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Moving House - Our Experience!

Recently we made a move from suburbia Brisbane to a smaller house an hour an a half away in the Gold Coast Hinterland. Its absolutely stunning up here and we love it.

Its been well worth the hard work of moving.

I hadn't shifted for well over a decade, and not for nearly 27 years in the case of my husband and so it was quite a feat to downsize, declutter and work out what we were really going to need and what we thought we might need when we had such a large collection of "stuff".

Now I've done it, I would do the next move a bit differently... but like a mother who has just given birth, Im not so keen to do it again in the foreseeable future!

Here's what I did (and what I'd do next time)...

As soon as you know you are going to move, try to plan how you think you are going to live. A bit more detail at this stage would have influenced some of the decisions we made about what to pack and take and what not too.

Ask your self / spouse/ family questions like,
  • How will I spend my days?
  • What will stay the same? What will be totally different?
  • Why are we moving and what will be the priorities in the new place?
  • What activities will we be doing in the new place?
  • How will life change in the new house?
  • What is different between the houses? What is the same?
  • How much storage is in the new place? More? Or less?
In some cases I image that people pack up all their stuff, move into a house more or less the same, unpack everything and out it where it was in the old house and get on with their lives. There are also the lucky ones who are moving to a bigger house and so getting rid of things isn't too much of an issue for them. We moved from a small house with a ton of storage into a slightly smaller house with NO storage! Getting rid of stuff was a priority to be able to fit into the new place.

We had been on a bit of a decluttering, sorting, getting rid of excess stuff binge for a while before our move and I think that really helped with what to pack and what we needed to take with us as we weren't wading around in so much clutter to be able to see what was important..

Going from a high set house that has a house size storage area underneath to a smaller lowset house with no shed, no garage and no built in storage really rammed home out how much "stuff" we stored because we could. I read some where that storing things that you don't use is just storing unmade decisions... We had a lot of those, simply because keeping something instead of sending it to the dump/charity/friend/selling it on Gumtree was easier and exactly as I had read - an unmade decision. The move forced us to make those decisions.

Next time I would compare the storage area and plan where each item in the old house was going to live in the new house. Doing this more thoughly would've highlighted the fact that we were both planning to put different things in the same place thus halving the tiny amount of storage that we had. Once we wrote a list of what would fit into which cupboard in each room, it became quite obvious that a lot of stuff was simply going to have to go. Check in with the whole family as to where they think the things they are packing are going to go. You'll be surprised how many of you have plans for the same space!

Unless you want to live with boxes and clutter until the end of time - a place has to be allocated in the new house for each item that you pack in the old house. This tip is the crux of what to pack - if you don't have a place for it, does it really need to come with you?

Packing boxes of stuff that you don't use often early in the packing process also has a major drawback... I found that by starting to pack by packing thing I didn't use much meant that I had a lot of things that I don't need very much at the other end... When you start packing early because you have the time or want to be organised, there isn't the pressure to get rid of things that there is the week before you move! Of course the boxes you pack first end up on the bottom of the pile or at the back of the garage and you cant get to them until moving day - and then its too late. I was quite ruthless closer to moving day, far more than I was months beforehand. Most of the stuff that's gone to charity or the dump since we moved came out of those first packed boxes.

Another thing I would do next time is decide on an item to pack - say linen and then put ALL my linen in a pile and make decisions that way. I packed all the towels I wanted to take in the first few weeks as they came through the wash and then proceeded to use the left over and random towels over the last few weeks to pack around breakables. Then I used old beach towels to line boxes or to fill in empty spaces on the final days. By the time we got to the new house, I had bought every single towel with me including ones that were earmarked for charity or should've been dumped!!! Sort out what coming and get the rest out of the house asap when you are packing. In the last few days its seems easier just to pack it and think about it afterwards but I wish I had made a lot of the decisions sooner and been more ruthless.

Books were another big problem. We love them and had lots of room for them. I managed to cull mine down to one bookcase that was designated "my bookcase" in the new house. I emptied that bookcase, gathered up every single book I owned, chose the books to go in the bookcase, and put them in it so I knew they all fitted. I then got rid of all the other books and packed my chosen books into boxes. Once we got to the new place I knew where my book case would go and what would go in it. My husband still has boxes of books to unpack and no where to put his as he just packed them as they came to hand without wondering where they would go! This tip works really well with clothes too. Hunt the house down for all your clothes before you start. There will be jackets and scarves at the front door, back door, in the car and in places you don't even think of. Once you see it all together you can see you have five jackets and three sets of gumboots, for example. Its hard to keep track of what you have and what you need to pack if you do the wardrobe only first, then the stuff by the front door a few days later, the stuff downstairs a different week, the hall cupboard just before you go.

You don't have to pack it all, especially if you use those things all the time but as long as you get rid of what not coming or wont fit first, you can pack it over a few weeks rather than at the last minute. Don't forget to label your boxes accurately. "Trinkets" is really uninformative in the new place. "Stuff from the shelf above the mantelpiece" was much better! Its frustrating not to be able to find which box a much needed item is in without having to unpack them all. If you are packing a miscellaneous box, mark it with everything that's in it. Stuff that's always gone together can be labelled as a group. A box lable that says "Stuff hanging on the front door hooks" is ok, youll remember what that is. "Photos" isn't ok unless you only have one box of photos!!

If you have the space in your old house to measure out the moving truck space, that will also give you an idea of how much room you really have in the truck. A friend moved a few years back and discovered that they had to hire a ute on moving day as by 10am it was obvious that it wasn't all going to fit in the truck and she didn't want to pay for them to come back and do a second trip (I'm not sure the stress of the ute trips was worth the savings though...) Another friend pretty much had the same thing happen only months ago, after a marriage break up and half the stuff was already gone. I swore we would be more organised but we ended up with at least 4 car and trailer loads of strange shaped stuff, stuff that the movers didn't recognise as precious possessions and things from outside that we simply forgot about until the house was empty. That was fifty square metres of truck packed to the roof and we still couldn't fit the contents of a two bedroom house in it... (One bedroom was a filled with someone else's stuff so we only had a bedroom and an "office bedroom" to move!)

One method that worked for me was packing one room a week - declutter it, plan a new home for each item left, pack what's not essential to daily living and get into "camping mode" for that room after you've packed it up. When I packed up the kitchen we got out the camping gear and cooked and ate off that for the last fortnight. That way I only had to wash and pack up the camping stuff and I was done on moving day in the kitchen. The cupboards and drawers were all empty. Using the camping gear to cook and eat off  meant I could just pack up the whole kitchen in one hit and move on. If you are going to pack up your kitchen, make sure you plan meals that can be cooked with the equipment you have in your camping kit!

It will cost more to move than you think. Even if you do it yourself! Unpacking the truck is about half of the time to pack the truck. And driving the truck to the new place is almost double the time it takes to get there in a hatchback! Ask the removalist how much time/money they estimate and then add on another 25-50%  and hopefully you'll get change. Also check how they want to be paid. Some removalists want cash on the day and some can and will take a credit card. Its embarrassing to have to go and get more cash or exceed your limit on your card on moving day!

Find a reliable supply of boxes. You'll need more than you think you will. I got into a routine of buying 10 boxes a week from a local removalist for $1 each and then attempting to pack those 10 boxes before the next 10 were due to be purchased each Thursday. I packed over 70 boxes on our move. Boxed stuff is sooooo much quicker and easier for the removalists (and for you) to handle, stack and pack.

Find a way to get rid of those boxes after the move! We were lucky enough to be able to give most of our boxes to the people moving into our old place as there was a reasonable gap between the two moves. You can recycle them as the local waste disposal or maybe sell them back to the company you bought them from. You could sell them on Gumtree or Ebay. Have a plan for them or they will sit., and sit. and sit.

Buy lots of tape - consider it a moving expense and get the good stuff. Get a tape gun too while you are at it. Our first packed boxes had the tape coming off them on moving day. Cheap tape didn't last very long on the boxes in the garage at all...

We found an H shape on the box was strong and didn't use excessive amounts of tape. The first run goes along the join of the two flaps and then a run down each of the unfolded sided was economical and still strong. Do the bottom, fill the box, write on the flap as you fill it, tape it down and move it to a pile. The removalist will love it if all the boxes are in a couple of piles rather than scattered around the house.

We did the move first and spend two weeks cleaning up and sorting the old house before we turned our attention to properly unpacking the new house. Other people I know have spent two weeks cleaning and sorting the old place and never come back to it after moving day is over and then spend a fortnight or so unpacking. It seems, from talking to people who have moved, that its roughly a four week process. Two weeks to get out of the old place, no matter when you move in that fortnight and about two weeks to unpack the new place more or less completely assuming you are still having to work in that month too.

Accept offers of help. If some offers to make lunch on moving day, accept. If someone offers to help you clean the old place (or the new place), accept. Friends that will do dump runs, charity drop offs, make dinner (especially close to the actual move) do some babysitting or pet minding, provide muscle power, sell stuff on Gumtree for you or even just be company when you are packing or cleaning can make the world of difference to your state of mind, even if it doesn't make the job go quicker.

Remember that moving is a really stressful thing to do on so many levels, so be nice to yourself and to your family. Don't put yourself under extra stress by looking after grandmas blind dog the week you move, don't try to lose weight, run a marathon or do anything that takes time and energy away from the moving process. Give yourself a break from time to time and the odd rewarding experience to keep moral high.

 Eat well, sleep well and drink lots of water. Keep reminding yourself (and your family) that moving house stressful and its not as much fun as it looks in the movies. Its more expensive than you anticipate. It takes longer than you hope. But hopefully the new place is well worth all the stress!



Janet Camilleri said…
Haha love that last pic! I loathe moving but we really need more room, Miss 20 has moved back in and we have so many cars it looks like a car yard. Sounds like you have moved to a beautiful spot - look forward to hearing more.
Practical Frog said…
Hey Janet! Lovely to hear from you! Car parking is certainly an issue for the modern day family, isn't it? It is a glorious spot - a wee bit of paradise and hopefully a slower, more contented lifestyle! Stay tuned! - Kara x
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