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Packing and preparing to move house

Moving house doesn't need to be a major headache. Follow our step-by-step guide to make the big day stress-free.

In this article
1. Declutter your belongings 2. Think about where your furniture will go 3. Decide whether to use a removals company
4. Identify your valuables and breakables 5. Start packing your boxes 6. Notify companies of your move

1. Declutter your belongings

When you're moving house, the last thing you want to do is pay to move items that you end up throwing away once you’re in the new place. Have a thorough sort out at least two weeks before the move.

Make sure you clear items from everywhere – the loft, under the stairs, spare rooms, outbuildings and the garden. It can come as a big shock to discover just how many hidden items there are and how many things you have accumulated over the years.

2. Think about where your furniture will go

Picture your new home and think about how and, indeed, whether you actually will use your current furniture in it.

The previous owner should have provided you with a document detailing the dimensions of each room, so you can work out what will fit and what there isn't room for. If it won't fit, sell it, give it away or take it to the dump straight away.

It's a good idea to visit your new property before completion so that you can double-check measurements and see for yourself whether there's room for your curtains, furniture, appliances etc. 

The sooner you begin this task, the longer you'll have to try to sell unwanted belongings for a fair price, rather than being forced to give valuable items away because you're desperate to get rid of them before moving day. 

3. Decide whether to use a removals company

If you live in a ground-floor, one-bedroom flat with little clutter, you can hire a van, get a couple of friends to help and move yourself on the day. This could cost as little as £100. 

If you're doing it yourself, book the largest van you can (bearing in mind that you can drive a van up to 3.5 tonnes with a standard driving licence). Ask for one with a low kerb height or a let-down tailboard to make loading and unloading easier. 

Remember you’ll probably have to make several journeys, including a final one to return the van, so this option is only practical for moves over a fairly short distance. 

If you’ve got more than four rooms to empty, there’s probably too much to do. Consider how many possessions you have. Now imagine having to pick up each one of them, carry it across an obstacle course (including stairs) and put it down without breaking your back – and all to a deadline.

A removals firm can ease the mental and physical stress of loading and unloading to a 12pm deadline on moving day. 

If you decide to use a removals company, start looking into who to use early on so you have time to get competitive quotes. Take a look at our dedicated page on how to choose a removals company for estimated costs and advice on what to look for in a good moving company.

4. Identify your valuables and breakables

While most of your belongings can go straight into boxes, you'll want to take extra care over any items that are breakable. 

It's worth packing these first, separately from the rest of your belongings. Wrap up anything likely to break in bubble wrap or extra packaging, then label these boxes as fragile. 

If possible, transport these items in your car, rather than in the van.

This also holds true for anything that's valuable. The removal company's insurance may not cover you for items above a certain value (even if they pack them for you), so move anything especially expensive or sentimental in your own vehicle.

5. Start packing your boxes

There are simple things you can do to make packing – as well as moving and unpacking – easier for yourself:

  • buy quality packing materials, including enough boxes, bubble wrap and tissue paper
  • put layers of crumpled paper or protective material between each item to prevent scratching
  • don’t overpack boxes
  • spread heavy items out between boxes
  • write on each box what the contents are and indicate which is the right way up.

If this sounds like too much hassle, getting your removals company to pack your belongings for you can add surprisingly little to the cost of your move. Not only will it mean your items are insured against breakage, but they'll also be packed by specialists who will do it quickly and carefully. 

You can even go the whole hog and ask them to unpack for you, too.

It generally takes professional removal companies between half a day and two days to pack your items, depending on how much stuff you own, and a day or two to deliver them.

6. Notify companies of your move

Before you move house, you'll need to let your utilities providers know that you're changing address - as well as your banks, insurers, doctors and a host of other organisations.

For a full list of who you need to contact, see our moving house checklist.

Hire a trusted removals company

If you're looking for a removals company you can trust, check out Which? Trusted Traders. Before giving any company the official seal of approval by naming them a Which? Trusted Trader, we assess them in person, and make credit, reference and administrative checks to ensure they are a reputable company.

As well as removals firms, Which? Trusted Traders covers builders, plumbers, plasterers and locksmiths, all of whom could come in handy if you're planning on doing work to your new home.

Get the best products for your home and garden

Whether it's a new washing machine, dishwasher, lawn mower or TV, nearly all of us buy at least a few new things when we move house. To ensure you buy the very best products for your budget and avoid the duds, join Which? and get full access to all our reviews.