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A Green, Safe, Stress-Free Move

A Green, Safe, Stress-Free Move

Moving house: we’ve all done it, and we’ve all felt our stress levels, environmental footprint, and even physical problems balloon. Here’s how to minimize the angst, waste, and hazards of moving so you can bask in the many positives of this change.

The papers are signed; the house is yours. You can’t wait to paint and decorate. But before the joys of settling in come the travails of moving: fretful packing, tripping over boxes, and wads of wasted tape.
This doesn’t have to be the way we move.
“Use this as an opportunity to purge, give things a new life, and recycle responsibly. Free yourself from clutter and make it an adventure, not a task,” says Linda Ward O’Farrell, founder of Design My Move, a website that offers free resources to Canadians planning a move. “For the rest, you will need lots of Sharpies, planning, and patience.”

A greener move

“This is becoming more important for everyone,” says Ward O’Farrell, who is also an employee mobility consultant to corporations. “When a corporation initiates an employee move, some now insist on the use of reusable boxes or looking at the mover’s environmental policy.”

Think outside the box

Reusing cardboard boxes is greener than buying new, and businesses are often willing to give you their used boxes—provided they haven’t recycled them already. Call ahead to see if employees will set boxes aside. You’ll save time and fuel.

Alternatively, companies offering reusable plastic boxes for rent are cropping up across Canada. Many will drop off and pick up the boxes. Some also offer packing paper and chips made from recycling byproducts that would otherwise be destined for the landfill.

Green thumb

If you go with cardboard boxes, reuse some for weed control in your flowerbeds. Simply layer a few pieces of cardboard over areas where weeds tend to grow, and pile mulch, soil, or organic matter on top. The cardboard will naturally decompose over time.

Wrap wisely

You can get biodegradable or water-soluble versions of

  • bubble wrap
  • packing tape
  • packing peanuts (they’re less static-prone, too)

The greenest way to bundle up breakables is to use what you have: towels, bedding, and winter accessories work well.

Don’t supersize the truck

Try to keep the moving truck as small as possible. A large moving truck can emit roughly twice as much carbon dioxide as a smaller one, along with far more volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter.

A safer setup

Accidents and other health concerns can be avoided if we try to envision hazards in advance.

Be conscious of cleaners

Clean your new home with a biodegradable cleaner free of petroleum and phosphates. Dust can contain traces of harsh cleaners, chemicals, and even lead and pesticides from decades back.

Pack preventively

Use a scale to weigh boxes. No box should weigh more than 50 lbs (23 kg). Tie up electrical cables so they won’t snag or trip someone. Leave the heavy lifting to professionals, and allow plenty of breathing room along the main arteries of the house, especially the route to the door.

Mind your muscles

Moving day will require you to lift, shove, carry, and squeeze—movements that feel like a contortionist’s act to the average body. Start and end the day with stretches or yoga.

Moving house and body

While we should be mindful of our bodies’ limits, the rigours of moving can be beneficial. For a 150 lb (68 kg) person, one hour of

  • packing and unpacking boxes burns 170 calories
  • moving furniture and carrying boxes burns 340 calories
  • hauling boxes and furniture upstairs burns 544 calories

A de-stressed day

A 2012 survey ranked moving as more stressful than having a baby or getting a new job. To mitigate this stress, plan, then plan again.

The contingency plan

Think of this as the inverse of making a dream board. What would your nightmare move look like?

“List what could go wrong and create a plan for addressing these problems,” says Ward O’Farrell. This could include

  • unexpected costs
  • bad traffic
  • broken elevators
  • issues with parking the moving truck
  • getting sick

The packing plan

In a 2015 survey of people who had recently moved, 71 percent of respondents said packing was the most stressful part of moving.

Choose an app or online tool

Try an app like Moving Van, which lets you snap photos and catalogue each box’s contents. When you need to find a certain item, you can use the app to see which box it’s in, rather than rummaging through a dozen boxes before you locate it.

Sites such as offer free checklists and schedules to keep you on track.

Tape off a no-pack zone

Ward O’Farrell recalls a neighbour who, when moving house, had to say goodbye barefoot. His boots had accidentally been packed. To prevent this, she suggests making a no-pack zone. Purses, wallets, cellphone chargers, a first aid kit, and important paperwork should all stay in the zone.

Open me first!

Pack an “open me first” box containing items such as the kids’ favourite game, toilet paper, and the shower curtain. “People can’t locate their shower curtain quickly, and a shower after a long day of moving is just the ticket to relax,” says Ward O’Farrell.

Ensure the kids are alright

Moving can be particularly challenging for children, especially moves that require them to change schools. A recent study found a link between frequent school changes in childhood and an increased risk of serious psychological symptoms, such as delusions, in early adolescence.

To ease the transition, Linda Ward O’Farrell suggests that parents

  • allow kids to help make some decisions
  • ensure kids are interacting online with friends
  • encourage kids to research opportunities at the new location (such as teams for their favourite sports)
  • involve kids when donating items
  • look into their employer’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to deal with family issues

The people plan

You’ll want your brawny friends on hand for moving day, but your brainy and bubbly friends can help, too.

“Look at who is around you for support,” advises Ward O’Farrell. “Those who are structured and systematic can assist you with the move plan. Those who are passionate and empathetic can help you with family and friends and advise you on how best to deal with potential issues.”

The self-care plan

Consider stress aids in the days leading up to the move, such as

  • aromatherapy (lavender and bergamot may be particularly effective)
  • meditation
  • daily exercise
  • time outdoors
  • supplements such as L-theanine or ashwagandha, as discussed with your health care practitioner


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