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Making a Family Move Easier

Step 1: Ditch clutter

Hold a garage sale. That lamp you've never really liked, books you haven't looked at in years, chipped mugs, pilled sweaters, hand-me-down toys...sell it all! And if you've had your last baby, don't forget that maternity and newborn clothing. "If you can, team up with another neighbor who also has little ones," suggests Maria Gracia, founder of www.getorganizednow.com and mom to 14-month-old Amanda. "You'll have more to sell. Plus, you can take turns watching the children during the sale." If you can't hold a yard sale where you live, try selling your best stuff through a classified ad or on craigslist.com

Then give away whatever is left. Many charities -- such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Salvation Army -- offer free pickups. For more tips and resources that will help you prep for your move, check out movinghelpweb.com.

Step 2: Get ready

Pick a moving company. Ask friends and your local real-estate agents for recommendations, then check those out with the Better Business Bureau bbb.org and consumer groups like movingscam.com. Call those that pass muster to get competing bids. "Many companies will call back with a better offer if you don't book with them right away," says Stacy DeBroff, founder of Mom Central, Inc., and author of The Mom Book: 4,278 of Mom Central's Tips -- for Moms from Moms. "Often, the more advance notice you give, the better the price." Before you book the lowest bidder, run one final check by calling the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's complaints hotline at 888-368-7238.

Make a checklist, says Gracia, of everything that needs to be done before and after, like disconnecting phone and Internet, childproofing the new house, and picking paint colors. Put it in a brightly colored (hard-to-lose) folder with any move-related paperwork. The Yellowpages.com Move Center lets you compare prices on services, like newspaper delivery and satellite TV, in your new city. You can even connect utilities online.

Take turns packing with your partner. Toddlers can get into trouble in a flash.

ID boxes. "Mark each box on all sides with the room name," says Gracia. "And if it contains crucial items, add PRIORITY A. If the contents are important, mark it PRIORITY B. If it holds things you won't need soon, mark it NOT PRIORITY."

Pack special suitcases with what you'd need for a weekend trip, suggests Joni Hilton, author of Housekeeping Secrets My Mother Never Taught Me. "Don't forget sheets, towels, and detergent."

Step 3: Move!

Get help. If you don't have family or a neighbor to watch your baby (and any young siblings), hire a sitter. Or, one of you can be the child-watcher and the other, move-supervisor. If you have a backyard, that's a perfect place to play.

Load the nursery last. This way, your baby's things will be the first unloaded off the truck. "That will make it so much easier to quickly set up all the basics," says DeBroff.

Make a survival kit and keep it with you at all times. It should include formula and bottles if you're not nursing, baby food, and a spoon, along with favorite toys, pacifiers, diapers, wipes, and a blanket. Don't forget a few bottles of water and healthy munchies for you and dad.

Step 4: Settle down

Safety first. While unpacking, watch for choking hazards (like screws on the floor). For more tips, go to homesafetycouncil.org .

Accept help -- again. If someone volunteers, don't be shy. "My in-laws stayed for the weekend," says Kathie Brockman, who moved when her daughter was only 1 month old. "They kept saying, 'Trust us, you won't have time to unpack once we leave.' They were right. I still have a few boxes sitting in our dining room."

Hook up your washer and dryer.

Find a retreat. Pick one manageable room and set it up first, as fast as you can. A den or small living room is ideal. You'll have a box-free place to go for a break.

Then unpack one room at a time. Start with the nursery (or your bedroom if your baby sleeps there). Work according to your labeled boxes.

Cut yourself some slack. Everything does not have to be put away the first day!

Step 5: Join in

Find a new pediatrician. Contact a nearby hospital for a list of local pediatricians, then check them out on aap.org . Interview a few to see who you click with. Once you've decided, have your old doctor forward the medical records for your family.

Make mommy friends. Chat it up! Approaching a mom who's alone is less scary than talking your way into a group of pals. These women will point you to the best babysitter, the most baby-friendly restaurant, and the cheapest supermarket.

Sign up. Enroll online in a Mommy & Me or Gymboree class. Hit your library and church or temple: They often have free programs. While you're at the library, grab a regional parenting magazine with listings of local events for moms.

Start a group. Miss your weekly playgroup? Mention it to that friendly mom in the park. She may be interested -- and have a friend or two who might also be game.

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