Things I have learnt about moving while helping my parents

…because life would have been much easier these last 2 weeks if we’d thought to make sure these things were done a few months ago:

* Buy a brightly coloured accordion file with a clasp and handle for all your latest bills, financial statements, insurance policies, conveyancing correspondence etc and put it somewhere obvious so that it is easy to find and easy to pack in the car on the day you actually leave. Because otherwise you realise that not only can you not find the title deed but you can’t find all the other documents you need to prove title and identity to the satisfaction of various government departments either, and then you have to go and get duplicates of birth certificates and utility bills etc which takes up precious time that you don’t really have in hand.

* Make a list of things you want to take with you in the car so that you have them when you walk into the new house without having to wait for the removalists to unpack. Then designate a corner of one room where all the stuff on that list will be put as you’re going through the rest of the packing up, so that it doesn’t accidentally end up getting packed away and inaccessible. (We only did this today, and they’re leaving tomorrow – of course we found that several things on our list had already been packed away.)

* Start simplifying the contents of the fridge and the kitchen cupboards as soon as the sale contract is signed. Then you won’t have to spend ages looking at ancient bottles of condiments with 1cm of mystery sauce in the bottom, or a startling number of packets of lima beans.

What horrid things have Hoyden readers done to themselves while moving? What advice would you give to anyone planning to move?

Categories: crisis, Sociology

36 replies

  1. LOL IRL @ “startling number of packets of lima beans”
    I think leaving it til the last 4 days before seriously packing to move interstate has to take the cake. Trying to catch the plane whilst trying to finalise boxes for movers – Worst Day Of My Life

  2. We took jars of coins that had been lying around for donkeys up to the bank – $157 worth, and that doesn’t include the old banknotes that we are going to see if they might be worth just a wee bit more than face value these days.
    I have inherited my dad’s clutter-magnet capabilities, and what I’ve seen them go through trying to sort through several decades’ more accumulation than I have yet managed has utterly horrified me. I will reform!

  3. Make sure *everyone* knows about it if you choose to pack things (like linen) in garbage bags. Otherwise said linen (or whatever else) will end up at the tip because someone (reasonably so) thought the stuff in garbage bags was in fact garbage.

  4. What a fortnight you must have had, tigtog. Oh my goodness: when I was moving earlier this year, I scheduled my scheduleable uni assessments for a few weeks before moving so that I’d have time to pack. And then the moving date got pushed forward, so I ended up handing in four essays on moving day.
    So, my advice would be to not be me.

  5. My first advice would be: clean everything out first. Before you move, do a declutter, because otherwise you’ll wind up with a gazumphillion boxes which are more or less labelled “WTF” and which will continue to clutter up your new location.
    Second piece of advice: While planning to get every relative you can think of to help packing up, delegate a few of them to helping you unpack as well. Otherwise, you have those boxes cluttering up the space for years.
    Third piece of advice: Accept you’re going to be low on spoons for one reason or another for at least a week after any move. It’s a stressful business (one of the top ten stressors, I think – comes in just after losing a spouse on most lists) and you’ll do better if you accept that you’re going to be feeling like you’ve been thumped with a large and heavy hammer as a result. Don’t expect to feel overjoyed or immediately comfortable in the new place (no matter how much you like it). Go easy on yourselves.
    Corollary: the housewarming party should be planned for at least a month after you move in at the earliest.

  6. During our 21 years of wedded bliss, we have moved house 14 times, including 4 international moves. It has never been easy. But we have now learned to put together document files as you suggest. We also tend to set up a ‘To Do’ list, in a note book. Some items we put a name by (his or mine) depending on who is going to do it. Items get added to the list as needed, and crossed off. We also tend to go stay in a motel for a couple of nights if we can, just so that we have somewhere quiet to retreat to. And when we move into the new place, one of the first things I like to do is to make up the beds, so that at least we have somewhere to sleep that night.
    The easier thing to do would be to not move, but somehow, we’ve never managed that.

  7. Well they’ve got the rellos helping to unpack sorted – I’m going up with my sis tomorrow morning to meet them as they collect the keys, and my bro who lives near the new house will be devoting the day to unpacking as well, then mr tog and the togsprogs will come up for the weekend to all help out as well. Between the lot of us we should get all the crucial boxes unpacked.
    They actually bought about 1/3 of the furniture that was already in the house and matched the style of the renovation beautifully, so that will still be there when they arrive which means that some stuff will be able to be easily sorted out right away and they won’t have to worry about chairs to sit on or bed to sleep on.

  8. From my moves and those closely connected to me:
    This is probably almost too obvious to mention: books are heavy, pack them in small boxes not large ones.
    Get a truck with a lift.
    Don’t hire a truck from a depot a huge distance from where you are moving to: you will be too exhausted to return it. Do the travel at the start of the day and pick up a truck from near your new home. (For same-metro moves anyway.)
    If your truck rental place makes it possible (and it’s hard as a lot of them are closed Sundays) rent a truck in such a way that it is due back the following day, rather than at 5pm on the day of the move.
    If you’re running overtime on the move and want to keep the truck, call the rental place or they will report it stolen. (Thanks former housemates.)
    If you’re running overtime on the move, but the hire truck wasn’t hired in your name, return it on time and hire a second truck in your own damned name and on your own damned credit card. (Thanks former housemates.)
    If possible, don’t move into a property the same day you are due to sign any contract or pick up the keys. These will invariably run late and push your whole move back.
    If picking up keys to a rental property, pick them up well before the agent closes, go straight to the place and test the keys every single openable door. (I’ve been involved in two moves where it turned out the agent hadn’t handed over all the keys, in one case we couldn’t actually get in at all but luckily reached the agent at home on his mobile, and the other time the agent was shut and we had to break a lock to finish the move and then had an unlocked house for a week until the landlord and agent agreed to replace the lock.)

  9. Moving house when 6 months pregnant and suffering from perpetual morning sickness means that your strongest memories of moving day will be of throwing up in the garden and then landing flat on your face after failing to walk up your front steps due to sheer exhaustion at the end of the day. That last part completely freaked my mother out.

  10. If you are past thirty, don’t get wickedly drunk the night before the move.
    take away for the first night in the new place, the last two rental properties we have moved into in Melbourne have come with pizza vouchers from the agents, much appreciated.
    getting your mail diverted at the post office.
    i wish to second Deborah’s bed making plan, we did that last time and falling into bed when we wanted to was bliss. The other thing i always set up early is music, there is little like Transmission at full bore to lay ownership of a new place (tho thinking of Little Nell in the masthead, it would have been Rocky Horror in the early eighties).

  11. I was going to say don’t do it at seven months pregnant with high blood pressure! I think any stage of pregnancy makes moving more difficult than it needs to be. I would periodically lay on the futon we set up specifically for me to slump and weep on, and try to soothe the Braxton hicks it was inducing. I did not have morning sickness though, I think that would have sucked more. Particularly with a face plant!
    I also recommend not having the ADD and laid back part of the partnership do the scheduling. You may end up hiring a removalist five days before an interstate move, after a loud and embarrassing argument in front of your friends when you realise it hasn’t been done. Also schedule inspections before you leave the state. And if they arer packing up the house after you moved three months ago, they may decide that you don’t want any of the clothes you left behind, not realizing you left with what you could fit into the suitcase as opposed to what tou wanted to take (I lost about three quarters of my wardrobe that move).
    I always have the emergency box – kettle, tea, cups, some cutlery, peanut butter, bread, seething, a bowl and sugar. It goes in the car so I can at least have a cup of tea when the removalists tell me they are arriving a day early while we are still four hours away and the tenant is still in the house anyway.

  12. Don’t take the cheapest removalist quote for they will not turn up and then you will have to unpack stuff and repack it in order to do it all over again the next day.
    Don’t pack boxes in front of your anxious dog for he will take as much stuff out of the boxes as you are putting in.
    Don’t lock your keys in the house on the first night or the locksmith will look at you sideways while you explain why the address on your driver’s licence doesn’t match.
    Do declutter some of your mum’s stuff behind her back or she will take three icecream container of pens from the 1980s to her new (smaller) house.
    And do order pizza as a reward at the end of the day.

  13. Easiest move I ever did was a big interstate one where we ended up paying professional removalists to pack everything as well (sort of had to do it for insurance purposes). I’ve heard horror stories, but the packers we got were *amazingly* fast and packed everything really really well. The cost was exhorbitant, but the stress levels were much lower.
    I’m really slack on the unpacking side. And so while I label everything really well so I know where to find stuff, except for the essentials I unpack on demand. Which means boxes can hang around for months. Or years.

    This is probably almost too obvious to mention: books are heavy, pack them in small boxes not large ones.

    This is so true. But I always underestimate how much a boxful of books is going to weigh and overestimate how much I can really lift.

  14. If moving all your stuff by train (which, BTW, don’t do), try to make sure you don’t have to change trains at a station without a lift.

  15. Unfortunately I probably shouldn’t name the company but could tell people privately: there’s one Sydney removalist firm I don’t recommend because one of their employees defecated in a friend’s garden and then denied it and refused to clean it up.

  16. Am about to move, for the 12th time, but my first proper international move (I came with a suitcase 11 years ago) so this is all very handy. I am immensely looking forward to having movers do it all, after injuring my back last move.
    If you are super organised like me, and you ask people to help you a month or so before hand, give them a call a week before and the night before to make sure they are still coming. Especially if they are the people with the sack truck. Otherwise you will end up with only your very organised friends. And that may only be two of them, one a heavily pregnant woman with her 2 year old son. Expect at least one person to be ‘sick’ and unable to make it.
    Don’t have small children around the day of the move. They will unpack packed boxes that haven’t been sealed, and generally touch things that are best not touched by two year olds, both for the sake of the two year old and the things.
    Blanket or bubble wrap your wooden furniture/tv. Do it yourself unless you have professional movers.
    Wear pants that fit and don’t keep falling down.
    Have a good physio.

  17. Clearly label the box with the wine glasses, make sure it is at the top of the pile, and include a bottle of red in the box (doesn’t need to be chilled!). Critical to the end of the moving day, and goes excellently with pizza delivery.
    If at all possible, hire a removalist – they know what they’re doing and have clever ways to move stuff around corners and stairs, and are much better at lifting things!

  18. If you can at all afford it, hire removalists who can do all the heavy lifting and get your stuff out of the house and onto the truck (and out of the truck and into the new house) with minimal fuss. Even if it costs you a few hundred bucks, it’s far preferable to endless familiar angst as your controlling, back-injured Dad tries to fit the precious bits of your life on the back of his ute… (Sadly, not all rello help reduces the stress of moving.)
    That said, if you’re on a tight budget, help the removalists out by moving the easier-to-shift stuff (eg boxes) into the truck instead of leaving it all to them. I’ve found removalists also help you get things over and done with – book them in the morning so that you’ve pretty much got everything moved by lunch time, and all you have to do for the rest of the afternoon is assemble furniture/rest!
    Thirded x a million re: packing books into small boxes.
    And seconded on the “pack a box of tea and biscuits” for emergency tea breaks. And the “build/make your bed first” so you have somewhere to collapse.
    I’ve also got in the habit of, as soon as I know I’m moving, starting a list of all the companies I receive mail from, so I can phone and change my address with them as soon as I move. Cheaper than a mail redirect!
    And back to helpers again: having someone around whose job it is to run errands in a car is SO useful. For picking up emergency food supplies, packing tape, cleaning supplies, keys, etc, while you’re frantically carrying boxes/directing removalists.

  19. Don’t leave disassembling the bed til so late the night before that you pop it in a perfectly logical spot and then the next day can’t remember where they are and so can’t construct the bed. TAKEAWAY dinner!

    • Just finished breakfast after sleeping like a log – got back to motel about 11 and watched a bit of telly before crashing. Three of us got to Newcastle to await the van while my parents were traveling up with my brother – we got all the boxes into designated rooms (including the back storage area which makes a great box room for the non-urgent boxes). Got their bed set up before they arrived (thanks for that advice) and got the kitchen fully unpacked before we left. Had a good dinner of chook and salad and fresh bread.

  20. I still haven’t quite accumulated a house-ful of junk yet, but from my first moves I have a lovely set of cardboard boxes that are just the right size that I can still lift them when they’re full of books. Unless they’re really dense ones like my box of comics that I had to get my mum to lift when I moved last.
    I totally agree about decluttering BEFORE you move, to avoid boxes labelled as ‘wtf’. Now I just have to DO it!

  21. 1) Let everyone have at one breakdown moment – acknowledge when someone has theirs, give them hugs/space and then keep on
    2) Hire removalists
    3) Pack books a couple of months beforehand in small boxes
    4) Use plastic (transparent) tubs for essential kitchen things (kettle, tea, coffee, toaster, etc)
    5) Don’t let your house flood days before you move in (hard to avoid I know), and then don’t have it flood about a month after you move in (even worse than the first time). I’ve moved in and out of this house a few times now with the flooding, and the drying out, and then the repairing. It’s amazing how many books I own, and how I can get them to fit in my cupboards if I try really hard.

  22. My advice: Pack – to be transported in your car- as if you’re going away to a self-catering place for a week or two. Suitcases for the clothes you’re going to wear, and crates (transparent is a good idea!) for essential foods/drinks/equipment (kettle, toaster, basic pans/cutlery/crockery). Toiletries bag, laundry detergent, pegs. First aid kit. Consider using camping/picnic gear for the first week or two – disposable plates, etc. One crate of useful toys/books for the kids. Include valuables in the “move it yourself” zone: laptops, cameras, ipods, photos, essential documents.
    Pack everything else separately, and then take your time unpacking it. MARK WHAT’S IN EACH BOX, THOROUGHLY, no matter how pressed for time you are. Wear a utility belt with tape, marker pen, etc. Drink enough water. Get the bed assembled and made up with sheets before tackling everything else.

  23. On unpacking … if you haven’t opened that box in the corner of the garage/spare room/ corner of the lounge room in 6 months, you probably don’t need what’s in it. Quick check to make sure it doesn’t include the house deeds or something equally important. Then chuck.

  24. We moved house last year and lost the cat – twice.
    Here’s how it happened: we’d planned all week to take the cats along early, put them in a back room, shut the door, and continue moving. We’d then gradually introduce them to the house over a period of a week so as not to disturb them.
    So we started moving and plonked the cats in one back room. Harriet was fine, but Bea was absolutely frantic… and we quickly discovered the back room we’d put them in was no good, because the door wouldn’t close properly. And Bea quickly found out how to get past that door.
    No worries, we caught her and plonked her in another room, one with a sliding door – which Bea rapidly discovered she could open with her paw.
    The back door to the house was open, and, well, that was all it took: in just under 10 seconds she’d galloped through the house, out the back door, and over the fence. We looked for her but she seemed to have disappeared – it was only late that evening that we discovered her, amid the wet and rainy weather, very high up the neighbour’s tree. I had to climb up, disentangle her claws from the branches, and carry her down!
    We were VERY grateful that night and swore we’d keep a very close eye on her from then on: and she certainly seemed to be sleeping cosily.
    Late that night, though, she crept out to the kitchen, discovered she could push her way through the fly screen, and she escaped AGAIN. (We only worked this out later in the morning when we discovered we couldn’t find her, and discovered the fly screen was, well, slightly less attached than it had been.)
    Cue one more day of frantic knocking on doors, going up and down the entire neighbourhood, driving back to our old place just in case, etc.
    She turned up that night in the garden of another neighbour.
    It’s okay, one year later and she’s now lying happily on my lap. Pretty sure she’s not going to pull that trick again.
    My advice to people who have cats and are thinking of moving is, don’t. You’re welcome. 😉

    • Back in Sydney and have spent the last few hours with my feet up – I was very careful about my back and my crook neck while lifting and unpacking boxes, but my feet are just blobs of ache.
      But Mum and Dad are moved in and are enjoying the new looks-a-lot-smaller but has-a-much-better-layout so actually-has-more-functional-spaces house. we’ve ordered the new lounge room furniture to arrive mid-week, and their new master-bedroom furniture should arrive the week after that (we’ve set up their old bed in what will be the guest bedroom for now). We added a TV antenna point to the living room, organised the back shed, and set up the computer.
      I’ll be back up there next week with some of their stuff that didn’t fit on the truck and which is currently in a neighbours garage 🙂

  25. tigtog, if you’re trying to get motivated to de-clutter, I found this post on Apartment Therapy last week quite inspiring – and there are some good suggestions in the comments too. Some of it’s silly though.
    I’m also in the process of moving one of my places – spent the weekend packing. Moving Wednesday and can’t take time off work, which should be interesting.

  26. Re: books – I always line a bunch of boxes with books, so no box gets too heavy. It helps to balance out boxes of oddly-shaped items, too.
    Start packing just one box every day or few days as soon as you know you are moving. I start with books, decorations, out of season clothes, odd kitchen bits, etc, to make it less work as you get closer to the date.
    Pack breakables wrapped in linen, instead of heaps of paper and the like. It saves on boxes and packing time and its not as messy.
    At the last moment, toss any remaining clothes onto the bed, the wrap the sheets around them like a swag. Easy to unpack, easy to figure out which cloths/sheets belong in which room, easy to move. It only works if you are not too concerned about creased clothes. Also, leave drawers full, but remove them from the shelves and stack them, so you can pop them back in without unpacking when you arrive.
    I also do the “moving kit” thing, with phone, food, tea, toaster, kettle, pens, paper, radio, towel, candle and matches (in case power company didn’t actually do what they said or flat mates forgot to connect- thank you ex flatmates), book etc.
    Ask someone else to take the cat for a little while during the day, so it doesn’t freak out at the newness of the new place or the weirdness of moved furniture and pee on everything when it can’t find the litter.
    Don’t book a DIY truck without measuring your stuff – or the bed/fridge/whatever wont fit. Also, ask the company what size the door or doors on the truck are – it might be a nice high-top van, but if the doors are too small it doesn’t matter. And if in doubt, get the bigger truck – the extra $50 is usually worth not having to make as many trips.
    Good luck with the second round!
    I have to move all my crap out of storage and into a place sometime soon – not looking forward to it.

  27. From the Apartment Therapy article on decluttering: “Karen Kingston, who wrote Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui… helped me see something as simple as collecting books (a great source of clutter) totally differently.”
    Pffffffft. The legendary Peg Bracken, in the I Hate to Cook Book, chapter-Leftovers, heading-Cheese, wrote something like “Cheese is not a leftover. Cheese is cheese.”
    Books are not clutter. Books are books.
    That said, I’m going to have a major cull soon. I think I’ll invite friends over to pick through them and take home whatever they want, as second hand bookshops don’t give you much for them.

  28. @Helen
    Lifeline also often have big book sales around here, so you might be able to get rid of a lot of them that way if Lifeline down there does the same.
    Are you a crime fiction reader?…

  29. Very keen on Peter Temple and Barbara Vine, Mindy.

  30. @Helen, that’s the silly bit – books are clearly not clutter.
    I re-read books a lot – so anything likely to be read again (and sometimes again and again) stays. And in no sense is clutter.

  31. @Helen So you won’t be getting rid of any crime novels then. I don’t think books are either clutter or artwork. I admire people who can do nice things with them, but even a packed full bookcase is a thing of beauty to me.

  32. I quite like lending books to friends as a way of making space – it means you have someone to talk to about them, and you might get them back one day.
    Having said that, my best friend recently grumbled at me about having to move with a large bag of my books.

    • But kirstente, why over the last few years had sie not just returned the loaned books to you?


      • P.S. my parents got the new lounge suite delivered today – three seater lounge plus 2 single recliner chairs – the decadence it is accreting.

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