How to Move House: 17 Tips That Will Help It Not Suck

How to Move House: 17 Tips That Will Help It Not Suck
Carly Jacobs

Moving house is one of the best excuses to get organised. It’s just so cleansing and there’s so much room for next level optimisation. What does your new kitchen pantry look like? How will you organise your spice jars? Is there ample closet space? Or will you have to fashion a free-standing clothing storage system from Ikea shelves and wicker baskets? It’s an excellent opportunity to get rid of things that no longer serve you and start fresh in your new home.

I’ve moved house a fair amount of times and I just moved house again about 6 months ago. I know how to move house. I’m no army kid but I know my way around a cardboard packing box. I’ve moved from big houses to small apartments, from small cities to big cities and from share houses to family homes. I’ve moved 600kms and 60 meters. I’m not even kidding, I literally moved across the street once. With all these weird and wonderful moves under my belt, here are my top packing tips to help you move house.

how to move house

1. Stack boxes in categories 

Dedicate corners in your home to different categories of boxes. Garage, living room, fragile items, awkward items (like ironing boards) etc. That way when they get stacked on the truck, all the boxes that go together in the same room (or boxes that should be handled with care) will all be in the same spot on the truck and therefore easier to unpack at the other end. Also, every time you organise things neatly, a fairy gets its wings. True story.

2. Pack non-essentials ASAP 

I know some book lovers will freak out at this but books are non-essential items and can be packed first because you can totally survive without your childhood copies of Harry Potter for a few weeks. Unless of course you really can’t survive without access to every book you own, in which case, you do you and pack all your books at the last minute. Had to add a caveat in there because hardcore book lovers are bonkers. Did you see them go after Marie Kondo? Never mess with a literature lover. They’ll rip your head off.

Other non-essential items include;

  • Fancy specialist pots and pans you don’t use often
  • Most of your medicine cabinet minus daily medications
  • Craft/hobby supplies
  • DVDs and CDs (if you still have them)
  • Sports equipment
  • Fancy and out of season clothes (like formal gowns and winter coats)
  • Office supplies you don’t use often like printer ink and extra envelopes
  • Spare towels and linens

Basically anything you wouldn’t pack for a two-week holiday overseas or anything you don’t use every day, like your toaster or coffee machine.

how to move house

3. Don’t overfill boxes

It’s so tempting to just cram boxes to the brim but it makes them difficult to move, difficult to stack and they’ll sometimes split if you really overdo it. I’m a reformed crammer – I love to overfill everything. Drawers, cupboards – if there’s an inch of space, I’m going to shove something in there. Don’t do it – it makes moving a nightmare and can cause damage to your belongings. I have a Type A personality so admitting that not all of our bathroom stuff was going to fit in one box was an emotional moment for me but I was a grown-up and started another box. Zero regrets and zero damaged goods. When in doubt, start another box.

how to move house

4. If you haven’t used an item since you’ve lived in the place you’re moving out of, consider not taking it with you 

We’ve only lived in our last house for one year so we haven’t had time to amass too many of those ‘Why on earth did I buy that?’ items that tend to pop up when you live somewhere for a longer period of time. Here are a few things we didn’t use in the year we lived here.

  • A perfectly good Scanpan wok we can’t use on our new induction stove
  • A Gorman dress I love that just never quite worked for me
  • A silicone cupcake tray

All of these items have been given away to much better homes. I have to admit I was sad to let the Scanpan and Gorman dress go but I didn’t use either of them in an entire year. Whenever I think about items I love that I don’t use anymore, I think about Toy Story and how the toys just want to be played with. That Scanpan is going to be so sad being moved from one cupboard to another unused. Much better for it to go to the house of a foodie and be used to make marvellous stir-frys, right? Same with the dress – I really wanted it to work but it never did. It now lives with my cousin who will definitely show it a good time.

how to move house

5. Allocate a Last Minute Box per room 

The most annoying part of moving house is that you still have to live in your house right up until the time you move. This means you need to eat, shower, sleep and exist in a house where only half your stuff is accessible. We put a small last-minute box in each room, popped the last few items in there on the morning of the move. Easy peasy.

6. Pack a bag and pretend you’re on holiday 

In the last few days before a move, pack a bag with basic clothing and toiletries and pack everything else in boxes. That way on moving day you just grab your overnight bag and you’re good to go. It’s also handy at the other end because you have all your essentials without having to unpack a billion boxes to find your toothbrush.

7. Label every box on the top and the side 

The removalists will love you for this.

8. Be descriptive – ‘clothes’ doesn’t mean anything 

Unless you live alone the label ‘clothes’ is kind of useless. Even if you do live alone, what clothes are in that box? Winter clothes? Drawer items? Things on hangers? Your collection of Cosplay Zelda costumes? The entire last season collection of Victoria Secret g-strings that you really don’t want your husband’s best mate to be unpacking at the other end? Always put more information than you think you need on boxes. Who the box belongs to, what’s in it and where it needs to be taken is the minimum amount of information you need.

how to move house

9. Put EVERYTHING in boxes 

Microwave, kettle, small lamps – everything. You can pack other stuff around it (soft things like cushions and towels) but still, put it in a box. Small items like these end up being an enormous time suck because it seems like a better idea to just carry it to the truck but think about it. By the time you carry ten of these items to the truck that’s ten trips you’ve made and most of these items you can only carry one at a time. If you pack them all in boxes, you can stack several boxes on a trolley and get them to the truck in half the amount of time and they won’t get damaged rolling around in the back of a truck with furniture and boxes. We once moved literally across the road so we walked everything over to our new house and it was really dumb. We should have packed everything properly in boxes and used several trolleys to get our stuff over there. I lost my favourite blender in that move (it slipped out of the washing basket I was carrying it in) and I still haven’t found one that blends frozen banana in quite the same way. Moral? Pack everything in boxes.

how to move house

10. Get your boxes second hand on Gumtree

People move all the time so there’s no need to buy brand new moving boxes when you can repurpose old ones. Jump on Gumtree and have a look at what’s available in your local area. We found a guy with heaps of boxes of various sizes and a whole bunch of other packing materials (like bubble wrap, butchers paper and tape) for like $50. It was a massive saver for our wallets and the environment. Bonza.

Side note: I got low key shamed on Instagram stories for using bubble wrap because it’s bad for the environment. For real, I got six different messages about it. If you’ve been reading Smaggle for a while you’ll know I’m not into mindless consumerism and I try not to be a dick about wasting resources but I’m not zero waste. I try to be as waste-free as possible when I move – using second-hand boxes, wrapping things in towels and linen  – but we have some items that require bubble wrap to be transported safely. It’s much better for the environment to use appropriate packing materials to transport an item safely rather than have to replace items when they inevitably break from being poorly packed. We use reusable coffee cups, water bottles and beeswax wraps – The earth is not going to hell in a hand-basket because we used bubble wrap twice in the last decade when we’ve moved house. Sheesh. Also, the bubble wrap was bought second hand and I’ll totally re-use it. Can we have a collective calm of the farm now? Please and thank you.

how to move house

11. Have a packing materials box 

We have a box where we keep all our packing materials – tape, tape gun, stickers, permanent markers – so all the packing stuff is in one place. The rule is you have to return the items you’ve used to the box after you’ve used them. This system is excellent when there’s two of you packing so you’re not constantly yelling ‘Where’s the bloody tape gun?’ at each other for a week straight.

12. Use bedding and towels to wrap delicate items and fill gaps in boxes 

You have to pack it anyway so you might as well use blankets, towels and sheets to fill gaps in boxes of delicate items or to wrap up things like plates. A whole set of bowls can easily be wrapped in a sheet and if you layer the sheet between the bowls and wrap as you go, they’re almost guaranteed not to break.

13. Definitely get a tape gun 

We weren’t going to get a tape gun because it seemed like an unnecessary purchase we were only going to use for a short period of time but we got one in our second bundle of packing stuff and it’s awesome. You can tape up a box in a few seconds. So much better than struggling with scissors and tape rolls.

how to move house

14. Collate your cupboards

Once you’ve emptied a cupboard, clean it, wipe it down and pop a sticker or post-it note on it to indicate that it’s empty and ready to go. That will stop you from opening up a cupboard you think you’ve emptied only to realise it’s still full of junk and you have to pack it ASAP while the movers are lugging boxes to the truck.

15. Be prepared to live in weird limbo for a while

Many years ago my mate Baby Mac introduced me to the concept of ‘making it fresh’. This is where you fluff pillows, tidy away the crap off the coffee table and take the dirty dishes to the sink. It’s not a full-blown house clean, just a bit of pfaff around making things look lovely. I’d been a fan of ‘making it fresh’ for years but never really coined a term for it. Making it fresh is almost impossible when you’re moving house and if you’re used to living in fresh spaces it can be really irritating living in what is essentially a filthy (because I already packed the vacuum) box fort. Just embrace it, get used to eating takeaway food and focus on the move.

how to move house

16. Be sensible when it comes to packing 

Leave plenty of time to do it but also don’t be overzealous. If you use your coffee machine every single day, pack it at the very last minute. There’s no point in torturing yourself for a week to save yourself the 2 minutes it takes to pop your coffee machine in a box. We packed away almost everything in our kitchen a week ago except one fry pan, our coffee machine and our pressure cooker. I know a pressure cooker seems like a non-essential item but we use ours every few days. Be honest with yourself – if you really can’t survive without your blender, pack it at the last minute. Mr Smags is thoroughly unpleasant if he doesn’t get his espresso in the morning so if you function better with a smoothie in your belly, keep the blender out until the last minute.

17. Don’t lose your sense of humour 

I don’t think anyone really likes packing for moving house. It’s kind of a shit job. I’m not overly fond of unpacking either. I’d just like for everything to magically float into place like in Cinderella. Tension is at it’s peak – everyone in the house is stressed and busy so be kind to yourselves and each other. It will all be over soon.

Are you an expert at moving house? What tips are your favourite?

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5 Comments

  1. Claire 1 month ago

    Meal plan- yummy satisfying meal, snack, and drink ideas for moving day and the week either side.

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 2 weeks ago

      Yes! Ben’s uncle actually got us an Uber eats voucher when we had our baby and it was the best gift ever!

  2. Erika 3 weeks ago

    I’m not moving again – far too many books! Major bibliophile had to pack books slowly over the weeks between selling the old house and moving into the new one. Kept the favourites out till last. Over 100 boxes then, and I’ve collected more since…

    Ditto with moving plants. My boyfriend’s front porch was filled with pots of rescues from my old garden (and it didn’t even look like I’d taken anything).

    Do not feel guilty about takeaway or freeloading off friends the day of the move (and the day after).

    Carry with you (rather than give to removalists) – overnight bag with clothes and basic toiletries, box/basket with critical food/meds and associated bits and bobs. Being able to make a cuppa when needed can be critical.

    Plan how you’re moving animals. In my case, that meant being able to leave the chooks at the old house for an extra day while setting up a temporary run at the new place. Cats were crated early in the morning, taken to the new house and shut in an empty room with food, water and litter, to be let out once the removalists were finished. Dogs stayed at the boyfriend’s (which made his dogs very happy as well).

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 2 weeks ago

      You know I’ve never moved with pets! We did move with an 8 week old but she was FINE!

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