May I Suggest?

May I Suggest?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Back Pain!

May I Suggest?

Every time I see a moving truck go by two things happen to me. First, I get nervous, and second, my back starts aching. It has been my lot in life to have moved twenty-five times in forty years. I have seen too many moving boxes. I have packed and unpacked and lifted too many moving boxes. Not to mention things too big for boxes, like desks and dressers and tables and chairs. Were it not for developing a personal strategy for handling moves, I am certain I would be living with debilitating back pain by now.

In the process of helping friends with their moves, I have used these principles repeatedly and have always been surprised at how many of my tips have not occurred to them. I share them here in the hopes they will spare the reader’s back as well.

One: SMALL BOXES. Always use small boxes for heavy items. Sounds logical but every time I did not pack for myself I invariably found the movers had plunked a heavy tool-box or power saw in the bottom of a huge box of canvas lawn chairs or such. Small boxes are easier to store, to stack, to lift, to transfer, and they put much less strain on your back. You can pick up a small box and still see the path at your feet. Large boxes can cause you to go blindly, thus risking a fall from tripping over an unseen item on your path.

Two: MULTIPLE TRIPS. A natural consequence of using smaller boxes. It is much easier on your back to make two trips with a twenty-five pound box than strain for those fifty-pounders.

Three: DOLLIES/HAND-TRUCKS. Whatever you call those contraptions with two wheels and a ledge at the bottom and a sturdy steel frame and top handle, use them. Again, several small boxes can be easily stacked on these dollies, making transfer much easier. In fact, anything with wheels is useful. I have transferred heavy items in wheelchairs, play wagons, garden carts and office chairs with sturdy casters.

Four: TAKE THINGS APART. People are always amazed at how much furniture I can move by myself without hurting a muscle. One secret is taking apart anything that comes apart. I cannot grab a big dresser the way two hunky men can, but I have moved multiple pieces after removing the heavy drawers and doors. I had offered a huge desk to a church organization recently. Two men came to look at it and were mumbling about how to get it through the door. When they returned the next day with their truck I had the desk ready for them by the garage door. It had come from the factory in a box. What goes together in pieces comes apart in pieces! I never hurt a finger, let alone my back. (It came in forty-eight pieces. I broke it down to six.)

Five: SLIDERS. Right in there with wheeled dollies is using those wonderful sliders under furniture legs. I used an assortment of old plastic lids and coasters but now they have specially made items in assorted sizes. You can move an amazing amount of stuff across a room by giving it a shove on its sliders. Mats work as well on hardwood floors.

Six: STAGES/STEPS. I have discovered I can easily lift weight from waist level down to the floor using leg muscles but it is more difficult for me to get things from floor level up to shoulder level. So I use multi-level techniques. For example, I might lift a large printer from the floor to a low ottoman on wheels. Then I roll it over to the high desk it goes on and lift it from ottoman to desk. These halfway steps enable me to use arm or leg muscles as needed and allow me time to reposition rather than straining my back in a complicated sustained lift.

Seven: DIVIDE & CONQUER. I use the steps principle also to divide and conquer large loads. I learned this from my mother, who was boasting one day about the good deal she found on fifty pounds of potatoes. Mother loved potatoes and had her winter supply in her basement cold room. But I wondered how the little eighty-four-year-old had managed that. “Who put them in for you?” I asked. “I did it myself!” she proudly announced. Then she explained. The grocer had put them in the trunk of her car. When she got home she opened the sack and took out small pails. She filled each pail with about ten pounds and carried them into the house, little by little. Whether it’s potatoes, birdseed or cases of canned goods, instead of putting your back out, divide the load into manageable portions.

Eight: ASK FOR HELP. There will be times when none of the above tips will be practical. You can remove a headboard and a footboard but you still have a queen-size box spring and mattress you cannot divide. There’s always the fridge and stove and washer and dryer. Enlist help when you need it. With moving especially, one needs physical help, but you will find that the right help also brings psychological support. Sometimes our backs can be bent under emotional burdens as well as physical ones. In the past I have had friends come and clean my fridge for me when I was exhausted from packing. It’s not that I wasn’t able to clean my own fridge. It was the act of kindness. The chatting and humor we shared, the emotional support given that truly lifted the weight and suddenly made me feel less tired, less achy. Enlist help when you need it. Accept offered help if it is from someone you trust and with whom you are comfortable.

Nine: KNOW WHEN TO REST. Lastly, know when to rest. Among my friends and acquaintances, I have found most are driven to perform to high standards day in and day out. I see young mothers worn to a frazzle in caring for their families. I see men pushing themselves day after day to be good breadwinners. I see women juggling careers and families and doing a wonderful job of both. I see older people who could be sitting in rocking chairs choosing instead to be out there in the community keeping things going.

But we all have our limits and knowing our limits is vitally important. Whether it’s after the movers have rolled up their quilted pads and closed the door of the truck and finally pulled away, or just Friday night after a long week — know when to quit. Know when enough is enough. When you need to pour that cup of tea and head for the recliner chair, or pull the blinds and crash on the bed. When we are over-tired we are more prone to mistakes, poor judgment, accidents or falls. Fatigue makes us tense and our backs feel it too. Take a deep breath. Relax. Your back will thank you.

~ Phyllis McKinley ~

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