Moving House? This Is How You Do It Right

Sure, we’ve all hailed Marie Kondo as the Tracey Anderson of de-cluttering, because nothing – nothing – will make you trim the fat like moving house. But there are ways to do it that can have a positive impact on your life, long beyond moving day.

Few people relish moving, and while most of us start well, we usually wind up panicking and throwing random bits of crap in boxes, telling ourselves we’ll sort it out when we get there. Can’t find the grater in your new house? It’s in the box with your old diaries (‘future generations find them fascinating!’) and the Kris Kringles you’ve earmarked for re-gifting.

Here’s how to streamline the whole process so that you not only don’t lose your shit in the move, but set yourself up with good habits in the new place:

Phase 1: Moving out

#1 Start early with the danger zones

Danger zones come in two categories. 1: Storage spaces that hide whatever you can’t bear to throw away but don’t actually use or think about. 2: the ‘bitsy’ drawers of random nails, sticky tape, keys to God-knows-what, and teared-out magazine recipes never cooked.

Since dealing with the danger zones is the most time consuming, tedious and yields the least outwardly visible results, tackle them well in advance of moving. Your future ‘moving day’ self will thank you.

Don’t be cry.

Tip: 80% of the stuff you store out of sight can be chucked/donated. Do it. Within 24 hours you won’t be mourning the loss of your broken badminton set and the 28 ancient phone chargers.

#2 Divide and conquer

There are different schools of thought on what system works best. Whether you’re going room by room or category by category, pick a process that works for you and stick with it.

Next, pull everything out and divide it into four piles:
#1 Chuck
#2 Donate
#3 Pack
#4 Dunno

You’ll reach a tipping point where the visceral pleasure you get from seeing the bags mount up outweighs any emotional pull left in the ‘dunno’ pile and you’ll be more than willing to chuck/donate it.

Tip: don’t bother with a ‘sell’ pile. At this stage, it’ll take too much time and organisation, so write it off as ‘good karma’ and give it away. Post it on Freecycle and someone will pick it up for you. Hassle free and fast. Sometimes that’s worth more than the few bucks you’d get on eBay.

#3 List the big stuff you need to replace and organise delivery/hard rubbish pick up

Most councils provide one free hard rubbish removal per year. Be brutal: Do you have six bookshelves of varying sizes, when one decent one will do? Ditto arm chairs and couches?

Getting it done.

If you’re getting new things, organise delivery for moving day. Most companies will take the old items like white goods free of charge. (Again, if it’s still useable, stick it on Freecycle first.)

Phase 2: Moving in

#1 ‘Lifestyle re-design’

Don’t laugh. It’s not wanky. Well, not that wanky.

Moving into a new place is a chance to design your space in a way that suits your actual life, as opposed to the life you think you should have. Think about how you actually use your space. Is it worth setting up a formal dining room, for example, when everyone in the household crowds around your kitchen table 364 days a year?

For me, this meant setting up a quiet, well-lit place to read at night where I could still be around people, but not be bothered by TV noise. For someone else it might mean moving the computer into the living room so they can spend more time with their kids or partner while they work.

Or a fort could work.

It’s also a good way to encourage good habits. In the old place, for example, my bike was stored so awkwardly I never used it. Now it’s easy to access and as a result, I use it all the time.

Tip: wait a few days until you see how you use the space before buying any new storage. All the Kondo-ing in the world isn’t worth it if maintaining it is inconvenient.

#2 Give yourself a time limit

Don’t get it perfect, get it done. In Feng Shui terms, boxes left unopened for months signifies stagnation. Having said that, boxes left unopened for several months and not missed, signifies ‘stuff you could probably chuck’.

#3 Broken Window Theory (or ‘start as you mean to go on’)

Broken Window Theory states that if small acts of vandalism, like graffiti and broken windows are not fixed immediately, they breed larger and more heinous crimes.

Clutter breeds more clutter. If you can set up easy ways to deal with it as soon as it comes in (bowl for keys, space for mail etc.) and loudly/lovingly reminding those you live with where such items go, you’ll stop it accumulating in the first place.

Are we done yet?

Unfortunately, you can’t force other people to adopt your system. You can, however, wait until they leave the house for the day and then throw out all the stuff you know they won’t miss. (My husband still hasn’t clocked that I threw out the 600 New Yorker magazines he was keeping ‘in case we have grandchildren and they want to make a collage one day.’)

Alice Williams is a columnist and author. She also tutors in Media Writing at the University of Melbourne and is a chronic public transport eavesdropper (though she prefers the term ‘Listening Thomasina’). Say hello here or here.