, I wrote that I was not yet ready to say goodbye to my life in Germany. This year I am.
Whoever said change is often preceded by chaos must have been preparing for a move.
While we still have several months before we actually pick up and go, this is another atypical move. We are leaving Germany and heading to another country. This is a move that would be quite unusual for most people, but unusual seems to be the norm for us.
Last summer, I was dreading the end of our time in Germany. Now, while I know that I will miss our life in German, I am looking forward to the adventure ahead of us.
While I do wish to enjoy the time we have left here, I can’t help but to lean forward just a little bit. Once I know with any degree of certainty where we will be moving to next, I begin to research the area. In transition years, it is difficult to focus on the present when you are so focused on planning for the future.
Because we will be moving to another country, we are in the midst of learning another language. Living in language number two, while learning language number three, but still thinking in language one can be confusing at times. The other day I could only remember the Russian word for five. Don’t ask me why, it is not one of the three aforementioned languages. It is the language I studied ten years ago for my graduate degree. I am also asking people’s names in Spanish. Another not so current language – one that I studied in high school. My brain is currently a multi-lingual mess.
Trying to coordinate this move on the calendar is proving to be particularly difficult. We are operating and coordinating schedules for school and work in two countries. Of course, they do not fit neatly into a flowing schedule. No. They overlap. They work at odds with one another, and they ensure that this will be a move requiring the all the time management and moving skills we have honed over the years.
January 1 was not only the first day of the New Year. It was the beginning of phase one of the move planning cycle. This is the portion of the move that I actually enjoy. The only benefit of having endured eight major moves, and several smaller moves in between, is that I have a system.
When we were first married and could fit most everything we owned in one car, moving was a simple affair. Then we added pets and children and it grew a bit more complicated. Combine that with changing languages and cultures, and you’ll definitely need to implement an organizational system.
Every move is different, but some paperwork you will need to keep close at hand regardless of the length, purpose or distance of your move.
The first step in preparing for a move is to create a calendar. Of course our calendar is currently quite ambiguous, but it gives me a starting point for planning. Once I’ve penciled in all of the training, travel, holidays, I can begin to fill in some of the details. I’ve started to schedule appointments, gather together information to cancel contracts, which for the most part in Germany require three months’ notice. Different companies have different policies and requirements, so it is important to prepare for this well in advance.
Next comes the most important step – updating the moving binders. I have a set of binders that I add to for each move, adjusting them as needed.
The first binder I have is some very general information. This is the place I keep the pre-made checklists, packing lists, ideas and articles I have collected over the years. The sources range from the military to the post office to Martha Stewart. There is plenty of information available to anyone planning a move. This is a great place to annotate what has worked and what I need to remember for the next move. No two moves are the same, but having some general material to reference ensures that you don’t leave anything out.
The next binder is my working binder. This year, I found a terrific new notebook binder by Mead. It is a 5 subject notebook / 3 ring binder. I really like plastic dividers which hold documents of various sizes. I also like that this expands and is a bit more flexible than a regular binder, making it the perfect working binder. This is where I keep the blank calendars, to update important dates and appointments. I keep most of these in pencil, as everything is subject to change. I have a section for checklists I will make myself for pre-move, moving day, mid-move, and post move. I keep a running list, and add things as I think of them. There are a lot of moving pieces to a move, but if I write it down when I think of it, I’m less likely to overlook it. I also have a section for cancellations, where I list each utility, subscription and membership. Everything will need to be cancelled, and I know that most of my memberships and contracts here require at least 3 months’ notice. I also keep an inventory of household goods in this binder. Although I try to keep this up-to-date, I always find myself scrambling just before a move to update this master list. Finally, I keep working issues in this binder. I am currently working on school applications, so this last section of the binder is devoted to all of the information and correspondence regarding these applications.
The third binder I keep deals with information specific to the location we are currently in. As we begin to out-process the current location, and in-process to the new location, this binder transitions as well. In this binder, I keep track of the housing, utilities, movers, automobiles, storage, value added tax information, travel, school, insurance and banking.
The final binder is one that I keep all of our important personal information in. It makes much easier to keep it in one place during in and out-processing. In this binder, I keep all of our official paperwork. All documentation on passports, immunizations, identification, and legal documents are in this binder.
Since I am still a few months out from when I can begin most of the paperwork, I have gone through to see what needs to be updated for this move and what I no longer need from the last move. Since we move so frequently, these binders are something I actually work to keep up-to-date throughout the years between moves. This ensures that all of the information is current and there is less to do at a time when you are invariably stressed from all of the other things associated with a move.
At the same time I am gathering together all of the necessary paperwork, I am going through the house for any unnecessary items. It always amazes me how much you accumulate when you remain in one place for any length of time. We are fortunate to know with a relative amount of certainty, not only where we are going for our next assignment, but exactly where we are living. This gives us a much better idea about what we need to comfortably live in our next home. This is definitely an exception, most of the time we don’t have an idea about the size of our new home until we are ready to move in.
Because the style and size of our home changes with every move, we need to be extremely flexible. A great book for people who move around frequently is “That Military House, Move it, Organize it, & Decorate it” by Sandee Payne. I found this book several years into my life as a permanent nomad. I wish I had it from the first move.
The organizing phase is followed by the first of the action phases. During this time, I will begin to schedule all appointments and arrange for a short visit to our new hometown.