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The Great Big Honking Sliding Number Puzzle

I’m doing one of those sliding number puzzles; you know, the ones that have fifteen tiles in a matrix that can hold sixteen, and you have to slide them around until they’re in order. Except that the matrix is the lower level of my house, and the sliding tiles are things like 7′ tall Hundevad bookshelves, credenzas, a 61″ TV set and associated tableage, a treadmill, a queen-sized bed, Carol’s desk and chair, two vertical filing cabinets, a two-drawer lateral file cabinet, eight or nine hundred books in boxes, and enough boxed back issues of QSTs to make me cease wondering where the missing mass in the universe is hiding. And that’s the abbreviated list.

The goal of the puzzle is to get everything now resting on carpet onto areas where there is no carpet. The problem is, three quarters of the lower level is either carpeted or already committed to Big Heavy Things That Don’t Move, like my workbenches and shelves piled nine feet high with stuff that has nowhere else to go. On Tuesday morning bright and early, a crew of much younger guys with strong backs are going to show up here and want to know where to put everything. That means I have to tell them. And that in turn means solving the puzzle.

I leveraged a good deal of work I did nine years ago, when we were gearing up to move everything from Scottsdale to Colorado Springs. I drew nearly all of the big furniture we owned at that time in Visio (or adapted furniture shapes already in the product’s stencil sets) and then drew a floor plan of the house to which we were moving. I dragged the furniture shapes around in Visio until they fit, and when the truck pulled up in front of our rental house, we gave the mover guys a printed copy of the floor plan as I drew it. A year later we did the whole thing again, this time for the new house we had spent a year building. I had to re-draw the floor plan, but the furniture hadn’t changed and the shapes were still useful. Tugging them around the plan allowed us to get the furniture where it had to go the first time, without much need later on to wrestle large massive objects onto dollies and shove them into new arrangements with my fiftysomething back.

That worked well and was actually a lot of fun. It was easy, furthermore, because we had a whole house to play with. This time I have the furnace room (where much of that Big Heavy Stuff That Doesn’t Move actually lives) a single unfinished and uncarpeted bedroom, and portions of my workshop. As it happens, I can get it all in there, but the furniture must be placed in a very specific order and with considerable precision. The treadmill will clear the furnace room door with about 1/2″ on either side. (It won’t clear the other doors at all.) It’s going to be intense, my friends.

The carpeting was damaged by condensate spilling out of our air conditioner this past summer, so we’re ripping it up and replacing it with something a little more robust and a little less pink. Since the carpeting will be gone, we figure it’s as good a time to paint as any, particularly the lower level great room, which looks like it was painted with melted strawberry ice cream. If you wonder we we don’t entertain guests down there, that’s certainly one of the reasons.

So our most intense week in well over ten years continues apace. Carpet samples litter the great room. Vinyl flooring samples for the rear entranceway lie about next to the woodwork while we search for harmony. About six shelf-feet of component data books still need to be boxed, as well as most of the contents of Carol’s office.

I’ll report our progress here as time allows. Christmas cards will be a little late this year, sorry.


  1. Tom R. says:

    I know it is probably too late to think of this now Jeff, but would one of those outside “POD” moving and storage things have helped any? I have heard of them being used on sites just for outside, dry and reasonably secure storage during renovation projects. At least some of the QST’s could probably have lived there.

    Your technique brings back memories of what I did for almost 40 years. My engineering major was Industrial and Systems engineering and back in the 1960’s in school we used film over scale blue prints and little plastic film cut outs of the equipment and furniture to be placed. I latter moved on to a real CAD program to do the same kind of thing and even though I worked in IT I did design, not only our server room, but our entire office floor once it leaked out that I did that sort of thing (that’s how I GOT the corner cubicle!)

    One final note if you have to move anything heavy is get a couple of “movers dollys” They work much better than hand trucks for the larger things.

    Good luck and don’t hurt yourself.

    1. We had a POD when we cleaned up Carol’s mom’s house for sale back in 2007 and it was very useful. The problem here is simple: We live on a hillside (a mountainside, actually–you can see NORAD from my front porch) and the lower level is *very* low. Moving 35 years of QST across the room is one thing. Taking them up 19 stairs (14 feet) and out into the driveway would be overkill.

      We’ve decided to give away a couple of pieces of furniture, which will help me fit everything in.

      I’ve boxed up a look of books and gotten them onto shelves–or at least into piles–but the furniture and other really big stuff will be moved on Tuesday by younger men working by the hour.

  2. Jack says:

    I was also going to suggest a portable storage module – and hiring a couple guys with strong backs to cart things from the house to the storage module and back again.\

    If the weather was better, even a tent world work, but that’s not practical for December in CO.


    1. See my reply to Tom above. Carol hired a crew of movers for Tuesday morning, and given that the first step is to put a couch and a lateral file cabinet up in the garage for ARC, the rest becomes something like a reverse treasure map: Bury this shelf here, and this one there, and this one right next to it. I’ve actually tried to arrange it so nothing in boxes is blocked in by furniture. It’ll be interesting to see how it all actually works out.

  3. Lee Hart says:

    Sounds like you already have things well in hand. But here are a couple things I’ve used to move my “boat anchor” collection, just in case.

    1. Put as much as you can on casters. Most of my desks, workbenches, and filing cabinets are on wheels.

    2. Get (or make) some furniture movers. These are basically little platforms with casters in the corners. Whenever I throw out an old chair or something with castors, I salvage the castors and stick them on the corners of a 12″ square piece of plywood. You can rock a heavy bookcase just enough to get one under one end, do the same on the other end, and then roll it where you want.

    3. Rental places have hand trucks with electric motors for climbing stairs. The ones I’ve used have what look like caterpiller treads along the rails. They will happily haul a refrigerator etc. up a flight of stairs with little more than guidance from you.

  4. […] and my house almost blew up. Settling soil has been our bane here for years now. We had to empty the lower level and get the slab mudjacked, and are still fooling with paint chips and carpet samples now that the […]

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