Moving house? Here are 11 things to remember
Don’t use a friend, don’t get emotional and above all, carry your own toilet roll
Unless your friend is willing to move 95 carloads, get the professionals in. Photograph: Getty Images
According to age-old wisdom, moving house is more stressful than a relationship breakdown, a new job or even a divorce. And after the weekend I’ve just had, moving my worldly possessions from Home A to Home B, I’m not inclined to quibble.
That said, this is my third move in as many years. I hadn’t even unpacked some of the boxes from my last move before my landlord contacted me to say he was selling the apartment. Even so, I keep forgetting how big an undertaking it is; how emotionally wrenching it is to see your living space upended and packed up.
But in three years, I’ve learned a thing or two about getting a move done – from the first item packed to the jubilant collapsing onto the sofa at the end – within three days. It’s a set of skills and hacks that was hard-won (and involves the expertise of others) and you’d be advised to learn from my mistakes.
1. Do get in the professionals: A number of lovely friends will offer to help out by bringing “a carload or two”, which is all very nice. Except you have 95 carloads’ worth of stuff, and the wardrobe just isn’t going to fit in the boot of that Honda Civic. I did take up a friend on this offer once, and the ensuing tensions (“how much stuff do you have??”) only exacerbated the stress of the entire weekend. When you ask a professional to put this box here or that shelf there, they are not likely to respond with ‘why? I think it would look much better over there’. They keep things emotion-free.
Emotion is the great enemy of the house-mover. Poring over old pictures and sniffing old baby blankets only slows things down. Likewise, fretting about strangers handling your things is a waste of energy. Be sure a removals company rep comes to see your actual property and possessions before they offer you a quote. You don’t want a situation where you’re mid-move and you need to renegotiate the fee because you forgot to mention the bed that needs moving (in the end, I filled an 800 cubic foot lorry. I originally estimated 200). Make sure, too, that your stuff is covered by insurance. And for god’s sake, don’t be so Irish about apologising to removalists for asking them to lug your huge furniture up a flight of stairs.
2. Spend a little: A friend of mine lives and dies by a certain wisdom during house moves: throw money at the problem. Need a complicated wardrobe assembled? Someone will gladly do it for €50. Thinking of lugging back lots of new homewares from Ikea on the 140 bus? Get a taxi. Fine, this is precisely the point in life where there’s little in the way of money to throw about, but in the toss up between a lighter wallet and sanity, I know which one I’d prefer.
3. Clearout: About a week before you move, do a massive clothing/bedding/bric-a-brac clearout, and be bloody ruthless. Keep one Christmas card from your granny, as opposed to 30. It may not feel like it, but once you start looking, you will come away with at least 16 bags of things that are no longer of use to you, but could come in very handy indeed for your local charity shop.
4. The necessities: Take the important stuff – medication, toothbrush, clean underwear, the kettle, contact lens fluid, the remote control for the TV – and carry these with you. It will make your first night a lot easier.
5. Loo roll... yes loo roll: I cannot stress this enough: keep toilet paper close to hand. There is a special place in hell for people who don’t leave toilet paper in the property they are leaving, but there are many of them around. I got caught short in this particular department a year ago, and was forced to resort to using a Windolene wipe.
6. A place for everything: There are people for whom the idea of unpacking is merely moving something out of a box and chucking it somewhere randomly. Train them to find a place for everything that emerges from a box or bag. Or better still, send them off to the pub.
7. Accept there will be truble: This brings us nicely onto the idea of moving house while you’re in a relationship. Yes, it’s like that lovely, huggy couple on the mortgage ad – about 0.2 per cent of the time. Aside from that, we’re talking three days of simmering tension and the odd (okay, hourly) flare-up.
It’s probably best to take these as integral to the house-moving process, rather than any indicator that you are both destined for the romantic scrapheap. Make a pact, before you even start packing, to resolve any small tiffs on the spot. Factor in a trip to the cinema/theatre/favourite pub as a reward when you’re finished. Being able to mumble “think of the cinema” every 10 minutes to each other will be a lifesaver.
8. Lable the boxes: Mark the boxes according to each room. There will be more boxes and packing paper than you could have ever imagined. Schedule in a trip to the local recycling plant, or get the removals company to take the stuff away.
9. Treat yourself, but then get back to business: There’s something about the stress of a house move that throws people into survival mode. Or, put another way, you live as though you’re in a holiday home for the first week or so – possibly because you feel like a tourist in your new neighbourhood. On the first two days of the move, treat yourself to a pub lunch or nice breakfast in your new area, but don’t make a lasting habit of it. Get back to the regular routine of cooking as soon as, say, you’ve found the saucepans. Those avocados on toast, as economists are overly fond of reminding us, do start to add up.
10. Switch off, switch on: A service like Property Button takes the sting out of moving electricity/gas/phone/TV/broadband providers. Take photos of the gas/electricity meters on both ends so you have those readings to hand. The service also has an at-a-glance listing of the discounts on offer by these various companies. It’s free of charge, too.
11. If you are renting, deal with the landlord: Fancy getting your rental deposit back? If you notice dings, snags or broken stuff in your new house, take a note (or pictures) of them and send them to your new landlord/agent. They will come in particularly handy when you are leaving your new place and negotiating the return of the deposit. And this fateful day will always, always roll around sooner than you think.