Moving house? My tips for making it slightly less hideous

My family moved house last weekend, and it was hideous. That is to say, it all went very smoothly: we only moved to the next suburb over, my Mum minded our two little boys for a couple of nights, and we hired removalists to do all the big stuff. But it was still hideous!

Moving house is a bit like labour and childbirth, I guess. No matter how organised and well-planned you are, you never quite know what to expect. It lasts hours or days longer than you think it will. There is a lot of grunting. You are spurred on by the hope of reaching the end point (and because you have no choice – no one else is going to do it for you!). When it’s all over, you’re completely exhausted, but have reached the (mostly) happy end point. A few years pass, and you forget the pain of what it was really like, and do it all over again…

(P.S. I’m not really comparing moving house to childbirth. Childbirth is still a thousand times worse. Not least because of all the bleeding for weeks afterward.)

So, with it all behind me, here are my tips for making moving house less hideous  – based on the things that worked for us, as well as our total failings.

1. Get a removalist.

I may as well start with an obvious one. My husband convinced me that we would be able to do it all ourselves – just hire a truck and pack everything onto it (including carrying it all down the stairs in our little townhouse). I agreed – until I was convinced otherwise by the utter horror of my friends, who advised me to book a removalist. I’m so glad I listened. It was costly – over $800 for three hours – but saved me a lot in potential divorce fees. I consider it an investment in my marriage.

If you can’t hire a removalist, be prepared to ask a lot of friends for help – possibly even in shifts. A friend and I recently discussed the etiquette around having friends help with house moves, after some bad experience on each of our parts (not helping each other, mind you). Have EVERYTHING ready to go, before friends arrive. They don’t need to be sitting around while you’re still untangling the TV cords or unloading the fridge. Be prepared to buy them lunch. And possibly beer or wine. I still remember the day I helped someone move, and arrived at their new house with another truck-load of their stuff to find them sitting on the couch eating takeaway – with nothing for me. I was pissed. Not to mention starving! Most importantly, if friends or family help you move – reciprocate if they ask for help in the future.

2. Palm off the children, if you can!

I am so grateful my parents could look after my boys while we moved. The boys had all sorts of exciting adventures with their grandparents – miniature train rides, visiting “the rocket” (the Canberra Telstra Tower) and going to an indoor play-centre. They are little enough that they wouldn’t have been able to help – aged 4 and 18 months – and I was acutely aware of how many hazards and dead bugs were scattered around the house.

3. But if you can’t give away the children…

Try to make it fun. Because you don’t have enough things to think about already. I moved a lot as a kid in a military family – 8 interstate moves before we settled in Canberra for the final time, when I was nearly 18. I was responsible for packing up and then setting up my own bedroom, and I remember enjoying the responsibility of ticking off the box numbers as they came off the truck. Mostly I just looked forward to eating takeaway for lunch on the floor.

4. Pack an overnight bag and a moving box.

Even if you are moving in one day, pack an overnight bag with your essentials, including your pajamas and a towel. This is handy the night before moving, when you want to have everything else packed for the following morning – but also so that no matter what state your house is in on moving day, you’ve got your pajamas, toiletries and a change of underwear and clothes.

Likewise, keep a moving box somewhere central. When we moved my husband was forever leaving the boxing tape in weird places. In your moving box include boxing tape, masking tape for box labels (see below), textas, screwdrivers, zip-lock bags (for storing all those tiny nuts and bolts when breaking down furniture), scissors and box cutters, tissues and a roll of toilet paper. Perhaps also some snacks.

5. Box up as much as you can, and label everything.

Box up as much as you can, in actual boxes with closing lids. For local moves, it’s tempting not to do this. There were so many random things in our house, that we looked at and said, “oh we won’t put that on the truck, we can take that in the car”. It didn’t seem like much at the time. But eighteen car trips and thousands of green bags and washing baskets later, we realised it took much longer to move all those extra things by car than it did to move the rest of the house. Having said that – take your valuables with you. We took our laptops, camera, wine and even the TV in the car. Mainly because we stupidly didn’t pay for insurance with the removalist company and then I didn’t want to risk it.

Most removalist companies provide boxes for hire, but these can’t be written on. Use masking tape – cheaper than labels – to make your own labels for the top of the boxes. Include a brief but specific overview of the contents (e.g. Work Clothes) and the destination room at the new house (e.g. Bedroom 1), so they are easy to distribute as they leave the truck.

6. Pack the fridge and freezer last.

This one is for local moves only: pack the fridge and freezer onto the truck last. This means it comes off first, and minimises the amount of time that your cold food needs to be in an esky or cold bag.

7. Make the bed first.

After you’ve restocked the fridge and freezer, that is. Once everything is in the house, assemble the beds. It was nice knowing that no matter what point the unpacking got to on moving day, at the end of it, we could just collapse into our bed when we needed to.

8. *Try* to eat well…

We didn’t do so well on this front, and we felt it. I think takeaway is all part of the fun of moving, but I did feel it needed to be balanced out with some good food. On the night we moved in, as my parents still had the kids, we went to the local club for a couple of hours and I had much-needed fish and vegetables. It was also just nice to get away from box-city for a little break!

I am already a big fan of jars, but they came into their own on moving weekend. The night before we moved I prepared overnight oats in jars for my husband and I. We ate it straight out of the jar the following morning, popped the lids back on and stuck it in a plastic bag to wash up later. Mess-free. Otherwise, I found it handy to keep zip-lock bags of nuts in my handbag to snack on throughout the day.

Other ideas?

This is not an exhaustive list, by any means. Local moves are very different to interstate or international moves, and I dare say I’ve repressed a lot of my childhood moves. I do have vague memories of long days spent driving across borders, with a plastic tub filled with books and games nestled on the back seat between my sister and I, which served to both keep us separate and occupied.

For more ideas and information about moving, check out the links below:

Does anyone have any other tips for a smooth move – or funny or frustrating moving stories?


  1. These are very good tips! I work in the sphere of house removals and I can say that hiring a moving company is making the move so much easier. I know how hard is for us to move everything and I can’t understand people who do it themselves! The post is very nice! Thanks for sharing!

  2. G. Lampeth says:

    Here’s a packing tip: Pack smart. This means placing heavy things at the bottom of boxes, not overloading them and limiting movement within the boxes by filling empty spaces with linen, bubble wrap or towels. Following this guide will help anyone in need. Thanks for sharing it!

    • Erin says:

      Hi G. Lampeth,
      Thanks for your comment – that is an excellent tip too. Fortunately when we moved I had ALOT of extra linen and towels, which I used exactly for this purpose! It’s easy to forget to do this and then fill a box full of books… Which no one can lift up.

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