ONTD Political

How exactly will Obama get all his stuff into the White House?

By Christopher Beam
Posted Friday, Jan. 9, 2009, at 5:36 PM ET

After Barack Obama is sworn in on Jan. 20, he and his family will move into the White House. But how exactly will the president-elect get all his belongings into his new home? Will he hire movers?

Yes. The president-elect is responsible for arranging transportation for his furniture, clothes, and personal effects from Chicago to a White House storage facility in Maryland (where they also keep antiques, Easter decorations, paintings, etc.). The Secret Service oversees the whole process, which usually happens the week before the inauguration. It provides an escort for the moving vehicles and screens all items—books, desks, chairs—before they enter the facility. But Obama has to cover the transportation costs, either with personal funds or money raised for his campaign or transition.

Once the incoming president's stuff is on White House grounds, the residence staff takes custody of his possessions. The chief usher, who coordinates move-in day, provides the staff with White House floor plans and photos that indicate where each item goes.* (The first time Obama visited the White House post-election, he and the chief usher discussed furniture arrangements, food preferences, and other logistical issues.)

The Inauguration Day move-in takes about six hours. It starts at 10:30 a.m., when the sitting president and the first lady have a traditional tea with the president-elect before heading over to Capitol Hill for the swearing-in. Once they leave, the 93-person staff shifts into high gear. (They don't hire outside help for security reasons as well as privacy.) The operations personnel does the heavy lifting while a housekeeping detail helps prepare the bedrooms, curators make sure the furnishings and décor are just so, florists worry about bouquet arrangements, and the chefs prepare the post-inauguration dinner. At the same time, the staff moves the ex-president out. Items get loaded into boxes, which get loaded into vans and then military cargo planes that carry everything to the former president's new residence. With only two elevators, it's organized chaos.

Who pays for all this? Congress draws up an annual executive residence budget, which gets a little extra funding every four years to cover move-in costs, such as packing equipment and overtime for staff members. The first family also gets a redecoration fund to cover draperies, carpets, paintings, and other costs.

Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks Maria Downs of the White House Historical Association, former White House Curator Betty C. Monkman, and former White House Chief Usher Gary Walters. And thanks to reader Maiko Hara for asking the question.

*Correction, Jan. 9, 2009: This article originally stated that the White House staff handles the president-elect's possessions when they arrive at the White House storage facility. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

Christopher Beam is a Slate political reporter.

Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2208317/


flowerings 12th-Jan-2009 01:54 am (UTC)
9 days until Inauguration Day!

laurie_springs 12th-Jan-2009 02:17 am (UTC)
And way too long until her album :(
flowerings 12th-Jan-2009 02:19 am (UTC)
I still can't believe it hasn't leaked. :(
(no subject) - Anonymous - Expand
cut_piece 12th-Jan-2009 02:19 am (UTC)
i can't stop watching this
flowerings 12th-Jan-2009 02:19 am (UTC)
You don't know how long it took me to make it on my shitty computer!
(no subject) - Anonymous
flowerings IKR?12th-Jan-2009 04:57 am (UTC)
randomneses 12th-Jan-2009 02:03 am (UTC)
Tea sounds good right now.

Also, I'd like to know how exactly/where exactly/what time exactly I should show up around capitol hill for inauguration.
thatssojessy 12th-Jan-2009 03:22 am (UTC)
-Metro or walking (get a SmarTrip card now if you can, they have Obama's face on them ^_^)
-Couldn't tell you off the top of my head, but if you're taking metro, get off at McPherson square and prepare to do some walking
-Might as well start heading out when Metro opens which is at 3:30 AM
arisma 12th-Jan-2009 04:57 am (UTC)
I know it's OT but I cannot find my favorite tea anywhere and it's pissing me right the fuck off. Bali black raspberry. It is amazing. Grar.
theloudcafe 12th-Jan-2009 02:12 am (UTC)
Definitely had a dream about Obama last night.
sunoftheskye OMG I got inauguration tickets! O____O12th-Jan-2009 02:22 am (UTC)
merlinspants Re: OMG I got inauguration tickets! O____O12th-Jan-2009 02:39 am (UTC)
omg i am so jealous
layweed Re: OMG I got inauguration tickets! O____O12th-Jan-2009 02:42 am (UTC)
Show off! I hope you end up surrounded by tall people!

I kid, I kid. Have fun at the inauguration! And hopefully people who go will have wifi and won't be too caught up that they can't post stuff! =X
mindrtist Re: OMG I got inauguration tickets! O____O12th-Jan-2009 07:42 am (UTC)
I saw a report somewhere asking people to help keep from jamming the airwaves and that The Gov has some sort of password to access higher communications. But... man, with all the people sending photos, it'll be jammed for sure.
train_diskense Re: OMG I got inauguration tickets! O____O12th-Jan-2009 02:42 am (UTC)
germli Re: OMG I got inauguration tickets! O____O12th-Jan-2009 03:11 am (UTC)
I'd be jealous...but I've had to much fun loling with you this weekend in the comments.
artchess Re: OMG I got inauguration tickets! O____O12th-Jan-2009 04:24 am (UTC)
Yep, I'm jealous. Have fun though :)
arisma Re: OMG I got inauguration tickets! O____O12th-Jan-2009 04:58 am (UTC)
Represent ONTDP! Rickroll him or something!
arisma Re: OMG I got inauguration tickets! O____O12th-Jan-2009 05:00 am (UTC)
...but don't really.
pinksta_r Re: OMG I got inauguration tickets! O____O12th-Jan-2009 05:37 am (UTC)
Kathy approves of this message. Have fun bb!
ladypolitik Re: OMG I got inauguration tickets! O____O12th-Jan-2009 06:45 am (UTC)
sunoftheskye Re: OMG I got inauguration tickets! O____O12th-Jan-2009 06:45 am (UTC)
LMFAO. Gerl, you trying to get me arrested
ladypolitik Re: OMG I got inauguration tickets! O____O12th-Jan-2009 06:55 am (UTC)
LMAO I'm trying to get us some ~*panties*~
abiding Re: OMG I got inauguration tickets! O____O12th-Jan-2009 07:16 am (UTC)
watermeloncholy Re: OMG I got inauguration tickets! O____O13th-Jan-2009 01:15 am (UTC)
I hate you.
wesaucereyes 12th-Jan-2009 05:12 am (UTC)
I read "Items get loaded into boxes..." as interns get loaded into boxes. I think it's time for me to lay off the wine for the night.
sunoftheskye OT - ROTF. Has anyone seen this?12th-Jan-2009 07:47 am (UTC)
watermeloncholy Re: OT - ROTF. Has anyone seen this?13th-Jan-2009 01:13 am (UTC)
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