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I have lived in five countries and have moved house nearly 20 times. In the last 15 years, I've only hired a removals firm once; the rest of the time I've done it myself with the help of a few friends. While it is very stressful, I've come up with a few ways to cut down on the hassle - and I'd like to share these with you.
1. Upstairs, downstairs Everything you move has to go through your front door, so it makes sense to have your belongings as close to the exit as possible. Make sure you get everything down from the loft (or up from the cellar) before moving day. After all, if it's in the loft, you probably don't use it every day, anyway.
Put the boxes in a room you can do without for a while and stack them three or four high. Try to keep the piles relatively even, so they won't fall on you or your children. (This has happened to me before and it was a pain to have to restack all the boxes).
2. Clear the clutter When you're moving things out of the loft or cellar, be ruthless and clear out anything you haven't used in the last two years. The same goes for the garage and for the garden shed. Every piece of tat you keep is one more thing to load and unload. By the end of move day, you'll wish you hadn't bothered. This is one my partner learned the hard way. The last time we moved, he insisted on moving a rickety piece of furniture which we ended up taking to the tip on move day. Take it from me, the last thing you want to do is add any extra trips to the schedule.
There is one advantage of moving, though. It's a good time to 'lose' that unwanted Christmas or birthday gift. (Remember not to look too sad when you explain what happened or you might get a replacement.)
3. Plan your van When hiring a van, don't cut corners. Spend a bit more and get a van with a tail-lift. That will cut down on the backache and will be invaluable, especially for the larger furniture items. Buy or borrow a heavy duty trolley of some kind and you'll have almost all the bases covered. When booking a van, look for a company that will allow you to either pick it up the night before the move (to get a head start on the loading) or return it the day after (so you can collapse into bed at night without watching the clock).
4. Box clever Keep packing boxes small and manageable and your back will thank you. The boxes that reams of A4 paper come in (you can get a few from your office) are perfect for packing books, CDs, DVDs, tapes, records (if you've still got them) and other small items. The ones with handles are best.
Check out your local shop and ask them to save the boxes that snacks and chocolates are delivered in. They'll need to be reinforced but they're a good size as well.
For all the mums out there, the Pampers multipack boxes are strong and solid (and they have handles).
Finally, book boxes (the smaller ones, of course) from your local bookshop. These are difficult to get hold of but when you use them you can be sure that your stuff won't fall out mid-move.
5. It's a wrap! To avoid breakages, wrap your fragile items very carefully. The best packing items are newsprint and bubble wrap. If you can get it, beg or buy large sheets of unprinted newsprint or ends of rolls from your local printer. If you can't you'll have to start saving your Sunday papers (the bigger, the better). There's always more stuff to be wrapped than you think. Bubble wrap is also a safe, clean alternative, and if you get really bored, you can pop a few bubbles while you wrap.
All mattresses should be wrapped, otherwise you'll be sleeping on dirt for years. They're quite heavy, and you'll usually drop at least one corner. (After three moves in the rain, my old pale yellow mattress was quite filthy.) Black bin bags and packing tape are useful for wrapping large items such as these, but even better are big dust sheets from your local DIY shop.
6. Label, label, label Don't just label boxes by where they're going; mark where they've come from as well. You'll have a much better idea of where to find that elusive vase for the welcome flowers the new neighbours have brought you, because you'll know exactly where that was in the old house. Label boxes on the top and at least two sides so you won't have to lift every box to find out what's in it. Make some signs for the new house (Bedroom 1, Bedroom 2, Office etc) so your move-day helpers will know where each box should go. Otherwise, they'll just put stuff down anywhere and you'll struggle to find it.
7. Essential services Get together a 'move day essentials' box. This should have a kettle and enough mugs for everyone who's helping you move, as well as coffee, tea and sugar (those packs you get at hotels are perfect) and a carton of UHT milk. A bottle of mineral water is also a good idea, as are a couple of snack bars and a roll of toilet paper.
Another essentials box should have your hammer, drill, screwdriver set as well as a few nails, screws and wall plugs. A couple of light bulbs may also come in handy, as will a roll of bin bags and some large dust sheets in case it's a wet day (you don't want mud all over the new carpet, do you?)
I've found that these steps work for me. Moving is still stressful, but I don't tend to have breakages (except on purpose) and I can usually find my belongings easily.
I am considering moving and working abroad once i've finished my studies. You don't mention which countries you've lived in, if they are either Amsterdam or Norway i would be interested to hear more! These are my top two. Great review.
sjljersey 20.09.2005 12:15
Oh I wish I had read this before our last move. After finally stopping I vowed never to move again! Fantastic tips. Sue x
Majiggy 16.09.2005 08:44
Great review. Some nice tips. I just moved myself and you reminded me of the stress factor involved! Oh I hate it, though haven't done it as much as you have! Boxes were everywhere, and it takes forever to put things away, and tidy up. Removal men were very nice though. Did it on a very hot day as well. :+)
xx maj xx