Something big has happened to our family. I am not aware of any data on this, so I cannot be sure of how unusual this is in the western world, but based on other people’s reactions, I am confident that it is fairly uncommon: two of my sister’s are now living on the same block as me.
Truth be told, we have a wonderful example before us for this arrangement. Many of my great aunts live(ed) very close to each other, with two of them, my aunts Dotti Stein and Susi Freeman, even living on the same floor for decades. It was (and still remains) a wonderful opportunity state of affairs. When we go visit the aunts, we call on one first, who then coordinates with the others. We would be able to visit three or sometimes four of these lovely, funny, accomplished women, who kept their sisterly bond strong well into their 80’s and 90’s.
When people hear that all three of us live on the same block, their instinctive reaction is “Wow, you are so lucky!” However, luck doesn’t have much to do with it (although we are definitely blessed). Using our aunts’ relationship as the gold standard, we don’t allow grudges or misunderstandings to strain our relationship and, although, we are very close, we are careful not to judge each other’s marriages and child raising habits, at least not too often. We help each other on a regular basis, but are free to say no without feeling guilt or resentment. We have different hashkafos, and are careful to respect each other’s standards of kashrus and tznius. If one of us slips up, and allows resentment or anger to creep into our relationship, another one will call and intercede, reminding her that we do not allow the petty stuff to take over.
For years, since my brother-in-law Moshe found us our home on the block, we bemoaned the fact that my sister Sara did not live with us. And when we held our frequent family shabbatonim with our four brothers, we wished we had another home to stuff more family members into. A few years ago, Sara felt that the time was right for her to buy a home, and she was willing to move out of her neighborhood where her children went to school and her husband ran a yeshiva. Shulamis and I sprung into action, and kept our eyes peeled for houses for sale on the block. Houses came and went, and for different reasons, nothing for Sara went through.
And then, we did it. All the pieces fell into place at just the right time. A house that was suitable for Sara’s growing family, within her price range, and that didn’t require a tremendous amount of renovations became available. The contract was signed amidst tremendous disbelief that this was actually happening.
Now, all Sara needed to do was move in. It’s difficult enough to pack up and move with the typical family, and even more so if you just had a baby, as was Sara’s case. But move she did, and if she could do it, so can you. Here are the most important steps:
- Hire a reputable moving company. Buying a home is probably the most expensive purchase ever. There is tremendous stress involved. There is no need to try to save a couple of hundred dollars by not have a proper contract in place. Make sure the price does not change on moving day, and that the company sends down people to the home you are leaving so that they can determine the appropriate amount of man power. Include taking apart and rebuilding the furniture in the contract so that the company does not charge you extra, or worse, leave you with the baby’s crib in multiple pieces.
- Label your boxes properly. Your goal on moving day is to unpack all your essentials as soon as possible. Your essentials are: pajamas and a week’s worth of clothing and shoes for the entire family, toiletries and towels, and cookery, dishes, and food. Anything not urgent should be brought to the basement, or piled up against a wall. Once your essentials are put away, you can slowly but surely unpack. Anything that you did not have a chance to organize when you were packing should be done now.
- Linen for the beds should be packed separately so you and your team (see below) can easily pull out them out and make the beds. This way, everyone has somewhere to sleep the first night. An overnight bag for each person, with a change of clothing, toothbrush and a towel could be a lifesaver.
- Have as much manpower as possible at your disposable, and that includes your husband, even if moving day is on a workday. My sister had us to help her unpack, but if you don’t have family nearby, have one or even three cleaning ladies help you. Again, in the big picture, we are talking about a tiny percentage of cost here, and the stress you save by having extra help will be incomparable. With the moving men bringing the boxes to the exact closet or pantry the items belong in, you are saving yourself a huge schlep. The moving men can also remove the boxes, thus saving you even more time.
- Have dinner ready. My sister served bagels and lox, and her family ate at the dinner table in their new home on the very first night they moved in. Lasgana, pancakes, and calzones are all good, filling options that transfer easily.
- Don’t forget to arrange new busing for the children before moving day so that it will be in place the first school day, as sometimes these things take a week or so to organize.
Moving is a big deal, but it can be done. I know a woman who went back to work with a seven-week-old baby the day after she moved, and another who took a business trip two days after her move, followed by a bas mitzvah trip to Israel with her daughter. Both their homes were put into place not too long after. Sometimes, having less time to unpack is a good thing. By dedicating an hour or two a night or a Sunday, with as many helpers as possible, the light at the end of the tunnel of boxes will begin to appear, becoming stronger and stronger until there aren’t any boxes left, and you feel like you’ve come home.