Obama Has Six Hours To Move Into White House

At 10:30 in the morning, a 93-person staff will shift into hyperdrive, moving the Obama family in. Making it more interesting, in the same period of time, that same staff is moving president Bush and his family out.

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ALEX COHEN, host:

From pensions to presidents: After Barack Obama is sworn in next week, he and his family will spend their first night in the White House. But how, exactly, will the president-elect get all his belongings into his new home? Here's our senior producer Steve Proffitt with a Slate Explainer.

STEVE PROFFITT: Like most of us who relocate, the president-elect has to hire a moving company. He's personally responsible for getting his furniture, clothes and personal effects from Chicago to a White House storage facility in Maryland. The Secret Service provides an escort for the moving vehicles, and screens all the items before they enter the facility. But Obama has to cover the transportation costs, either with personal funds or with money raised for his campaign or his transition.

The incoming president's stuff is then transferred to the White House grounds, ready to be unpacked in a whirlwind of activity on Inauguration Day. The move starts at 10:30 in the morning. That's 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 hyper-drive.

Operations personnel has only six hours to move the furniture and unpack the boxes while the housekeeping staff prepares the bedrooms. And just to make it interesting, in that same six hours, the same staff is moving the ex-president out. The Bushes' belongings are loaded into vans, and then transferred to military cargo planes that carry everything to the now former president's new residence in Dallas. With only two elevators in the official residence, choreography is critical. Our advice to both the incoming and outgoing presidents? Slip a toothbrush in your pocket.

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COHEN: That Explainer, read by NPR's Steve Proffitt and compiled by Slate's Christopher Beam. And now a little reminder: We've been asking you, our listeners, about plans for the inauguration. What are your plans? Are you going to Washington, D.C.? Are you skipping work or school and staying home to watch? Write in and let us know. Go to our Web site, it's npr.org, and click on Contact Us.

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