A Guide To Moving With Chronic Pain

Image Description: black felt sign with “intentional moving” in white lettering. Back drop is brown cardboard boxes with canvas bags stacked on top.

If there’s one thing I’m way too familiar with, it is the process of moving.

I mean, after packing up and moving on 8 separate occasions I ought to know what I’m doing by now.

With move number NINE, I wanted to break down how to move with a chronic illness and/or disability to get the most out of the process while allowing yourself time to rest and not overdo it.

Define Your Timeline

So, you’re moving… the best thing you can do is be organized right off the bat.

I decided mid-June that I hastily needed to move out of my parent’s home and get back to living in my own place. Living with family is stressful, no matter how supportive and understanding they may be, placing your needs into the hands of someone else is a hard thing to regularly live with. Aside from that, as I’m continuing to heal and learn about my body, I need to put an effort into understanding where my current abilities lie. You know, the little things, like can I manage to grocery shop and prepare adequate amounts of food for myself…

But with a hasty move and the intent to move out by July, planning was absolutely key. I mapped out my time-frame and decided that I’d be moving by July 15th and would slowly begin the process of packing. I also recognized that the move wouldn’t take place on a single day, so I would have to make arrangements that allowed me to transition into the new apartment.

My formal timeline:

  • June 15th – June 30th: go through belongings, sell or donate what won’t be needed and begin packing things that aren’t essential for day to day life – for me this included kitchen stuff, decor, and my winter wardrobe.
  • June 30th: sign lease, pick up keys, do initial apartment inspection, and drop off first round of non-essential items.
  • July 1st – July 4th: get kitchen unpacked and organized, build new furniture pieces, order curtains/barstools, and unpack items that will be stored in closet spaces.
  • July 5th – July 10th: pack remaining items, install light fixtures and curtains, get boxes into apartment and out of the way.
  • July 11th: grocery shopping
  • July 12th: take lots of naps and RELAX
  • July 13th: get a Uhaul for moving furniture into the apartment, get furniture where it goes, and relax because everything’s already done.

Knowing What To Look For In Your Apartment

Before you can plan your move, you have to have a place to move into. There’s a few key questions you have to ask yourself when it comes to looking for a place to live, especially if you’ll be living on your own.


The biggest thing you need to know immediately is your budget. And not just, “how much do I have to dedicate towards rent each month” but also the average utilities for the area you’re looking in, cable and internet costs, parking fees, in addition to how much you need leftover to spend on groceries, insurance, and other medical expenses.

The obvious rule of thumb is that rent should be 1/3 of your income – but for many of us, we live a bit differently and have limited money coming in from disability benefits, SSI, or our finances are supported by a spouse or parent. This means our “budgets” often only include rent, utilities, groceries, and medical, and everything else is considered a non-essential expense.


This can’t be a concept of “what’s on your list of things you’d like to have” it has to focus on what you need and why you need it.

For instance, I need a washer and dryer in my unit. My health isn’t dependable enough for me to have to go to a laundromat to do my laundry.

I also needed a large, functional kitchen. This is incredibly important because I will be doing a large amount of cooking and meal prep and need space to spread out. Now although I need a large kitchen, something like a dishwasher isn’t a necessity. Sure, I struggle to do dishes if I’m feeling fuzzy, but I can always do dishes the next day or later in the evening.

A washer and dryer plus a large kitchen are really the only two must have amenities that made my list.

However, it is pertenant to be aware of a few others that can make or break an apartment.

  • Stairs – can you handle constantly needing to go up and down stairs whenever you leave your apartment? Can you handle any stairs, even one or two? Or do you need a more wheelchair accessible unit?
  • A space for kids – if you’re like me and tend to rest throughout the day or have sensitivities to noises, being next to a playground isn’t going to be ideal.
  • Proximity to grocery shopping
  • Proximity to doctor’s office

Extending The Moving Process

Whoever decided that moving should be a one and done type of scenario must have been a minimalist or they had lots of hired help.

Unless you are ending one lease and moving and starting a new lease on the same day or moving to a different area of the country, there is no reason to try and force yourself to do it all in one swoop.

For practical purposes of living with chronic pain or a disability, extending a lease for even a week while you’re moving into your new place will be worth the additional costs, especially if you plan for this scenario in advanced. Yes, paying rent in two places for a portion of the month is a financial strain, but in my experience the financial aspect is much easier to work with than long term physical implications of overdoing it.

I’ve got the equivalent of a one bedroom apartment’s worth of stuff that needs to be moved. In knowing this and knowing that I wouldn’t be moving for two weeks after acquiring the apartment, I broke down my stages of the move as follows:

Stage 1: Initial Packing and Planning

Once I’d picked out the apartment I would be moving into and had that date, I was able to plan what furniture I would need to purchase, what existing furniture wouldn’t work in this space, and what needed to be prioritized.

As an interior designer, I’ll admit I spent two days drawing scale plans with my existing furniture trying to image how I’d set up the space – I picked out a large studio apartment with a walk around fireplace separating the bedroom and living room area, so I had a variety of options. I knew off the bat I needed to purchase a bed, mattress, and some cube storage as this place was lacking in closet space.

A week prior to moving, I started digging out my boxes of already packed – well never unpacked – kitchenware. I also sold some appliances I knew I wouldn’t be bringing with me. Then I started in on packing my closet of cold weather clothes and my shoes.

There were a few variables that I had to wait until being in the apartment to address such as how tall my barstools needed to be and what length curtains and rods needed to purchased.

Stage 2: Getting Into The Apartment

After a week of packing, planning, and getting adequate rest, we finally were able to get into the apartment.

After inspection, there was a small list of fixes that maintenance would need to address and some larger ticket fixes: the assistant property manager said she was going to order new vinyl flooring as mine was in incredibly poor shape.

My parents assisted me in getting measurements so I could get my barstools and curtains ordered. The curtains were the most important feature, because I can’t live in a space that doesn’t allow me to control the lighting, so the curtains will need to be installed prior to permanently moving in.

The same day we brought two carloads – the furniture (bed, mattress in a box, and the cubes) to be assembled, and everything that would go in my kitchen.

The next day we were able to come back, do a deep clean of the space and get the furniture built and kitchen stuff put away.

Stage 3: The Slow Move

Over the next week and a half moving would happen in phases. I have no telling how I’ll feel day to day, so having ample time to finish packing and unpacking is key.

I also hate feeling surrounded by boxes, so packing one car load at a time, getting that over to the apartment and out of the way allows me to keep a pretty tidy space at home. It also prevents me from tripping over boxes in the middle of the night when my vertigo is in full effect.

As the last of my items get moved, I only have the necessities left at home.

The other stage of this slow move includes installation and maintenance. Since there’s always a list of things that need to be addressed, not living there right away means I don’t have to hopelessly work around a kitchen sink that won’t drain or a bathtub that can’t be used for 48 hours because it was resealed. It also means that if they can get new floors ready prior to move in, I won’t be in the way or inconvenienced if they’re working on a bad pain day.

Since most of the furniture will be moved on the last day, it is also much easier to get curtain rods and light fixtures installed.

Stage 4: “Move In Ready” Prep-Work

The last day of moving will be likely be exhausting and since I’m already in and out of the place, two days before the furniture comes I will be doing the last minute prep to ensure that once furniture arrives, I am ready to start living there.

Biggest task: grocery shopping.

Knowing that I’ll have a stocked fridge, the proper spices, and a meal or two already waiting for me on move in day takes a ton of stress away. I won’t also have to add in grocery shopping in the evening after a day of strenuous lifting, or worse the morning after.

I’ll be able to have most things already in their place, and any odds and ends can be dealt with.

Stage 5: R & R

The day before a work intensive day is the perfect time to schedule some serious rest and relaxation time. All the last minute details will have been handled the day before, leaving nothing to be managed on R & R day.

However you unwind, make sure to do that today.

Stage 6: Moving the Big Stuff

You’ll notice this list is backwards compared to most moves… you want to get the big stuff out of the way first and then manage the little stuff right?

Wrong. Since this move is drawn out over 2-3 weeks, I only have one set of the big stuff. I have to still have a functioning living room / work-space at home. Moving all the big stuff is really strenuous, so if it can be done last leaving only minimal unpacking for after can really make the move much easier.

Make sure you’ve got help if you haven’t hired people. And make sure you have back up help because odds are good either 1) someone will get sick, 2) someone will forget, 3) someone will drop the couch on their foot and have to leave, or 4) your pain will flare up and you won’t be much use. So having a few options at your disposal is the key to stage 6.

There will be a few things that need to be packed before you drive the truck away – the immediate essentials including: medications, bedding, and the last of your clothes. Make sure you leave time for this.

Once everything is at your new place, the last thing you’ll want to do is make your bed because that’s the place you’re going to want to crawl into as soon as possible.

Key Take Aways From This Experience

Number 1 thing to note is that being intentional with everything in our lives – even something as stressful as moving – has huge benefits to our health.

The entire nature of moving has shifted because I chose to be a bit more mindful of my needs during the process. I don’t feel rushed. I don’t feel bad for choosing not to pack one day or not to hurry across town and haul some boxes despite the pouring rain…

I feel prepared.

The most important thing to do, is allow yourself to rest. Pack the boxes at a weight you can carry them. Use a sports cart to haul the boxes from the car into your apartment if you can. When you’re tired of putting things away or building furniture, then stop. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, but don’t be afraid to decline help when you want to work in the peace and quiet.

And finally, even though you’ve had some rest and relaxation scheduled into this moving mess, don’t forget to schedule a treat once the endeavor is over. Get a massage once all the bruises heal up. Get a manicure once you’ve finished unpacking. Schedule a float.


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5 thoughts on “A Guide To Moving With Chronic Pain

  1. I must say, you are truly organised! This is how I want moving to be for me, but it usually ends up much more chaotic. I suffer from migraines too so I do find moving stressful and I totally agree with your advice on moving to a place that accommodates your illness – we chose our current place as it’s not on a main road and has a lovely garden that’s easy to spend time in, however we didn’t factor in how many households nearby have very loud children! I think that’s the only thing I’d change – I just can’t deal with kids when I’m suffering an attack, and they are sometimes the cause of my migraines which sucks. Great post though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much!! I wish the entire move had gone as seamlessly as Iโ€™d planned but alas I donโ€™t get to live in a fantasy bubble. It is so hard to find a place that really checks all the boxes for what we need and thereโ€™s so much weโ€™d never be able to predict like children or barking dogs or even the little noises like AC kicking in throughout the night.


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