How To Survive Moving Twice in Two Weeks As a Family of Five

Adam Hillis
8 min readMar 27, 2018
The last day in our home. The first move, not the second.

Lisa and I were in our first apartment only 6 months when an opportunity to rent a home from my employer opened up. More than a decade later we’ve brought 3 children home from the hospital and seen 2 of them take their first steps here. We spent our mid-twenties through mid-thirties becoming “real” adults in this place. In every way it is our family home. We’ve built our entire lives as we know it living in this cul-de-sac.

When my employer informed me they were going to sell the home I totally understood why and even agreed with the decision. But it still hurt. While this was a rental it felt like “ours” because we had invested so much of ourselves. Lisa and I grieved, but we started looking around at what our options may be.

They weren’t good…

The Search

Rent was slightly below market value when we moved in, but it never really went up in 10+ years. We were now trying to figure out how to rent in a market that was about 90–100% more per month for anything comparable. Downsizing was in our future as was finding a new neighborhood.

My employer gave us a ton of notice, so I researched for almost a year before seriously hunting. After two months of actively searching each day and visiting nearly a dozen properties I found one I thought was perfect. I responded to the Craigslist ad within 2 hours of it being posted and we had an appointment to see it a few days later.

The neighborhood was decent, the school Asher would attend 1st grade in next year was phenomenal, and rent was only going to be 60% more with water/sewer/garbage included. It was 500 square feet smaller, but still 3 bedrooms. The kicker was that it had a humongous yard that was solely ours even though we were attached to 3 other units. My kids had a place to play and this is where we wanted to live.

We filled out an application when we saw it, and an hour later were told the place was ours assuming all our stuff checked out.

There was a week between getting the keys and when we needed to be out of our old home. So we didn’t rush to move. Lisa’s dad, Chris, flew up from Southern California to help, and we started moving things over a few days later.

The Smell

Upon taking the first small load over Chris mentioned a smell and thought we should bring our HEPA filters over while we moved. I set them up the next day noticing the smell too. It didn’t seem terribly strong, and I kinda thought it was just that smell that all homes had. Most likely it would go away once we moved in and “our smell” took over the place.

Chris and I did all the moving. Lisa packed during the day and worked in the evenings. After two days we had everything moved and beds setup to sleep.

After being in the home about an hour Lisa said she felt dizzy and had a headache. It was the smell…

The HEPA filters weren’t doing anything to help. Lisa slept on the couch as the bedrooms seemed to be bothering her the most. Even wearing a surgical mask didn’t help. She only felt better after leaving our new home for 20 minutes or more.

I couldn’t identify the smell, only that I thought it was sort of chemical-like. After contacting the property manager and discussing things we discovered the previous tenant had dogs. I was confused because the rental agreement clearly said NO PETS. The tenant’s dogs were service animals, which you cannot deny someone occupancy for.

Well… the dogs ruined the place. That was why there was new paint and the floors were all replaced.

Lisa is very allergic to dogs, so we thought that must be the problem. The carpets weren’t replaced in the bedrooms, but were professionally cleaned. There must be some dog funk still lingering.

The property manager said they discussed replacing the carpets, but ultimately decided not to, thinking they were ok. Since it was originally in the plans, he would go ahead and replace the carpet for us and put a sealant down to eliminate whatever dog funk soaked through the carpet and penetrated the home.

While we were thankful for the quick action, we couldn’t stay there. Lisa was sick, and even I woke up in the morning not feeling well. I’m not even allergic to dogs! When we left the house for breakfast I felt better 10 minutes later. The place was obviously bothering me and I started wondering what it was doing to my kids.

My employer graciously let us move back to our old home and sleep on the floor on mattresses while we figured things out at the new place.

The day the carpets went in we met with the property manager to ask what happened to the home. Things seemed oddly vague and we began to wonder if there was more damage prior to our occupancy than was let on. When he told us there was some water damage and some mold found in two areas of the home the light bulb went on.

Dog funk may have been a problem, but it shouldn’t make Lisa dizzy and give her a splitting headache. It was the chemicals used to kill and seal the mold. Additionally we believe the chemicals used to clean the carpets were probably making us sick.

Compounding all this was new carpet, which is an awful smell, and the chemical sealant that went down beforehand. The property manager offered us to get out of the lease if we wanted, but a decision needed to be made in two days.

With the previous chemical smells mixing with the new chemical smells the home was inhabitable. I couldn’t be there longer than 10 minutes without feeling sick. Yet we were paying rent for a place we couldn’t stay. Additionally, I was the one doing the work of going over to the new place to open windows and doors, bring in fans and filters, and trying to ventilate it so we could live there.

After all my work over the course of two days, and doing some research, it was obvious the home wouldn’t be able to be lived in for at least another week, maybe two. I couldn’t keep paying rent for a place I wasn’t living in, and we couldn’t sleep on the floor at our old home anymore.

The 2nd Move

Thankfully during that week I was also scouring Craigslist to look for a back-up home.

While I found a couple options, we landed on a 2-bedroom condo in an amazing neighborhood. It’s another 100 square feet smaller, rent is $50 more per month, and no utilities are included. But it was empty and the owner was willing to rush our application through to get us keys in just two days.

After doing all the hunting I had done the previous year before and feeling like I found the perfect place for my family, it was pretty depressing to move again. Especially to something smaller, one less bedroom, more expensive, and without a yard. But I knew when I found that first home I had found a gem. Unfortunately it was fake…

I spent the week before going back and forth between our old house and new house. I was either getting something out of a box we needed, or working to air out the place to hopefully make it livable. Then I was hunting for a new home online, and visited the two best options. Our oldest also still had to do kindergarten though we were sleeping on the floor and living out of bags, boxes, and suitcases. Somewhere in there I managed to work a little bit, but ultimately had to take a week of vacation time I wasn’t planning to use.

The day we needed to move (the 2nd time…) I didn’t have the emotional or physical energy to make it happen. I bit the bullet and hired movers.

Best money I’ve ever spent.

I helped a little to make the move go a bit faster and save some money, but the two guys did the bulk of the work. Made me wish we did this the first time around. They were incredible!

Once it was all moved over I went back to the old-new place and cleaned up. We hadn’t really lived there at all, so it was mainly cleaning the floors. I then packed up everything we brought to the old home to sleep on the floors and get us moved into the new-new place. Now the old place needed to be cleaned.

The Emotions

It was almost 2am when I finished cleaning our old home. I sent Lisa a .gif of the last episode of Friends when they’re leaving the apartment. That got me…

The tiredness I was fighting, the emotions of leaving our house, all the back and forth between places with cleaning and moving and cleaning and moving more, then trying to keep my kids happy in an empty house for a week. It all came crashing down on me in that moment.

I was realizing I was locking my family home for the last time and would never pull my car into the garage again. I started sobbing in the driver’s seat as I watched the .gif replay with Chandler pushing the stroller towards the door.

It was the end of an era.

Having my sob session in the car put a period on this chapter of life for us. Over the last few weeks we lost some sleep, some vacation time, and some money. But as cheesy as it sounds, we didn’t lose each other. My family and I stayed united and fought this thing head-on together.

These kinds of stressful situations are often the perfect recipe for fights and turning small things into big things. While we had a couple flare-ups of emotion here and there at each other, nothing created a rift. We recognized the situation for what it was; just crazy. And we let it be its own entity of craziness refusing to let it pawn that chaos onto our marriage.

Lisa and I cried together in our newly rented condo grieving the place we built our family. Through my tears I looked her in the eye and felt an encouraging prophecy come out of me. “We are going to make this an amazing home, and we are going to make great memories here. This beginning part sucks, but we are going to have an awesome life in this place.”

After two weeks we are just about fully settled and unpacked. I didn’t know what it would look like having a 5-year-old, 3-year-old, and 10-month-old in a 2-bedroom, but I’m happy to say it’s working quite well. We’ve made it ours and we’ve even made a good memory or two so far. Just two days ago Asher came down with strep throat then threw up all over the back seat of our car on the way home from the doctor. Parenting… right?

How Do You Do It?

So how do you survive moving a family of five twice in two weeks?

It takes patience and the will to not let your emotions rule the situation. Talking to my mom several times helped a lot too. LOL

But the best advice I could give anyone facing the same situation is:

Just hire movers.

Do you have a crazy moving experience with your family? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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Adam Hillis

Crafting educational email courses for coach/creators || Coaching men to connect w/ their wife & kids, and themselves || I juggle marriage, kids, and words