Veteran mover Safa Ouhib hands out the hints she has picked up over years of packing and picking up boxes.
It started when I was ten years old.
“It’s been well lived in,” was my mother’s euphemistic description of our new house. This was my first move, and at the age of ten I did not fully understand what she meant. I soon found out – together with the meaning of the term ‘elbow grease’!
However, some of our family’s preparations made the move easier. Wrapping all breakables well, for example, ensured that we arrived at our new home with ornaments and china, if not sanity, intact!
My house moving experience broadened after getting married; my husband and I lived in six different flats in the first four years. Moves sometimes coincided with big projects at university and these were stressful times. Through all that moving, I hope I picked up some useful tips along the way to help you make your move as pleasant as possible.
1. Take your move as an opportunity to do a big clear out, donating to charity or recycling where appropriate. It’s annoying and a waste of time and energy to pack and move things that you will end up getting rid of when unpacking in your new house – be ruthless! Start this process well in advance as it always seems to take longer than you’d imagined to pack everything up.
2. Know whether things like curtains, carpets, and light fittings are staying or whether you need to bring or buy your own.
3. Cancel phone and internet contracts well in advance if you have them and arrange for new ones to be set up at your new address. Although it’s worth mentioning that it is usually not possible to set up new contracts until you have actually moved. You may be without internet access for some weeks. If you rely on this, especially if you work from home, think about how you will cope and make alternative arrangements.
4. Collect boxes from supermarkets and DIY or electrical shops as they are often willing to let you take ones in various sizes and strengths. Keep stronger ones for heavier items. Usually the boxes have been flattened and you need to reassemble them yourself using strong tape – layer the tape well. I usually do a few layers on the inside and outside of the box – the last thing you want is your possessions falling out the bottom! Wrap all breakables well and mark boxes clearly as FRAGILE.
5. As you pack, number the boxes and keep an inventory of what went into each box. This way, you pack the items that are used the least and work your way up to those you use frequently – and when you unpack, you will know to start with the highest number and work your way down. Keeping an inventory is especially important if you are moving to a different town or country, so that if a box goes missing or gets damaged, you will be able to remember what the contents were.
6. Decide what each room in your new house is going to be used for and which bedrooms people are going to take. This way you can label boxes accordingly. Consider colour-coding the boxes with stickers or markers – using the colour red for all the boxes that contain kitchen goods, for example. In the new house, place a sticker or page with that colour on the door of the room so that the movers will know which boxes should be placed in which room.
7. Have more boxes, markers and tape than you think you will need. Remember to label the sides of the boxes, not just the tops, as it will be difficult to read the label if other boxes are stacked on top of it.
8. If you have older children involve them in the moving process. They can help to pack their clothes and toys for example. It helps to decide beforehand which bedrooms kids are going to take. I remember my mum drawing a little plan of our new house and we decided who would take each bedroom. This definitely avoided squabbles on moving day.
9. Think about the layout of your new house and plan where bulky items like beds and couches will go, bear in mind that things like the washing machine, computer and phone will probably have to go into pre-existing fixtures.
10. Remember to have phone numbers for your gas and electricity supplier so you can inform them of the move and take meter readings on the day you move out so you will not be billed for any fuel you have not used. Also take meter readings when you move to your new home and phone the relevant suppliers with these.
11. It is useful to have a few frozen meals prepared, transfer them to the new house in a cool box and then put them in the freezer.
12. If your new house is unoccupied, try to arrange for yourself and maybe a few family and friends to go there before the moving day and give it a good clean as this can save valuable time on the day.
On the day
13. Arrange for younger children to be looked after if possible.
14. Older children may like to stay with friends while the contents of your old house is being packed up. They will almost certainly want to be involved in unpacking at the new house so they are less likely to get bored as the day wears on if they have been doing something else in the morning. Assign older children some age appropriate tasks – they could make a start at unpacking their bedroom or do some cleaning if necessary.
15. Accept all the help you can get! If family and friends are helping out with the move, treat everyone to pizza or whatever else you can buy through take-out, rather than attempting to cook a meal that first day.
16. If you are moving in town, instead of packing clothes into suitcases, simply remove them from the cupboards while still on the hangers, wrap them up in sheets and rehang straight into the wardrobes of your new house. Not only does this save time in packing, it causes few creases and saves you on the subsequent ironing.
17. Be prepared to live out of boxes for a while. Bear in mind that it will take time to get everything the way you want it (if this ever really happens) and it is normal to feel unsettled. Talk to your kids about this too if they are feeling unnerved by the changes.
We made our last move about six weeks before our son was born. When my husband broke the news that we had to leave our flat, to my shame, I cried. However, we’re still here over two years later, alhamdulillah! And, at the end of the day, experiences like moving house, having to let go of possessions, saying goodbye, are all tests which we can choose to embrace insha Allah. They are, after all, only small challenges on our journey to our real home.
Safa Ouhib is an Irish revert who left her native Dublin after getting married, and spent the next few years moving from flat to flat in Edinburgh. She is now settled in Falkirk, Scotland. She hopes her moving days are not behind her though, as hijrah to Algeria is her next dream move.