Moving Day Rules

Why do I agree to do this?

The consensus is clear. Helping a friend move from one apartment to another is one of the most generous things you can do. It always seems like one of the most unpleasant experiences in the world, even if most intracity moves only take a few hours. But since everyone recognizes the sheer unpleasantness of the moving-day experience, we’ve developed a few rules and truths about the process to make it more palatable.

  1. The person who is moving must carry the heaviest items. These items include the mattress, which is not only heavy but incredibly awkward, the air-conditioning window unit, and table, and any large shelving units. This also include any flat-screen television set because if anyone is going to drop something like that, it should be the set’s owner.
  2. Your volunteer movers get a free lunch and maybe a few beers. I once took this to an extreme. I had a mid-morning move, and at the “old” apartment, I bought a bunch of bagels, smear, coffee, and juice for my four friends who helped me move that morning. I bought way too much and ended up with a surplus of food that, you guessed it, I had to move to the new place.
  3. There’s usually an MVP for the move. Almost without exception, there’s someone who determinedly takes charge, moving a ton of boxes, or even grabbing the biggest and heaviest items. This has probably never been me.
  4. Don’t ask me to move you more than once a year. Moving? Yes, I will help you but only once a year. Otherwise, you can expect me to be “busy.” However, I just broke this personal rule, helping a friend move in mid-February and again this past weekend.
  5. Ask all of your able-bodied friends. Nothing has been more frustrating than to arrive at the move, and find that you’re the only friend your buddy asked for help. This happened years ago, well before I moved to New York, and that move took about eight hours. Aside from my own moves, I had never been more exhausted than I was after this move. A couple of other bodies would have made it so much easier.

Of course, these rules really only apply for moves you volunteer to help. A few times, I have helped move friends who have paid me. Ordinarily, it feels unseemly accepting cash, but there are a few factors for making it acceptable.

One reason is because a friend can’t participate in the move. One reason we all volunteer, other than to be of service to a friend, is reciprocity. I help move with the expectation that my friend will be there when I need to move. However, if a friend can’t lift things, because of a bad back or other ailments, then they wouldn’t be able to help with my move. In those limited cases, they have offered to pay me. One friend paid me to help them move for a different reason: neither she nor her boyfriend had a driver license. They needed me to rent and drive a truck for them. Although they didn’t expect me to do so, I helped load and unload.

Over the years, the frequency of helping friends move has been declining. As we get older, we hire movers.

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