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How to Make a New House a Home

I've moved house around thirty times in my thirty-six years and, along the way, I've learned a lot of tricks for making the move go smoothly.

With several of my friends in the process of buying their own homes, it seemed like a good time to pull together what I know. So here goes:

Boxes of stuff


Before you move
  • Book: a supermarket delivery for your second day in your new home (not the first day - your schedule will be too unpredictable).
  • Organise: change of address notes or cards for anyone you feel might need one (grandparents and anyone who will gush about your amazing design).
  • Find out: the bin collection days and the nearest cardboard recycling point (check the council website); the nearest free WiFi (if you can't live without internet); public transport routes; and your friends' recommended tradespeople for every conceivable issue (electrician; plumber; slater; TV aerial repair; plasterer; decorator; locksmith).
  • (Particularly if you own furniture) consider: paying someone to pack and/or move your stuff for you. Seriously. There were lots of other things we could have spent that £400 on when we moved into this flat but it was worth every single penny not to stress about packing for weeks on end or to have to humph our furniture down four flights of rickety stairs. Our removal guys had a pretty miserable day of it and I was SO GLAD that they were dealing with everything, not me.

Your first-day-in-your-home box
The morning you move, pack your last box with the following essentials:
  • Your kettle, mug(s), teaspoon(s), the makings of tea/coffee/juice and something to snack on.
  • A takeaway menu for dinner and whatever cutlery you will need to eat with.
  • Toilet roll, soap/handwash and a hand towel.
  • Pyjamas, essential toiletries/medicines and a towel for the following morning.
  • Your phone charger.
  • A spare light bulb and a couple of screwdrivers. Just in case.
  • Cleaning products. No just in case about it - I've yet to move into somewhere sparkling.
  • Your bedding (but this will most likely need a box or bag of its own).

Lots and lots of boxes


First things first
  • Prioritise making your bed even if it's just a mattress on the floor. By the end of the day, you will be more than ready to crawl into it and won't want to faff around with sheets.
  • If you are planning lots of DIY or decorating, prioritise the rooms you will want to collapse in when you're tired - the living room and bedroom need to feel like home before the bathroom does.
  • Clothes, crockery, books and DVDs are the easiest things to unpack and put away neatly. Do these first, before you think about the pretty stuff.
  • In the kitchen, store the mugs, teaspoons and hot drinks near the kettle.
  • Flatten all boxes as soon as they are empty and stash them all in one designated place (down the back of the sofa works for me). This will make the place feel less cluttered and the task at hand less daunting. 

The inevitable irritations
  • Expect not to have internet access for several weeks (regardless of what your provider has promised). This is quite useful when you've got a load of DIY jobs to do and don't need any distractions, but you can't slog away all the time. Get yourself well stocked with books and/or DVDs ahead of time.
  • Expect the unexpected. Something will need done and you should leave room for this in your budget. For example, our current flat had a glowing home report (for a property of its age) but we still needed: a new boiler (which we knew ahead of time); roof work (which we suspected ahead of time); and rewiring (which was a surprise). 
  • Never ignore: yellow stains on the ceiling; damp wallpaper or mouldy patches; tripping fuses; light bulbs which keep blowing. Get someone in to investigate.
  • Set aside a weekend a few months after moving to tweak the layout of your furniture and how you've stored things in your cupboards - by then you'll have got a feel for the place and know if something's not quite right.

Carpet offcuts


Everything else
  • Consider changing the locks and/or the alarm code. Locks are surprisingly easy to change yourself.
  • Make a to do list of DIY jobs. I arrange mine by room and I will happily add on things that I've already done just so I can cross them off. Scoring off lots of little jobs in the space of an hour is immensely satisfying.
  • If you can make do without a piece of furniture (or tolerate a so-so hand-me-down), it's usually preferable to wait and/or save up for something good quality which you really love, rather than buying a cheap flat pack which you think "will do".  
  • If your budget's tight and you know you're prone to impulse buys, make a list of things you want to prioritise purchasing. Refer to this list when you're tempted by yet another novelty lamp.
  • Don't feel that everything which was on display in your old home has to be one display in this one. Start by arranging the things you truly love then ask yourself whether you really need to add anything more.
  • Perhaps most importantly: don't feel that everything has to be perfect straight away. I can get a flat to look like mine within a couple of weeks but I expect it to take a year for the awkward blank spaces to be filled. If you plan to be in this home for many years to come, you have many years to come to build it into the perfect place for you.

Is there anything that you would add?

15 comments

  1. Changing the locks was one of the first things we did, it's actually encouraged by every one (reactors, mortgage people) because you never know how many people might have a key to your home! It surprises me the amount of people that don't take the time and the piece of mind to do so - I guess more so when you're buying a house rather then renting as in our old apartment complex the landlords automatically changed the locks when someone moved out that same day. It's so weird to think that it takes companies in the UK so long to come around and sort out your internet after you move. I thought we'd have that same issue (i'm actually British but I brought a house and live in the US) and the cable/internet guy came the day after we move in - lucky!

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  2. Exactly - with my previous flat, I was only ever given one set of keys and I knew there were at least three more out there somewhere. It wasn't worth the risk.


    Ugh, it took five weeks for our phone and internet to be transferred this time - initially it was because the sellers wouldn't confirm that they wanted their service switched off until the day we exchanged (and our provider couldn't start the process until they did) and then there were all sorts of delays getting an engineer out because "something blah fibre optic new blah blah something".

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  3. This is such a useful list! Definitely one for Pinterest ..

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  4. Such good advice! Having just moved myself, I can definitely agree on every point. :)

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  5. I love this. Thank you. I'll be looking for this when we come to buy early next year. Also totally agree on it being worth paying movers, we didn't last time and it was horrible (for Mr Mac, I was in London) getting our beds and sofas and boxes and boxes of books up to the top floor. Never again.

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  6. Definitely. It felt ridiculously grown up to book a removal firm (more so than buying a flat, to be honest) but why play the martyr and have a miserable move?

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  7. We have finally been given a completion date, so this post comes at a great time, thank you! I keep reading online about moving being the number 1 most stressful time of your life, yadda yadda... so I need to keep positive and planning/list making really helps with this! (Although i still can't convince Tom to hire a 'man with a van' to help us...) x

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  8. FINALLY!!!


    Packing up to move is no fun but unpacking and making somewhere your own? That's awesome! Worth the odd moments of stress. x

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  9. I would reiterate that it won't all get done right away, and even in a year you might still have an unpacked box or two.

    Oh! And when you're packing up before you move, use it as an opportunity to evaluate the stuff you own. If you're packing up items that you haven't used/touched in more than a year, think about whether you actually need them. Try to donate/get rid of as much as you can and you'll have that much less to move and unpack.

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  10. What an excellent list, you've covered all the things I would've added anyway! I always tell people about the first day box (kettle, teabags, biscuits, takeaway menus, toilet roll, etc) and also not to expect your house to be perfect straightaway. You're so right, if it's your 'forever' house then you've got many years to make it fabulous - we're still changing and decorating things in our house and we moved in 5 years ago! :-) xx

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  11. Now we are all moved i'm looking over this list again! Amazingly the internet has been set up already (despite the initial balls up by talktalk..) Thanks to you i designed some moving cards before we moved and they should be delivered tomorrow :-) Good idea about folding away the empty boxes behind the sofa as well... i can't believe how much stuff we actually had in our flat! In the end our friends were great at helping us move, and when we returned the van to the hire place they assembled our bed for us, bless them! The takeaway the first night was amazing as well, we are near a place called Mr Falafel which is our new fave. xx

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  12. Mr Falafel? Amazing!


    Hope to see some pictures of your new place soon. x

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  13. These are really such thoughtful tips! You really have experience! I love the post! Have a lovely time in your new home! Greets, Man With Van Hampstead Ltd.www.manwithvanhampstead.co.uk

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