Moving house? I've made these mistakes so you don't have to
Tanya Sweeney: There is something inherently stressful about upending your possessions
Realistically, you should have at least a carload of junk for the recycling centre.
The colour and smell of cardboard boxes is making me feel a little queasy. I am writing this column with a coffee machine, a rake and a bathmat at my feet. It can only mean one thing – we have moved house. That thing about moving house being more stressful than a new job or getting a divorce? I’d well believe it.
There is something inherently stressful about upending your worldly possessions – taking the visual wallpaper of your daily existence, and putting it all, higgledy-piggledy, into boxes. Likewise, walking through your now-empty house as a lorry full of said possessions idles outside the door is a disconcerting feeling.
There’s a unique and genius design feature in humans that, much like childbirth, allows us to store away the agonies of moving house, forever to be forgotten. I’ve moved many times before, but trying to recollect the experience, my brain threw a complete blank. Like I say, a genius design feature.
You might have forgotten it, but the people who create mortgage ads in which people look relaxed, organised and harmonious should frankly be done for outright lies.
So with the pain of moving house still fresh in my bones, I’ve created this cut-out-and-keep guide to moving house, so that you can learn from my mistakes and benefit from my hard-won wisdom.
If you can afford it, packers, movers and cleaners are the cleverest money you will spend throughout this whole occasion
First off: do a clearout. A proper one. This is effectively the first incision in your moving experience, so it’s perfectly normal to chuck out a few pairs of old knickers and odd socks and think, “wow, I feel so cleansed now. So weightless”. You are setting yourself up for a fall, my friend. Or at least, a situation where you’ll be in the agonising throes of unpacking your new house, and wondering how a certain lampshade/artwork/pair of boots followed you there. Take a look at everything in your house, and if you will not be happy to see it and find a place for it as you unpack, get rid. Realistically, you should have at least a carload of junk for the recycling centre.
In moving house, my clever friend Edel’s firm mantra was always, “throw money at the problem”. If you can afford it, packers, movers and cleaners are the cleverest money you will spend throughout this whole occasion. A lighter wallet or your sanity – it’s your choice. Friends of course will offer to help you out by moving a “carload or two”. Either they never mean it, or they want to have a nose around your new home. Besides, you don’t want your friends’ huffing, puffing and “how much stuff do you HAVE??” to make a stressful weekend even worse.
Similarly, people will politely ask how it’s going, and you will probably try and telegraph your despair and anguish, in vain. Remember the aforesaid genius human design feature. They just can’t empathise with what you’re going through, not really.
Moving with another person? Remember that a fight is inevitable; as integral to the whole fandango as sweat, Sellotape and boxcutters. Whether it’s about the lack of broadband or trying to decipher the heating system, don’t look into your bickering as a snapshot of your relationship as a whole.
If you have a child, ship them out for as long as is reasonable (I’m sticking a caveat in here: this is all subject to pandemic regulations). Seeing a little one jump in and out of boxes might just tip you over the edge.
You will hit a wall in unpacking boxes and finding places for everything. It will feel as though you will never, ever come off this particular mountain
The next big thing to remember is to transport your important and/or private stuff – laptops, wallets, framed photos, cherished keepsakes, tea bags, whatever – on your person. If you can’t bear to be parted with it, don’t want to go searching for it later on and don’t want the movers to see it, keep it close to hand.
Ideally the day before you move, get someone in your party to do a quick grocery shop near the new house, so that there’s at least the makings of a breakfast and lunch there for those first few days. And learn from one of my biggest moving missteps: keep toilet paper in the new property, unless you want to find yourself caught short and needing to use the closest thing to hand, like a Windolene wipe. Similarly, the remote control of the TV – guard it like it’s the firstborn you haven’t shipped out.
You will hit a wall in unpacking boxes and finding places for everything. It will feel as though you will never, ever come off this particular mountain. But trust me, you will reach the final, “time to choose new fridge magnets” stage of moving house sooner than you think. You will be bloodied and bruised (hopefully just metaphorically), but ultimately unbowed.
We brought a baby back to our old house. We had many happy times there. Closing the door and handing the key back to its owner was more upsetting than I thought it might be. But we are home, again. I’ve finally thought of a place to put this rake. And then, it’s down to the business of creating lovely memories anew.