10 moving mistakes to avoid for less clutter and chaos

Avoid these packing and moving mistakes to save time, money, and stress, before you've even got your keys or walked through the door...

A room full of packing boxes and a laptop
(Image credit: Getty / 10'000 Hours (#495164493))

If you've just got the keys to a new home – avoid these moving mistakes at all costs. While congratulations are in order for securing a property, getting settled into a brand new place can cause anxiety and scramble your head somewhat. So don't beat yourself up over the occasional irrational decision when trying to tick everything off your moving house checklist... Mild panic when moving into your new pad is pretty natural.

Signing that contract can be liberating but the logistics behind transferring your treasures between two places can be tricky. And while you can have all the help and resource right at your fingertips, only you really know what's inside the boxes, and how urgently you'll need particular items. So you'll need to be disciplined with identifying important items and what you'll need in arm's reach when renting or saying goodbye to your first home.

Moving mistakes you can avoid

Not packing your possessions properly can be costly and perilous, causing unnecessary moving day stress. Heavy items, for example, can cause back injury or if they're dropped can result in bruised tootsies.

Plus, if you've got small children or pets, you'll need to be extra empathetic and acknowledge their needs and requirements too so that everyone can stay happy, even when you're surrounded by piles of boxes. From their own lived experiences, the Real Homes team members share their packing mistakes when moving home, so that your process is swift, smooth, and stress-free.

1. Not leaving your essentials in an accessible place

Got yourself a first-night box? Turns out, it's the one moving box you're forgetting to pack, but really should. Luckily for you, we've learned the hard way, so you're not caught out when you switch homes.

'Packing your home by room makes sense – until you realize you use items in the same room at different frequencies. Instead, make up a couple of boxes for that first day/week to make sure you aren't rummaging for the essentials,' says Lindsey Davis, editor, Real Homes.

'Do a box of kitchen items (some cutlery, a plate, and mug per family member, can opener, chopping board, pan, and a couple of kitchen knives), and bathroom must-haves.'

Get everyone to pack a weekend bag including a couple of outfits, too... oh, and some deodorant too. All of that lifting and moving will have most, if not all breaking into a sweat, and if you're not able to use your friend's or family's bathroom in the interim to bathe or shower, well, you know the rest.

Phone chargers tend to go walkies during house moves, so invest in a portable power bank (opens in new tab) instead (make sure to pre-charge it first). You'll be calling around for help, and reinstating contracts with energy suppliers and internet providers so a fully juiced telephone is essential.

And, speaking of energy, if the past owners or tenants moved out a while before you've moved in, the likelihood is that you'll have no lighting, so make sure you've got a plan of action so you can see at night time. You don't have to use your best candles, some cheap tea lights (opens in new tab) (along with a few matches or a utility lighter) will do.

2. Forgetting to use luggage to pack

You don't have to keep a glut of old boxes in the garage or pay a storage company a small fortune for cardboard containers. Your ideal storage ideas might be right under your nose. If you like traveling or a freebie at an exhibition, chances are you'll have at least two of these items to lug your stuff.

'It might be obvious to some to point out the benefits of using your wheely suitcase for moving, but what about all of your backpacks, totes, and beach bags? If you are boxing these up rather than using them to transport items, you're missing a trick.' says Davis.

'A backpack is perfect for heavy books, allowing you to carry them on your back while carrying a box at the same time. And if you think it means lots of little packs of stuff to sort, you will thank us when running up and down the stairs to your walk-up with a smaller, lighter load.'

3. Not using appropriately-sized boxes and bags

If you've ever tried to cram your groceries into one bag at the supermarket, you'll know the struggle that comes with carrying that heavy load home. Even if you do have a car, if you take this risk, you're literally asking for the bag to split open. 

Well, the same goes for packing bags and boxes when moving home. Get your ducks in a row well ahead of time by sourcing boxes of various sizes (small, medium, and large) so that you're adequately catered for and haven't got fragile items rattling around in empty space. Amazon is a good place to start for boxes (opens in new tab), but if you're using a self-storage facility, they might be able to help. Try Public Storage (opens in new tab), Extra Space (opens in new tab), U-Haul (opens in new tab), CubeSmart (opens in new tab), LifeStorage (opens in new tab), or Simply Self Storage (opens in new tab) if you're Stateside.

If you want to be thrifty and have a good relationship with your local liquor store manager or cash-and-carry, try asking these connections who might give them away for free.

'I think a fatal error when packing is not getting organized with boxes at least a little ahead of time. If you have to last resort rely on supermarkets, you don't always get what you're looking for. The last time I moved, I ended up with a few too many large boxes and not enough small ones for fragile/heavy items.' says Camille Dubuis-Welch, deputy editor, Real Homes.

Laura Crombie, content director, Real Homes, swears by clearly-labeled sandwich bags (opens in new tab) for keeping fixtures and fittings organized when it comes to reassembling large furniture, like your best bed frame for example.

4. Packing away your tools

Trust us, tearing open a box with your hands, or opening packets with teeth is a health and safety risk that's not worth taking. A trip to ER will slow down your settling into your new abode at the very least.

Davis explains 'You will almost certainly need a pair of scissors when you move house. Keep them to hand along with a couple of screwdrivers, an Allen key set, and a small wrench for furniture building.'

Once you're in and ready to decorate, having these 5 must-have DIY tools to hand will help you to begin redesigning your blank canvas.

5. Assigning too little (or too much) time to pack

We've all dealt with deadlines before. Be it that assignment or exam you had at high school or a work presentation you've had to prepare and deliver like a boss. But, weirdly, we might deal with social time constraints a little differently. Unfortunately, having too much time on your hands can be just as bad as procrastination. So, like Goldilocks, planning has to be just right, when moving.

You'll need to decide whether you're getting professional help, moving DIY, or asking a few pals to help out (in exchange for a few beers, of course). Yes, it sounds cliché but fail to prepare and you'll prepare to fail.

So, whichever route you take, have clear expectations and manage them accordingly. And that means communicating as transparently to your friends, family (or indeed yourself), as openly as you would a pro moving company. The last thing you want is for your buddies to double-book their diaries because your plans weren't set in stone.

And, if you're an experienced home leaser and know how to rent, you'll know to factor in time to clean your current pad too. Different landlords and letting agents have varying cleaning expectations, and this should be detailed in your contract/tenancy agreement.

Some will financially penalize you if you don't get a professional cleaner to make good of the carpets, so make sure you read the small print to see if you'll need to budget for this, or if you can get away with renting a carpet cleaner and doing the job DIY.

6. Not labeling boxes

And by labeling, we don't mean penning *insert room here* 'stuff' in permanent marker, or faintly scribbling with a biro that's on its way out. Organizing your possessions properly will make your life so much easier. Not only does this mean boxing up by room, but also color coding or labeling by date to unbox if you're unpacking bits and bobs in drips and drabs.

Jenny McFarlane, senior content editor, Real Homes says: 'If you're not moving to a place right away and are staying with family or in a short-term rental, make sure you've got the boxes you'll need immediately properly tagged with a colored sticker (opens in new tab). You then tell the movers to take all the boxes without the stickers to storage and the rest to where you'll be staying.'

Just keep the kids away from said stickers and boxes, otherwise, it could result in logistical chaos if they've accidentally indicated an incorrect route for your possessions.

7. Being heavy handed with houseplants

A room with wooden table, labeled cardboard boxes and houseplant in woven planter

(Image credit: Patch Plants)

It's tough enough looking after your best indoor plants with adequate water and sunlight. But when you're moving, being a good plant parent can shift down the priority list. So make you protect, and care for your greenery in transit, so they reach the other side in one piece.

Once they've been resettled, you'll really appreciate and reap the benefits of houseplants in your new home, as they can lift your mood after a stressful move, purify stale air or bad odors in rooms, soothe any anxiety as a result of the relocation, and help you to sleep better on your first night in the new house.

'Don't underestimate how fragile your house plants are in a move.' says Dubuis-Welch.

'Make sure you wrap them with a light cotton mesh (opens in new tab) or bubble wrap (opens in new tab) so that their leaves aren't getting squished or touched by other items – ferns for example do not enjoy their fonds getting really disrupted, especially by human hands – and give them enough space, it's a big change for them too.'

And, Richard Cheshire, plant doctor at Patch Plants (opens in new tab) agrees. He says: 'Moving house can be very stressful and your plants don’t like it much either. Changes to their environment, like light, humidity and temperature means they'll need to adjust.'

'There's a few things you can do to make life easier for you (and your plants) before you move. Stop watering your plants at least three days before the big move - they'll be much lighter and easier to transport. Give large plants a good prune if they're looking unruly, and take the opportunity to check for pests so you're not taking unwanted housemates to your new pad.

'On moving day, if you can, pop your plants in individual boxes and pad them with paper or packing peanuts. Wrap large plants in fleece to protect them and remove your plants from their decorative pots, they'll be easier to carry.'

'Unpack your plants as soon as possible - they won't enjoy being kept in the dark. Pop your plants in a spot that gets warm, indirect light, and give them a few days to settle. After 3-4 days, you can move them to their forever home and water as normal. Try to avoid pruning, feeding, or repotting your plant for at least a couple of weeks while they get used to their new surroundings.'

8. Not preparing your pets for the move

A sunny living room with many cardboard boxes, filled with possessions. In the foreground sits a box with a black dog peering out.

(Image credit: Getty / Catherine Falls Commercial (#1272600352))

Our furry friends live for routine to feel safe and comfortable in their surroundings. But it doesn't come as easy as bribing them with a new pet mattress and some edible treats. If you've lived in your old home for quite some time, the chances are they've become quite accustomed to a certain way of living, including a fondness for special homely scents and a particular place to pee or poop outside, or in a litter tray.

When our animal companions get stressed, they can display some unwanted behaviors. For example, they might chew at a new sofa, scratch the gorgeous wooden flooring that's installed, go on hunger strike, or unintentionally commit a dirty protest (doing their business outside of their normal toilet routine). Help them adapt by releasing stress-relieving chemicals.

No wizardry or degree in chemistry is required, you can get either a calming spray (opens in new tab) (spray some in their pet bed), plug-in pheromone diffusers, or special collar to wear, all available via Amazon. The ADAPTIL brand has a store on Amazon (opens in new tab) and generally speaking their ratings and reviews sound encouraging if you've got a scaredy cat/dog.

You might also notice that they groom themselves more than usual, leading to the shedding of hair and fur all over your new house or apartment. In which case, make sure you've invested in the best vacuum for pet hair

If your budget doesn't permit (because moving can be expensive), a cheap handheld vac can be popped into your Amazon basket, along with the aforementioned anti-stress accessories. But, if you've got some spare cash, we seriously recommend you read our Shark Cordless Handheld Vacuum WV200UK review, as it's 'purrfect' for picking up fluff.

9. Not making children's rooms a priority

As resilient as kids are to change, just like pets, if their schedule goes skew-whiff – you're in trouble. So save yourself from meltdowns and tantrums by making a b-line for your children's bedrooms first to set them up for the first night.

It comes as no surprise that this top tip is from McFarlane as she recently made the move from England to Northern Ireland with a toddler in tow, and is expecting another child soon.

She says that you should 'tag boxes clearly'. If you haven't already got one, a budget label maker (opens in new tab) can make identifying their boxes a breeze. And have any special comforting items in close reach. This might include a soft toy they like to sleep with or a soft blanket. So don't go too OTT with the toy storage ideas or there will be tears.

10. You haven't measured doorways and gangways

If disassembling and reassembling large furniture seems a bit of a faff, you could attempt to navigate it through the hallway and between doors to get to its final destination. But, rather than play out that famous 'pivot' scene in Friends in vain, make sure you know the dimensions of your space first.

If you've got the keys and can gain entry, use a measuring tape to determine whether your wares will fit through any gangways without removing any legs, arms or parts of your fixtures. If not, ask your real estate agent to provide this information for you.

Otherwise, by going in blindly and trying to squeeze your stuff through small gaps could result in damaging your finishings, scuffing your walls, or even doing yourself an injury!

Packing for the 'new' house based on the rooms and layout you'll be living in is better than sorting articles and objects based on your old spaces. It's a moving hack we swear by!

What should you not do when moving?

According to the experts at LOVESPACE, (opens in new tab) you shouldn't move unwanted items from one home to another. Instead, plan to declutter your existing home so that you only take possessions you like with you.

'Moving home presents the perfect opportunity to lessen your load and get rid of those items which no longer need to be in your space,'

'The best approach is to place your items into specific categories and decide which items need to be disposed of, which can be sold and what should be stored away.'

Millie Hurst, senior content editor, Ideal Home was guilty of making this mistake when moving into her London apartment. She says: 'Despite the fact I'd done a ruthless clearout before moving, I still ended up with a few totally random boxes of cables and items I didn't really know how to categorize.'

So if you've got a 'doom box' (full of Didn't Organize Only Moved items), have a peer inside of it before moving day.

Christina joined the Real Homes team as a digital writer in June 2021. Prior to this, she worked for Good Homes magazine and home interest events including the Ideal Home Show and Grand Designs Live. She lives close to Epping Forest and is spoiled for choice with lush green spaces, but loves her own English garden that adjoins her ground-floor maisonette, complete with a floral melange of roses, lavender, jasmine, and an apple tree.


SPONSORS