I was 8 years old when my mother barged in with shocking news.
The only person I knew who had moved was former elementary school classmate Anna. She vanished without saying goodbye on a Summer morning as if she was in some witness protection shit, giving me my first taste of irreparable separation anxiety and none of the Little Mermaid stickers she owed me.
As I hesitantly asked “Where?”, I got ready to leave everything behind and started picturing my new life in Burkina Faso, learning French like a pro and getting fat from Fufu.
“We’ll be at number 10″.
Two months later, we relocated from number 4 to number 10 on the same suburban street, which is where I ultimately spent my childhood, teenage years and beginning of adulthood, relentlessly chained to my nest like the most stereotypical Italian.
Then Berlin happened. In hindsight it was a huge step, but at the time I thought it would be a six month chapter of my life and it did not feel like I was properly MOVING here.
“So what makes you knowledgeable enough to write this post” you say? I’ll tell you what. Within Berlin, I have lived E V E R Y W H E R E.
Reason being rental contracts that couldn’t be renewed, low tolerance towards my flatmates (and vice versa), first attempts at independence or even love, the bottom line is that these six years turned me into a moving machine.
I already wrote about the hassle of finding a room in Berlin and it’s now time to put together everything I’ve learned from my 6.022×1023 relocations within the city.
Estimated reading time: 45 years.
For a better, shorter version, take a look at the city-specific checklists that my friends at Teleport are putting together.
Chapter 1 – How to find new renters for your current flat
Chapter 2 – How to get rid of your old furniture
Chapter 3 – How to update your address. Everywhere.
Chapter 4 – How to pack without mercy
Chapter 5 – How to throw a moving party
Chapter 6 – How to clean as if you care
Chapter 7 – How to decorate your new flat
1) Find new renters for your current flat
Finding someone who’s willing to take over your old flat may or may not be your direct responsibility, but it will make your life easier. First of all, finding people who are ready to move in as soon as you move out will keep you from paying double rent, which could be a blessing if you’re not as rich as Ariana Grande.
Secondly, people who are in desperate need of a new house may be more accepting of some small imperfections that you don’t have time to fix. As much as painting every wall with your favourite color – dark purple – seemed like a good idea at the time, you’ll soon realize that it’s going to take sixteen layers of white on each wall before your home looks like a luminous flat instead of the temple of a cult that encourages human sacrifices.
Clearly, tricking desperate people into taking the flat is the way to go. But where to find them?
If you live in a city where the housing situation is becoming a problem, the answer is: everywhere. In Berlin, people “between places” are like sharks in the water and they will find you before you find them. They smell dead grandmas from miles away and they’ll probably offer to move the body themselves and adopt their cats if that means they can have the apartment.
In this city you could be mentioning the move to a semi-stranger in the elevator and before you hit the ground floor you’ll have a Google Calendar full of appointments with his 17 best friends who’ll try to bribe you in every way they can. I’m not saying this is how I got my blender, crock pot and electrical nose hair trimmer, but I heard it could happen.
If – au contraire – you live in a (boring) city where nobody wants to move, you’ll have to be a little more persuasive. Try to slip in sentences like “I can’t stand stumbling into my neighbor in her/his underwear anymore. OK, you’re a model, we get it. OK, you have humongous boobs/abs and a smokey hot ass, but this is really inappropriate!”.
2) Get rid of old furniture
You know that horrendous coffee table that your boyfriend enthusiastically bought at a flea market? The one you unsuccessfully tried to set on fire and make it look like an accident? This is your time to take it out of the picture.
You may not have a second chance, ever, so read carefully.
Getting rid of old and/or ugly furniture makes a lot of sense when you’re about to face a move. On a mere practical level, the less stuff you have to carry around (especially if heavy), the easier the move will be. And if this wasn’t convincing enough, try playing on emotions. Tell your better half that this is the chance to decide TOGETHER how your new nest of love is going to look like; that the best part of moving is reinventing your life and home in a new place and that redecorating is an essential part of that.
Now that you’ve stated your case, make a list of all the furniture that needs to go and divide it into three categories:
Fugly and Huge
You might be the unlucky owner of a fugly piece of furniture that is way too big to be carried down four/five/six fleets of stairs. Before crying and abandon all hope, there’s one thing you could try. Use the life you have left in you to push it on the landing and try to play it cool with the neighbors. “That closet? You’ve only noticed it now? It’s been there the whole time and I think it adds character to the building”. My direct neighbor used this technique on me once and it worked until I called the United Nations.
The bad news is that nobody will want to pay for your fugly furniture, but if that’s not too bulky they might still want to take it. Just put an ad on Craigslist or on the website of your local hoarders community (in Berlin we have Free Your Stuff Berlin) and make it very clear that you’re giving everything away for free as long as someone comes and removes it from your living room.
In my experience, some of the people who answer these ads are terminal stage hoarders and you need to know how to handle them. They’ll come to your apartment to pick up an old side table but then the adrenaline will start pumping and they’ll get excited. They’ll try to claim your TV set, your bed frame, your professional perm machine. My tip is to always have a friend hidden in a closet with a tranquilizer gun, ready to intervene in case the situation gets out of hand.
This is where it gets interesting. Just-ugly furniture gives you something to work with and if you play your cards well you may end up making some money. The channels you’ll use are the ones described above, but the presentation will differ in order to make the object of your repulsion look attractive to potential furniture seekers.
I personally suggest these Instagram filters: Lo-Fi, Brannan and Nashville. When you take the picture, it may also help to lay on the table something that will trigger a strong emotion, like a homemade pie or your erected penis in case you’re posting your ad on a gay dating website.
3) Update your address. Everywhere.
Open an Excel file and make a list of every business/person/public office that has your address and should continue having your address after you move. If you leave out stalkers, secret admirers and people to whom you owe money, the list will probably contain: phone/internet company, electricity company, magazine subscriptions, health insurance, employers, public transportation company, your mom.
You need to notify these people with a decent notice. Promise. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself eating raw food at candle light for weeks, and not in a romantic paleo way – more like in a cheap-reinactment-of-game-of-thrones way. Also, you’ll have no internet and will be drawn to extreme gestures like first degree murder or interacting with people in the real world. Also, you’ll have to hire a private investigator to retrieve important mail and the magazine of My Little Pony you’ve subscribed to using a fake name.
4) Pack without mercy
The awaited day is approaching faster and faster and it’s time to start packing your stuff. With a couple of empty carton boxes at hand, you’ll start going through all your possessions with a nostalgic mindset, thinking it won’t take you more than two or three hours to pack up your non-materialistic life. Walking down Memory Lane, you’ll find the ticket to the concert that blew your mind, a snack wrap from the day you met your best friend at the library, the broken umbrella you used on your wedding day when it seemed like it would rain forever. With dreamy eyes you’ll gently lay these things in the box, thinking that throwing them away would be like throwing away your soul.
Fourteen hours later, you’ll be crying on the phone with your therapist, destroyed by the horrifying discovery that you own: True Blood Season 3 on DVD, an ugly picture frame, Twilight – Bis zum Morgengrauen (a German edition of Stephenie Meyer’s best seller), a plush parrot, purple street cones, a neon sign that says “Pizza”, a lock of someone’s hair. Along with tons of other stuff that you hate but don’t really feel like throwing away.
If you’re a balanced person you should calm down, collect all that junk and organize a backyard sale for friends and family. If, on the other hand, you live in the heat of the moment, just throw everything in a plastic bag, stuff it in the trunk of a taxi in the middle of the night and tell the driver: “Don’t ask questions. Just drive. Go. Never look back”.
5) Throw a moving party
Now that you’re done packing, you need to fix a date for the move. In Germany you sometimes get a day off work if you have to move, so try asking politely to your employer.
Once you have a date it’s time to involve guilt trip everyone you’ve interacted with in the past year. Every good deed you’ve done in your life led to this very moment and should be used to recruit movers.
Make a list of people you can morally blackmail. That friend who just gave birth to twins, for example, will be delighted to spend one afternoon out of the house. And the old lady you once helped inside your building could definitely use some exercise in the form of carrying a washing machine down the stairs.
Once you have identified your victims, create an event on Facebook and make it seem like sweating uncontrollably and climbing stairs until your thighs file a law suit is gonna be fun fun fun. Say that “you only have a couple of things” and that “it shouldn’t take long” while secretly knowing it’s going to be an epic amount of work and that some people will not make it alive.
Also, don’t forget to add that cake, pizza and beer will be provided
In addition to manpower, you’re going to need wheels. If you’re moving within the city there’s many van/car rental services that you can use. Just make sure you select a vehicle you feel comfortable driving or you’ll find yourself inside the cabin of a ten-meter truck looking up “Manual Shift Video Tutorial” on Youtube. Been there, done that.
6) Clean as if you care
Now that all your stuff has been moved to the new apartment, you can sit back and relax.
Unless your old flat was selected as a filming location for a remake of Jumanji, the conditions in which you left it are probably not suitable for human life. This means you need to clean the place like you’ve never cleaned it before.
You’ll have to open the oven even though you think you saw a bat in there two years ago and never opened it again. You’ll need to destroy the fascinating ecosystem that flourished in your refrigerator, even if that means life may never exist again after we get extinct. You’ll have to clean the windows, even though the semi-obscurity caused by years of dirt did make you feel like a creature of the night. Worst of all, you’ll have to shatter the life of the Johnsons, the family of spiders that lives in your bathroom. It seems yesterday that you and Brad were single in the city and over the years you saw him finding a wife and give birth to dozens of beautiful child-spiders. Now go get your vacuum cleaner and vacuum the shit out of their webs.
7) Decorate your new flat
This last point is a bonus track for everybody who’s moving in with their boyfriends/spouses/lovers.
Your new flat is like a beautiful, white canvas waiting to be painted, but unfortunately not everybody was born to be a painter. If you don’t act quick, the day may come when your better half tries to hang a poster of The Matrix in your living room and the only thing to do will be to plan and fake your own death at sea in a storm while the two of you are boating.
In order to avoid that, you need to ambush your lover during the first weeks and help them realize that all of your suggestions are right and all of theirs are wrong. Just introduce the subject at the end of a lazy dinner and be like “Hey, you wanna do some brainstorming on decoration?”. Once they’re done exposing their generic ideas like “I think we should put a table over there” you’ll open your Pinterest account and show them boards you’ve updated for the past six years, along with a professional In-Design sketch showing where every piece of furniture will go, including the children bedrooms even though you’ve never talked about becoming parents. For inspiration, here’s the bedroom of the children my friend Danielle doesn’t have.
Federico Prandi is a human love letter to the internet. His favourite activities include: hypochondriasis, a tragic vision of the future and lowering his life expectancy one pastry at a time. You can stalk him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.