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Moving on up: Take the stress out of a house move

Packing up your belongings and leaving town for a new home can be stressful but Louise Rouvray is keeping calm. . .

Leader of the packing – get organised so the move is smooth
Leader of the packing – get organised so the move is smooth

Moving house is up there with getting divorced and losing a job as one of the most stressful life-changing events. And if you do manage to come through unscathed without any dropped china or your blood pressure going through the roof, you’re still left with the humdrum task of unpacking box after bag after box, redirecting the mail and changing over your address on everything from the driver’s licence to PayPal.

It’s hard not to despair as removal vans and final bill payments start eating into that carefully-saved stash in the bank, but it may be worth remembering the reason you’re doing it.

A while ago, a friend of mine told me how liberating it was escaping her old home. She and her ex had split and the environment was toxic, so much so that the entire area became a constant, deflating reminder of their time together. So when she finally got the keys to her cosy new pad she was like a kid at Disneyland – couldn’t wait to dive in to her next adventure.

But we aren’t all seeking a fresh start, some of us may finally have enough to buy that detached five-bed with the bay windows by the riverside, or perhaps the next place is near the best school or a new job, or maybe you want to finally escape the city and open the curtains to a green garden instead of concrete pavement and cars whizzing past.

Whether you’re packing up your troubles or moving on up, it’s worth remembering the double Ds – declutter and design of course, what where you thinking? Moving home means you can stop putting off sorting through that drawer of doom, the one filled with odds and ends and that clothes mountain in the closet.

Grab some bags for goodwill and get filling. Haven’t worn it in over a year? Let it go! Got a top the ex gave you for Christmas? Give it away. This isn’t about getting rid of your past, it’s about making space for the future.

It’s also worth dismantling bigger items in advance – beds, cots, flatpack furniture – anything that has to be lugged down three flights of stairs is worth packing up early.

And while you’re at it, keep on top of the valuables – heirlooms, jewellery, diaries, that treasured childhood teddy – stick it all in a special box and keep it on you. It’s inevitable something will go missing when you move, everything from DVDs to pots and pans have been known to go walking, so make sure you don’t lose what you love most.

Once you’ve got the keys, get designing. It’s your pad, so put your stamp on it. Home is where the heart is – so put yours into it. Especially as you’ll be in a whole new community, you’ll be craving familiarity, so make it feel you’re own by putting those trinkets and treasured photos on show.

Being away from family and friends may leave you feeling alienated. It can be tempting to do a Norman Bates and become a hermit, watching the outside world through a peephole – but ever so slightly less sinister.

However, meeting people and making friends will make you feel a part of the community. From joining the gym to social functions at the library and after-school clubs, there will be ways to meet people. And while you’re out and about, don’t forget to join the local doctors, dentist and change your address at the bank.

You may not be a one-woman/man show, and it grows only ever more stressful if you have the cat, dog and children in tow. Plus mortgages can be a minefield of credit scores, baffling bank speak and piles of paperwork. But whatever your circumstances, take comfort in the fact you’re not alone.

Millions of people up and down the country are also cursing after bashing their toe on that damn box for the millionth time and crying over that smashed cup which isn’t worth anything but was the breaking point for their patience. It’s tough and sometimes terrifying, but relocating unlocks so many new doors, and not just literally. Try to keep your focus on the opportunities ahead and allow yourself a little treat, even if it’s just a chippy dinner on your first night in, you deserve it.

It also might be worth packing a survival kit for when you get there – phone charger, kettle, milk, teabags, toilet roll, bin bags, clean clothes, first aid kit and other essential supplies will keep you sane.

Take deep breaths and focus on all of the positives of your move.

How to stay sane

  • Create a checklist for changing addresses – from schools, doctors and the DVLA to Amazon, PayPal and all your online shops. Make sure you redirect your mail with the Post Office too.

  • Get broadband and bills set up in advance if possible, making the switch over troublefree.

  • Take final metre readings for all your utilities before you go, it may be worth taking a picture as proof.

  • Wrap breakables in newspaper or bubblewrap. It takes time but it’s worth it to avoid any damage to treasured items.

  • Draw up a timescale and to-do list – double check dates and details, especially if hiring a van, and figure out your budget and if you’ll need days off to pack.

  • When packing, label boxes with the contents and room it’s for so you know what needs to go where. It will make it easier and more organised at the other end.

  • Also, think about what you’re packing and do you really need it? It’s a good opportunity for a decutter and a trip to the tip.

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