10 ways to make packing for a house move less stressful

Professional organiser Vicky Silverthorn advises how to pack and unpack, in a way that helps take the stress out of moving.

Lisa Salmon
Tuesday 17 January 2023 08:00 GMT
Moving house? (Alamy/PA)
Moving house? (Alamy/PA)

Moving is said to be one of the most stressful experiences you can go through – but it doesn’t have to be, insists professional organiser Vicky Silverthorn.

She promises that if you’re super-organised, the stress of moving is massively reduced, explaining: “Feeling on top of your move is the key to reducing stress levels. It doesn’t have to be one of the most stressful things you’ll ever do.

“Moving isn’t a case of someone coming in, packing, and taking it to a new place. Some of the basic details – that can really help and make a difference – often get overlooked.”

Research by home builder Redrow (redrow.co.uk) has found it takes movers more than three months to unpack and settle into a new home, and the key to a successful move comes down to organising the kitchen first.

The research also found the best way to make a new space feel like home is ensuring all reminders of the move, such as belongings left in boxes, are out of sight and put away in the correct place.

“So many people don’t unpack properly first time round, and that can be where the disorganisation within a home stems from,” observes Silverthorn. “I’ve had many clients who’ve had full boxes from a previous move at the back of a cupboard, 10 years later.”

Here’s what Silverthorn, who runs the organisation service Youneedavicky (youneedavicky.com), says you need to do for a smooth and stress-free move…

1. Create a moving folder

Silverthorn strongly advises creating a moving folder containing all the information connected to the move, either digitally or on paper, as soon as you know you’re moving. “I couldn’t have moved home without my moving folder,” she admits.

“There’s so much paperwork to keep on top of – you do all your research and get quotes from moving companies, emails from estate agents, important dates, and you need it all in one place, so you can put your hands on things when you need them.”

2. Ask for boxes early

If you’re booking a removals company, ask them to deliver some boxes, packing paper and tape early, so you can start packing items you don’t think you’ll use before the move. “A lot of people want to feel like they’re getting on top of things early,” says Silverthorn. “I’d probably start doing it as soon as I knew the move was happening, but it would be useful to have a garage or somewhere you could store those items. I wouldn’t do it if it meant boxes were hanging around my house for the next two or three months.”

3. Take measurements

Silverthorn advises movers take measurements, such as the size of curtains for the new house, the size of spaces for furniture and white goods, well before moving day. “Often, when you move into a new property, the layout is different, so there’s a lot to think about,” she stresses.

4. Don’t order too much before you move

Ideally, don’t order too much furniture before you move into a new property, Silverthorn advises. “People get very excited and start to order things, and items soon pile up in their old house. I believe you’ve got to settle in, before you see exactly what you need,” she says.

5. Declutter well in advance

Declutter your old home as soon as you can, but remember, it doesn’t have to be done in one go. “You don’t have to do a whole room in a day, or a whole house in a weekend,” stresses Silverthorn. “You can chip away at it, if you have the time, rather than leaving it until the last minute and cramming it in. If you start gently, when you know you’re moving, you can get through it in a much less stressful way.”

She says decluttering can be an overwhelming experience, and advises movers to perhaps work on a chest of drawers one day, and a shelf a few days later. “Do these things in small chunks of time, rather than doing everything in one day. It’s much less stressful, and enjoyable, in fact – for me, anyway!”

She adds: “A lot of us have too much stuff and make excuses for keeping it, but I think the most powerful question of all is, ‘Can I live without this?’”

6. Changing address

Movers should start notifying friends, family, services and businesses of their new address as soon as they know they’re moving, Silverthorn recommends. “You can use the Royal Mail change of address service, but you’re going to have to do it properly at some point, so if you do it as you go along, it can really help,” she says, pointing out that the Iammoving.com website (iammoving.com) provides a “fantastic” service, which automatically sends the companies you use a letter about your new address.

7. Label properly

Silverthorn says it’s common for removals teams to put boxes in the wrong rooms, but a simple way to avoid this is to make sure that when boxes are labelled, they correspond to the room both in the old property and the new one. “You can can put Post-it notes on the doors in the new and old properties,” she suggests. “Correct labelling is a basic thing to do, and makes a lot of difference.

“If there are items you might need between moving from one house and unpacking in the next, make sure you know roughly what’s in the boxes, rather than them just saying ‘kitchen’ or ‘bathroom’. The last thing you want to be doing is searching through 25 kitchen boxes for dog snacks.”

In addition, she suggests double-labelling boxes, explaining: “A lot of people put labels on the top of boxes, but if they’re stacked you might have to move 10 boxes, to look at the label on the top, so also label on the side.”

8. Pack ornaments and small pictures together

Gather all the small photos and ornaments in the house, and pack them together, advises Silverthorn. “This is purely because something that fits in the lounge previously, may not work in the new property’s lounge, for example. I always unpack these items last. They’re definitely what makes a house a home.”

9. Prioritise which rooms to unpack first

It’s a good idea to think about which rooms you should unpack first, rather than just unpacking bits here and there. Silverthorn suggests the kitchen and any children’s rooms should be first. “Think about which room you’re going to unpack, rather than just diving into every room and chipping away,” she advises. “Unpacking a room properly and methodically is key.”

10. Do things properly, NOW!

Don’t just put things in cupboards and say you’ll do it properly later, warns Silverthorn. “It’s a big job to redo everything, so do it properly the first time, even if it takes longer. Have a bit of patience – you won’t regret it.”

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