Moving in Chicago: one renter's 38-hour countdown

Most Fridays, I leave work with a nice bounce in my step, excited to have two days entirely to myself (and the arm-length list of errands I’ve neglected during the week). Last Friday, however, I was thinking of any excuse I could to stay. Because this past weekend wasn’t just any weekend; it was Moving Weekend.

Anyone who’s moved apartments frequently (for me, 12 moves in the past six years) knows that no matter how much you try to prepare in the weeks before the move, it always comes down to a weekend, a stack (or lack) of boxes, and an entire apartment of stuff that you can’t imagine packing. For us, our deadline was clear: we’d hired movers (yeah, whatever) who were showing up at 8 a.m. Sunday morning to haul our stuff up to our new third-floor apartment.

6 p.m. Brace yourself: I meet Becky at the Belmont Red Line stop to help her carry home 15 flattened boxes that she’s scavenged from work. This is after we’ve spent $74.88 at Staples for a dozen boxes, tape and foam sheets, but it doesn’t matter because we wind up using every single box we can get our hands on. Luckily all of the boxes from her work are taped into this weird rectangular box that’s relatively flat but I still get some dirty looks when she makes me carry it onto the Clark Street bus. Now I’m all for glowering at people who merrily knock over other passengers with their three gym bags and tuba case, but come on people, a little sympathy, please? I’m moving.

8 p.m. Bring in the troops! I use pizza to bribe two friends to come over and help us pack. I figure the kitchen will be an easy project – there’s no debating how to label boxes or what should go and what should be tossed. In true ex-Pier-One-employee fashion, my friend proves a powerhouse, slowly working her way left to right through the cabinets. Her fiance eats pizza and plays with our kittens. Becky puts together the decompressed boxes and I flap around uselessly, refilling sodas and collecting random stacks of newspaper to wrap the dishes in. The kitchen takes insanely longer than anyone realized and after my friends head home at 9, it only moves more slowly.

10 p.m. Everyone deserves a break, right? Becky and I have a nice fight over who should pay for the pizza and pack in stony silence for half an hour. We make up and decide to take a break to watch “one episode” of Six Feet Under. Three episodes later, we both pass out at 2 a.m. Luckily, we’ve chosen three episodes including and surrounding Nate’s death so we get some snotty, hard crying out of the deal.

8 a.m. No seriously, let’s pack I wake up with adrenaline and dread coursing through my veins. We call the new landlord to go over and sign the lease and are told that the current tenant still hasn’t left the apartment. Yeah, that’s right, the one who was supposed to be out mid-month-turned-Thursday. We realize, horrified, that packing the kitchen has cost us almost every box we have.

10 a.m. Refueling We decide to turn the day around by stopping for brunch at Tweet, 5020 N Sheridan Rd. Nothing like crabcakes and croissants to get your engines started. We call my dad who is heading into the city and convince him to pack the back of his car with boxes from work. We get lost trying to find him. It starts to rain. I start to swear and beat furiously on the steering wheel. I explain to my father, indignantly, that the new tenants want to stack boxes in our living room before we move out, hear myself, and feel instantly shamed.

12 p.m. Even more supplies I call the new tenants and tell them they can come to the apartment at 2 p.m. Becky and I stop at Petsmart to buy cat food and waste half an hour debating the merits of a self-cleaning electronic litter box. I cave in and let her buy it, mainly so we can leave the store and actually start packing. We stop at the grocery store for soda and more packing tape. I am exhausted and we haven’t started packing.

2 p.m. Hatin’ on the new folks The new tenants come by and fill our living room with neat, identical brown boxes. I finish stuffing clean clothes in a garbage bag (yeah, what about it?) and move on to pushing pillows into liquor boxes. When I ask how long they’ve been packing for, he chirply replies, “oh, months.” I hate them.

4 p.m. The keys to our castle We get a call from the new landlord that the old tenant is out and we can come by and pick up the keys. It is the best part of the whole day and I even win the bet over whether or not there is a foyer closet (prize: five home-cooked meals of my choosing).

6 p.m. Packing I get a call from a friend inviting me to get a drink. Laughably, I tell her that I might be finished in time and that I’ll call her later. We finish the study, the living room, the dining room. We drive downtown in the pouring rain to get take-out salads and waste another hour.

8 p.m. It will never end I lay in bed for a while, weepily listing all the things we still have to do before we hand over the keys. In the distance, I can hear Becky scouring the bathtub.

10 p.m. Caffeine and compromise We walk in the rain to Starbucks because the apartment smells too heavily of bleach and defeat. I caffeinate myself and then decide that the best course of action is to sleep now and work later. We compromise on a midnight bedtime and I fill the two hours by indiscriminately filling boxes with anything I can lay my hands on (the dish drying rack layered between my favorite skirts and the kitten food).

12 a.m. Sleep and Scout I go to bed to the sound of Scout Niblet playing from the speakers in the kitchen while Becky scrubs the kitchen floor. I wake briefly when she gets in bed at 2 a.m. and then leaves again at 5 a.m.

6 a.m. It’s go time With only two hours left until the movers arrive it’s all about last minute odds and ends. Like, you know, my bedroom. I find a bag of shredded carrots and fourteen socks under my bed. The kittens keep climbing in and out of the boxes and I become terrified that I’ll trap one inside in my sleep-deprvied mania. It hits me all at once that we are leaving this awesome (pricey) apartment that we have painted and furnished and loved.

When the movers show up at 8 a.m. we’ve packed a total of 59 boxes, six duffel bags, and four garbage bags of stuff. We’ve also thrown more than a dozen bags of garbage into the dumpster, as well as sold two beds, a loveseat, two desks and a bunch of other stuff. I know I say this every year but, seriously, I’m never moving again.

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