How To Have An (Almost) Stress Free Move

Our new dining area. I'll never be tired of the view.










We moved homes the other week.

Change of residence ranks high on the Life Events Stress List. It’s between “Troubles with boss” and “Changing to a new school”.

For an additional challenge the move was planned for the week we returned from a long trip to Canada with a week in the Dominican Republic at the end of it. We were jet-lagged and weary even with our sun tans.

The week before we left for this long trip we were shooting a television show for three days. It was fun but tiring and I didn’t do much in the way of prep work for the move before we headed off island.

Yes, we set ourselves up for a stressful and tense move with our jet-lag, no preparation and a very short window for getting out of our old home, leaving it in good condition with all the linens washed and the walls free from toddler marks, and getting into our new place.

Despite the odds, it was the easiest move I’ve made so far. Note: I said easy. Not enjoyable.

Have less stuff. Really.

I packed up most of our stuff in an afternoon and then my husband and I finished packing and moved it all in one evening. Okay, the only furniture we own is a train table. That is a big one.

But, as someone with a lot of moves under my belt, I’ve found it’s rarely the furniture that does you in. It’s all the stuff in the closets and cabinets and kitchen drawers. It’s boxing all of it and moving all of it and then unpacking it.

In my athlete days I moved crossed country twice a year. My teammates and I lived out of a few duffel bags and some boxes of dollar store kitchen ware, drying racks for our spandex wardrobes and CDs (dating myself here). It was never the big stuff, the suitcases of lycra that did us in with the packing. It was the small things. It was the one off cheap bundt cake pan we bought and made one bundt cake with. It was the scores of CDs that we hadn’t listened to or the flimsy closet organizer we bought to get our clothes in order but never used.

It’s those little trinkets, not the bookshelf and the things you use everyday, that will have you wanting to curb your stuff during a move.

So get rid of it.

Get help.

With our laundry situation there was no way I could get all the linens – sheets, duvet covers, towels – washed and dried in 48 hours.

So I outsourced them. The laundry service did a bang up job and it took an item off my plate.

We also hired a sitter for the evening so Chris and I could make quick work of moving. The other cost, and this was a splurge in my jet-lagged stated, was a cleaner for our old place. They got the place spic and span in two hours and for a reasonable price. One of the benefits to living in an 800 sq ft apartment.

If you don’t have the funds to outsource a few things during your move ask family and friends to lend a hand. Find someone to watch the kids for an afternoon or friends over for a packing party and have some nice food and beverage on hand.

Less stuff = not needing professional movers = saving $.

Even with our outsourcing this move didn’t cost us anything close to the price of hiring professional movers or even what hiring a moving van + feeding friends beer and pizza would have cost. Our expenses for the move were: babysitter, linens, cleaner and fuel for the car our friends loaned us. In fact, the fuel was by far the most expensive piece of our move at £50 ($75) for half a tank of gas (for a sedan – I know, crazy prices over here).

In 2009 we made a very costly move when we sold our 598 sq ft condo and purchased an 1100 sq ft one. I was 8 months pregnant and my husband was away for stage one of the move. I packed up most of our apartment myself and we hired movers to come in and take everything to storage. Our new home was being renovated so for three weeks we rented a furnished condo. When our new home was ready the movers took everything out of storage, put it in a moving van, and brought it to our new place.

That move cost us thousands of dollars and was one of the most stressful times of my life. Every other day I went to the pharmacy to check my blood pressure fearing that I was developing pre-eclampsia. I was so on edge with the move, the logistics of it, the endless packing and the cash we seemed to be hemorrhaging from it, that I was worried my blood pressure was sky high.

Moving is never easy.

Even with less stuff and some help, I still found myself tired and grumpy by the last hour of the move. At 10pm I felt like leaving the last few things at our old place and getting them in the morning. All I wanted was my bed and sleep. Chris helped me shake it off and we took our last load of stuff, Chris’s guitar and the clothes hanging in our wardrobe, to our new home. It was well worth it to push on and wake up the next morning in our new place with the move done.

And unpacking? Pretty painless. One morning of work had most of our stuff in closets and we were ready to resume living a normal life (read: no takeout). This weekend I finally put away the last couple of boxes and our new place feels like home.

Anyone else have lessons from moving house?

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  • We’re in the process of a move from NC to TX, then next year Texas to England. This whole process is challenging everything I thought I knew about owning things.We came to North Carolina with the smallest DIY moving truck. We’ve moved houses a few times in the last 5 years and our last move we had to use the Biggest truck they had. That was when I realized we had much, much more than we need. I’ll be living with my parents for the year so I had to really pair down the things we own, and I really, really like it. Nothing like having to pack and move your own things to make you re-evaluate everything you own.

  • I am batty and love to move. I love the feeling of purging, packing, unpacking. The new smells, the new views, the new neighborhoods. It’s trans-formative and marks time for me. The past six years have been one big blur because we are in the same house, despite me painting and rearranging every so often. I just have a gypsy spirit. Enjoy your new home.

    Additionally, I love seeing your photos on your posts (nice balance bike).

    And lastly, my friend who moved invited all her friends over for a cleaning party after the movers were out. We stayed up late, played music, talked about the good times and noshed on pizza. It was a bitter-sweet and productive.

    • You must have some Gypsy in you. :)
      There is something wonderful about a fresh start. I find I am on my A game lately with meal planning and staying on top of household chores since the move.

  • I was about 5 months pregnant the last time we moved. In August. In Florida. Where it’s about 98 degrees everyday. Needless to say, it was NOT the ideal time to move, but that’s when our place was ready.

    The best thing I did was enlist the help of several good friends and moms – my mom and mother-in-law both helped me with cleaning, and friends helped immensely with packing and unpacking. Thankfully, I have actually pared down our possessions quite a bit since that move (although I still have a ways to go!), so if we ever move again (hopefully not for a long, long time!) it will be much easier.

    The view from your dining table is lovely! If we ever move again, I would hope it would to a place with the view of sea, too :)

    • August in Florida? Oh, dear. That sounds terrible. Ours was August in Vancouver, during a heatwave, but nothing close to the FL heat.
      The view is really lovely. We give up some accessibility to amenities in this spot but we find it worth it. :)

  • We moved across the country 9 months ago. Our first major move (as we’ve lived in the same area all our lives). We used a huge moving truck (they drove, but we loaded/unloaded). We ended up in a rental for a month before we could close on a new house – had to unload the truck into the rental then load/unload to move to the new house a month later. Oh my word. I had never realized how much STUFF we had! It was kind of appalling (even after we had tried to get rid of what we could before the move). After moving into the new house, I promised myself that I would do everything I could to decrease our possessions by half. (Too bad I can’t control my husband’s “toys” – which are many.) I’m working through it slowly. Hopefully the next move will be much less stressful!!!!

    • Our overseas move was very rushed and while it was stressful it was nothing near the work or sweat of moving just a few blocks with a lot more stuff.
      Hope your next move is more relaxed too.

  • For our recent move, we paid for movers. It cost us $500 for the movers and it was worth every penny. We did such a good job of purging that we only filled the truck about half full, but it was still worth it to have someone else move our boxes so we could focus on unpacking and settling into our new space.

    The other thing that really helped in our move was to buy moving boxes. In the past we used whatever boxes we could scrounge up and they never stacked right, and we never seemed to have enough boxes. This time we bought exactly what we needed (for about $100 including tape and packing paper) and had boxes that stacked nicely and we had enough boxes that every item could be boxed.

    Another interesting story here… we had a facebook friend post asking for help to move their huge house full of stuff into another bigger house, and they got zero offers for help. They mentioned that they didn’t want to hire movers so they would have more money to spend on furniture. I’m glad we went the other direction and downsized instead.

  • First of all, I love all the windows surrounding your table! Wow. I would love to be able to have natural light streaming in while I eat breakfast. One day :)
    Anyway, my husband, baby and I moved between provinces when baby was just two months old. The most stressful part was moving our silly corner IKEA bookshelf! It was so heavy and awkward to move, and I’m sure it ended up with some scratches and dents. We have since sold that shelf, plus some other awkward shelving and it feels great to know that I’ll never have to move it (or dust it) ever again!

    • It is really nice. I love to get up early and have breakfast on my own with just the view and the sound of the waves. It’s one of my ‘free’ luxuries.

  • We’re moving 830 miles north/14 hour drive next month. Not looking forward to it. Definitely trying to purge our stuff and reduct the amount of stuff we’re bringing. Last June we moved 1,150 miles/20 hour drive. We paid a fortune to move 9 feet of stuff (in a moving truck, so it was 9 feet plus the height of a commercial moving truck, which is high). To move from 1000 sq ft to 1000 sq ft. We’re now downsizing to 850 sq ft and we’ve added an extra person. (I was pregnant at last move). We already have a dozen boxes packed and I can’t help but feel we’re not missing whatever ‘stuff’ is already in those boxes…

  • Moving doesn’t stress me out, I think because I do it so much. In the past 3 years we have lived in 4 dwellings. Our last move was made in April 2011. Signed the lease 2 days after giving birth to our youngest. We moved most things a week later. We will be moving again soon but not sure when or where yet. I get the itch to move a lot.

  • Hey Rachel, Glad it went well and the holiday was lovely? I’ve only moved twice, and both times we have done it ourselves, the second of which I was 36 weeks pregnant. You can do it without professional services (even if you have a lot of stuff – which I did with the second move – hadn’t yet clicked the way to go was less!)

  • Good timing on this post! I’m moving back to my hometown at the end of the month. Everything I own has to fit in one car load and then into a dorm-sized room. My packing tip is to scan documents you need to keep but don’t need the physical copy of. Also, donate things BEFORE you move, not after.

  • I was/am an Army Brat; and my husband is an officer in the Coast Guard, so moving is just something I have always done, and will be doing for the next 20 years at least! For the active duty military (U.S.) the government pays for packers, movers, and material. They do have a limit on how much weight they will pay for though; above that is you pay for. We have vowed to NEVER have that problem. I always find myself purging the most as we settle into the new place–probably because someone else packs it up, but I have to unpack it!

    Could you maybe post more pictures of your place? If that doesn’t feel too intrusive. I’m always looking for inspiration in the “look” I am hoping to achieve via minimizing. :-)

  • We’re moving again in a month, although thankfully this time it’s another rental house only 5 miles away, instead of the 13 hour drive like last time. This will be our 4th rental in 3 years. I actually kind of like to move and get a fresh start, although it certainly makes you realize how much “stuff” you really own! Our last move, we came from a small apartment to a large rental house after getting a big pay increase, but now we’re downsizing again into a small 1-story house.

    I was always jealous of my friends who lived in a bigger house than me growing up (my parents could easily afford it, but stayed in their small home – I see how right they were now!). After living in a big house like this one as an adult, I’ve realized how much I DON’T want to live in one! It’s expensive, a pain to clean, we never had the money to really decorate it, we can’t keep track of our stuff, I’m always running around, and it just stresses me out. Thankfully we learned this lesson before we buy a home! Our new rental house has its downsides, but it will have a MUCH lower rent, be easy to clean, easy to decorate, and I’ll hopefully be less stressed.

    We like to purge on both sides of the move. If it’s something we know we can get rid of, we’ll do it right away, but if we’re not sure we’ll bring it. If it’s still sitting in a box however many months later,or just doesn’t fit into the new home, it’s time to let it go! Considering that we still have some unpacked boxes from when we moved 9 months ago, we’ve got some work to do!

  • The best way to move (for me) is the way we’ve done it the past two times: I leave town with the kids for a few days and come back and all the boxes are in our new house. I usually spend a good amount of time packing boxes before I leave, but my husband finds it easier just to get it all done in one day, than over several days while we are both wrangling children, pulling things that we still need back out of boxes, etc.

    Hoping we don’t have to move again anytime soon, though it is a nice time to re-evaluate our things and pare down.

    • I took the kids to my parents house 28 hours away so my husband can sell, donate and pack up our home for almost 3 months. Before I return with the kids, he will have their bedroom set up so they have that stability when they arrive. Moving with the kids underfoot is way to stressful for me and my husband.

  • In 2 weeks we are officially moving out of our 3800sqft home (5bed-3.5bath) to a 2 bed 1 bath 800sqft condo. Our 2 boys will be sharing the master bedroom. We just cant sell and give away our stuff fast enough. You are so right. It isnt the FURNITURE that is the problem, it is the drawers and cabinets of “STUFF”. Baskets of colored pencils, 50+ bath towels, cabinets of folders, paper, binders, craft stuff, clear plastic bins filled with extension cords, etc.. I am beyond embarrassed of how we have just wasted thousands and thousands of dollars on just crap. Our family could have gone to the Galapagos annually on the money we pissed away. Just trying to get over the guilt & shame. Trying to just start a brand new lifestyle. For some reason I am still scared of the unknown.

    • Change is scary. You are brave. What a huge gift to yourself and your boys to downsize like that.
      PS. I know the guilt and shame over wasted dollars well. It starts to fade once you to stop buying a lot of crap you don’t need and give away all those things you never used.
      Good luck. And as my mom said to me, jump and the net will appear. :)

  • “It’s those little trinkets, not the bookshelf and the things you use everyday, that will have you wanting to curb your stuff during a move.”

    This could not be more true! I am typing this comment amongst 30+ boxes as we prepare to move into our first house on Friday. Despite relocating to our current apartment only 15 months ago, the mass of odds, ends, magazines, and shopping bags was overwhelming. These small physical objects that take up a huge amount of energy space in our life, and this is magnified when forced to itemize them into cardboard boxes. Each move is proving to be an exercise in increasing our minimalist threshold. I want to hold onto this feeling as long as I can, to ward off the urge to fill our abode, going from a one bedroom apartment to a three bedroom house.

  • Moving while pregnant was the reason i became a minimalist! I hear what your saying with the 8mths pregnant packing up and cleaning the whole house while worrying about your health and how it’s affect the baby. I did far too much and got so overwhelmed with all the ‘stuff’ that i promised our next move would never be like that one. My husband didn’t get it when i started selling, donating and throwing out with gusto as he was not the one having to deal with all the stuff but it really put things into perspective for me. All those bits n pieces you spoke about are just not worth the stress so why hang on to them? I also knew i was moving to a place with very limited storage so that also gave me more incentive to purge the un-needed. Now all i need to think of is that moving experience and it’s enough to keep myself in check!
    I’ve still got a long way to go but our small home now seems quite spacious which is just another bonus to being more minimalist!:)

  • Ugh, the thought of moving makes me shudder. Our last move and the subsequent weeks — no, months — of unpacking was horrible. I would say that we now have at least a third less stuff than we did back then, but it’s still too much to want to pick up and move it all again anytime soon.

    I am totally with you on paying for the move-out clean, though. I did that with our last move and it was worth every penny to have an efficient (and objective) person do the job in two hours, versus the entire day it would have taken me.

  • I moved every year from 90-98. The first 3 times were while living in a dorm so I only had what could fit in my car. The easiest move would have to be when my husband’s new employer paid a company to come in and box up everything, move it, and set up our furniture. I wish we could do that every time, but it’s not going to happen.

    We are going to be moving hopefully in the next couple of years, and I’m already letting more things go. I just gave away my desk and filing cabinet and sold our two spinning composters, and I’ve been scanning in lots of old papers with my handheld scanner (love it) so I can shred those. We are reading through our books and not buying new ones, because we are not going to haul the majority of those across the country. Having a goal in mind (moving cross country) makes it a bit easier to get rid of things!

  • We are prepping for what we hope to be a final move to our “forever” house. I have been a snail on my path to minimalism, but the hare in me has popped up with this move for 2 reasons. I feel very protective of our new home and how I want us to be able to live in it. And, having just moved a year and a half ago, I can clearly see all of the stuff that I packed and moved last time that hasn’t been used this entire time. And then the stuff that has been used once or twice. In the past, I would have said that the past year and a half has been very busy and intense, but so were the years before that. I shouldn’t have to make time to use the stuff!!! The stuff we really enjoy, we magically found time to enjoy. Hmmm…
    So, I have spent most of the last month, eking out spare moments whenever I can with a toddler running amuck, purging and purging and purging. The stuff I have sold will pay for most of our moving expenses! I have enjoyed many smiles of folks thrilled with the free stuff they came to pick up, and we’ve take several loads to thrift stores. And we have finally crested a hill where the move to a house we are so excited to live in is joyous and not a burden!

  • We (me+dog+man) will move next year from the south of Germany to – not sure yet – maybe UK or Holland and I’m pretty scared of it all. I’m used to move but all I had before was records, few clothes and my dog’s stuff but now we have tons of records and Ikea furnitures which are easely replaceable but my man seems to be pretty attached to them so I foresee it will be a very expensive. I’m trying to get rid of the stuff I don’t use to be prepared for the big move but the problem is my dear half, how did you deal with your partners?

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