Moving house can be one of the most stressful things you ever do. It usually requires major changes, there's huge amounts of money involved and more importantly, you're pretty much packing your whole life up.
The good news is that a few simple ideas and a change of approach can make everything a lot easier.
In this post, I'll share some of the techniques I've developed to help you get organised and keep track of everything. I think the main focus should be on your stuff, because if you get that organised early on you'll be able to focus on the actual move and everything involved with it.
The ideas I'm about to share are all things I've had to learn myself. I've been involved with three big moves over the last seven years for both myself and my parents. They were all huge and as you would expect, they didn't go to plan.
The first two were an absolute nightmare. It was essentially a combined move as my parents downsized and I moved out to my own place in another part of the country. There was a lot to do, we got a lot wrong and I was still unpacking boxes six months after I started.
The latest move was a bit different though, as I learned from my mistakes and I'd just created The Simplicity System.
This time, I was able to make sure that everything I could control went a lot smoother. It's important to highlight the 'everything I could control' part though, because a lot of things are likely to go wrong that have very little to do with you.
I'm sure you've heard horror stories from friends and colleagues about their 'moves from hell'. With the increasing spread of sloppy and indifferent approaches to business, it's highly likely that a solicitor, estate agent or mover will seriously let you down somewhere along the line.
That's why you need to be organised, so you can give these problems your full focus and not be caught off guard if they arise.
What Can Go Wrong?
When it comes to moving, I think the first mistake people make is focussing on the actually move itself. It's easy to focus purely on getting the stuff out of your existing house, but there's more to it than that.
You need to approach it in two stages, before and after the move.
If you just focus on the first, you're likely to end up with a lot of work the other end. You'll probably be exhausted at this point as well and just want it all to end.
If you're smart from the start, you'll get get most of the hard work done before you even arrive.
Like personal development, I also think we can learn a lot from mistakes, and I've certainly made my share when it comes to moving. Because of this, I urge you to think carefully when you begin and put a solid plan together. If you can, try to consider the following pitfalls as well.
The key mistakes that have held me back in terms of moving are:
Not having an overall strategy - Time is critical when you're moving, so you need to do everything possible not to waste it. It can be a horrible feeling when things start to go wrong and you really don't have time to deal with it. It's also important to decide what everyone's doing, as people may expecting you to do critical things in the process that you simply aren't aware of or don't have time for.
Not knowing where everything is - There's nothing worse than looking at piles of stuff you can't identify. It's even worse when you urgently need something and don't know where to start looking. The day of the move can also be a nightmare if you don't know what everything is and where it's going.
Allowing other people to change their plans without telling me - It's easy to spend several days doing something you've all agreed on and then have people change their minds and not tell you. This is why you need a basic plan in place and it's essential that you keep communicating.
Allowing other people to take over - Despite meaning well, people can often try to take over when they're helping you move. Even if you've been following a plan for several weeks, some people will think they know better and this can cause a lot of problems.
Being overloaded when issues arose - I think the biggest mistake you can make when you're moving is being overloaded when serious issues arise. If there's suddenly an urgent issue with your mortgage, you'll need to get right on it and not have to finish things you should have done weeks ago. You probably won't have to deal with just one issue like this either.
Being overwhelmed when I got to the new place - While the previous problem can derail you, this one can demoralise you. After all the hard work moving, you don't want to be looking at boxes or living out of a suitcase for months the other side. Everything you can do before you go will be a huge investment when you most need it.
I'll take a close look at the actual planning of the move in the next section, but I think it's important to consider other people first. Even if other people aren't moving with you, you're sure to require some help along the way.
I think the quickest way to get out of control during a move is when people are following their own separate plans.
Worse still, you may have someone without a plan who's too stubborn to follow anyone else's. If this happens, it's likely to generate a lot of conflict and negativity at the worst time possible.
Everyone is likely to be stressed and tired and have their natural willpower significantly depleted. This means you're going to find it hard to let things go and not take things personally.
I think it's safe to say that you all need to agree to a basic plan before you begin if you want to stay sane.
You also need to be careful if you're relying on friends to help you move. While it's amazing when people want to help, there can be some disadvantages.
You can't really fire your friends, so if someone starts to take over on the day or is really causing more problems than they solve, you can't really do much about it.
For example, if someone you know panics after an unexpected delay and starts damaging your stuff because they're frustrated, you often have to let them get on with it. This is even worse if they're a friend of someone else involved in the move, as you'll probably need to be very polite. People could also let you down on the day by canceling at the last minute and leave you with far too much to do.
My advice is make sure you're working with professionals if possible.
This isn't to say that you should refuse any help that's on offer. You just need to make sure you're not relying on it and that it doesn't backfire on you
So now we've looked at the potential problems, let's focus on some solutions.
Planning Your Move
When you're planning your move, it's essential to use a resource that everyone can access on all their devices. It's best to use something with cloud support as well that also has the ability to store files.
The simple solution is to use Trello.
This free service is available to everyone and offers all the functionality you need to really take control. I strongly recommend using this to plan your move, as it will make your life a lot easier.
Now before you dismiss this as one of those shameless content marketing pieces just created to promote something, I can assure you that I don't gain anything from this. I genuinely love Trello and it kept me sane during my last move.
I'll link to it at the end of this article but if you already use it, you should start to get some great ideas in terms of what I'm about to share.
As soon as you decide to move, it's time to start planning and if you're using Trello, I'd set up the following boards:
Properties - I'd create a list of all the places you're interested in and you can also include images and links to external information, like estate agent's web sites. This will come in really handy when you're showing other people and it's great to get it all in one place.
Admin - I think it really helps to identify the things that will need your attention when you move. This could be anything that requires a change of address, new services that need to be set up and anything you'll need to cancel. It also helps if you identify any contracts you have in place before you get going as well.
Services - This is where you identify all the services you'll need to secure to help you move, like solicitors and estate agents. I'd keep it separate from the other admin lists, as you're sure to make a lot of notes.
Wanted - I think it's also a good idea to keep track of all the things you're going to need. From new furniture to handy gadgets, Trello lets you keep track of it and add images if you need to. It also offers you far more options than a simple spreadsheet and brings everything to life.
This should help you get off to a great start, but the hard work is about to start.
The Best Approach to Packing
As soon as you know you're serious, you should focus on packing up your things as efficiently as you can. If you can, don't wait until you have a moving date, as it wouldn't hurt to start getting things in order as soon as you can.
The first step is separating the things you can store from the things you'll need before and after you move.
Once you've done this, you can get a lot out the way early on. You're likely to really appreciate this if something goes wrong that requires a lot of time and attention.
I think it's a safe bet that a lot of us have a lot of stuff we don't use every day. There's probably a cluttered up attic to clear out as well and the sooner you get to work, the easier it will be.
The classic mistake here is to just move the mess.
If you take this easy way out though, it can lead to huge problems down the line. I can tell you from experience that there's nothing worse than the sight of a huge pile of unidentified boxes when you urgently need something once you've moved.
I actually had to buy things again because I simply couldn't find them.
I got myself into this mess because I'd only focussed on the first part of moving. I quickly packed boxes to get out and hadn't done enough to identify them the other end. This is why I was still unpacking six months later.
The next time I moved I was ready though, and The Simplicity System helped me to create a very effective approach to packing. All you need to do is use it from the start.
To show you how it's done, I'd like you to imagine you're clearing out your attic and you're bringing down individual boxes full of clutter.
If you really want to take the stress out of moving, you should follow this simple process:
Identify - You need to quickly establish what's in the box or container you're looking at. You also need to go through it all carefully as things are likely to get mixed up over time. This first step will will come in useful later on as well.
Process - For me, this is the most important step as it helps you get everything in order. You just need to carefully go though everything and think about what you're going to do with it.
Decide - If it's not something you're likely to need over the next month or so, you really just have two choices. You can chose store it, or you can choose to dispose of it.
Sort - By now, you'll probably have several big piles. You need to be careful here though because this is where you can seriously lose control. Ideas should naturally start coming to you at this point as well, as you'll probably be able to separate your items into piles like CD's, books and ornaments.
Store - My advice is to get yourself some fresh boxes and start packing from scratch. If it's not likely to be used within a year the other end, I suggest taking a long-term approach. You can then start sealing and stacking the boxes when you're sure you've got everything together.
Even if you've decided to dispose of some items, you still need to store them separately before you can dispose, sell or donate them.
Record - While you're packing these boxes, you need to record everything you put in them. This is where Trello comes in handy, as stickers and labels really won't be enough. You'll struggle to list everything and they can easily get covered up or fall off.
If you can, should should mark the box with a simple description on the top and at least two of the sides. If you can, you could also add a separate label if you know where it's going to go in your new home.
If you've followed this process, you should end up with a stack of boxes all catalogued and ready to go.
This should make things a lot easier when you move and you'll instantly know where everything's supposed to go. More importantly, it saves endless questions on the day you move from other people and a lot of confusion when you get settled in.
More importantly, if you've got this out the way early on, you're in a great position if things go wrong.
Things to Bear in Mind
This may sound fairly straightforward, but there are some really important things you need to consider.
Firstly, when you're listing everything, you need to make sure that it's something you can quickly reference later on. Again, I suggest Trello as it's searchable and multiple people can access it if they need to.
You'll be really glad you did this is you ever need anything in a hurry.
I think it also helps if you use similar types of boxes. If for instance you use several archive boxes for your CD's, they could become ARCD1 and ARCD2 in your system. This helps you to create an intuitive labelling process that will quickly let you see what you're looking at.
You also need to record where you store all your boxes the other end as well and try to keep them in order if you can. This will make a huge difference when you need to find something quickly and you don't know where to start.
Finally, all that stuff that you've decided to dispose of needs to be clearly labeled as well, so someone doesn't pack it up and bring it all along with you.
Why We Do This
You may be thinking that this is a lot of work and that it's completely over-the-top? Why waste all your time with this when you can just pack it away and sort it out later?
To answer these questions, I think it would be helpful if you imagined the following scenarios.
You suddenly realise you've never ripped that limited edition CD you've always loved and it's not on any streaming services. Rather than being presented with a pile of huge boxes when you enter your attic, you'll know exactly which one it is and where to find it.
Also, when you get to your new home, you'll want to get unpacked as quickly as you can. Having everything you need to store packed, processed and recorded means you can quickly get it into an attic or storage area and out of the way.
Trust me, this will really make a difference.
Finally, if something bad happens or you suddenly need to move again or clear your storage space, wouldn't it be nice to know where everything is? Chances are, this won't happen when you've got plenty of time to space, so you're really doing your future self a big favour.
If you suddenly needed to downsize as well, you should have a good idea of what you can immediately get rid off.
I think the main thing that would inspire you to take this approach is when you find that one of your friends has placed the box all your knives and forks under a large pile in the spare room and you've got a box of your old toys in your kitchen when you really want to eat.
The Best Approach
So that's my guide to moving based on everything I've learned over the last few years. It's all based on practical experience as well so I can assure you it all works.
I hope this has all been helpful and that it makes the thought of moving a lot less stressful.
You may even want to adopt these ideas just to tidy everything up and get your attic in order. It doesn't hurt to think about whether you really need all that stuff around you either.
Like I said though, if you are moving it's unlikely to remove all the stress given all the things that are out of your control. It should give you time and flexibility though during the moments you need them the most.
If you still need some persuading, just close your eyes and imagine what it will be like it you can settle into you new home in just a few days. All you need to do is set up Trello.
Here's that link:
Good luck and I'd love to hear how you got on.