Summer is almost here, the days are long and my good lady wife and I have decided to sell our house here in England and move over to Belgium (my wife is Belgian) for the rest of our lives.

Some things that need to happen to enable this decision are
a) moving house
b) moving job
c) moving contents of said house to another country

It has been said that moving house and changing jobs are two of the most stressful things you can do. Throw in the international element, and the fact we have a three year old daughter, and this could potentially make us all a tad irritable. While there’s no silver bullet for solving all the logistical issues that are going to arise, I think that using good software engineering practices can take the edge off.

1. Co-ordination
What’s the best way for me to remember what needs doing? What’s the best way to divide tasks logically between my wife and myself? How can I keep track of what’s already been done?

Important questions, and the answer is just the same as when working on a project – use good tools! In this case, Jira is providing the heavy lifting – you can buy a 10-user license for US$10, and for that you can give yourself the ability to manage all the tasks for yourself and others from anywhere. Projects and categories mean the work can be divided logically. Works best if you have a server running at home you can expose to the internet.

2. Small changes aggregate into big features
Or, to put it another way, use small boxes! Using big boxes may have the psychological benefit of clearing a lot of items from site, but they are
a) heavy, possibly too heavy
b) unwieldy
c) not as flexible when it comes to transport or storage.

Small boxes, on the other hand, allow you to control the weight of the box more easily – a large box of books weighs a *lot*, and if you don’t throw your back out it’s still possible the contents will drop through the bottom when you pick it up! Another psychological benefit is you fill more boxes more often, and it feels like you’re making real headway into the packing.

More importantly, small boxes allow you to…

3. Release early, release often
Since we’re driving over to Belgium every couple of weeks for various reasons (looking at houses, job interviews…) it makes sense to take some of those small boxes with us, and leave them in a rented storage space (or friend’s garage). This has the benefit of creating more working space in the house – boxes aren’t building up with no immediate place to go – and reducing the number of boxes we need to move over in one go on the big day.

4. Constantly refactor
This is a good opportunity to locate things you no longer need, or items you have unnecessary multiples of, and get rid of them. By starting early on the packing process, this gives you the opportunity to freecycle or sell things instead of just taking the down to the dump.

Not an exact fit?
It’s impossible to make one discipline fit another exactly without a little massaging, but I think try to apply to activity A skills learned in activity B will often provide new ways of approaching a problem, or help to anticipate issues that haven’t yet arisen.

I also think that software development provides a more useful model than most – I’ve tried to avoid really forcing the two together (“hey, let’s treat potential buyers as peer reviewers!”), but since we tend to blend a wide range of practices and have lots of shiny tools for managing work it’s easy to use engineering practices on major life-related projects.

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