Moving Day 2020

By Shamus Posted Friday Jun 26, 2020

Filed under: Random 69 comments

Like I said on Monday, this week is moving week. Was that really only five days ago? It feels like a month. It’s amazing how slowly time passes when you disrupt the daily routine.

The move is over now. Well, we’re sleeping at the new place. We’re nowhere near done when it comes to moving stuff around. The old place needs to be cleaned, we’re still living out of boxes at the new place, and about half our stuff is in storage.

This was actually an easy move by the standards of this sort of thing. A hard move is when you go to a new city. Then you’ve got this complicated dependency chain where you have to somehow empty out and clean the old place before driving hundreds of miles to colonize the new, and it has to be done in a single go. I did that back in 1998, and it sucked. This move has been much more gradual. We put some stuff in storageHeather’s dad has a massive garage that could hold three fire engines, and we can use that for free. and then we moved the critical stuffThe computers, beds, and coffeemaker. on moving day. The new and old are only 1.4 miles apart2.2Km, so we could do the move in many small trips instead of one massive same-day operation.

Last week someone asked for moving advice. I’m not going to repeat all the usual advice about packing and planning, carrying and cleaning. You can get that advice in lots of places. Instead, I’ve compiled a list of details that I think get overlooked. This won’t be useful to everyone. A wealthy retired couple moving from one New York apartment to another are going to face very different problems than a cash-strapped young couple moving their four children + dog across the hilly Appalachian mountains to a newly-built split-level home. Moving is complicated, situations vary, and we all face different problems arising from our physical fitness / financial situation / organization skills / family size.

Anyway, below are the things that come to mind here on a Friday morning as I drink my coffee and wait for the painkillers to kick in…

1. You’re Not as Fit as You Think You Are

The previous owners left behind these mysterious devices. I wonder what they are? (They were still plugged into the wall, suggesting these were still in service until recently.)
The previous owners left behind these mysterious devices. I wonder what they are? (They were still plugged into the wall, suggesting these were still in service until recently.)

Oh, you’ve got an exercise routine going? Maybe you do some arm curls, some squats, or pushups? You run or bike several miles a week? That’s great. You look fantastic, by the way. Keep it up.

But none of that crap has prepared you for the task of lifting an implausibly heavy hunk of furniture up a flight of stairs with a bend in the middle. It takes three hands to lift and balance it properly, but you’ve only got two and there’s only useful handholds for one. You’ve got to hold this spine-crushing beast over your chest, at an angle, so the weight is unevenly distributed, while you brace one leg against a smooth surface and the other leg against a railing that wasn’t designed to bear this much weight. You can’t see where you’re going because the thing you’re transporting blocks your vision and so you have no idea if you’re about to put your foot down on the landing or another goddamn step.

Perform that little dance a dozen times, and you’ll discover you’ve worked out muscle groups you didn’t know you have. You will hurt in new and exciting ways.

Advice: I know time is hard to come by, but schedule in a day of rest & recovery if you can. It’s easy to forget your human limitations when you’re writing down the schedule.

2. Watch out for Pirates

Maybe you’ll have your truck loaded up at the old place and then leave it unattended for a few minutes while you run inside to get your hat and make sure the lights / air conditioning are off. Maybe your stuff will be stacked up in your new garage and you’ll need to make a quick run to the hardware store. Maybe you’ll have to stop somewhere in between. In any case: Beware. Moving provides this unique opportunity for thieves. Your stuff will be exposed to the public rather than being safely secured inside your home. Neighbors don’t know who belongs and who doesn’t, so they aren’t going to call the cops if they see an unfamiliar face shuffling through your stuff.

I’ve had several family members get robbed by opportunists during a move. Even in nice neighborhoods.

Advice: Thieves are usually looking small items that can be carried away without raising suspicion. They’re not going to steal your couch or your kitchen table; they’re looking for things like consumer electronics, booze, jewelryDon’t forget that thieves are stupid and in a hurry. They’ll steal junk jewelry just as easily as the good stuff, because they lack the time / experience to tell the difference. They’re just looking for Shiny Things., and medications. So try to keep those high-value items with you. Barring that, leave someone guarding the stuff if the group needs to make a quick run for tools / supplies / food.

3. Boy Howdy is it Going to be Dusty!

Even though it’s physically impossible, cardboard boxes seem to generate dust equal to their volume every 24 hours. I’m not sure how it works, but that’s what I’ve observed. Between that and the chaotic movement of objects that have been motionless for years, you’re going to put tons of dust into the air. If nobody in your family is allergic, then this just creates a cleanliness issue that can be resolved once things have calmed down. But if anyone has problems with dust, then you need to deal with this before it gets out of hand. Dust-sensitive families might own a HEPA filter, but one little air cleaner isn’t going to be able to clean the air fast enough to cover your entire house / apartment.

Advice: Buy a decent furnace filter and slap it on the back of a box fan. You don’t need to attach it with tape or anything. If the fan is on, the air pressure will hold it in place. Obviously this isn’t as good as a proper air filter, but it’s about 1/10th the price, so you can afford to have several. They won’t clean the air as well as a proper air filter, but something like this can rapidly cut down on the big-particle dust you’ve been kicking up.

4. Have a plan for all the boxes.

Ugh. Every room has a pile of post-relocation wreckage like this. This pile is particularly annoying because we're trying to strip the wallpaper so we can repaint, and these things are in the way.
Ugh. Every room has a pile of post-relocation wreckage like this. This pile is particularly annoying because we're trying to strip the wallpaper so we can repaint, and these things are in the way.

I forgot about this one. Sometimes you want to keep a box because you want to be able to pack away a specific piece of equipment. Sometimes you want to keep a box because it’s a great box and you might move again someday. But you’ve only got so much space, and boxes can devour a lot of it. (Also, they seem to be dust generators / magnets, as I mentioned above.) Throwing away ALL boxes will be wasteful if you’re going to move again in 2 years, but keeping ALL boxes creates this big ugly pile of kindling inside your living space.

Advice: There is no right answer here, but I’d suggest keeping large strong boxes and tossing the flimsy / damaged ones. Just know this ahead of time and have a dedicated place to put unwanted boxes so they don’t pile up.

So Anyway…

The painkillers aren’t working. Looks like I’m going to have to rely on my least-favorite cure for muscle aches, which is time. (Or maybe I’l use harder drugs, if I can figure out which box they’re in.)

My computer is currently set up in the living room, on a postage-stamp sized desk, cocooned in cables, next to the one good electrical outlet on this end of the house. An electrician is coming on Sunday to get our wall outlets out of the stone ageI honestly have no idea how anyone plugged anything in around here. It’s all two-prong outlets with no proper ground, and the vast majority of the stuff we own requires three prongs. It’s maddening.. The office will get painted later today. I think we need another day for the paint fumes to clear out of the bedroom, so Heather and I are going to spend another night sleeping in the floor in the living room. My office will hopefully be ready for use by Monday. So we’re probably several days away from the point where I can resume grinding at the content mill.

In the meantime, don’t forget that the Steam Summer Sale is in full swing, so be sure to go spend a bunch of money on games with pretty trailers that you can later feel guilty for never playing.



[1] Heather’s dad has a massive garage that could hold three fire engines, and we can use that for free.

[2] The computers, beds, and coffeemaker.

[3] 2.2Km

[4] Don’t forget that thieves are stupid and in a hurry. They’ll steal junk jewelry just as easily as the good stuff, because they lack the time / experience to tell the difference. They’re just looking for Shiny Things.

[5] I honestly have no idea how anyone plugged anything in around here. It’s all two-prong outlets with no proper ground, and the vast majority of the stuff we own requires three prongs. It’s maddening.

From The Archives:

69 thoughts on “Moving Day 2020

  1. Nick Pitino says:

    Hope your new place works out for you.

    Moving sucks, I’ve stayed in unpleasant living situations for longer than I should have in the past partially just to avoid it.

    Another tip: Moving is a great time to declutter. If you’re packing and come across something that you haven’t touched since the LAST time you moved it’s safe to say you can probably get rid of it.

    Related to the idea of “You’re Not as Fit as You Think You Are”: When packing I generally find I would much rather use many small boxes that are no strain whatsoever to lift even if it takes more trips in and out of the door as opposed to piling as much as possible into giant boxes that then either require two people to lift or are a pain in the ass to carry.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Using some movers’-straps will help a lot too. Small things can go into many boxes, but big things shouldn’t be hefted up stairs just with your hands. These things make it so much easier! :)

    2. Algeh says:

      My father belongs to wine clubs at several wineries, and the best moving boxes I’ve ever found for books and other heavy things are the boxes that bottles of wine came in. A lot of the wineries have switched to the reusable bags instead now, but if you can find someone in your life who gets boxes of wine bottles from one of these clubs, hoard the boxes for moving. Since they’re built to have something heavy in them they hold up well, and they’re a nice size for paperback books in terms of being able to easily lift the boxes later. (I’m one of those Bookcase People with many bookcases of books that have taken over one or more rooms of my house, so moving the library is always one of the big projects when I move. Since I’m not worried about people dropping boxes of books, it’s also one of the easiest parts to get friends to help with as long as the boxes are reasonable sizes so as to increase the pool of which friends are in good enough shape to help.)

      I also own a convertible handtruck/dolly, which was an excellent impulse purchase before my freshman year of college several decades ago. Piling boxes on that as a dolly is great whenever you’ve got a non-stairs stretch to cover, and a hand truck is useful for larger items.

      My biggest regret with my last move (in terms of things I could have reasonably chosen to do differently, as opposed to things that would have involved buying a house in a completely different price range due to a massive influx of money I don’t have) was not repainting before moving in. I didn’t mind the paint colors, so I decided not to bother, but the longer I’ve lived here the more I’ve noticed the incredibly sloppy paint job the previous owner did (as just one example of many, she didn’t move the refrigerator before painting the kitchen so I can clearly see that the kitchen used to be yellow instead of green by looking at the wall next to the fridge as the green peters out one brush-length in).

      1. Duoae says:

        Another option for people who don’t know any wine clubbers: industrial chemical bottle boxes.

        There’s zero need for them once the 2.5 L bottles of solvents or water are removed – they just get chucked into the recycling – and they’re super strong cardboard that’s designed to protect these potentially flammable liquids from being spewed everywhere upon impact. If you know someone who works for a company that uses HPLC grade or analytical grade solvents then ask them to bring a couple home for you.

  2. Zaxares says:

    Hope the move continues to go well, Shamus. :)

    Moving Tip #5: Create a small box/bag that you can put all of your absolute essentials in, stuff that you’ll definitely need on Day 1 at the new place. This is stuff like toiletries, important medication, your phone (on the off chance you don’t carry it on your person at all times), and possibly life-critical documents and papers like your passport/identity card etc. That bag/box should be the last thing to leave the old house and the last thing to arrive at the new one, so you can have a sort of mental closure that “it’s done, I haven’t left anything behind.”

    Moving Tip #6: If your finances can afford it, I highly suggest hiring a removalist/moving company to assist, especially if you’ve been living in the same place for many years and you have a lot of stuff to move. (A young couple that’s moving into an apartment is a MUCH easier experience than trying to move the contents of a family home of four along with ten-odd years of possessions and memories.) They’ll provide you with brand new packing boxes (which helps alleviate the dust issue Shamus mentioned above), bubble wrap, lots of handy stickers/markers for labeling those boxes so you know which box goes where, packing tape for sealing everything up, and they’ll usually send over a few burly guys who can do all of the heavy lifting like your furniture, whitegoods etc. that you might have trouble fitting in your car and if you don’t know a friend who has a van/utility truck. You’ll need to have everything packed up and ready for moving before the day, but if you’re organized, this method will save you a LOT of pain and time.

    1. Erik says:

      Good luck Shamus! Take special care of your back – those don’t heal very well, and it’s really easy to overlift when moving. “You’re not as fit as you think you are” has many, many ways to sneak up and damage you.

      Heartily agree with #6, as someone who helped a lot of friends move when I was younger. For everyone, when we’re young our money is more valuable to us than our time & energy. As we get older, that tradeoff changes and our time gets more and more precious. (And our energy gets less and less. Not less precious, just less. :-P) At some point that is different for everyone, that tips and it’s worth hiring movers. At that point – do it. As long as they aren’t packing, they aren’t that expensive.

      And for all moves, but especially with movers: try to throw things away instead of packing them. My mother tells of a move when I was a child where the movers carefully wrapped and packed my broken crayons. (And charged for the time, of course.) Discarding things is WAY better than moving them and *then* throwing them out.

    2. Cubic says:

      Last time, I even paid the movers to pack up my stuff. Which was incredibly great. The only drawback is, I can never go back now.

      1. Geebs says:

        I’ve moved internationally (with family and pets) twice in the last few years. You pretty much have to use a removal company and, yes, there’s no way I’m ever packing my own stuff again.

        1. Lino says:

          Don’t you have to supervise them while they’re doing it, though? It might just be my paranoia, but don’t you run the risk of them nicking some of your stuff?

          1. Supah Ewok says:

            Not if those movers in particular want to be fired at the drop of a hat, and the company have its reputation in the trash.

            1. Geebs says:

              Also, having to sign a form in advance acknowledging that you’re aware that the shipping container with all of your stuff in it might fall overboard into the sea and never be recovered tends to inculcate a somewhat relaxed attitude to one’s worldly possessions.

              (pets go by air, obviously)

  3. Joshua says:

    I wouldn’t advise holding onto too many boxes. We’ve moved a lot in the past eight years as previously mentioned, and if you work with a decent amount of other people (these times are unusual for that), it’s normally pretty easy to acquire a good number of free boxes from co-workers or even your employer in just a week or two if you put the word out. They won’t be uniform boxes, but they’ll be free.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Office-supply stores usually sell sturdy[1] boxes that come folded up, in a stack of 5 – 10. So, instead of using up precious house-space[2], just buy some of these before the move! :)

      [1] They also sell non-sturdy boxes, but you don’t want those.
      [2] That costs money indirectly, by using up some of your house.

  4. Kyrillos says:

    Pro Tip on boxes for moving: lots of big box stores are more than willing to give away the large cardboard boxes products arrive in. While not every box you get will be of the appropriate size/quality for what you want, they are new and free.

    1. ElementalAlchemist says:

      Probably more so now that recycling has become less of a cult due to it being revealed for the past few decades we really just shipped it all to China for them to deal with. Before that it could actually be a little hard to secure cardboard boxes, especially intact. At least around my neck of the woods at any rate.

  5. Cilvre says:

    I usually tetris the good boxes as well as I can one into another in the office closet, and toss any that are excess. blankets help me move my more delicate electronics.

    1. Confanity says:

      I find that the best way to store cardboard boxes is to break them down flat. You can fit a surprising number of them into a very small space that way, it’s easy to get rid of extras, and if you do need to use one again, it can easily be reconstructed using a few cents’ worth of strapping tape.

      Flatten your boxes, folks!

  6. Douglas Sundseth says:

    More tips, from somebody who has moved many (many) times:

    1) It’s worth buying boxes instead of using whatever you can find for free. Sure, it will cost a couple of hundred dollars or so (more if you’re as overstuffed as we are), but the convenience of a limited number of aspect ratios for tesselation is more than worth the cost.

    2) Pods (and their off-brand competitors) are a huge boon to in-city moves. You can pack them, have them hauled away, then a couple of weeks later have them delivered to the new place. This gives you time to spread out the effort and unpack (some, anyway) without having to rent space for long periods or haul stuff to the storage space or rent a bigger truck.

    3) Books are dense. Hardback books are more dense than mass-market paperbacks. And magazines are absurd. Do not use large boxes for them. Conversely, boxed games are very low density, so you can comfortably use larger boxes. And if you choose your boxes right, all of those rectangular solids fit very nicely. These are good for packing when you don’t want to think too hard. There will be many times when you don’t want to think too hard.

    4) You will almost certainly have boxes of random stuff at the end of the packing process. Everything that made sense as a categorized box will have been packed earlier and this is when you’re most likely to have friends helping who don’t think the way you do. Consider opening those boxes first. Otherwise they’re likely to stay packed for … mumble … years.

    5) Thrift stores are a fine repository for many things that might sell at a garage sale. If you keep records, you can probably make more from the tax deductions than you would from the garage sale. And you never have to haggle over the price of a $0.25 jar with a would-be “picker”.

    1. Cilvre says:

      I bought rubbermaid bins over time and packed them, because when we finished moving, they stacked nicely into our outside storage closet.

    2. Retsam says:

      If you keep records, you can probably make more from the tax deductions than you would from the garage sale.

      Correct me if I’m wrong (and I likely am); but I believe recent increases to the standard deductible have made tracking charitable contributions for tax purposes much less relevant. The per-person standard-deduction doubled recently, (and has continued to increase incrementally) to the point that it seems somewhat rare that people would actually be itemizing your deductions, which AFAIU, is the circumstance in which charitable donations are a tax benefit.

      1. Kyle Haight says:

        If you have a mortgage, the interest payments plus your state and local taxes will get you pretty close to the standard deduction.

      2. Algeh says:

        The first few years after buying a home are the time you are most likely to be itemizing, because mortgage interest is deductible and the first few years of the loan are when you pay the most in interest. This varies by how much homes cost in your area, of course, and doesn’t apply to people renting, but I know I’m still itemizing deductions as someone in the first 5-ish years of a 30 year mortgage in an expensive housing market.

        1. Syal says:

          On top of that, Shamus is also self-employed. Self-employment tax doesn’t get the standard deductions, and my understanding is that depreciation is horrible bullshit that will kick you roundly in the junk if you actually sell old business supplies, so giving them away avoids depreciation headaches on top of being a charitable donation.

    3. Echo Tango says:

      Digital books have nearly zero density! (And by corollary, nearly infinite information-density!)

  7. Adamantyr says:

    Ouch, I’ve been there.

    My first house was a condo. Because the bank delayed closing past the expected date, I ended up having to move everything on a weekday, without any of the people who promised to help on the weekend. (Who knows, maybe they wouldn’t have shown.) So my parents (on my dad’s 60th birthday no less) and I had to do it all in a single day. My new place was less than half-a-mile away (a condo in a large community area that also had rentals which is where I was at previously) so we could make multiple trips, but we had to hand truck stuff up 28 concrete steps out of my below-ground apartment. We know it was 28 because we counted. :) Then at the condo stuff still had to go upstairs, although we tried and just put most of everything in the ground floor garage. Nearing midnight we finally finished and my mom and I surprised my dad with cake and ice cream. The next morning… well, I was fine until I tried to walk down the stairs to the living room. It was like my legs just collapsed, I had to grab the rail to stop myself from falling. Going UP stairs was no problem but my muscles just couldn’t handle down.

    I told my dad I’d never ask him to do that again, and I’ve kept that promise. When I moved again five years ago, I had my girlfriend and her daughter to help, and we did it all over the course of a week and weekend. I made sure to allocate plenty of time for it, as the new house was 30ish miles away in a different county, and I even had to resort on work days to getting up at 3am, driving to the new place, loading stuff in a truck for a few hours, driving to a transit parking garage and commuting to work from there, then back to the truck to drive home at the end of the work day.

  8. Ross Smith says:

    Moving across the city, or to a nearby county, is easy mode compared to moving internationally. Take all the issues Shamus described and multiply them by freight charges, airline rules, customs duties, biosecurity laws, changing banks, and so on. For added fun try doing all of the above in a language you’ve barely started learning.

    Over the last couple of years I’ve moved from New Zealand to Germany and then from there to Australia. Believe me, you quickly learn which of those material possessions you’re really attached to…

    1. Philadelphus says:

      Yeah, I was going to say, if moving in the same city is an easy move, then moving to a new city on the same continent (where you can still drive to it) is still only a medium move. A hard move is moving to a city on a different continent, where you’re limited to what you can carry in a few suitcases while you entrust the remainder of your worldly possessions (which you haven’t gotten rid of and really, actually, want to bring with you) to complete strangers and trust that they make it there by slow boat in a few weeks/months. And as Ross Smith said, multiply the difficulty by N if either end is somewhere you don’t speak the language fluently, where N is in the range [2, ?[Edit: that’s supposed to be an infinity symbol]].

      Actually, this led me to categorize the various moves I’ve made in my life:

      Easy moves (same city/less than a few hours’ drive): 3
      Medium moves (new city on same continent): 3
      Hard moves (new city, different continent/island): 6

  9. NotetheCode says:

    The new and old are only 1.4 miles apart

    Last year, when I was still sharing a flat with my brother, we moved 100 m down the street. There wasn’t any lift in either building, but we didn’t had any appliance and it was only one floor down and three floors up. We move everything by hand, little by little, over two weeks or so, as we continued to work our jobs. To avoid having to disassemble one of the beds (which didn’t fit the bend of the corridor of our small flat), we lowered it through the street facing window, saving us some time. But yeah, moving is a tiring experience, so we were thankful to be able to spread that over a few days.

    1. Hector says:

      “only one floor down and three floors up”

      I’m trying to decide which meme I would use of people staring in confusion at the world ‘Only’ in that sentence.

      1. NotetheCode says:

        Well, the flat we were leaving had 5 or 6 floors and the one we were going to had 5 floors, it wasn’t the worst possible outcome.

  10. Higher_Peanut says:

    Good to hear the move was an easier one so far. Hope you get well soon :)

    If I had a tip about moving it would be, if possible, measure your large objects and spaces and add a bit. Nothing adds to the strain on muscles you didn’t know existed like even more stress. Trying to figure out how to fit large objects up stairs and around corners that technically fit, but also have to fit multiple people in positions to carry the weight safely is a recipe for disaster. Now that I think about it, there’s probably a QWOP style game in there somewhere. Trying to move furniture around strange spaces without dropping it on your poor avatar or expensive looking clutter.

    Typo in the article? “The movie is over now” (Maybe a typo? Moving can be a drama)

    1. Philadelphus says:

      I haven’t played it, but Moving Out (which released back in April) seems like it kinda fits that idea.

  11. Kathryn says:

    I don’t recommend keeping any cardboard boxes at all if you can avoid it. They attract roaches and silverfish.

    Last time we moved, after about the ninth load of three small boxes full of books, the movers asked me, “Y’all ever heard of e-readers?” I told him I had one and this was just what was left of the physical collection!

  12. unit3000-21 says:

    “In the meantime, don’t forget that the Steam Summer Sale is in full swing, so be sure to go spend a bunch of money on games with pretty trailers that’s you can later feel guilty for never playing.”

    Way ahead of ya Shamus. I’ve just bought a bunch of new games so I guess it’s time to play Dark Crusade and Blood again.

    1. Higher_Peanut says:

      I live… AGAIN!

    2. Nimrandir says:

      Back when Shamus started his articles on the Civilization series, I put Civ V on my Steam wishlist after finding I couldn’t get it through GOG. I figured I would pick it up when the summer sale hit.

      The only game on my wishlist not on sale . . . is Civilization V. Good times.

    3. evileeyore says:

      Bah, “Steam Summer Sales”. GOG runs sales all the time. Abandon Steam and buy from the distributor that lets you actually own your games…

  13. Liam says:

    Typo alert:

    not going to steal your couch or your kitchen table; they’re looking for hings like consumer electronics, booze, jewelry

    I’ve moved thousands of km interstate a few times, and a few km locally a few times as well. Each time we move the volume of stuff seems to be exponentially increasing.

    Movers can be great if your budget allows it. I helped a friend move recently and a single piece of furniture took us hours of struggle to move when he moved in. It was a handmade buffet that his father in law had built from hardwood. It weighed in the order of 100kg (220lb) and he was on the 3rd floor of an apartment building. When he moved out he hired movers; two scraggly looking guys turned up, picked this thing up and walked out with it. Made us look very weak in comparison (which ties in to your not-as-fit point)

    Good to hear your move is mostly complete. What’s the internet like at your new place? (Australia’s national broadband network lottery means it’s actually a significant determining factor in the choice of residence, get lucky and there’s gigabit capable fibre, miss out and it is satellite or fixed wireless that maxes out at a few megabits)

  14. Steve C says:

    I honestly have no idea how anyone plugged anything in around here. It’s all two-prong outlets with no proper ground, and the vast majority of the stuff we own requires three prongs. It’s maddening.

    Oh. Oh my. That’s very bad. That sounds like knob and tube wiring. There’s no way to fix that. It can only be replaced. If it is knob and tube, that is not a simple Sunday electrician job. It’s a full house rewiring.

    I would absolutely *not* trust the “one good electrical outlet”. It is extremely suspicious. More likely than not it will just be a cosmetic change. I doubt it has ground if the rest of the outlets are ungrounded. Was your home checked by a home inspector?

    1. Kathryn says:

      This is actually something I wonder about – is there such a thing as a power quality inspection for a house? Consumer electronics usually aren’t very tolerant of noisy power buses. I’m convinced one particular outlet in this house killed my old laptop’s battery.

      1. Steve C says:

        I don’t know about that kind of inspection. You’d have to ask someone more qualified than me. But is it possible one outlet killed your battery? Absolutely. It would just take something simple like a loose wire arcing every time you walked nearby while it was charging.

    2. Richard says:

      Oh dear. Don’t redecorate until after the electrician has inspected!

      US domestic wiring that doesn’t have earth/ground is very likely to be a full rewire, sadly.

      The older US electrical codes genuinely terrify me.
      (The UK pretty much sorted out safe electrickery in the 1950s and 60s with the 13th and 14th editions of the UK wiring regulations. The US regs are reminiscent of the 1st edition from 1882)

      PS: “Noisy” power doesn’t really exist, it’s pretty much always an arcing dangerous connection. Some recent US codes have added requirements for special circuit breakers that will detect this and trip.
      PPS: Friends don’t let friends use wirenuts. They’re banned this side of the pond.

      1. Steve C says:

        Wirenuts are a staple in North America. It is the standard connector. Every outlet and switch uses them along with pretty much everywhere else. I’m unsure if it is even possible for an electrician to wire a house to code without using them.

      2. Hector says:

        Of all that things which may be problems in the U.S., our building codes tend to be much tighter than darn near anywhere else – including Britain. I do not claim to be an expert on electrical codes, but I have never heard that they were an issue. . Can you clarify what the problems you see are?

      3. Philadelphus says:

        For those of us who don’t know, what’s a wirenut?

        1. Syal says:

          This. It’s a cap that goes over the end of live wires so they don’t bump into things and electrify them.

          1. Philadelphus says:

            Oh, those things, thanks. Didn’t know their name.

          2. Richard says:

            It’s a way of electrically joining two or three individual wires.

            You use them by stripping back the insulation on both wires the same specific amount, stuffing them into the wirenut and then twisting it to form a contact along the full length of the stripped wire.

            Used right you get a cold weld (IIRC) and a very good connection.

            The flaws are due to the way they fail, as most of the failure modes are indetectable by inspection.

            1) It’s designed for a specific number of wires, but it looks like you can stuff more in there.
            – Using 2 wires in a 3-wire nut or vice-versa will fail.

            2) It’s single-use, but everyone thinks you can reuse them.
            You actually need to cut the wirenut off and discard both it and the wire that was inside (for the same reason that you cut off an RJ45)

            3) It’s single-conductor – you need three for each connection – which makes it very easy to forget to connect the Ground/Earth.
            (Run out while on the job, go get more from stores, start on the next one instead of the unfinished)

            4) Each one is desigend for a specific type and size of wire gauge, but the ‘wrong’ ones also seem to work.
            Bad connection, lots of heating and perhaps arcing.

            5) If either wire isn’t stripped back far enough, the connection will be poor and cause heating.

            6) If undertightened the connection will be poor and cause arcing and heating.

            7) If overtightened, one or both wires will snap inside. If this isn’t noticed, the connection will arc inside – causing heating.

            If 4 thru 7 happen, the arcing and heat cycles will tend to eventually cause one of the following:
            A) The plastic cover to break and come off, leaving joined live wires dangling around inside the wall.
            The connection still works so you won’t notice until some poor sod is fishing

            B) One of the wires to snap off completely, leaving a single live wire waving around.
            You’ll probably notice this though.

            C) The heat may start a fire.

            Most of the US ‘light industrial’ electrical codes prohibit them, for the most part they’re only permitted in domestic circumstances.

            This side of the pond we use “choc-block” screw terminals inside an enclosed terminal block.
            These are rewirable, and you can inspect them ‘in place’ as the plastic is translucent so you can look to see if the screw went down on insulation or missed completely.

      4. Kathryn says:

        Noisy power definitely exists. It’s a problem at work where we have to build our electronics to tolerate nominally 28 V DC that can be anywhere from 24 to 32.

  15. Jason says:

    I just moved at the end of October. It was a nightmare and I never want to do it again. Hopefully I won’t have to. I am a borderline hoarder, and so is my son. My wife won’t admit it, but she kind of is too. We had so much stuff. We packed our own things, but hired movers to move it all. They couldn’t even fit it all in their truck, so we had to rent a U-Haul the next day to move the things they couldn’t. They also took twice as long as the original estimate because of how much stuff we had to move.
    We didn’t have time to really sort through what to keep and what to get rid of because we were selling our house and buying another and the timing was extremely short. We still have tons of packed boxes in the new house, 8 months later.

  16. Dreadjaws says:

    … we’re still living out of boxes at the new place, and about half our stuff is in storage.

    Haha, what a short-lived issue that in no way has stretched for me for several years after the move.

    In the meantime, don’t forget that the Steam Summer Sale is in full swing, so be sure to go spend a bunch of money on games with pretty trailers that’s you can later feel guilty for never playing.

    This is going to sound crazy, but I’m actually working through my backlog. And I’m not letting guilt get the better of me like I usually do. If a game is not doing it for me, I just stop playing an move on to something else instead of trying to slog through something I’m not enjoying just because I paid for it.

  17. Syal says:

    Well, since the Summer Sale was mentioned I guess it’s a good enough excuse to plug games I like.

    Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass is $10.50. RPG Maker comedy/horror Earthbound-like that’s high on my list of favorite RPGs.
    Epistory Typing Chronicles is $5.25. Typing game, unsurprisingly, with stats and story and elemental effects.
    Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark is $10.50. Turn-based tactics game heavily based off Final Fantasy Tactics and Ogre Battle. Story’s mediocre but the game’s fun.
    Final Fantasy are pretty much all on sale. I’d recommend 7 through 10 as the good ones they didn’t make weird graphical changes to. 9 particularly holds up very well, and is $10.50.
    X-Com original games are $1.25. Turn-based tactics with 14 soldiers at a time, base management and scavenging tech.
    Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky is $10. Turn-based RPG with interesting mechanics, tons of dialogue and Saturday Morning Cartoon charm.
    Valkyria Chronicles is $6.80. Strategy game about Anime World War 2 with realtime/turn-based hybrid combat.
    Titan Quest and Grim Dawn are each $5, and Torchlight 2 is $10. Realtime Hack’n’slash games.
    Disgaea 2 is $5. Turn-based tactics game but the tactics are pale second to the sheer numbers-go-up of it. Disgaea 2 has more mechanical complexity than 1 and I think 1 has performance issues. Disgaea 5 is $20, I haven’t played that one. Not a lot of reason to buy more than one of them, the numbers will be going up for a very long time.
    Phantom Brave is $3.75. Turn-based tactics game by the Disgaea developers, but quite different mechanics and your troops disappear after a few turns. I’d recommend Disgaea ahead of it but I haven’t seen another game that plays like PB.
    Dungeon of the Endless is $3. Roguelike tower defense game, quite solid.
    Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is $7.50. Roguelike shooter that’s mostly about how broken you can get your build.
    Slay the Spire is $12.50. Card-based turn-based roguelike with telegraphing enemies. Four characters with their own unique decks (as in “no overlapping cards”).
    Mount and Blade and M&B With Fire and Sword are $2.49, with M&B Warband being $5. Single-character real-time strategy game about raising armies and beating up other people as you see fit. Never got the hang of Warband but it’s got a lot of features vanilla doesn’t.
    Into the Breach is $7.50. Turn-based tactics roguelike with telegraphing enemies. Eight squads that play quite differently, with mix-and-match options.
    FTL is $2.50. Realtime-with-pause ship combat roguelike.
    Bastion is $3. Shooter with heavy narration and lots of weapon loadout combos.

    That’s the on-sale stuff I can think of.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Really liked Bastion. Well worth 3 $/£/euros/etc.
      Also related: one of the sexiest narrator voices I’ve ever heard.
      TL;DR: plus 1!

  18. Joe says:

    That was me who asked for advice. So thanks, Shamus. And thanks everyone else who offered advice. Looks like it’s exercise time. If I fill up a plastic box with books, I can practice lifting that. I won’t have much furniture. Electronics, a clothes rack, some kitchen stuff, and a lot of books. Could be worse.

  19. Lino says:

    Typolice (of sorts):

    The “Advice” section under “Boxes” isn’t bolded.

  20. Lino says:

    Really hope the new place works out for you! Some advice from someone who’s had a bit of experience as a part-time handy-man and mover during his student years:

    1)You’re not a donkey – don’t carry too many things all at once. Faced with the task of moving a lot of stuff, I naturally want to get it done as soon as possible. Especially if I need to traverse several flights of stairs, and especially if there are a lot of things that require moving.

    This is a huge mistake. Yes, you save yourself a lot of trips up and down the stairs. And yes, carrying as much as posible does the job more quickly. And time is money, right? But you know what’s also worth money? Trips to the hospital caused by back injury. Which you all but guarantee when every trip to the truck is done at 100% of your carrying capacity.

    Yes, you can probably stack 5 boxes per trip, and carry 50 boxes in only 10 trips. But believe me, you’ll need that energy when moving the REALLY heavy stuff. Yes, those 50 boxes might take 25 trips down the stairs when you carry them two by two, but your feet have orders of magnitude more endurance than your back (after all, it’s why we say “Lift wih your feet, not with your back”).

    2) While we’re on the subject, yes – lift with your feet, not with your back. Won’t dwell too much on this, as it’s pretty common knowledge, but it’s very important nonetheless. And finally:

    3) Use one of your lifelines, and call in a friend. Or several. Really, as many as you can. And if you don’t have any friends, don’t be shy to actually pay someone. Even if you’re on a budget, it’s very worth it to save up in order to pay at least one person to help you. Much like Shamus’ couch example, in renovation most of the work can be summed up in the sentence “Two people are too few, three people are too many”. And boy, does that second person help! With a second person you don’ just double your effectiveness. I’d argue that you more like quadrouple it. Not only do they make a world of difference when moving the heavy stuff, but it’s also an incredible morale boost knowing that you’re not all alone in this.

    With moving, I don’t really think you can have too many people. Even if some of the people have to idle around (a hard thing to do while moving), they can still serve as replacements for the people that get tired.

  21. Zekiel says:

    Well done on moving! Sorry the painkillers aren’t working. Try to be kind to your Shamus, even If it means posting less stuff here. Hope it gets better soon.

  22. jerkface says:

    Here’s my advice for moving: Pay some professional moving company if you can afford it. It’s not cheap, but it means you don’t have to carry around heavy furniture, deal with renting a van, figure out how to take your furniture apart or build it again or breaking it. It turns a week-long slog into a single day of not actually doing all that much yourself.

    You just prepare by marking every box nicely, and then point at where you want the stuff to be in the new place, and it magically appears there at the cost of some cash. Basically imagine single-use logistics/construction bots.

  23. Pylo says:

    I’ve moved a couple of times within a same city so I’m genuinely curious: why do you need to put everything in storage first? Seems like a completely unnecessary intermediate step. Unless you plan to renovate the new place first and you must move out of the old place asap.
    Or you absolutely hate looking at boxes.

    1. Syal says:

      When you can’t move into the new place until after you have to be out of the old place.

      1. Pylo says:

        I get that, but it doesn’t seem to be the case here since Shamus says he still needs to clean the old place (so presumably he has access to both at the same time).

    2. Shamus says:

      You pretty much nailed it. We’re going to be painting / fixing up, and we don’t want a bunch of extra crap in the way.

  24. ContribuTor says:

    My personal favorite tips go together.

    First, have a destination for every box. Kitchen? Spare bedroom? Laundry room? Every box needs to belong to one and only one room. Then, go to Staples and buy colored labels. Big ones – at least 2”x3”. In as many colors as you can find. Each room gets a color. Every box gets a room sticker on the top and at least 2 sides. You want to know at a glance where everything goes. Some boxes go to storage first? Find some special “goes to storage” label that goes on IN ADDITION to the eventual destination room (I used “Hello, my name is…” to mean “this goes to storage”) You should be able to glance at a box and know where it goes. And it should be obvious in an instant that a box is in the wrong place (because it had the wrong labels).

    Get 8 1/2” x 11” adhesive labels (full sheet of paper sized labels). Again, Staples has these. Slap one on every box. List exactly what went in the box. Every. Single. Thing. Use a sharpie, not a ballpoint pen. Something you can read from more than 6 inches away. Ok, you might group a few things like “Shamus’ T-shirts”. But not “Shamus clothes” – that’s too vague. Similarly with books, have categories at least (“Heather’s new novels”). Use adjectives. “Blue ceramic lamp”, “white desk lamp,” not “lamps”. It’s a big label, and you can fit a ton on there. You shouldn’t have to open any boxes to know where the blender is. It will be in the kitchen, in a box that says right on the label that the blender’a in there. Stack boxes with the contents label visible. If the blender is 2 layers down, you know exactly where to find it and can see how to get there.

    There’s nothing worse than getting to a new apartment and having 5 boxes just labeled “Kitchen”. Or having conversations like “Hey, honey, was the blender in the box with the toaster?” “I’m not sure. I think it’s with those decorative bowls my mom bought?”

  25. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Late to the party but won’t let that stop me.

    I actually did a sort of mini-move of my own, inspired by some events and with some prodding from my housemate. I’m still staying in the same room but after something like 4 years in I’ve finally decided to move some of the stuff I’ve moved in with into the basement (effectively “in storage”, rearrange some furniture and throw a bunch of stuff away. Honestly, getting rid of things is hard but once you start doing it it’s also kind of liberating.

  26. ivan says:

    Hi Shamus, this is unrelated to this post (apologies), but is related to the site in general. I use Chrome, with an extension called Dark Reader (without the space), to force sites to enable a night mode option, basically. It seems to dynamically alter the css to reverse hues or something similar, but just in the last 2 days or so at time of writing, it has been broken on your site.

    Did you change something, and if so what, and why? I’m not annoyed or nothing, just curious. A couple of other sites seem to be having a similar change, so I suspect it may be a change made by your webhost platform or however that is said, rather than something done at site level.

    1. Shamus says:

      Curious. I have not made any changes to the site at all in weeks. Chrome updated for me a few days ago, could that be it?

  27. Leviathan902 says:


    Did you buy this house? With all the stuff you’re doing, I’m assuming this is one you own as it seems like a big expense to have electricians come in and be doing wallpaper etc… if you don’t own it. Weren’t you renting your previous place?

    1. Shamus says:

      I did not buy this house. I do not own the house. My mom bought the house, and we moved in to share expenses. My stepfather died last year, and this home-buying and moving in together is a result of that.

      1. Leviathan902 says:

        Makes sense!

        In any case I’m happy for you to be somewhere you’re more comfortable. Environment can have such a big impact on mood and it sounds like the new place is a big improvement. Congratulations!

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