Moving During a Pandemic

This post is going to be a bit off topic. If you have been reading my blogs, you are aware that we had to move unexpectedly during out lovely quarantine life. We lived in a second story walk-up above three store fronts. Our wonderful landlord of 3 years sold our building in May of 2019. The new landlords bought the building mainly for the storefronts. It took them until January of 2020 to finally get their building permits approved. Then a pandemic hit. I think this delayed the start of construction a bit, or they had financing issues, as they brought an appraiser by just before the city shutdown. In May, they also requested access for an architect and contractor to see our apartment under the guise that they were considering installing central air and an in-unit laundry. We gave them access on the condition that they came at a time when the kid was not home and wore protective masks and did’t touch anything. Then in July, they finally started construction.

We have been living through one annoyance after another since they started. First, we were sent letters in the fall stating that once construction started, we would lose access to the laundry in the basement, but they would provide gift cards for the inconvenience. Then, once construction started, we were told we would be given a heads up before they started in the basement. We were not. I went to take my laundry out of the washer one day and had to maneuver around tarps and tools and such and hang it to dry in my apartment because everything had been disconnected. And those gift cards never did find their way to any of the tenants.

Then there was the noise. The City of Chicago has an ordinance which prohibits them using power tools and such before 8 am or after a certain hour. I will tell you that most days they started well before 8 am. Oh, and there was the general inability to leave our apartment for any reason during the day because not one member of the construction crew ever wore a mask, and they would congregate right in front of our doorway.

Late one Friday, we suddenly had no water coming into our kitchen. After checking our pipes and such, we determined the issue was not in the apartment. It turns out that upon inspection, the builder discovered that the crew had broken a water line to our apartment. Fortunately, they were able to repair or patch it that same day. Then they broke our doorbells and buzzers. My neighbor contacted them and explained that we all have lots of things delivered due to Covid, and they said, twice, that they would fix it. They didn’t. Eventually, they just boarded up the whole front entry way and blocked any access to the doorbells or buzzers, making it impossible for us to receive packages from the major delivery companies.

Finally, at 9 pm on Thursday, August 13th, I received a brief email from the landlord explaining that the renovations they want to do the apartment will render it uninhabitable for several months, and so they needed us to plan to move before November 1st. We decided we did not want to move in the fall after remote learning school had started for our youngest and when experts are saying the pandemic could get a lot worse. Also, Chicago’s numbers have been on the rise for the last month, so who knows if there will be another total shutdown. So we spent Friday and Saturday researching apartments online and driving all over our area looking for places for rent. We still live in an area where many of the best properties are only posted on a handwritten sign in the window. I scheduled as many showings as I could for Sunday after dropping the kid at her Mom’s and Monday during the day. We saw 12 places in two days, plus 2 video tours.

Viewing apartments during a pandemic was not on the top of my wish list. We had actually discussed a desire to move only a week prior and nixed the idea due to the complexity. But we had to do it. So we double masked with a surgical mask and a cloth one on top. We loaded up on hand sanitizer, and off we went. We refused to go into any place that was occupied, so two of the owners agreed to do video tours. We saw some cute places. We saw some terrible places. We were in each less than 10 minutes. Most of the owners or agents were great about masks and such. We had one place where the lady didn’t seem to comprehend how to wear the mask. Luckily we didn’t like the place for other reasons. One of the video tours was pretty crappy. The poor guy just could not figure out the technology. Many of them could have worked but would have afforded the girls really little bedroom space.

We had finally narrowed our choices down to just a few. Each had some issues, but we could make them work. We were starting a pro-con list when I got the video tour of the last place. It was great. All the rooms looked big enough. It had a fantastic kitchen with a walk in pantry. It’s only downside was that there was no outdoor space. We decided to sleep on it, but it was really down to no outdoor space or one of the girls getting a tiny bedroom. We put our application in on the no outdoor space option Tuesday morning and received an email approving it on Wednesday morning.

Technically, we were on a month-to-month lease, so we were supposed to give our landlords until the end of the month plus 30 days notice. I emailed them informing them on 19th that we planned to be out by the 31st. I explained our concerns with the pandemic and this crazy school year starting and hoped they would not push the issue. We had already signed our new lease that Thursday when I finally got an email confirming our move out and asking that we just leave the keys inside when we move to avoid contact. I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

So, I spent from Friday 8/21 through Sunday 8/30 packing. I planned our meals including all breakfasts and lunches for days we had the kid until the move. I checked the calendar religiously when packing in the kitchen, and I still managed to pack up our last weekend kid day’s breakfast necessities!

We also spent 2 days searching for movers. We have a company that my husband has used for his last 6 moves and we used for our last move, and we have loved them every time. Unfortunately, with such short notice, and apparently August 31st being one of the busiest moving days in Chicago, they were booked. So were about 10 other companies. Finally, a company that a neighbor recommended emailed me and they were available, and the price seemed reasonable. We booked it. I got a call from another company the Friday before our move, and they had a cancellation, but we decided to keep the booking we had. We would live to regret that decision.

It took us 3 trips to Menard’s to pick up boxes and packing supplies, but we managed to get everything packed. By the Saturday night before the move, we had started disassembling furniture. This was a minor error, as we disassembled our dining table expecting to be able to eat on our deck, but then had a family of bees move in next door. Every time we tried to eat outside, they showed up within 2 minutes and swarmed. This would not have been ideal for my husband and I, but we had the kid for the weekend, and she definitely could not handle it. We ended up standing in our kitchen eating dinner. By Sunday evening, everything was disassembled and moved into general areas for easy loading except our bed and dresser.

Monday morning, we got up early, showered, and disassembled our room. I emptied the contents of the freezer into boxes lined with insulation bags with ice packs in the bottom and on top and labeled them all clearly, expecting they would be one of the first things to move. Then the fun started.

The construction crew, who showed up at about 7 am, started by building a scaffold in front of our back staircase that would have made it impossible to get furniture through. They also had their huge van parked in a way that would impede our moving truck. I contacted the landlord, and she came over and instructed we had to be able to use the stairs and the back alley to move. Okay, all seemed good. Then more drilling/masonry work started downstairs. When the movers arrived, we discovered crews had removed the supports to the back porch and stairs that morning. It was no longer safe to try to move our furniture out that way. The head mover had to negotiate with the construction crew to get them to move their vehicles from the front of the property so that they could move us out the front side of the building.

Then the movers started. And they were slow! It took over 3 hours to load the first load. Yes, they don’t have as big of a truck as some companies, so there were two loads. Luckily, the places are only about 5 blocks apart. Then, they locked my husband out while leaving the old place. Luckily, he was able to get back in through the construction in the back. It then took them equally as long to unload it. The head mover, I’m pretty sure never lifted anything heavier than our 10-year-old could carry. And he spent an annoying amount of time inside rearranging the boxes even though I repeatedly told them to just keep unloading and they could fill the next room. We weren’t asking them to read the labels and put things in certain rooms or unwrap anything or assemble anything. We only wanted them to physically move stuff from one location to the other. The second load was lighter and so only took them about 3 hours total to load, move and unload. But at the end, it took over 7 hours for the move and cost us a fortune.

And to make matters even better, they stopped wearing masks about an hour into the ordeal. I could care less that they weren’t wearing them around our stuff as we were already planning to disinfect or quarantine everything. We had ordered these giant plastic mattress bags for our beds. We ordered them for the couch too, but unfortunately it didn’t fit our over-sized couch, so we had to quarantine it for a bit. However, they didn’t even put them back on when talking to me at the end to get their damned money. And one of them straight up acknowledged it and said it was just too hard to wear when working in the heat all day. At that point, I just wanted to pay and have them leave. I kept a distance and we had all the windows open, all the ceiling fans running and our HVAC fan running full blast with a brand new filter.

After they were done, we went back to the old place, where we still had four loads of stuff to bring over. Two of the loads were stuff we had planned to move in the car and stored in a closed off room. Two of the loads were stuff they just “forgot” in the rooms designated for them to move everything. My husband had been on site, but they didn’t even check with him to make sure they got everything before leaving the old place. I left them a bad online review. The company called me and tried to get me to remove it, but we’ll just say that their offer to compensate was less than would even warrant consideration.

After all of this, we were too exhausted to start sorting and sanitizing. I had started some between their loads, but definitely not enough to make it safe for us and our two kittens who must get into and climb on everything. So we quarantined ourselves and the cats in our bedroom. We set up our bed, and one cabinet to hold the tv, and locked ourselves in for the night. I should mention here that the kittens had been quarantined in a room with a big sign that said “DO NOT OPEN” in the old place with their food, water, litter, toys and bed during the actual move.

On Tuesday, we got up and started cleaning and sorting. Anything we wouldn’t need right away either went into the store room or into Katie’s (19 year old who is currently staying at a friend’s place) room for quarantining. My husband sanitized every piece of furniture we either needed right away or couldn’t fit in quarantine. I sorted all the boxes into their respective rooms and/or quarantine and unpacked essentials. We were able to let the cats free about 2:30 pm. In all the sorting/cleaning, we discovered our movers had broken a couple of things. This isn’t terrible, but the fact that those things were well hidden really got under my skin.

We are now about 9 days post move. No one has any symptoms and the house is mostly in order. I’ll breath a little easier when we hit the two week mark, but I know we took every precaution we could. And we traded our kid night from Monday/Wednesday to Wednesday/Thursday so we were able to mostly quarantine her items, although some sanitizing was necessary. We are waiting on some things we ordered for organization and picture hanging, but the place is functional. After getting things unpacked, I’ve realized that while the footprint is a bit smaller, the lay out is so much more useful, and it feels like we have more room.

I would say that given our level of caution and quarantining over the last 6 months, we handled this move in the best way possible. We dealt with walking into 12 strange places, meeting our new landlord in a social distanced way, and interacting with three movers who refused to do the basic thing we and the state mandated to protect everyone, and we didn’t lose our minds. Both of our therapists are very proud.

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