My family and I have moved five times in the last twenty-two years, twice on corporate relocations and three times privately. I also helped my parents with their move from their home to a nursing home six years ago, and set up a family home in Canada when our son moved there for college this year. One thing I know for sure is that moving, even when it is for a happy reason, is definitely stressful. However there are a few simple things you can do to make your moves easier and much more relaxed.
From the very moment that a move is only a possibility, you need to start making lists. Three lists in fact.
List One should cover things you need to organise and do to your current home before trying to sell or rent it. This could include minor repairs, de-cluttering, deep cleaning, purging out of date records and/or anything else that will help you sell/rent your property.
I always start this first list the moment I hear even a whisper of a possibility of a move. On one occasion we moved in less than four weeks from that point. Even if you don’t actually end up moving, the worst thing that happens is you are tidier and more organised – and you have a list of what you need to do if you move in the future. It’s much better than putting things off and being frantic if the move does happen quickly!
List Two should cover things you need to do in order to facilitate the move like quotes for movers, arranging a lawyer/conveyancer, perhaps booking cleaners, investigating schools in your new area etc.
It can save time if you keep a copy of List Two on file after your move. Most of the things on this list tend to be pretty consistent every time. That way all you have to do is add or subtract things from the master list next time.
List Three should cover the things that have to be done in advance of any move. For example, arranging the finances, booking movers or arranging to rent a van yourself, sending change of addresses, informing utility companies etc. Again this is a good list to keep on file after the move for future reference!
Even if the move is for an exciting reason, try to keep the details between you and your spouse/partner until they are absolutely final. It’s hard enough finding a home that you are both happy with, without getting other people’s ideas thrown in as well. Of course you need to ask questions about places to live, schools etc., but try to speak to professional people you do not know well in the new location as opposed to involving close friends and family. Even the most well-meaning of these can muddle the issue and try to influence your decisions (trying to get you to choose a home close to them for example). This can cause not only confusion, but also friction between you and your spouse at a time when nerves are frayed and tempers short. Until you know where, to what home and when you are moving, in my experience it’s best to keep your own counsel. Then you can share the news about your move with all the details finalised. And if your move is over a distance, and involves leaving friends and extended family behind, in my considerable experience this really is much less painful and stressful for all concerned.
Having said all this, it does help to have an unbiased confidante that you and your partner can trust. When my parents were alive, we talked to them about all our moves right from the beginning. Because they lived in another country they were completely unbiased plus they were great at listening, and while they did give valuable advice, they didn’t pry or try to force their opinions on us. They were also wonderful at keeping the ‘secret’ until we were ready to share with other family and friends.
Keep the family together if at all possible
Often, particularly when moving for career reasons, there is a temptation for one partner to move ahead of the family. Trying to organize a move with both partners in two different places is stressful and difficult for everyone concerned, especially the children. In my opinion, it is best avoided unless absolutely economically necessary. Even when it has meant moving in less than four weeks, I have made sure that we stayed together as a family as much as possible through the moving process. On one occasion we all lived in my husband’s company-rented accommodation during the week and travelled 150 miles to our ‘old’ home at weekends while our new home was being built. It was hard work, but we were together, and in my experience that is the most important thing.
Be Aware of How Much Moving Can Stress Your Kids
Moving can be a nightmare for kids, particularly if they are leaving friends and family behind. Make sure that you find ways for them to stay in touch and get some concrete dates for visits to look forward to in the calendar if you can. It can also be a real help if you are able to arrange for children to visit their new school before you move so they are not seeing it for the first time on their first day.
If children are old enough, get them to either pack some of their own things (with supervision), or help to (politely) instruct the movers who are packing them. Encourage children who are old enough to unpack their own boxes and organize their own rooms in the new house (with some gentle help and guidance).
Make a big deal out of letting each child choose one small new thing for their new bedroom not long after the move – even if it is just a new picture or lamp. Until you have the time to decorate, this can be a way to help them put their own stamp on their new space.
Don’t forget about pets.
Moving your pets into a home on the same day as the furniture is being moved in is stressful for both you and them. Having said that, if an animals sees all the furniture leaving the house and you then take them to a kennel, they are going to think something awful is happening. If at all possible, get a close friend the animal(s) trust to watch them on the day you move. The next day, when all the furniture is in place, collect the animal(s) and bring them to the new house. Be sure to keep cats in for the first few days as they have a tendency to wander off in the direction of your old home!
If you do have to move with your animal, choose one room for them to start out in. Ask the movers to put the furniture in that room first, and then put food, water and a litter tray (for cats) in that room. If the animal has a bed or a favourite toy, make sure it is there as well. Go into the room with your animal(s) and close the door. Make sure they are comfortable and reassured before you leave them. It’s even better if a family member or friend stays in there with them at all times. You can take turns. Failing that, check on them often. It’s good if this room can be close to an outside door so that dogs are not forced to see too much of the chaos when you take them out for a natural break.
Once all the furniture is in place, let the animals come out and explore while you unpack the boxes. Keep a close eye on them and reassure them in a calm voice.
Unless it is absolutely out of the question economically, do get professional movers.
In my experience, things packed by professionals get there in one piece more often than things I have packed myself. Also, it’s easier to organize packing and unpacking if you are giving instructions to people you are employing. Barking instructions at friends by mistake when you are stressed can cause real problems, and do you really want to be responsible for your best friend’s husband putting his back out? My only proviso is that professional movers need to be heavily supervised, and do check and double check they have not left anything behind.
It’s okay to ask for – and accept – help.
Once all the details are finalized and you are putting plans in place, be sure to ask for help when you need it. In most cases, friends and family will be happy to help with childcare, watching pets or even making cups of tea while you supervise the movers – or packing and unpacking if you do move yourself.
Remember, everything really is going to be okay
Things are going to go wrong. There will be phone calls that cause you to panic, documents will go missing, people and things will be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and there will be at least one moment when you think the whole move is going to fall through or that your head might actually explode. The very nature of moving, the fact that it is a complicated and expensive legal transaction, means that there are going to be times when you feel absolutely sick with worry and stress. I remember awful things happening – problems with builders, the wrong appliances being installed and goodness knows what else. But when I look back at them I realize that many times I got far more upset than I needed to and made the whole situation worse. Things almost always worked out in the end.
Finally, if you are moving, or contemplating a move, may I be the first to wish you an easy and stress free experience, and every happiness in your new home!