Even at the best of times, moving home can be a stressful experience. For an older person, it can be especially difficult, so check through the lists below for help with the planning stage.

On this page you can find a break down of the move into different stages, which your relative may find helpful. It won't reduce the total amount of effort required, but dividing the tasks into groups can make things more manageable.

1. Do plenty of advance planning
2. Sort and de-clutter
3. Transfer services and inform them of a change of address
4. On the day

Do not underestimate the difference your help and support can make when helping a relative move house. However, they may also want to consider enlisting the services of a company that specialises in helping older people downsize or move home. Senior relocation services can ease the load by taking care of many aspects of the process. 

1. Do plenty of advance planning

This is the key to reducing stress.

  • Draw up a floor plan of the new home, as accurately as possible. This will help you plan where things will go. Start with big items, such as furniture, and work your way down the list. This will also help later with the packing and de-cluttering.
  • Make a priority packing list of the things that you’ll want or need to unpack first in the new home (make the kettle top of the list).
  • Contact a number of local removal firms and talk to them about their business. Do they have experience of helping older people to move? Price is probably not the priority here – having drivers and removal men who are careful and sensitive to the situation is more important. Look for a company that is a member of the British Association of Removers or the National Guild of Removers & Storers, which is covered by the Removals Ombudsman.
  • Make sure your chosen removal firm has adequate insurance to cover damage or loss to any possessions, and get a detailed breakdown of costs, including overtime rates if things run late. Brief the firm on any items needing special packing or treatment, such as valuables or fragile antiques, large items that may need to be dismantled and reassembled, or which could be difficult to manoeuvre, and on any items that you will be moving personally.
  • Estimate how many boxes you think you’ll need, and which sizes. Think also about packaging for items that may not fit neatly or safely into boxes – what sort of packaging will be best? Bubble-wrap is surprisingly versatile for smaller, odd-shaped items.
  • It may help to plan the move over two or more days, rather than trying to get everything done in one day. This will allow you time to adjust as you go. For example, if you underestimated the number of boxes required, you will have time to buy some more before everything needs to be moved.

2. Sort and de-clutter

Sorting through possessions and de-cluttering may be the most difficult part of the whole moving process. Many possessions will be of sentimental value, and even the idea of moving them may trigger strong emotions. Try to be sensitive with your relative, yet gently encouraging.

  • Be realistic about what’s needed in the new home, and go for quality over quantity. It may be tempting to put things into storage, but if things are really needed, take them to the new home. Otherwise, sell them or give them away.
  • Arrange sale of any items of value, such as antique or vintage furniture, rugs, paintings or other collectables, which cannot be taken to the new home. It may be worth obtaining a professional valuation.
  • Recycle as much as possible. It is much easier to let go of things if we feel they are going to benefit someone else, so recycle as much as possible, for example through charity shops, or by donating items to someone who will use or appreciate them.
  • Use up any frozen food remaining in the freezer in advance of the move, and defrost the freezer. If your relative is moving to accommodation with catering and will no longer be cooking for themselves, consider donating any surplus tins and in-date packaged food - pasta and rice, for example - to a local food bank if it cannot be distributed among friends, family or neighbours. 

3. Transfer services and inform them of a change of address

Your relative will need to inform all utility services of the move ten days beforehand, and arrange any meter readings so final bills can be issued.

  • Inform the post office, and arrange for mail to be redirected to the new address.
  • Contact all the household's utility suppliers - for gas, electricity, water, telephone and any internet or pay-TV providers.
  • Inform the local council and get a statement for Council Tax; the Department for Work and Pensions and tax office (HMRC) will also need to be informed of the change of address. 
  • Inform your relative's bank(s), as well as any credit card, investment or savings providers, and their insurers - for their home and contents, their car or any other policies they may hold. 
  • Vehicle owners will need to tell the DVLA.
  • Your relative's GP and any other healthcare provider will also need to be informed.

4. On the day itself

Allow more time for the move than you think you’ll need. Moving can be both physically and emotionally tiring, so also allow time for regular breaks – keep that kettle close at hand. You can also make life easier for yourselves in the days leading up to the move.

  • Pack one room at a time and keep these boxes together, so that they’re loaded and unloaded from the removal van at the same time.
  • Mark boxes clearly to indicate their contents, which will make unpacking easier and lessen stress over finding certain items.
  • Put different-coloured stickers on furniture and let the movers know which colour goes into which room.
  • Take down any curtains, light fittings or other fixtures that are going to the new home.

More information

Page last reviewed: 31 January 2016
Next review due: 30 September 2017