TRANSFER OF FAMILIES

How a president moves into the White House

Obsession
Getting There
Obsession
Getting There

It’s not just Inauguration Day. It’s also moving day.

As Donald Trump takes the oath of office as the 45th president of the United States in front of millions of viewers, a frantic scene plays out not far away at the White House. More than 90 permanent White House residence staff and a few contractors will scramble to move the incoming president into his new home with speed that should impress even a native New Yorker like Trump.

After months of planning, it takes just hours to move out the old president and move in the new leader’s belongings and deck the presidential home with their preferred furnishings and favorite foodstuffs, a process known as the “transfer of families.”

Outgoing president Barack Obama and vice president Joe Biden hosted Trump and vice president-elect Mike Pence for coffee at 9:30 am. After that, Obama and Biden escorted their successors to the inaugural ceremony at the Capitol building. When the White House is clear, that’s when the move-in process begins in earnest. The new first family enters after lunch.

The whole process needs to be complete in about five hours.

Staffers scrub the White House, polish furniture, clean the windows. The Obamas’ belongings, most of which have already been packed, are shipped out to their massive new Washington home. Both the incoming and outgoing families are responsible for their own packing.

Moving trucks arrive with the Trumps’ belongings and staffers scramble not only to unpack, with no item too small to put in its place. “When the Trumps come back to the White House, it’s as if they were there for four years,” Bradley Blakeman, who was an advisor to George W. Bush, told CBS News. “The toothbrush is where the toothbrush should be, the clothes are in the closet, and they are completely moved in.”

Closets are organized. Dresses and suits are hung. No doubt Trump and Melania’s extensive range of hair products are neatly arranged. Blakeman likened the process to a “military ballet.”

Some redecorating is allowed. Trump has already planned to change the deep-red curtains of the Oval Office, the New York Times reported (paywall). But major changes aren’t possible. So don’t expect a transformation of the White House into Trump’s gilded Manhattan penthouse.

But when he walks in as president of the first time, the 132-room White House shouldn’t disappoint Trump.

home our picks popular latest obsessions search