What is the worst thing about moving? It’s a tough call. Purging is stressful, packing is physically draining, moving one’s belongings is exhausting, and unpacking can be arduous - especially after all you’ve accomplished to just get to that point.
It takes an average, for most people, of 182 days to unpack the last box after moving into a new home. Here are some tips to help simplify the process and get things put away properly in less than six months.
Whether you’re buying or renting, make sure you have accurate measurements of all the rooms and storage areas in your house. If you don’t have a floor plan with measurements, measure before you move.
Think through where it makes most sense to place everything, whether it’s furniture or light bulbs. If you don’t do any planning, items will either get stashed in the nearest cabinet or cupboard in a rush to empty moving boxes, or they’ll get unpacked but not put away - creating clutter in your new home.
If you have a clear idea of where everything will go, there will be fewer decisions to make on moving day and less rearranging required in the weeks and months that follow.
Prep storage spaces
If there are any cupboards or other storage spaces requiring painting, have that done before you move in. You won’t want to do it after you’re settled. To expedite unpacking in the kitchen, install drawer and cabinet liners to protect surfaces before your move.
This is a lot easier to do before you begin to unpack. If you’re absolutely certain where items such as cutlery, spices and food will be stored, you can buy drawer dividers, a spice rack and pantry bins, but these can also be easily installed after the move.
However, if you’re planning to use industrial shelving in an unfinished basement or garage, it is helpful to have those shelves built, and in place, before your move.
Having surfaces ready to hold bins and boxes will make it easier to get everything off the floor, giving you space to manoeuvre.
Label the right way
Duck Brands recommends boxes be labelled according to the rooms where they will be unpacked at the new house, instead of the location where the contents were stored in your previous home. Label the boxes both to indicate what is inside and where they will go.
I realise this sounds obvious, but it is common for boxes to be labelled vaguely, with only the destination specified, and then no one can find a plate or a glass among the 30 boxes labelled “kitchen”.
Place a box cutter in each room so that you’re not searching for the one or two pairs of scissors floating around the house. Put one or two empty boxes in each room to hold packing paper and bubble wrap as you unpack. Break down all the other boxes as you empty them.
Take only what you want
Arrange to get rid of unwanted furniture and other household items well in advance of your move. It’s a waste of time and money to have movers haul items you ultimately don’t need or want.
Even as you’re feeling overwhelmed by the multitude of decisions that moving requires, take some time to make the tough decisions about what will go with you and what you can part with ahead of time.
Donation pick-ups, especially for bulky pieces of furniture, usually need to be made a few weeks in advance, so plan accordingly and put this at the top of your to-do list after you’ve signed a contract on a new home.
Create a schedule
Create a plan for unpacking. It will be tiring work and will probably take longer than you think - at the very least a few days and probably a few weeks.
Prioritise getting the most important rooms unpacked first. Items for the kitchen, the bathrooms and linens for each bedroom should be unpacked first. And if you discover broken valuables, photograph them immediately so you can seek reimbursement from the moving company or insurance.
Notify your new neighbours, friends and family that you have moving boxes to give away. This is a win-win for everyone - and the environment.
You’re doing the recipient a favour - saving them a trip to the store and money - and they’re saving you the time and energy required to dispose of the boxes.
There are also a number of companies that rent plastic boxes so you don’t need to invest in packing tape or cardboard boxes that you’ll only use once. They also drop off and pick up the plastic bins at your convenience.
Unpacking after a move is like running the last six kilometres of a marathon. If you’ve paced yourself and made a plan, you’ll feel triumphant and energised once the work is done.
But if you’ve worn yourself out getting to the 42km mark and haven’t strategised about how to get over the finish line, you are likely to feel frustrated and overwhelmed.
Moving home is like running a marathon. Picture: Belinda Fewings
Golden rules for success
How can you make strategic emotional, financial and physical decisions to ensure a successful move? “Deciding to sell your home and downsize should not be a snap decision if avoidable, with most people taking an average of seven months to get their house ready to go on the market,” says Caroline Carter, a home transition expert and author of Smart Moves: How to Save Time and Money While Transitioning Your Home and Life.
Here she gives some tips
1 Pace yourself.
From the onset, there are two golden rules for success: Understand that the process is a marathon, not a sprint, and understand that it is about getting your house ready to showcase to prospective buyers, it’s not about you.
2 Get organised.
Begin with paperwork. This will require sorting, categorising and arranging your medical, financial, school and other personal papers into “keep or shred” files. Be sure to make a list of important phone numbers, such as those for doctors, insurance agents and banks.
3 Timing is everything.
It is best to perform these organising tasks when you’re not pressed for time. The same goes for sorting through the attic, basement and garage. Consider them first steps, undertaken before going through your house room by room, and well in advance of posting a “for sale” sign in the garden.
4 Take control of your stuff.
The average house has about 300 000 items which can quickly overwhelm anyone. Go through each room and take everything out to view it clearly and in one space. Identify and put aside what you’ll use to stage your house, and sort other items into pack, sell, dump and donate categories.
5 Out with the old.
Sign up online for free pick-ups by local charities that accept gently used clothing, furniture and household items.