What We Learned Moving With Kids

For the past year or so, I was so nervous about moving with our two young kids. We are those parents who stick religiously to our routines and schedule and I didn’t want to disrupt that. That said, we’ve known for a while that it was on our horizon so I collected as much wisdom as I could from my best friends with little ones and tried to remember the light at the end of the tunnel!

As it turned out, we learned so many positive things from our move and although it was exhausting for sure, the planning and preparation we did actually paid off, so that felt good!

Here’s what I learned!

Lesson One: Our kids thrive in minimalism. 
One of the first things we did to prepare our home for showings was take a 10-foot moving truck FULL of stuff to our new garage, and move a ton of clutter into our attic. Prior to this, our home was mostly clean with a normal amount of extra stuff everywhere. This job took about a week and a LOT of work as we ruthlessly decluttered every room, but the result was INCREDIBLE.

From my perspective, it was the best/happiest our home has ever felt. I was shocked because I never thought of our home as cluttered before.

Whatever we moved away I instantly forgot about and didn’t need. The extra space, clean surfaces and clear floors felt amazing. I woke up happier, went to bed happier and overall just felt more in love with our home.

I expected our kids to be a little sad that we packed up so many of their toys, but that was not the case. In fact, it was the opposite!

Immediately, I noticed a big difference with both girls (ages 4 and 2). They were going into their rooms and playing with their toys more and for much longer. They didn’t even notice the favorite toys of theirs that had been packed up for the move. All they noticed was what was there, and suddenly the fewer toys and books that remained were getting a lot more playtime.

I was floored and inspired!

I posted some IG stories about it because I was just curious—”IS it possible to live this way always??” The responses I got were super polarized—50% hard yes and 50% hard no. VERY strong opinions on both sides. It was kind of surprising! Some people think it’s impossible and a lost cause while others think it’s the only way to live!

I will say, I am going to attempt it in our new home and see!

I’ve always cleared out and donated unused toys, but I also held on to a lot more than they kids were really playing with. It’s really tough donating something that you just received as a gift or that has a special memory attached to it. But after this experience I am determined to give it a try. Not only with the kids toys, but everything in our home—clothing, decor, cosmetics, kitchen gadgets … everything! I’ve already filled so many donation boxes … a great feeling.

I don’t think my home will ever look like a minimalist home, but I like the idea of it functioning more in that direction. I think I might be a moderate minimalist … definitely not a religious one, though. The jury is still out on that.

Lesson Two: Start new traditions at the new home immediately. 
As soon as we got the keys to our new home, we took the girls’ tricycle over there and let them ride around the empty house for hours.

As the move approached, we began telling Nova things we were planning to do on our new porch like eating breakfast or dinner outside, playing water games with Marigold, and painting outside.

Like most families, we were not able to move into a fully finished home—there are still years of renovating in front of us. Our children’s windows are currently “shaded” with cardboard and tape … it is what it is.

Still, I wholeheartedly believe that the kids don’t even notice whether it’s fully decorated or whether there is furniture missing or boxes unpacked. What they notice is our mood and whether we make time to do the puzzle, play hide and seek, bake cookies, etc.

If I’ve learned one thing it’s that kids can overlook a lot of change as long as their parents are present and they have some little comforts. We packed some boxes with favorite toys, books, pjs and things that give them a sensory feeling of home (cozy blankets, a lavender spray we call “magic” for their bedtime routine, their sound machines). These types of comforts are far more important than decorations.

Lesson Three: 
It’s OK to feel sad.

We worked so, so hard to do every possible thing to give our girls a happy first week in our home and smooth transition. We visited Nova’s new preschool with her early, we packed comforting things, extra snacks and treats and immediately started to make new memories together and do fun things in our new neighborhood.

Even still, the transition was emotional for our 4-year-old. Weeks later, she is still talking about her friends from her old pre-school (one of them is currently living with us as her imaginary friend—haha) and she still talks about missing our old home. “I’ll never, ever stop missing the old home.” It has been hard for us, but we also realize it’s so normal and healthy for her to express these feelings. So every single time, we tell her it’s OK to feel sad, that it’s OK to love her old school AND her new school, and that we are going to keep making this new home cozy together. It will get better, but it’s a little heartbreaking.

And honestly, she’s not the only one who has sad moments. We do too.

Moving away from a totally finished home that took years to complete into a home that needs a lot of work is overwhelming. I knew this would be the case and I tried to be mentally prepared, but I still have to remind myself several times a day that it’s OK not to feel perfectly at home yet.

To wrap it up, moving with little kids is WAY WAY WAY more challenging than moving was before we had children. The feelings are so much more intense—it’s hard to understand until you do it. Not only do you have to try to help your children feel at home, but you also have to say goodbye to a place where you made so many memories with them. It’s not easy leaving a home where you had your first Christmas together, or feel like you brought them home to just yesterday. OK, I’m crying now … great. Anyway, I hope some of these tips are helpful! Moving is tough, but it’s not all sad. We’re equally excited to make new memories with our children in our new home, to celebrate our favorite holidays here and to renovate our hearts out for the next several years.

If you’re about to move with young children, my advice is this—pizza helps. Also, you can do it!!! Internet hugs from me to you. xx- Elsie

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
  • We moved a 12 hour drive (Newcastle to Melbourne in Australia) when our youngest were almost 1 and 2. We also had a 13 year old and two dogs. It was stressful. But entirely do-able. The kids realise that what you are doing is best for the family and are easily maliable (the teenager was a different story entirely)

  • Hey! Just came here to echo the other comments about storing most toys out of sight. We keep 80% of the toys in our basement and swap them out every few weeks. It used to be “every few weeks depending on how much we are home”…but now the kiddo asks (almost daily) to swap out a toy – but he knows that one goes down for one to come up. It definitely keeps the living space less cluttered. We also do no toys in his room…but we are about to move him out of his nursery so that may change.

    Love hearing all about your move, it is the exact kind of topic I crave for in these times. Thanks for continuing to share!

  • Thank you again for your perspective on moving with young kids!! I may or may not have started tearing up at the same point you did in the post…

    I hope you’re doing well in the new home and Nova seems to be feeling the feelings so well! Great job Mama 🙂

  • Regarding the toys, I had huge success with a few rubbermaid bins and a rotation – I had 3 large bins, filled with a variety of toys (some similar themed, others different, eg one box had blocks and another stacking cups, only one box had puzzles, etc). I would have one toy box out at a time and the other 2 would be in the attic. Every couple months (or when the time felt right to switch it up) I would pack everything up and switch out the boxes. That way I could keep many of the gifts, etc and get good use out of them, but my kids thrived with fewer toys out at any given time.
    The other thing I would do is go through the boxes and their rooms (sometimes with them) before gift seasons (birthdays, xmas) and thin the toys and stuff to make room for new things. I would talk with them about donating and re-gifting and such. It worked well until we hit the teen years (now we deal with the same things, just with cosmetics and clothes!).
    Now my son is great, he self-edits constantly. My daughter just shoves it all under her bed LOL.

  • Great tips! Reallly enjoyed reading this post. 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  • You could start a toy capsule. I have a friend that does it and every so often she switches out one of the kids toys for something that’s put away. We’ve received some nice toys as gifts that are just not the right age of toy for my son, so I’ve been storing them out of sight. Then they don’t just get taken out to be left on the floor

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.