Where to start packing when moving house

Where to start packing when moving house
Are you browsing the internet, looking for the best way to pack for moving house? Until now, you’ve probably never given much thought to just how much stuff you own, have you? Are you rather wishing you hadn’t kept quite so many books, or that you’d given away clothes rather than hoping you’d fit into them again one day? Well, getting overwhelmed or overfaced with the task isn’t going to fill those boxes, so take a look at our step-by-step process for packing a house ready for moving day! 

If you’re reading this at least a week before you move house, follow each step in turn.  If you’re reading this the night before the removal company arrives, you may have to skip to step 4…

Step 1: Declutter

If you have a week or less to go until moving day, time is of the essence and you need to cut down on the sheer volume of what you’ll need to pack.  Removal companies charge according to how much they need to move when packing a house, so to keep costs down you ought to minimise what you’re taking with you.  

Don’t panic and get rid of more than you should, but be ruthless.  

Do you still have unopened boxes in your loft from the last time you moved?  You probably don’t need what’s in them.  If you really can’t bear throwing them out, consider renting a small storage unit for a few weeks and reevaluate their contents when you have more time.

If there are clothes you haven’t worn for a year or more, or books you won’t read again, equipment for sports you no longer enjoy or toys your children have grown out of, offer them to friends and family, give what you can to a local charity shop, and either sell the rest or pop it in your storage unit to sell when you have more time after the move.

Outside, you can finally get rid of the tins of paint with an inch of paint in them.  You’ll never need to touch up the paint in the dining room again. Your local waste recycling centre should have a special section for paint and other potentially hazardous liquids - don’t put them in the bin.

Step 2:  Gather your packing equipment

Try to visualise how many boxes you’ll need for packing up your house room by room (you’ll need fewer for the bathroom than for your bedroom, for instance).  Your removals company might be able to supply these, or you can get free cardboard boxes from a range of sources.  Don’t forget to use your suitcases (especially if they’re wheeled), and when moving house packing the contents of a chest of drawers into boxes is a waste of time - you can just take out each drawer and consider them packed.

Gather enough boxes and allocate them to each room.  Don’t forget boxes for the contents of your shed, loft, basement or hallway/understairs cupboard.  Remember that you’ll have to carry or at least move these boxes, so use small boxes for heavy items like books and save the large boxes for lighter items.  If you happen to have a family member who is a heavyweight lifting champion who is also free on moving day and willing to help, pack however you like.

Make sure you have enough packing materials including packing tape to keep everything safe.  There are several environmentally friendly packing materials you could use, such as blankets (to protect furniture), and biodegradable bubble wrap and packing peanuts.  You can use towels as packing materials too - theoretically, you could also use your clothes, but you’d end up having to rewash, dry and fold them again in your new house and you’ll have more than enough to do when you move in without having to launder everything, too.

Step 3: Photograph everything

This should only take a few minutes.  A general photo of each area of each room will suffice - open cupboard doors and drawers so that contents can be seen and zoomed in upon if needed. Photograph particularly expensive or valuable items individually.

Hopefully, you’ll never need these photos, but if something happens to your belongings in transit (e.g. if they get broken or stolen), then you’ll have a record of everything to be replaced or paid out for from your (or the removal company) insurance.  It will also be nice to be able to look back on your photos of your home as it was before you moved.

Step 4: Pack your essentials

Imagine you’re going on a week’s camping holiday.  In suitcases or boxes (that you’ll have to keep separate from everything else), you’ll need to pack:
  • Clothes;
  • Towels;
  • Toiletries (shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, razors, hairbrush, toothpaste and brushes, deodorants) and loo roll;
  • Medication;
  • Bedding/duvets/pillows;
  • Basic kitchen equipment:
    • enough pans, cutlery and crockery for a couple of meals at a time, 
    • washing up liquid, 
    • cheese grater, 
    • tin opener, 
    • peeler, 
    • cling film/tinfoil, 
    • tupperware,
    • cooking oil,
    • condiments, 
    • tea towels,
    • kitchen roll,
    • food essentials (mainly for breakfast - you can always order takeaways for the first few nights),
    • tea/coffee/sugar; 
  • Things to entertain the children (electronics, games, soft toys etc);
  • Phone and electronics chargers.
Just as you would if you were going camping, warn your children that there may well be no WiFi for a few days.

Put these essentials in one area of your home where they’ll be out of the way, and ultimately pack them into your car rather than in the removal van. 

If there’s a last-minute problem on moving day, at the very least you’ll have the essentials you need.  If everything goes to plan, you’ll have all the basics you need to get on with your daily lives without having to hunt through lots of boxes.

The other things you should take with you in your car are your jewellery or items of particular sentimental value that you feel more comfortable keeping with you.  If you don’t have room for antique furniture or larger items of value in your car, double check that the removals company’s insurance limits cover the cost of replacing these.

Step 5: Start upstairs

Step 5a: Start with personal belongings in your spare room, if you have one
When packing a house, you need space to move and space to store your boxes.  

Your spare room might be crammed with random stuff, or it might be rather bare and genuinely used as a spare room for when guests visit.  Either way, get everything in there packed into boxes, and then you can use the rest of the space in there to store more boxes from elsewhere in the house as you fill them.

Make sure you label each box with what they contain and what room they’ll be moved into at your new house!

Step 5b: Otherwise, start with personal belongings from your largest upstairs room
This may well be the master bedroom.  Once you’ve packed up the contents of that room, stack the boxes (heaviest at the bottom) and try to leave room for boxes from other rooms so that you can move around more easily in those smaller rooms. Again, make sure you label your boxes clearly.  

In all bedrooms, as well as leaving clothing etc in drawers rather than packing them in boxes, see if you can borrow a wardrobe box from the removals company to store clothes that are normally kept on hangers.  This will save a lot of time when packing up your house and unpacking at the other end!

Step 5c: Pack your loft after the other upstairs rooms
The things you store in your loft have probably been there long enough to collect dust and dirt.  There may be spiders.  Bringing all that stuff down, and having dust, dirt and spiders all over your bedroom, landing and bathroom furnishings would not be fun.  

Step 6: Pack downstairs

Once your upstairs is all packed up, move downstairs and start with the living room. Start with belongings like books and soft furnishings, and take care to pack up electronics with extra care.  Leave the TV and vacuum cleaner out til the last minute - you’ll want to give your house a final quick clean before you leave, even if it’s just for the karma or in the hope that your new house will be just as pleasant to move into.

If you have wooden floors, place blankets or towels on the ground to protect the wood from scratches made by moving furniture or belongings around.

Next, pack up the contents of your dining room, understairs cupboard, and the hallway.  Now that you see them all together, you’ll realise your family probably owns too many pairs of shoes.  Pack them anyway, you can never really have too many shoes.

Your kitchen will take some time because you’ll need to wrap things like glasses and knives so that they won’t break or injure you. Do not pack tupperware boxes that do not have lids - if you can’t find them now, you’ll never find them.  Just get rid. 

Step 7: Dismantle furniture

When all personal items and belongings have been boxed up and labelled, start dismantling furniture (saving the essentials, such as your beds and settee till moving day).

Whatever you do, make sure you put all screws and fixings into a clear plastic bag and tape it very firmly to the item of furniture they belong to.  If you’re dismantling a pretty complicated item, you’ll thank yourself later if you take photos of doing so step-by-step so that you can reconstruct it properly.

Step 8: Pack up the garage/shed

Do this during the daytime, obviously.  Properly dispose of or store any fuel that may be in any of your equipment such as lawnmower or chainsaw.  Wrap dirty tools in old towels or tarp.

Keep a box of screwdrivers and a hammer separately, so that you’ll have the tools you need to reassemble your furniture when you get to your new house. 

All done!

Once you’ve packed, make sure to retrieve any spare keys held by neighbours and say your goodbyes, take photos of your meter readings (you could make a note of them, but you’ll probably lose the note), and remember to have your post redirected to your new home.  Then, say goodbye to the house you used to call home and look forward to settling into your new home!   

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