Moving is stressful. Upheaval, resurfacing of possessions that trigger memories, deciding what to keep, toss, and donate, guesstimating where the furniture will fit, and finding a mover all contribute to the angst. Even local moves in the same town stir up conflicting emotions and create drama. A recent local move brought all these issues and feelings to the fore for my family and me and opened up overstuffed emotional baggage along with the boxes.

The stress of moving

The Life Change Index, developed by Dr. Thomas Holmes and Dr. Richard Rahe, gauges the stress brought on by life events, both positive and negative. This stress is related to the strength of feelings generated by the event, how unexpected it is, and what the event symbolizes in our lives. The index links the total amount of accumulated stress with the probability of developing illness if this stress level is sustained for three to six months.

A change in residence has an index of 20. To put that in perspective, the death of a spouse is a 100, divorce is a 73, and a child leaving home is a 29. In a recent survey conducted by OnePoll for North American Van Lines, 64% of the 1,000 surveyed within three years of their move stated that moving was one of the most stressful events in their lives. This survey’s sample size and sponsor might have something to do with the rankings. However, speaking from my anecdotal experience, having disassembled the contents of a family home and moving it elsewhere was pretty darn fraught.

How can a person reduce the stress of a move? For one thing, hire a mover. While my husband was convinced we could do it on our own, I covertly solicited bids for the larger pieces. As the move loomed closer, my superior logic won out, and we booked in with Karl on Wheels, based in Cornwall Bridge, CT, a referral from our real estate broker, Elyse Harney Morris.

Whether it was his competitive price or deep soothing voice assuring me that all would be okay that sealed the deal, I can’t say for sure. We signed the contract and put our heads back down to sort through three children’s elementary and middle school pottery, a wedding dress, accumulated office supplies, and other detritus of life.

Panic set in days before moving the more oversized items after I realized I had miscounted a few rugs, a bed, a picnic table, and a ping pong table. Another clandestine text to Karl asking what would happen if I had more than I thought. He responded, “We’re there until we get it done.” In an instant, Karl, the move whisperer, was able to return my BP to 110/60.

Who is Karl?

Karl Saliter is the Karl of Karl on Wheels. A Sharon, CT, native and former juggler of balls and other small items and a one-person show, he now performs juggling of a different sort – booking, managing, and executing local moves in a 250-mile radius with his team of six – all from his home office in a former church in West Cornwall.

For over 30 years, Karl was a vaudeville performer. Then one day, at the age of 53, he had his epiphany moment. He was done with life in the spotlight. Remembering he had no discernible skills other than keeping things in the air simultaneously (the ultimate in multi-tasking), he fell back on his work as a college student.

“When I was studying at Boston University, I worked as a mover for Marakesh Movers in Cambridge. This was where I first noticed the satisfaction in providing this service.” Karl feels fortunate, in a virtual world less dependent on bodily experiences to, as he puts it, “be immersed in this lifting and carrying, the highway time, and the very mundane nature of working simply with my body. It offers something hard to put your finger on.”

Three years ago, Karl bought a van, then another, and another. He now has five trucks, and COVID relocations have fueled the company’s growth. He performs local moves and piece work and is learning about the administrative, scheduling, and logistic side of the moving process. Yet, sometimes like a cowboy yearns for the open prairie, Karl misses life on the truck. “Sometimes I feel wildly alive when pushing and twisting a sleeper sofa through some narrow doorway. It’s hard to explain.” As a former juggler, this embodied work appeals to him deeply.

Dr. Karl, Therapist on Wheels

Karl, a deeply compassionate soul, sees the work of himself and his team as itinerant therapists. Moving is heavy – literally and figuratively. The Karl on Wheels movers try to bring lightheartedness to the process yet be serious about getting the work done. “We want to be of service. Moving is intensely stressful. Helping the customer smooth the transition between the old and the new is part of our job.”

Karl reflects that “we’re moving someone’s memories, iconic objects of financial and sentimental value. We’re inserting ourselves in an important chapter in a story that we may have no idea about.” And so they walk softly and carry a big box.

That echoes my experience. Amidst our sea of Ikea was a buffet we bought when my husband and I married, Karl’s team moved it out, in, and up with kid gloves. As Karl sees it, “Bringing a heavy dresser up a tight, winding staircase isn’t for everyone, but when you manage to do that and keep the furniture pristine, and the walls unscuffed, the sense of accomplishment buoys you. People tend to be so appreciative, which goes a long way.”

His movers also opined on furniture positioning, moving it a little to the left and the right until it was just so. They also instinctively knew to agree with me over my husband over the placement of objects. This, to me, is the hallmark of a true professional.

Stranger things

Karl will move everything from sculpture and art, Pelotons, grand pianos, and anything else. He moves piece work and the entire home. No job is too small or too big. Unless we’re talking about that time he was asked to move a pig to slaughter. That was a rare job he turned down.

Karl’s Moving Tips

When the time comes to move, Karl recommends the following:

  • BIY – box it yourself. This saves time and money on moving day.
  • Label the contents of each box and the room they’re destined for.
  • He estimates we use about 30% of what we own. The remaining 70% are items we don’t use and might not care so much about. Pack these items early because those are the things you may not consider when planning the move.
  • Purge, purge, and purge some more. The famous last words of “What if I need it someday?” garners a Buddhist response from Karl to live in the present. If you don’t use it now, don’t hang onto it.
  • Donate what you don’t need so that someone else can give it a second life.
  • Post a person at the front door of the new home to direct  the traffic of boxes and furniture.
  • Ask your moving company if they’re registered with DOT, maintain insurance, including Motor Carrier insurance, are bonded, and if the workers are insured.

To these tips, I will add my own:

  • Force your adulting children to come home to purge and pack their own possessions.
  • Give your husband a wide berth as he empties the garage and sorts through assorted screws – one at a time.
  • Pack the Peloton last and set it up first so you can pedal your stress away.
  • Meditate before the arrival of the moving truck, pray for patience, and keep some good chocolate on hand to soothe frayed nerves throughout the day.
  • Be ruthless in the purging process – except for the kids’ pottery art projects. Those are keepers!
  • Remember that as the possessions seem to gush from nowhere like blood from a deep wound, there is an end – and a new beginning.
  • Show gratitude to your movers. I was grateful for mine. They helped create a seamless transition from old to new and helped me maintain a sense of humor.

I’ll end where I started. Moving is stressful. Proper planning and acceptance of this new chapter will help alleviate the stress. So will Karl on Wheels.

If you are moving, you can email Karl at karl@karlonwheels.com or visit his website at www.karlonwheels.com.