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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Maxims to Minimize Mormon Moving Madness

Contemplating sublime theology is only part of what it means to be a Mormon. Much of the other part involves moving people in and out of the ward.

One of the top reasons for converting to the Church may well be the free moving service offered by priesthood quorums. I think there are much better reasons, like eternal joy and all that, but who can argue with free service?

"Mighty Mormon Movers" can be found in almost every ward and branch of the Church, men and women who freely give of their Saturdays or other times to help others move in our out of apartments and homes. The men tend to take on the heavy lifting, while the women (based on my experience) often apply genius-level Tetris-like skills in finding how to make a semitruck load of junk fit into a tiny trailer, sometimes apparently violating the laws of physics. The women and sometimes the men also often play an especially difficult role in helping to pack or even to clean - sometimes the cleaning is the real nightmare (we usually shouldn't and typically don't do that, thankfully). Moving events can be great ways to show our care for others and can even be good social events as brethren work together. I have some very positive memories of Mormon moving projects - though I still need psychotherapy for a few nightmares.

For many people in the Church, moving day is their primary contact with the Church. While we wish they would come to Church more often, we're usually happy to help, whether it's moving them in or out. And we've often helped people who were not members of the Church who were in need - hoping, perhaps, that it might be a good experience for them. Whether the people moving are active or less active in the Church, or even non-members, we want their moving experience to be positive, and we want those who sacrifice their time in helping to have a positive, productive, safe and efficient experience as well.

With that in mind, here are my Maxims to Minimize Mormon Moving Madness. This list is a work in progress, and will be edited over time as I get your suggestions.

Maxims to Minimize Mormon Moving Madness


  1. Preparation is the key. The people moving need to start packing and cleaning at least a week before the move. If 10 people show up and you don't have a lot of things ready to put on a truck, you're wasting their time. Please don't expect people to pack a significant portion of your items on the day of the move, and especially don't expect people to help you sort out what's garbage and what you wish to keep. Church leaders, please coach the people moving so they can know how to prepare and what you expect.

  2. Remember that the move is your responsibility, not the Church's. Do as much as you can on your own - obtaining boxes, packing, cleaning, arranging for friends and relatives to help, renting a truck, etc. Your responsibility does not end when you call the Elders Quorum President.

  3. Arrange for transportation and supplies ahead of time. In most cases, you should rent a truck, even if you are just moving across town. If you can't afford to rent a suitable truck from U-Haul or another rental service, make sure you arrange with a friend or relative to borrow a truck. And if you've done all you can but still don't know how to get a truck, let the leaders at the Church know a couple weeks in advance so that they can try to find some people with trucks who can be there. Don't wait until the day of the move to ask if anyone has a truck you can borrow. Also have other supplies ready ahead of time: a dolly for moving heavy items, tools, boxes, tape, etc.

  4. Don't expect professional results. Be willing to accept some property damage. You're going to have people moving your stuff that aren't trained, perhaps aren't all that strong or graceful, and sometimes not all that bright. I fit all those categories. If you aren't careful and watchful, your fragile picture frames might be packed beneath a bowling ball. And even if you are watchful, someone might drop something or scratch furniture or knock a hole in the wall or even break a window. Don't get mad and expect the ward or, worse yet, the missionaries to pay.

  5. Mark boxes with their contents and where they should go. For example, "John's clothing - upstairs bedroom." This will help movers know where to put things, and help you in finding things later.

  6. Simplify! Get rid of junk - and preferably do it before the move. If you have three old refrigerators in your basement (true story), do you really need to keep and move all of them? Especially if they are almost as heavy as a piano and need to go up a rickety narrow staircase with multiple turns?

  7. Feed the movers. Consider pizza, drinks, snacks, nuts and definitely some healthy fruits and veggies (yes, I am from a different planet). A little food can make a difficult move more much more fun.

  8. Keep it safe. Don't let people move objects that could cut them or injure them. If you've got a piano, for example, have it moved by professionals - there have been nasty injuries when pianos or other heavy objects were moved by inadequate amateur crews. Also watch out for tripping hazards and other things that could put people at risk.

  9. Be grateful! Don't complain about the poor work or accidents that occurred. If even one person shows up, be grateful - even if it's only me. People have plenty of other things to do, and many of those serving you might not even know you or have any obligation or reason to help other than trying to follow the Savior in serving others.

16 comments:

Bradley said...

Great list. I kept a link to another list that someone posted in a previous discussion about moving. Laying ground rules helps in all sorts of situations, especially during a time as emotionally and physcially exhausting as moving.

Pops said...

Don't you just love to see the 80-something High Priests carrying boxes up the stairs? Yes, the good old Scratch & Dent Moving Service...

annegb said...

You should print this off and send it to every ward in the church.

Anonymous said...

Outstanding Mormanity.

Anonymous said...

note: I lived in a metropolitan area with a high transient rate (transience as in people moving in and out, not as in homeless folk). It got to a point where we had to start saying no to helping people move since it was occurring throughout the week and on weekends.
So here are a couple more points to consider (even though you have sort of touched on these, and sorry if they come over as a bit unkind):
if you are moving to a new ward in the same general area, coordinate with your new ward to have people help you unload. don't expect your old ward members to traipse across town with you.
Remember, this is a huge inconvenience for people and you should do every single thing in your power to make it easy on them. You are taking them away from family on their day off.
Every single thing should be packed. If there is any packing going on when the elders show up, they have every right to leave. Unless of course you found out the night before that you are moving, which happens maybe once every 100 moves. Be prepared to explain this situation if it applies to you. Burly men no like pakcing your dainties.
Simply put, if you can afford to hire movers, DO IT!

Raging Wombat said...

Now this is a real resource! I'm going to forward this to my EQ president.

Kim Siever said...

I have a list for moving as well:

1. Do it yourself. How do you think non-Mormons move?

It's amazing how this list has relieved me of much stress as EQP.

Sherry said...

When I moved to NC from LA, nobody paid any attention to me in the church. Since I moved here, there have been numerous speakers in my church saying, "Wow, I just moved here, and everyone has helped me so much and made me feel so welcome" and such. That never happened with me. Thank goodness for the people there who helpd me out. I still haven't found a decent job despite all the "help" the church offers. Regardless, I love the church and the gospel it teaches, and have made many friends who mean the world to me. What I don't understand is why someone who came to the area at a disadvantage wasn't helped.

Walter said...

A slight modification to #4 -- "If you want professional results, hire professionals."

JM said...

I'm with Kim on this one.

It's not like people wake up one morning and decide to move. They usually plan when and where they are going. I don't see why they can't make all of the arrangements themselves.

When I was called to ask the quorum to help someone move, I would usually hand out a list of phone numbers for all the moving companies in town.

Lets start practicing the self-reliance that we preach.

Anonymous said...

Some say "If you can afford it, use professionals". If t his is to protect your stuff, OK.

But if this is from the Elders side "Hey, why should I help them, they have plenty of money", I say, some people NEED to help others sometimes more then the person they are helping needs the help.

Anonymous said...

Wow, some of the comments are pretty harsh. How do non-Mormons move? FRIENDS move them. And isn't that what we do, too? Good grief.

And the bit about self-reliance? I hear holier-than-thou people toss those words around in such critical, judgmental ways. Self-reliance doesn't mean doing it yourself--it means knowing yourself and your resources and knowing best how to handle it. For some, a move might be so stressful that they use their "self-reliance" to know that their good friends can help them. We're in the process of a move *within* our ward and we've had SEVERAL non-LDS offer to help out of the goodness of their hearts. Now, THAT is Christlike. Sometimes the organized aspects of religion takes the spirit right out of things. Dang.

Anonymous said...

I have two suggestions for moving.

1. If you’re the Elders Quorum president, DONT call the missionary’s and say "you need service anyways right?"...They have their own work and service to do; they don’t need to do your assignment too.
2. If you’re going to move and you didn’t take the time to pack, at least be willing to have a few boxes of garbage bags for us to throw the crap in and put it in the Uhaul.

Great post by the way!

Keith said...

When you move, a good idea to book out a van or truck several weeks in advance, it will be cheaper. But if you are going to move yourself, hiring a self drive vehicle (van) is more economical and practical to move your belongings than using friends and families cars, fully loaded. When choosing a vehicle from a man and van company you need to consider exactly what you need to transport. Bear in mind that the bigger the vehicle, the more expensive it will be, the driving license requirements will be different and the fuel costs will go up.

mark_lebaron said...

I think you need to put item #2 first in the list. It is the most important point.

Here's my take on it:
The elders quorum is not a free moving service.

The relief society is not a free maid service.

The elders quorum and relief society should be spending their limited available service time helping the sick, the poor, the widows, and attending to true emergency situations. Although, under certain dire circumstances, a move can be considered an emergency.

The bishop and/or elder’s quorum president should be sure the assistance is actually WANTED. Sometimes the “help” is literally forced on a family that just wants to take their time and move a few pickup loads at a time.

If a family that is moving just needs a hand with a couple of key items they should just grab a neighbor, a friend, their home teachers, or a nearby family member.

However, families should do what they can to move themselves. That includes putting the kids, teenagers, and college students in the family to work (in my experience the kids tend to stand around and watch everyone else work).

If a family needs help and can afford movers, then they should hire the movers. If the family needs help and can’t afford movers then they should ask their extended family, if any live within a 100 mile radius (well, let’s make that 150 mile radius). Then, if they need more help they should ask their home teachers. If the home teachers need help, the home teachers should talk to the bishop. If the bishop is sure the family needs help then the bishop should ask the elders to help out.

If the family can’t afford a moving van, then it is fine to ask family; then home teachers; then the bishop/elders quorum to help with pickups, etc. But if they can afford a moving van they should rent one even if it is a local move.

If someone needs help moving, then they should be prepared when the volunteers show up. As much work as possible should already be done so that only the heavy or awkward items that the family can’t move themselves are left to load. Things should be boxed and the boxes should be labeled clearly. The van should be open and waiting in the driveway. Small kids should be out of the way or even at a neighbor or family members home. Beds should be down. Electronics should be taken down and boxed and should not still be sitting in the cabinets all wired up. There should be plenty of blankets or other soft packing materials available to keep furniture from being scratched. Volunteers should have been contacted and be ready on the receiving end to help unload so the poor souls who are donating their time and gas to move out don’t also have to do the moving in.

Once the volunteers show up, the movee should stop what they were doing and direct traffic. Otherwise, the volunteers will be forced to make decisions on their own.

BEFORE volunteers show up, hold a garage sale, donate tons of stuff to charity, and DEJUNK. Nothing is more demotivating for a volunteer than hauling and loading countless bags and boxes of what appears to be nothing more than junk. Especially if the family is obviously well-off.

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