How to move and keep a cool head

My grandparents were serial movers. My grandmother had Humphreys Removals on speed dial. When the trucks arrived my grandfather would greet the men by name as he left for the office and then again later in the day when he walked into the new house – my mother used to say that he hadn’t noticed it was another house because everything was in its place.

They say moving is one of life’s most stressful events and “they” are right. I certainly remember that feeling looking at a large amount of my belongings piled up outside the pub at the top of the road – the nearest place the movers could park. They had grossly underestimated the amount of gear I had and at 11am I was told that all the vans were full and they had no more available.

I called every man with a van that I knew (and many that I didn’t) and with great luck found someone who had an empty van and was 30 minutes away. I cried with gratitude and luckily my next move went well after that inauspicious start.

As an interior designer for about 30 years, I’ve seen my fair share of dramatic moves. When things go wrong, they almost always go wrong for one of two reasons: either you – or the movers – underestimate how much stuff you have; or you are not preparing for the big day.

So how do you make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible?

As with so many things in life, the key to a successful move is organization. Sorting before packaging is essential. Now is the time to realize that no, you don’t need to keep those old school report cards, race badges, or bits of string too short to be useful.

Moving is emotional, but it’s an opportunity for a fresh start. Like a
An avowed maximalist and a bit of a hoarder, I find it very hard to part with things I think might be useful – though I can’t tell you why I still have the kids’ old report cards. Still, the thought of packing up the clutter, moving it, and unpacking it somewhere new is enough to focus even my mind.

I meticulously plan where everything will go with the layout of the furniture, so I’m sure what will and won’t fit. There’s no need to be unrealistic and bring the big L-shaped sofa that has no home. Better take care of it before moving.

In the UK, charities such as the British Heart Foundation, Sue Ryder and Age Concern often collect unwanted clothes, books and toys, while Space NK recycles old make-up and toiletries. There’s also Facebook Marketplace and eBay – and it’s so nice to know that parts you no longer want or need can move on to a new life with someone else.

Another tip: move rather than spend a fortune on storage. Out of sight and out of mind is an incredibly dangerous phenomenon – one you can only grasp when you’ve just unboxed that kettle you could have given away five years ago and it may have cost you 2 £000 to keep.

Prepare an emergency bag a few days before moving, including a corkscrew. The packers whirl around the house once they start, and although they pack by piece, I found the weirdest things tucked away in the corners of the boxes. Before you know it, your toothbrush and phone charger are built into the shoe cleaning kit, so you might not be able to get your hands on what you need quickly.

On moving day, you want to have several printouts of the floor plan of the new house or apartment, and number the rooms. Stick the blueprints on anything that will stand still long enough and have numbered labels ready to stick on the bedroom doors. The boxes can then be given the room numbers, to minimize confusion. Movers will likely call you rooms by different names and it’s good for your blood pressure to avoid the number of times you’re asked, “Where do you want that box, love?” »

Then comes the unboxing. This is when you offer a Te Deum to Marie Kondo, eternally grateful that you decluttered before starting the whole process. For me, unpacking becomes a race against time as I’m determined to empty as many as possible before the movers leave so they can take them away. This leaves a flurry of tissue paper and bubble wrap as I decant things left, right, and center.

It’s amazing to have help unpacking – but resist micromanaging, or you’ll end up wasting your time and the movers’ time. Just aim to unpack the china and put the books on the shelves. Everything can be tweaked and rearranged later – plus it’s easier to see things when they’re out of the boxes.

If you have the space, it may be useful to designate a room as a “warehouse” for all items and boxes that do not need to be unpacked immediately. I love that my bedroom and bathroom are sorted first – knowing that you can collapse into a beautifully made bed at the end of the day is hugely comforting. If you’ve been able to arrange curtains or the salesperson has left theirs for you, if not, temporary blackout blinds are an inexpensive way to ensure a restful sleep until your new ones arrive.

Pictures and mirrors take up a lot of floor space until they are hung and can easily be damaged. I booked an installer for the day after my move to mount all the mirrors. At the same time (and it’s an idea that I’m incredibly proud of), I asked him to hang all the pictures that I didn’t know where to put on the walls of my cellar, which allowed me to treat it like a gallery and go “shopping” there once I have put my furniture in its final positions.

And one last tip: book the window cleaner for two days after the move. By then you should have collected the Terror Boxes and almost everything will (hopefully) be in place. Sparkling glass will make you feel like you’re making progress.

The problem with moves is that you are always trying to solve the problem of the last move. Still, I’ve found that getting organized—and knowing a van owner—can get you out of most sticky situations. We can’t all hope to be as good as my grandma was, but anything short of having your boxes thrown outside the local pub has to be considered a success.

Now all I’m waiting for is someone to develop an app that can move all utilities to your new address with just the push of a button. It would truly be a triumph.

Emma Burns is co-CEO of Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler

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