Tips for Packing and Moving with RA

One of the most stressful situations in life is moving.

Finding a new place to live, packing up the old place, transporting everything, and unpacking well enough to make it feel like home - it’s a lot.

A lot of time, energy, finances, movement, and stress - physically and mentally.

Good planning for a successful move

Add in living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and in my experience, some significant planning and prep work is needed in order to both accomplish everything required for a successful move, and to try not to throw myself into a full-on flare.

This past season, I participated in a move. It was my second major move since being diagnosed with RA and my third major move in the last decade. I am hopeful we’ll stay put for a while now!

Starting the house hunting process

We began house hunting in the fall as the weather was getting cold, which normally would’ve been challenging for my aching joints.

Extra in-and-outs, climbing stairs, standing, and walking around prospective houses can take a toll on my body. In the past, I’ve needed to be very mindful of how many showings I attend in a day or a week, and how I prepare for and recover for those events.

How the pandemic impacted the search

This year, there was a blessing and a curse involved in our search - living in a COVID-19 world. This meant that the majority of our hunting was virtual.

We looked at photos of hundreds of homes, we went on virtual tours of dozens, and then at the end of the day, we only toured a handful in person, all spread out over time.

While it might be harder to get a true sense of an apartment or a house electronically, not walking the floor plan in person meant my joints were protected, warm, and not overused at this time. I was grateful for that, no matter how it was accomplished.

4 tips for moving and packing with RA

Once we found the house we now call home, the physically demanding packing started. Here are some of the things I found beneficial to practice or implement in this process.

1. Map out on paper an "attack plan" for packing BEFORE starting

For me, this meant knowing exactly what I was going to attempt to pack each day, what I was packing into (box, bag, crate, etc.), where that item was, and how much standing/bending/lifting I'd need to do.

This also included a rough idea of how much time I could dedicate to this each day/week without getting in over my head.

2. Put as much on the same level as possible

I found that putting everything I wanted to pack on the floor and sitting down beside it meant that I didn't have to get up and down very much. It meant that I could sit on a pillow or a cushion and be as comfortable as possible during this process.

3. Be extra gentle with yourself during this time

Things like wearing the softest, easiest clothes, staying hydrated, eating well, resting as often as I could, using heat and ice to support joint pain made the extra stress I was putting on my body slightly less damaging.

4. Build in time for recovery

On the day after the movers brought our furniture to the new house, I wanted to unpack, arrange, and organize. Instead, I spent about 3 out of every 5 hours on the couch, under my heated blanket, because my joints were throbbing.

If I didn't stop, I would've pushed myself to a breaking point, a point of damage, or the point where recovery would've been significantly more difficult and time-consuming.

If you have packed, or moved, how have you supported your body and managed your RA during the process? Looking forward to reading your suggestions below!

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