Common mistakes to avoid when moving home

Just over a week ago, my hubby and I completed a big move- we’ve moved from one city to another which is about 3 hours across the country. It’s the first one that we’ve done as a couple, and the first major move any of us have had to do in several years. Needless to say, we were a bit rusty in the matter, and made quite a few mistakes that cost us time and money; ouch!

Instead of wallowing in guilt over all we could potentially have saved, however, we’ve seen them as valuable lessons learned. They’re so valuable that I’ve decided to share some; I've put together a few ‘dos’ and ‘dont’s’ of moving that I hope will be useful to anyone looking to move in the future, or who are even maybe already in the process of moving. Relocating is one of the most stressful experiences, hands down. But there are things you can do to lessen the stress and the blow to your pocket. Learn from our mistakes- you don't have to fall for the same traps!

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Don’t waste time contacting big moving companies

Unless you’re making some serious bank (more power to you if you are!), you should avoid enlisting the services of the big names in moving (eg. Pickfords). These companies may be well-known, reputable and experts at the job, but they do cost a fortune. It’s one of those scenarios where you’ll be paying more for the brand of the company, than the actual service that they offer.

After we had already wasted time getting quotes from the big guys, thankfully, a friend of ours came to the rescue by telling us about a brilliant auction site called Shiply. I have no affiliation to this company but will be its loudest champion from now on, simply because it works so well and will give you HUGE savings! It’s company description on sums up the premise on which the service works: “The online transport marketplace matching people moving goods with transport companies ‘going there anyway’”.

So, basically it works on the premise that transport companies are often making round-trips to destinations and are not carrying load on their return trip, which costs them a chunk of money. See what I mean? Brilliant! All you have to do is that register and put up the details of your move (so, the date, where to where, how many bedrooms’ worth of stuff you’re looking to move, a rough inventory of things) and transport companies will bid to make your move.

So think of how eBay works, but in reverse. Just leave your ad up there, and watch the bids roll in, each one less than the previous and with a brief description of the offering (i.e. how many personnel on site, size of vehicle, insurance coverage etc).

We left our bid up for roughly a day, and let me tell you, we were amazed at the quantity of bids we received and more importantly the prices that were quoted. I’m talking about ¼ of the price that the big companies quoted!

Tip: Even if you’re not moving house, but just need some large items moved from one place to the other, and don’t have a large enough vehicle, you won’t regret checking out this site.

Do tell your movers about any access restrictions that your property might have

It’s good to let movers know before the moving day about anything that could make the removal of your things difficult. So things like being up on a high floor of a building with no lift, narrow staircases, no windows large enough to slip things through to the outside etc.

This will work in your favour, in that the movers will be able to work out a plan ahead of time for the smoothest, most efficient move, with the right equipment and number of people on hand.

In our case, we had some seriously narrow stairwells and corners to navigate, and no large windows to push things through, so we let the guys know straight up about this so they’d know it was not a one-man job.

Do give the movers as accurate an inventory as possible

Knowing just what you’re looking to move will enable movers to be able to advise you on how best to package your things, and, based on the structures of your move in and move out locations, which furniture it would be best to disassemble (if possible) and those that were perfectly fine to leave whole.

Let’s just say, we were a tad bit over-zealous in pulling everything apart! We hadn’t sought the movers’ advice about that specifically, and since many of our pieces  of furniture were from good ol’ Ikea, we took to unscrewing the lot. Be smart- only take apart what you need to; that’ll save you tons of time and blistered fingers.

Don’t buy boxes or packaging material from the big retailers

Stores like Argos sell what they call ‘moving kits’ containing a few premium quality boxes as well as tape, and plastic and bubble wrap. These, my friends, are traps, designed to lure inexperienced ones away from their hard-earned dough.

Truth be told, we did manage to steer clear of those kits, but still went ahead and foolishly purchased cardboard and plastic boxes plus other packaging material off Amazon, which we honestly thought was a sensible course of action, based on the price comparisons with the brick-and-mortar retailers. But here’s the deal: the cardboard boxes you get from these places are still bound to cost you way too much.

I’ve got 3 suggestions for you here:

  1. Ask your moving company to allow you to buy packaging material using their trading discount from the buddies they’re bound to have in the biz
  2. Go directly to packaging wholesale companies, many of which will allow you to buy in small quantities as an individual at prices that are much reduced from in-store ones (we got huge rolls of bubble wrap from a company called Direct Packaging Solutions based in Stockport, UK) or... 
  3. Put on your brightest smile and march yourself down to your local wholesale store, such as a B&M, and ask them to give you any spare boxes they have piling up in their warehouse- chances are, they’ll gladly give you some.

Don’t waste money on plastic boxes

Unless you’re sure that you’ll have use for them in your new home, buying lots of plastic boxes is not a good idea. They’re costly and, from my own experience, are a pain to carry and break easily when packed with heavy stuff (I thought I was clever when putting loads of crockery in one to minimise damage- the handle broke off almost immediately as the mover lifted it up!)

Cardboard boxes seem to do the trick just fine. Skip the bubble wrap and just use newspaper to wrap crockery and other breakable items and place in your regular cardboard boxes- that should do the trick.

Tip: If you want to make the job of lifting these boxes easier, if they don’t already have them, create ‘handles’ in the boxes by carefully cutting out slots in the box, sort of close to the top, large enough to fit your hands. 

Do wrap all your furniture as best you can

As careful as movers may try to be, moving a load of stuff in and then out of a location same-day is wearisome, and it’s very easy for your furniture to get damaged. In the blink of an eye, a corner of a table can get rubbed against the wall, or the drawer from your chest of drawers dropped and smashed.

Save yourself the heartache or replacement cost or the hassle of trying to claim on the movers’ insurance by taking the time to carefully wrap your furniture before your move day. Plastic wrap and bubble wrap worked really well for us.

Tip: If you’re disassembling furniture, be sure to keep the pieces of each item wrapped together and labelled in as great detail as you can, e.g. right-hand door of wardrobe.

Do label your boxes well

I cannot stress enough how important labeling your boxes as precisely as you can is. It’s a big help to the movers so they can know in where to put boxes in your destination, and is a massive help for you later on when the move is over.

As life isn’t kind enough to wait until you’re all nice and settled to carry on, you’re going to want to know at a glance, more or less, what’s in each box to save you frantically ripping open boxes, searching for that one thing you really need right now. Giving some thought to the things you put into each box (eg. place all the cables and chargers in one box, bedding material in another) is well worth it. So too is labelling each box with the room in which the items belong, as well as a list of the main stuff in it (eg. kitchen – pots, pans, scales, snacks).

Tip: Write on the side of boxes, as they’re likely to get stacked one on top of the other so you won’t be able to read anything written at the top of the box.

Those are the 7 things I learned from our recent house (and city!) move. These tips are practical ways to save time and money. Because a move is bound to be expensive and stressful anyway; why add more unnecessary costs and frustration? Have I missed out any important ways to save in the process of moving? Let me know if you can think of any others based on your own experiences!

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