Most of us will move home several times in the course of our lives, and it’s probably fair to say that some moves are more significant (or at least more memorable) than others. Perhaps it was the first time you moved out of your childhood home? Your first apartment? The first time you bought a home of your own? Whatever the reason, moving house can be a big life change and it is usually accompanied by a lot of fuss and bother – some of it cathartic (finally, cleaning out that closet!) but some of it definitely tedious (scrub, scrub, scrub!).
When we see friends or family members going through the upheaval associated with moving house, it’s often a time of celebration and new beginnings – something that we want to mark with them – be it graduation, a new job or a first home. But, moving home can also be associated with sadness – a lost job, the death of a spouse or significant other, or an illness. In these instances, one’s instinct as a friend or family member is to try to offer comfort.
Irrespective of the reasons for a move, housewarming gifts are often intended to ease the attendant transition as much as possible – be it by offering a bit of humor, help or hope. If you’re racking your brains for some ideas that might fit the bill, here are a few suggestions:
Snacks: for established homeowners – folks who already have all the kitchen utensils they will ever need - delicious snacks number among our favorite gifts to give. Unpacking usually involves all sorts of cleaning, sorting and organizing. It can be a fairly lengthy process, sometimes accomplished while trying to simultaneously get oriented in a new city and/or settle in to a new job. What better way to make it rather jolly than to treat it a bit like a party? If you’re local, pop on by with a cooler of cold brewskies and some peanuts – or, a chilled bottle of bubbles and some cheese. If you are gifting remotely, snack foods by post are easy peasy! We once sent Taytos (cheese and onion for the win!), a brand of Irish potato chips (aka ‘crisps’), to a potato-chip-loving friend as a housewarming present. But, you know your loved one best – maybe a box of oranges, a case of granola bars, a box of chocolates, or a selection of candies would be more suitable? As Mary Poppins sang, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!”
A mix tape: okay, so maybe not a mix tape exactly, but you get the idea! Today’s equivalent might be a Spotify playlist but it still takes time, effort and thought to put together a selection of music that you think your friend or family member will really love. We suggest keeping the tempo upbeat to energize the unpacking process, unless your friend’s move was prompted by something sad. Then, it might be more appropriate to focus on relaxing or soothing music. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to accompany Spotify playlists with the personal doodling that often accompanied mix tapes but perhaps you can include a print-out of your playlist (complete with doodles and drawings!) in a housewarming card.
A massage: often in the course of transition, personal time falls by the wayside. Encourage your friend or family member to take a breather for an hour or two by doing a bit of research on their new neighborhood and getting them a gift certificate to a local spa or salon. A massage often has the side benefit of staving off pain - one’s lower back can easily be a casualty of the moving process - but, even when that’s not an issue, an hour or so on the massage table will help your loved one de-stress. If a massage is too expensive, or if you live near your friend’s new home and fancy doing something relaxing together, a manicure or pedicure might be a great (and more affordable) alternative!
Local services phone/address book: has your friend or family member moved to your neighborhood? Is it their first time living there? Then, you may wish to give them the benefit of your experience! A booklet or folder that serves as a kind of insider’s guide and address book for the area’s service providers is a gift that is inexpensive for you to produce, but will likely be invaluable to the recipient. Include recommendations for a good plumber, electrician, painter, as well as doctors and dentists if you feel it is appropriate. Does your friend have children? Do you know some babysitters? Include their names too! And, last but not least, be sure to include a list of your favorite local food establishments – particularly the ones that offer takeaway or delivery – as those recommendations may prove especially valuable immediately after moving in and before your loved one has a chance to stock the larder.
Restaurant gift certificate: this is kind of a mash-up of suggestions 3 and 4. Taking a break from the chaos of an apartment or house before the unpacking is complete, sitting down to a good meal and regrouping, these are both good things. If you’re local, you’ll know where to send your friend. If not, the internet makes remotely sousing out a good restaurant much easier these days!
Pantry staples: has your friend just moved across country? Is it their first apartment? If so, chances are the cupboards are pretty bare. Get them settled in their new home by helping to stock the larder with cooking essentials such as olive oil, vinegar, grains and/or pasta. Swing by with a satchel-full if you are local, or enlist one of the many marvelous online food purveyors to send the goods on your behalf, purveyors such as Formaggio Kitchen, Murray’s Cheese and Zingerman’s. (Full disclosure: we’ve only experienced excellent service/goodies from Zingerman’s, but we’ve worked at both Murray’s and Formaggio Kitchen so have an extra bit of ❤️ for them!)
No-cook meal: those first few nights in a new place can be pretty spartan. Perhaps the bed hasn’t arrived yet, so an air mattress is bridging the gap - and, we’re guessing the fridge is pretty empty. Help your friend with an easy no-cook meal. We’re talking things like cheese, crackers, bread, salami, cornichons and olives. If you’re not local and need to go the mail order route, the above-mentioned purveyors (see #6) are not just great for pantry staples, they excel at cheese provisioning too!
Seeds, bulbs and/or a plant: has your loved one moved into a place with a patch of green? Even if it’s just a window box, greenery (or the promise of it in the form of seeds and bulbs) is usually welcome. Be it houseplants or herbs for the kitchen windowsill, somehow plants have the ability to make a house feel like a home that much quicker – and, they have the potential to keep on giving for many years to come! Some of our favorite online gardening vendors include: Easy to Grow Bulbs, Garden Crossings and White Flower Farm.
Subscription to the local paper: whether you live around the corner, or are several states or countries removed form your loved one’s new home, it is quick work to find out their new local paper or city magazine. You’ll be the best judge as to whether a print or digital subscription is more appropriate, but a one-year, or weekend subscription is a way for your friend or family member to immediately begin engaging with their new community.
A go-local kit: a go-local kit is an idea similar to the local services address book mentioned above (suggestion #4) and is a great gift idea if you already live in the area where your friend or family is moving. Stop by city hall and pick up any registration forms your loved one might need – be it for a pet license, parking permit or voter registration. Tuck in any transportation schedules – bus, train, etc. – that might be relevant. If they have a car, parking information might be more appropriate – nearby lots, downtown parking spots, etc. Next, think about your town as if you were coming to visit for the first time – what are the “must see” tourist highlights? What’s happening at the town’s performance centers? Museums? Sports venues? Add to the kit any brochures on local activities and points of interest, as well as event schedules for cultural venues. Lastly, do tuck in a local road map. Even in this day and age of digital everything, there’s nothing quite like being able to take a look at one’s town or city on paper. Plus, if one’s battery dies, an off-line map is always handy to have in the glove compartment or front hall table drawer, just in case!
A tool pack: this is an idea for someone fresh out of college, or someone moving to an unfurnished apartment for the first time. A quick visit to a hardware store is likely all that’s needed. First stop, the bucket aisle. Once you’ve grabbed a bucket, have a wander and fill it with a few choice items. We suggest things that most homeowners use on a regular basis, but that are especially handy when moving in: a selection of light bulbs, an extension cord, super glue, measuring tape, picture hooks, a flashlight, sponges, rubber gloves, a level, a hammer, a screwdriver - things like that.
Fire extinguisher: not usually on the top of people’s gift list but, for homeowners, it will be one less thing they’ll have to check off their safety list. Plus, fire extinguishers can actually be funny and/or fun. Don’t believe us? Check out SAFE-T! If you’re looking for a fire extinguisher for genuine safety purposes (as opposed to a bit of a lark), check out the Kidde’s Pro 5 CO2 Fire Extinguisher. Unfortunately (fortunately?!), we can’t speak from personal experience, but as coders, we like the sound of “environmentally safe and ideal for protecting delicate electronic equipment,” as well as the, “leaves no residue behind as it effectively extinguishes Class B (liquids and gases) and Class C (energized electrical equipment) fires” bit.
First Aid kit: one always hopes First Aid kits will never be used, but if they’re needed and not there, it’s even worse. Family-sized kits are available, as are kits appropriate for smaller households – it really doesn’t matter if it’s one or ten people moving in, a First Aid kit is a solid choice.
Seasonal gear: has your loved one moved from New York to New Orleans? Or, from Santa Fe to Boston? If so, they may be short some necessary gear. If they are moving from a colder part of the world to somewhere that is warm and/or adjacent to water, one or more of the following might come in handy: mosquito netting, beach towels, a beach bag, and/or waterproof bags (or waterproof phone pouch). If, on the other hand, they are moving from a hot or humid climate to one that is chilly for much of the year, consider the following: an ice scraper for the windshield of their car, L.L. Bean duck boots (or duck mocs!), a nice hat, a scarf, a pair of mittens or gloves, woolly socks (Darn Tough socks are a favorite of ours!). The key is to try to anticipate what they don’t have and fill that gap.
We hope these ideas hit the mark – or at least get the ball rolling. If you’re coming to this post as an experienced housewarming gift giver, please do comment with any additional suggestions. It’s always great when members of the community weigh in!
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