Since 2006 I’ve:
- Moved house eight times
- Lived in five different towns including two different towns at the same time
- Flown across the country with two grumpy cats once (and NEVER again!)
- Driven between towns with one grumpy cat once (and NEVER again!)
- Unpacked approximately a gazillion boxes
Here’s how to take your entire life, put it into many boxes and successfully move the whole lot somewhere else. And why you should never do it eight times in six years…
Start with a cull
Grab some post-it flags in different colours and start labelling the furniture — one colour for keep, one for sell, one for donate. Tackle smaller items (the “stuff”) one room at a time using an objective friend to help you decide if you really do need 36 serving platters.
You could waste several hours listing two dozen things on eBay for $1 or you could make it your donation for the year and give your goods to many worthy causes…
- Clothing and furniture can go to thrift stores.
- Try local hospitals and medical centres for magazines and books.
- Women’s refuges collect new, unused toiletries.
- Play centers and youth groups will be happy for more stationery, paper, shiny things, sports gear, and board games.
- Local churches and schools will take bric-a-brac for fundraising fairs and garage sales.
And as a last resort you can pile everything on the front lawn with a FREE sign and take bets on how long it takes for it all to disappear (the record is three minutes… including the sign itself).
Have a packing party
Invite your friends around for the evening and ask each “guest” to bring a couple boxes and some old newspapers or the contents of their paper shredder. Send them off to a room to pack their boxes then get them to rifle through your “cull” pile and giveaway some of that stuff you don’t use to a good home.
Pack one room at a time
Assume all your boxes will be handled by drunk elephants at a rave and pack accordingly. Keep like items together — e.g. pack your computer and all its cables in the same box. Tips:
- Tape remote controls to their units to save you finding the TV remote six months later in a wok.
- Use sheets, pillowcases, towels, and clothing to wrap your valuables instead of wasting bubble wrap and tissue.
- Make a canvas roll with your artworks; Lay a sheet or blanket on the floor, add a canvas fold over on the sheet, add the next canvas (put them picture sides in) and keep rolling. Secure with masking tape and label.
If you’re moving often, a long way or keeping your art in storage consider getting an under bed storage container to keep the canvases safe. Hoard the little “moisture” packets that come in shoe boxes and tacos and throw them in the container too.
Depending on how far you move, a moving company can use several trucks/ships and may bulk your items together with someone else’s. In our last move we had several boxes for someone else that were meant to be delivered to a town 500 kilometres away. I had no address, no name and no number and the company couldn’t remember which house in that town they belonged to. D’oh.
Label every box with:
- the room it belongs in
- the contents
- your cell number
- the address you’re moving to.
Set up some “last minute boxes”
I have one half-packed box in each room (bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom) and on the morning we move I can chuck in the coffee pot, toothbrushes, etc. I label them with “Unpack First” so we know they have all the things we’ll need as soon as we arrive.
Reassess your insurance
Even if you’re flatting/renting insurance is vital. When we lived in an apartment building we had to get liability insurance for the ENTIRE building (a couple million dollars worth!) in case we burnt the whole place down. Get your heirlooms and valuables appraised and added to the policy to save any sticky moments when you claim insurance on a $40,000 painting when the rest of your stuff is worth $2,000.
Double check to see if you have an “at value” replacement policy or new-for-old. “At value” may mean you only get $5 for your 10-year old laptop but new-for-old will cover actually buying a new one to replace it.
Most insurance companies will insure you at the new house and the old house but not in “transit.” For example, when my friend’s cousin dropped her laptop on the concrete steps outside the new house (ouch!) the insurance company wouldn’t pay up as the laptop was “in transit.” Moving companies will give you the option of insuring your goods while they are moving them. Considering most moving people see a “This way Up” label as a personal challenge to smash the contents, transit insurance may be a good idea. Remember if you’re buying a home you need to insure the new house from possession date (heck, make it the day before), not the moving date.
Using a moving company
Moving companies work by the rule that items are sent “at your own risk,” and they like to increase the “risk” as much as possible. If they’ve obviously damaged something (like a piece of furniture) because of their bad packing DON’T sign the form to say your goods arrived intact. Sign your name and add STI which stands for subject to inspection (not the other meaning!), and means you haven’t checked the goods yet. You can also use this when signing for parcels that arrive with an ominous rattle.
Finally if something is REALLY valuable to you (grandma’s jewellery, your sister’s first painting) then move it yourself in your own suitcase, hand luggage or vehicle — it’s not worth taking the risk and losing something irreplaceable.
Make a list of all the places you need to send out change of address details to and get mail redirection — the new people may or may not pass on your mail but you will absolutely forget to change at least one vital address — like your bank.
Check the house thoroughly before you leave, take it one room at a time and as you check each room close the door. Remember to look in every cupboard, the attic, and any under floor storage spaces.
Add an extra day onto the phone, power and water and arrange an overlap of services in case you want to go back to the old house and clean or move into the new house early.
Remember to turn the hot water cylinder on the minute you arrive — not at midnight when you NEED a hot shower.
Have the following handy in a well-labelled box:
- 6-10 light bulbs (bayonet and screw cap)
- cleaning products and cloths including your preferred toilet cleaner
- several rolls of toilet paper
- assorted screwdrivers
- extra curtain hooks
- 4-5 box cutting knives
- fuse wire
- more cat treats
- a torch (flashlight)
- band aids
- chocolate and wine
- picture hooks and nails
- a hammer
- a cordless drill
- and more wine
Grab some sheets of paper and label each room to match your box labels — this is especially important if you have several bedrooms or his ‘n hers offices to sort out.
Check the lights are working before it gets dark and you realise the previous owners took all the bulbs with them
DON’T unpack everything. Unpack what you use as you use it, then in a year’s time have a look at the boxes still packed and ask yourself why you still have this stuff.
Ring the city council or visit their website and check out your rubbish/recycling collection day (even if you’re moving within the same town the day may change).
Check where your nearest supermarket is and when it closes — chances are you’ll need 16 light bulbs fifteen minutes after the store shuts.
Plug in the fridge and freezer as soon as they arrive — if they’re older they may “sulk” and take a while to get started.
Assemble and make the bed ASAP. Don’t leave it until 1AM to realise the moving company has left the mattress at the other end of the country and you have to sleep on the floor (for the next two weeks as it turned out).
Allow for your first grocery bill to double. The pantry is empty, you’re out of light bulbs and toilet cleaner, there are ants in every cupboard, you need picture hooks, curtain hooks, string, rubbish bags, potting mix… It’s like you have nothing left except the 36 serving platters you refused to get rid of and packed in 36 separate boxes.
Unpack the wine.