Lessons learned from preparing for move/bed bugs redux

All my worldly goods

I arrived Wednesday in Istanbul, carrying only two suitcases to live out of for the next five months or so. I took off last week from work in order to pack, clean, and try to purge some of the stuff we’ve accumulated in the last five years in the same apartment. But to make matters more difficult, I had another run in with bed bugs. You can read all about the first nightmare here, but in a nutshell, I went through the bed bug extermination in the bedroom last June when H was in Tokyo, involving umpteen loads of laundry and an apartment full of plastic bags. Our building has had some infestations again and they brought back the dog to inspect all apartments and our living room sofa and chair tested positive, though we had no bites or evidence of the bugs. So I spent the last week in packing and purging hell, having to clear out every item in the living room, including the hall closet and dining area. As a horrible housekeeper and sentimental packrat, this nearly led to the loss of sanity but I’ve emerged a little stronger and a lot leaner in possessions. The process for prepping for a bed bug extermination, moving to another part of town or another country, and packing for a long trip have a lot in common and I have essentially done all three simultaneously, and learned a few things along the way that could benefit others in the same situation.

  • Accept that it’s not your fault, it will get done, and it’s okay to freak out. I’ll never know how the bed bugs came in either time; I take it as part of living in a big city that pests are an unfortunate part of life sometimes. It doesn’t help anything to blame yourself or feel guilty, just accept it and handle it. It’s also totally fine to periodically burst into tears, I’m told that the stress of moving is up there with the loss of a family member, and I don’t doubt that.  Last Wednesday, I spent a lot of time freaking out and feeling overwhelmed, then Thursday I took a deep breath, took stock of what I already had done, and told myself it would all get done somehow. And it did.
  • Purging is good and most things are replaceable. I noted last year that purging stuff could be cathartic and I rediscovered that last week as I went through most of my apartment, filling 8 boxes with books and several garbage bags with clothes and random items. Among the items I let go of: x-rays from an arm break in 2004, spare wedding invitations and response cards, overexposed photos from 1993  junior high of people who I can’t identify, roller blades I wore once, multiple beach chairs, two antique vacuum cleaners, and a ton of tote bags from various events. Once I accepted that most things are replaceable or have outlived their usefulness or meaning, it made it much easier to be ruthless about getting rid of them.
  • Let go of unfinished projects. This is perhaps a sub bullet to the previous point, but worth taking on its own merit. When we first moved into our apartment 5 years ago, H embarked on a project to remove all of our kitchen cabinet doors and paint them. He got as far as painting the cabinet framing and maybe two doors, and then it was abandoned. Last week I sucked it up and threw out all the doors, paint cans, and various accessories. I figure that we’ll eventually get around to remodeling the kitchen and start fresh with new cabinets and new paint, but the project completion has long lost its urgency. Chances are if you haven’t done that scrapbook/home improvement/art project after a year, it isn’t happening, so get rid of it or find another use for it.
  • Space Bags and huge Ziploc bags are your friend. Years ago my mother became obsessed with Space Bags, the giant plastic bags you can seal and suck the air out of with a vacuum. She was so into them, I’m sure she would have done a commercial for them, and she sent me an assortment for Christmas years ago that got lost in the same closet as the cabinet doors and random tools. After this experience, I’m a total convert and would probably do a commercial for them myself. I also discovered that Ziploc makes huge versions of their zipper storage bags and bought several boxes of them. They are not only great for dealing with bed bugs, but I don’t have to worry about all of my books, out of season clothes, photos, etc being damaged while I’m away. They are totally awesome for packing, moving, and traveling. Along with the storage bags, I’m grateful that H randomly bought a dolly cart a few months ago, as once I loaded the bags with books, I was able to actually move them into another room.
  • Take frequent breaks to stay sane. The first few days of packing, I got a lot done but by midweek, the enormity of my to-do list made me almost paralyzed to do anything and I spent a lot of time panicking. Later that week, I began making plans to visit friends and go out for events at least once a day. Returning to my apartment relaxed, in a good mood, and perhaps slightly tipsy, it was much easier to get into a productive mode than if I were just staring at the walls all day. Special shouts out to Paul Brady, Mike Barish, Alex Basek, Eva Holland, Matt and Maria, Caitlin, and all of my HIPR ladies for helping, listening, drinking, and generally being witness to my nightmare. I’ll miss you all more than I can say and hope you come visit Istanbul!

Some photographic evidence for posterity.

Stuff I gave away/threw out (after examining for bed bugs, of course). Yes, that’s a cowboy hat.

All of my books packed up, several rows deep:

While I did leave my apartment in a rather odd state, with a nearly bare living room and a bedroom full of storage bags, I managed to get it all done. Now onto my new life in Istanbul, currently at an airport hotel but (fingers crossed) moving to an apartment tomorrow.

5 responses to “Lessons learned from preparing for move/bed bugs redux

  1. mary jane orman

    i friggin love you…you know, I don’t really read much of these things, but this was really helpful as I move to London in three weeks and literally am horrified of how I am going to pack my life into two suitcases ($60 if i want an additional one on BA).
    Have a great time and hopefully you’ve settled in Istanbul by now. I would love to see you and Alex when I get to Europe. XOXOXO

  2. I cleaned out my closet this weekend. For reals. Gone are the fall coat from NYC (which it is never ever cold enough to wear here, even if it did fit me), the silk top I bought in college (gave it to M for dress up), the shirt I wore to my bridal shower seven and a half years ago (again with the dressup), the suits I bought for my first job (now I wear jeans to work). I can’t believe I’ve moved some of that stuff five times!

  3. Mommy dearest

    This is absolutely heroic. I am so impressed. Then again, I’m the one from whom you inherited your awesome housekeeping abilities.

    So does this mean I shouldn’t say to you as we turn off the lights at bedtime, “Good night, sleep tight; don’t let the bedbugs bite!”??

  4. Happy to help and thanks for the books!

  5. Hi, so glad to hear you and your mom are fans of Space Bags! And congratulations on successfully packing and purging your apartment. Since you’re a fan of the products, I wanted to introduce you to Space Savers, Space Bag’s online community dedicated to helping people save space and get organized. We’d love for you to share your success story with our members. If your story is chosen as one of our features, we’ll send you some free Space Bag products. Use the contact form on http://www.spacesaverscommunity.com to get in touch if you have any questions or comments. Enjoy Istanbul! Space Savers community correspondent

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