John, our Senior Copywriter, has just been through exactly the same ordeal as Lily, our Social Media Manager – buying and moving in to his first home. It was mental, as you are about to discover. He mainly did it to get away from clothes moths, as well as to get on the lofty heights of the property ladder, and become a grown-up and stuff.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I grew up in London, enjoying the spoils of my family home for 22 years. After that, a colleague offered me a room in Hammersmith with incredulously cheap rent, so obviously I snapped it up.
I stayed there for a mammoth 11 years before buying a flat on the other side of London. For those keeping track that’s 3 homes in my entire life. Some people I know have lived in 3 places in the last year.
What I hadn’t realised was this: my 33-year bout of fortune had left me ill-prepared for the process of moving home. The first time I moved, I simply chose all the things I liked (about a quarter of all my stuff), put it all in my parents’ car, and had them drive me to my new abode – leaving them with the detritus.
This time around I was on my own, insisting on completing the big move with just my planning skills, wits, and a couple of burly blokes.
SURVIVAL TIP 1: If someone offers to help you pack and/or move, accept their offer instantly and graciously. Don’t be a hero.
I am a hero. I’m Goose from Top Gun. I’m William Wallace from Braveheart. I’m Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan. I’m Hooch from Turner & Hooch. I’m Jack from Titanic. I’m Thelma and Louise from Thelma & Louise. I’m a hero, and (spoiler alert) I die at the end.
Anyway, I packed what I could, taking this sage advice from a friend:
SURVIVAL TIP 2: Create a numbered inventory of every box. This saved my sanity on more than one occasion. At the very least, write on the box what room it should go in. Also pack your essentials in one box – towel, toothbrush, toilet roll, bedding – so you’re not hunting through boxes in the middle of the night, desperate to go to sleep.
SURVIVAL TIP 3: Budget for some professional moving help if you can. I will never regret doing this. You can even get movers who’ll come round and pack up your whole house. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Don’t be a hero. They’ll do it faster and safer than you could ever hope.
John and Steve were my professional help. The confirmation email described them as “two experienced men”, and they didn’t disappoint. They rocked up to my place in a Bedford van that would have terrified me to drive through central London, before packing the rest of my stuff mega efficiently. Once the back shutter was rolled down, they whisked me and all my worldly possessions over the Westway, down the Marylebone Road and into E10.
Everything I had done in the preceding weeks had been building up to this day. However, it was only when John and Steve drove away, leaving me surrounded by boxes, that I realised the hard graft was yet to begin.
SURVIVAL TIP 4: Know from the outset that the hard part is getting your new place exactly how you like it. It’ll take time but you’ll get there. The move is just one day. Your perfect home will take weeks or months to get right.
SURVIVAL TIP 5: Build the bed. That’s assuming you even have a bed for your new place. If not you’ll have to go through that famous rite of passage of sleeping on cushions, coats and taxidermy hamsters. You’ll chuckle about it one day. ONE DAY.
Thankfully it was part of the service from the removal company, so Johnno and Stevie had my bed back together in no time. After that I thought I’d get started on the boxes. The easiest place to begin was with everything marked ‘KITCHEN’, because it’s easy to find a home for all that stuff. In the kitchen, ideally.
The thing is, I’m now the owner of a shiny new dishwasher, and I thought it would be marvellous to pop all my cutlery and plates in there to give them an as-new sparkle.
An hour later I still couldn’t fathom how to work it, and not for the first time in this ordeal, I, a 33-year-old, grown-up homeowner, texted my mum.
SURVIVAL TIP 6: Get to know your appliances ASAP. This is easier said than done – I moved into a new build flat and have the instructions for everything. They’re all, without exception, incomprehensible.
If you’ve never had to operate and maintain a dishwasher before, find someone who has.
You need dishwasher salt, rinse aid and dishwasher tablets before you can get the damn thing to work. Three whole things that you definitely won’t own if this is your first dishwasher.
Also, as a sub-point, you need to know how hard the water is in your area so the dishwasher uses the correct amount of salt. No this isn’t a practical joke. Go to your water supplier’s website and it’ll tell you how hard it is in your postcode.
Maybe the appliances are already there from the last homeowner, and in good working order. Even so, it’s worth familiarising yourself. If you don’t maintain them, it’ll be your problem to repair or replace them – and you’ll find this out the hard way with a bag full of washing that needs doing, or a party’s worth of dishes that need cleaning.
Back to my story. My aforementioned mother had put together a pretty impressive care package of cleaning supplies but there was no dishwasher salt, so I was stopped in my tracks. One box open, nothing put away.
Time up. I now needed to get to Ikea pretty sharpish to pick up all the essentials.
SURVIVAL TIP 7: Never go to Ikea alone. A friend offered to come with me, because she loves surprising her husband with all sorts of unnecessary new trinkets. And considering I filled up one and a half trolleys it would have been a nightmare without her. Alternatively, be luckier in love than me and halve the energy required to complete all household tasks.
SURVIVAL TIP 8: Be single and never have to argue with anyone about how to decorate your new home.
SURVIVAL TIP 9: If you actually need to do some proper decorating, now’s your moment. Get a painter and decorator in before you’ve unpacked everything. With most walls and furniture still in limbo, they’ll be able to whizz round with a roller and brush, causing you little inconvenience.
Where was I. Yes, Ikea. That’s it. Four hours and £500 later I returned to my flat, drank half a bottle of prosecco, ate some hummus and cucumber from the petrol station down the road, put up my Ikea temporary blinds (£3, recommended for privacy), and tucked myself into bed for the worst night’s sleep of my life.
SURVIVAL TIP 10: TAKE MORE THAN ONE DAY OFF WORK. Einstein here took one day off work. The next day, while sitting in the office, I was emotionally and physically exhausted, felt ill and nearly burst into tears. Take 2-3 days. Hell, if you’re the kind of beach-starved workaholic who has holiday to spare, take a whole week. Take a fortnight. Take a sabbatical.
SURVIVAL TIP 11: Washer dryers have a bad reputation but that’s because 10 years ago they were all rubbish. Not so anymore. They’re a good space-saver and better than having clothes draped everywhere, with the moisture causing damp. The modern ones aren’t all perfect, so you’ve got to do your research, but there are plenty of decent ones that don’t cost the earth. I compared reviews from Which, ao.com, John Lewis and Amazon, and ended up with a winner.
SURVIVAL TIP 12: Pay to have your washing machine installed. Everyone says it’s easy. It looks easy if you have two people and you’ve installed loads of washing machines before. I am only one person and I have never installed a washing machine. £25 well spent if you ask me. My neighbours didn’t pay the £25 and they regret it more than you will ever know.
SURVIVAL TIP 13: The handyman can. Find a local handyman to put up pictures, blinds, curtains, headboards, bathroom cupboards etc. It’ll save you time and you’ll know it’s been done properly.
You don’t want to go two months without blinds. This I know from experience – the lack of privacy gets a bit tiresome, so prioritise it. The guy who put up my awesome grey wooden venetian blinds is local and will pop round if I ever have a problem with them.
SURVIVAL TIP 14: The locks. If your property has had multiple owners, or previous rental tenants, get a locksmith round to replace all the locks, and get shiny new keys. It’s a necessary peace of mind.
These are just a few of the things I’ve learnt along my fraught journey to becoming a fully-functioning adult human, and I hope you find them useful. Go forth and move house.