Helping someone move is never fun. You eat up a precious Saturday schlepping boxes down dangerously narrow stairs while your friend or family member (who claimed to be totally great at moving, by the way) mostly seems to be taking breaks and carrying down "valuable" lampshades one at a time.
It's hard and frustrating work. But if your pal is a pack rat, a frustrating day can quickly turn into something bigger. Way bigger.
Whether the friend is a hobbyist collector, an indecisive type who seems to keep everything, down to old peanut butter jars, or a borderline hoarder, managing the move can be emotionally and physically trying. Here's how to deal with it.
Allow enough time for sorting
When people have been collecting and storing stuff for years, moving them will take more than a few hours and a dozen boxes. Even if they're just renting a tiny apartment, the amount of stuff to go through can be surprisingly vast. Start by giving yourself enough time. Plenty of time.
"A studio apartment stacked to the ceiling and filled with stuff from wall to wall can take a week or more to organize and clean," says Emma Gordon, storage specialist at Clutter Storage, an on-demand storage company based in Culver City, CA.
You'll also want to equip yourself with more supplies than usual.
You really want to help? "Come prepared with plenty of boxes and large garbage bags, disposable gloves, cleaning supplies, and disinfectant," Gordon says.
Consider the emotional side
You may feel frustrated when you see the amount of work to be done, but don't forget: This is hard for everyone.You did say you were going to help, right?
"It's important to remember that as overwhelming as it is for you, your friend or family member is probably feeling vulnerable, embarrassed, or anxious -- on top of feeling overwhelmed by the work ahead of them," Gordon says.
The best route to take: patience. Don't treat the individual's collected treasures like garbage. Go slowly, work through each room, and really listen to what he's telling you. Try to see things from his point of view.
Set a plan to declutter
Odds are, there will be a lot of stuff in the home that isn't really needed anymore, but may be difficult for the owner to confine to the dustbin of history (and the actual dustbin). Make the owner feel better about the process by keeping the memory alive and donating some items, especially if the person you're helping has a favorite charity that accepts gently used goods.
This process may be easy, or it may be grueling. After all, "there may be underlying issues that make it difficult for the individual to get rid of their stuff," Gordon says.
Have a battle plan
Once you're ready to go and the individual is (mostly) on board, it's time to dive in. Having a plan in place can dramatically cut down on time, as well as emotional and physical strain.
Gordon recommends designating places to put stuff as you go through it.
"Clear an area for sorting items into 'keep,' 'give away,' and 'trash,'" she says.
Once you have a designated drop point, start in one room and work through each part in the house. Carry a durable laundry basket or large plastic bin with you so you can quickly group and move items to the right spot.
But don't expect it to be easy.
"Be aware that this is the most time-consuming part of the process, and also the most stressful," Gordon says. Fun! Aren't you glad you volunteered for this?
Odds are, your friend or family member was already feeling emotional before the move. Now that you've started working, you may find the individual dragging her feet or becoming argumentative. Rather than rise to the fight, it might be better to find another way to keep things on track. Gordon recommends using the charitable donations to your advantage.
"Some charities offer donation pickup," she says. "By scheduling a pickup, it compresses the process into a tighter deadline. It makes the process of actually getting the stuff out of the home so much easier." Every bit helps. Trust us on this.
We have even more moving tips -- go on, check them out!