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At the beginning of 2020, (after 6 months of my wife and I living there) our landlord decided to sell the property. This meant that having just put the final picture on the wall, it was time to think about moving out again.
So, with a 3-month eviction notice in hand, we set about the administrative teeth-pull that is searching for a new house, making sure we were able to rent that new house, and physically get into that new house successfully.
As it happens, we didn’t quite pull off the latter. We made a lot of mistakes, cried a lot of tears, screamed at plasterboard that wouldn’t listen, and played Tetris with so much cardboard.
To spare you some of the bumps on the same road, here’s what my wife and I ultimately learned from the mistakes we made when moving house.
Spoiler alert: It’s never easy. This is as much about pulling off a successful move as it is preserving your mental health in the process. Things will go wrong. But the move shouldn’t be a toxic cloud that follows you into a new home.
It may be that you’ve gotten work somewhere and need to relocate. Perhaps you’ve had a kid and need more space. Maybe, you just can’t afford the rent anymore.
Whatever the context, take a moment to reflect and find whatever upside you can in your situation.
- Moving to a new place/area you’re not thrilled about? It’s cheaper, so you can save for a place you really want!
- Going to be alone in a new city? Great, you can create new first impressions all over again!
- Upsizing for a new baby and worried about the mortgage? You’ve got a whole new adventure ahead of you — embrace it before they find Baby Shark on YouTube.
You should also take in the memories and emotions linked to your last home — they don’t just vanish with the closure of a lease or house sale. A specific home marks a leg of your journey. Whether this stage is ending on good or bad terms, don’t just dismiss what it means to you.
But then allow yourself the time to place some mile markers for the next stage of the journey. You’ll be in a much better position to move when you’re focused on the first small goal.
If you think you might struggle, we’ve got a whole guide on turning anxiety into excitement.
So, what are you looking for? Well, that’s up to you. But don’t be drawn in by an unnecessarily huge space if you don’t need it — the cost will be hefty, and the cleaning will mount up.
But on the flip side, if you’re saying “it’ll do” about a property, it probably won’t — at least not for long. Especially in a world of spontaneous lockdowns and work-from-home environments, you have to make sure you’re happy somewhere and that it’s as safe and hygienic as possible (budget and #life allowing).
When you’re faced with even an involuntary moving process, you don’t have to settle on the first home that becomes available. The power and agency you get from saying “no” to a place that doesn’t work for you is a huge boost.
You may well be moving out of your parents’ home for the first time. Even if they’re helping you, we’ve got the lowdown to help you get settled.
Check what’s in the area you’re considering moving to — make sure there’s a supermarket, a hardware store, access to the highway, and a gas station. The basics are important.
You can also see what nature reserves and parks are near you for some outdoor relaxation.
A word of warning
If you’re renting, make sure you read the small print on the lease. And, if you’re looking to stay there a while, make sure the lease covers as much as possible before signing. Take no estate agent’s word at face value — they need to protect the landlord’s interests, primarily.
House moves are expensive. They can eat into any savings you’ve built up or leave you at a cliff edge if you don’t have any savings.
But it doesn’t have to hit quite as hard. Selling furniture can be a small win-win — you can put aside a little cash, especially if you’re downsizing, and you have less stuff to move. If you’re paying movers, selling some of your stuff helps you keep the costs down.
Plus, if you’re selling on Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree, you can get a little cash for your wares. Likewise, stalwarts like eBay and Amazon are there for you to sell books and unwanted electronics.
There’s no way to completely remove the cost element of a move. But you can minimize the dent it makes.
Book a moving company
If you can, pay someone else to shuttle your belongings to your new space. Sometimes it’s worth dropping a bit of money to avoid some headaches.
DIY moves are naturally a little more labor-intensive on your part — but if money is a concern, they don’t have to wreck your safety net. If you’re feeling bitter about having to part with the funds — don’t. This is what savings are for.
If you don’t get a really firm grip on your utilities, taxes, and necessities before moving, your new landlord is going to be a thorn in your side.
So, become an administrative human and set up all your new utilities ahead of time. It can easily escape you amid the bustle of shifting boxes.
Make sure your current suppliers have firm end dates and give you written confirmation of closure. Likewise, have different options to make sure you’re getting a good deal on water, gas, electric, and internet at your new place.
Price comparison sites can help you aggregate the best options for your new place.
You’ll be able to see what services are available in your new area and maybe save yourself a bit of cash in the process.
They’ll need warning to set up everything. And, especially if you’re working from home, you can’t really be without internet.
Make sure every installation appointment goes into your calendar ahead of time. Also, set up mail forwarding through the U.S. Postal Service, so you don’t miss anything vitally important.
Future you will thank you for the breathing space. And you don’t want to be wondering whether you’ll have running water while deciding where to put your belongings.
This also includes packing early. Get ahead on physically getting stuff into boxes. Books you’re not reading? Get them in boxes. Out-of-season clothes? Into the suitcase they go. Get your pictures off the wall too.
For ways to avoid procrastinating, look no further.
“Ah, that’s a bummer. Well, if you need any help, just ask.”
You’ll hear that a bunch of times from your friends and family while getting through a move. And I bet you were considering “not bothering” them.
Dismiss that thought. If ever multiple hands were needed on deck, it’s now. And, from personal experience, my wife and I would have been absolutely done for without our crew.
Whether it’s helping you move stuff into storage, installing appliances at the new place, helping you clean the old place, or even being another set of eyes on the lease, you don’t need to tackle every task alone.
Definitely provide food for them, or buy them their favorite booze as a thank-you. Don’t see calling in favors as burdensome — if they’re your friends, they’ll help.
And if you don’t know who your ride-or-die buddies are, it’s time to work it out.
My wife is very much the practical mind and master strategist, but she has limited patience when it comes to dealing with customer service people and sifting through utility details.
I, on the other hand, couldn’t install a shelf if you paid me. But I’m better at disguising my limited patience with billing departments and the unfortunate souls on the other end of the phone.
So, my wife arranged our belongings into a movable formation, with some help lifting and shifting, while I badgered companies to get what we needed from them with some assistance in the good cop/bad cop routine.
Everyone has their strengths, and it’s as if you’re becoming a moving company together. So, play to them. This makes it less punishing.
The day of the big move should feel like a continuation of the process you’ve already been undergoing.
If you’ve hired a moving company (and you should, if you can), they’ll do the lion’s share of the work for you. Due to COVID-19 regulations, many ask that you stay out of their way — so do exactly that.
It’s important to have the boxes labeled for every room as well as identifying any that are full of fragile stuff.
Make sure the first thing you get set up in the new place is your bed — covers and all. If your move is anything like ours, you’ll want to crash whenever you feel like it. Which will be immediately.
There can be a bizarre sense of nomad-ness that sets in directly after moving — where no necessary object is where you think it is, and you find yourself still living among boxes for a stretch of time with no immediate rush to get them out before a deadline.
Anything and everything you can do to get your new home ready for actual adult living will go a long way in helping you restore any lost sanity.
It can be hard to re-organize your entire life — but we can help with that.
Once you’ve gotten settled, find ways to relax that feel good to you. Whether it’s yoga in a nearby park, long walks/runs to discover the area, or simply living in your space as well as you can, embrace your new environment and routine.
No-one enjoys the process of moving house, but getting a head on all the time-consuming details (and there are many) can help make it just a little less trying.
It can be healthiest to reframe the change, however sudden or reluctant, as a positive opportunity that’s happening for a reason — whether you believe that reason is the whim of a benevolent cosmic force or the opportunity to make positive changes.
You’ll have flare-ups of anger, stress, and fatigue, without question. Ride them out, acknowledge the negative feelings, and then — not unironically — send them packing.
If you’re also having to move during the current pandemic, our hearts go out to you — here‘s how COVID-19 has changed the landscape of moving house and how to navigate it.
Adam Felman is an Editor for Medical News Today and Greatist. Outside of work, he is a hearing-impaired musician, producer, and rapper who gigs globally. Adam also owns (almost) every Nic Cage movie and has a one-eyed hedgehog called Philip K. Prick.