Moving house: a guide to packing up and moving your gear

Moving house: a guide to packing up and moving your gear

Last updated: 28/04/2022

Whether you do it yourself or bring in the professionals, packing up all of your belongings and shifting them to a new home can feel like a huge task. 

With so much else going on in the run-up to moving day - and on the big day itself - it can all feel overwhelming. So hopefully our guide to packing your home and moving your gear can make your life that little bit easier. 

Working out how much packaging and boxes you need

First up, how many boxes do you need? The answer will be an awful lot, probably far more than you think. For an average sized home, most families require around 60 boxes of varying sizes. If you’re a first time buyer, you’ll likely not need anything like this number of boxes.

If you do have a lot of stuff, then it can help to think on a room by room basis:

  • Kitchen: around 10-15 medium and large boxes. Consider, are you a keen home cook, with a kitchen full of gadgets?
  • Living room: 5-10 medium and large boxes. This varies hugely - if your living room is mainly sofas, a couple of side tables, a TV and some pictures on the wall, then you’re not going to need this many.
  • Dining room: around 5 boxes. But similar to the living room, you may need fewer.
  • Bedrooms: 10-20 boxes. But a master bedroom would likely need more than a kid’s room, and it also depends on how many clothes you own!
  • Bathroom: 2-4 medium boxes. Bathrooms don’t tend to have too many packable items in them.

Of course, don’t forget any other rooms you may have in your home, as well as a loft, garden shed or garage.

As well as boxes, you’ll need plenty of packaging, as well around three rolls of tape.

Top packing tips

You’ve got your boxes and packaging. Now here are ten top packing tips:

  1. Start way in advance: packing up a whole house takes longer than you might think, so if you can, start weeks (or even months) in advance, and begin by packing up the rooms and items you use the least; seasonal things like Christmas decorations make for a good starting point. Also, if you have the benefit of lots of time, you’ll have time to declutter as you go - moving home is the perfect opportunity for this: consider what you no longer need, what you need to upgrade, or what you could donate for someone else to use and enjoy
  2. Label boxes: write on both the sides and tops of boxes. Include not just the room the items need to go in, but what’s inside too: rooms such as the kitchen could have enough items for tens of boxes, and you don’t want to spend your first evening in your new home emptying them all just to find that essential bottle opener.
  3. Pack fragile items thoroughly: save your best packaging materials and sturdiest boxes for fragile items, like plates (which should be packed vertically) and glasses (pack with the widest part of the glass facing down). Don’t overload these boxes, and mark them as fragile. 
  4. Don’t make your boxes too heavy: pack light items in larger boxes and heavy items in smaller boxes. Also, remember to hold your boxes from the bottom if you can, rather than the sides, just in case they’re not as sturdy as you think.
  5. Don’t empty your drawers: a removal team will simply remove the drawers from your storage cabinet and then put them back into the frame inside their truck (or you can do the same, if you’re doing it all yourself). So emptying drawers would be a waste of precious time.
  6. Some clothes can be rolled, but it’s helpful to keep clothes on hangars, where possible, so they don’t get creased: you could use special wardrobe boxes, although these are expensive. Try making one, if you can get hold of a tall box and wooden or metal pole you could poke through to hang your clothes on.
  7. Take valuables with you: while any big and heavy valuable will need to be moved with the rest of your belongings, keep valuable documents like passports or items like jewellery with you for the move.
  8. Take care with cleaning chemicals: it’s amazing how many cleaning chemicals you can accumulate in your home. To pack them and avoid messy spillages, put them in a sturdy box you’ve lined with a strong bag, and remember to screw the lid of each container on tightly too. 
  9. Bag up screws and bolts: when taking apart bedroom furniture, keep all screws, bolts and washers together in a sandwich bag, taped very securely to a part of the furniture.
  10. Keep aside essentials: bear in mind that when you arrive in your new property, there will be some things you need almost immediately. That will include towels, wash bags and linen for your beds, a toolbox, supplies for preparing food, and any pet food or baby gear.

Ways to get free boxes

You can easily spend hundreds of pounds on cardboard boxes by buying new ones. This isn’t the most affordable, or sustainable option. If you have enough time, you can usually get by without spending a penny.

Some simple ways of getting hold of boxes include:

  • Keeping boxes you receive from any deliveries
  • Asking friends and family to put aside any boxes they get
  • Asking on community forums like Facebook, where you’ll often find people who have just moved and would be very pleased for someone to take their old boxes off their hands!
  • Asking at local supermarkets. Some supermarkets are better than others, so try more than one.
  • Asking around other local businesses. Try asking any local businesses if they have any spare boxes. Places like industrial estates are great for this.

Re-using old boxes is absolutely fine. Just check that they can hold the weight, and cover any previous labelling so you don’t get confused about the contents.

Sustainable packing and moving

Re-using boxes is a good step towards making your move a bit more eco-friendly. They’re often still fine for three or four moves, but just be sure to check they’re sturdy enough for whatever is going inside.

Another way to be more sustainable is to use plastic-free tape that can be recycled after use. It’s perfectly good for the job at hand. 

Also, when it comes to adding padding around more delicate items, to avoid buying new bubble wrap, you could make use of old newspapers, your clothes, towels, blankets or any other soft items. 

Decluttering also comes into making your move more sustainable. By filtering out the gear you no longer need - and donating it to charity or recycling, rather than dumping it in landfill - you’ll have less to transport to your new home.

Working with removal companies

Some people prefer to pay for the convenience of having professionals to move their belongings or even pack for them. 

If you do choose to work with a removals company, then bear these tips in mind to help you choose the right one and help the day go as smoothly as possible:

  • Ask friends, family or neighbours for recommendations of good removals companies.
  • Get at least three quotes from different removal companies to get the best value.
  • Check out the removal companies’ customer reviews online (try Google Reviews). 
  • Check what insurance cover your possessions will have while they’re moving them. Confirm whether it’s included as standard in your contract or if you have to pay extra.
  • If your move is in any way complicated, for example if you have items in a storage unit as well as your home, or if access is tricky, then be sure to agree every step and detail in writing with the removal firm.
  • Book your removal company as early as possible, so you can secure your chosen day for moving. Bear in mind that Friday is the most popular day and you might pay less to move on different day of the week (although sometimes you have little choice if a chain is involved in your house purchase).

Hiring your own van

Using a removals firm can be expensive, costing hundreds or even thousands of pounds, so you might choose to do it yourself, especially if you don’t have much gear.

If you do move your belongings yourself, then you’re probably going to need a van. Hiring one is generally fairly painless. If you’re wondering what sort of size you’ll need, AnyVan has the following guidance:

  • A 1 bedroom flat: 3.5 tonne van with tail lift
  • A 2 bedroom flat: 3.5 tonne luton body van with tail lift
  • A 2 bedroom house: 3.5 tonne luton body van with tail lift & a LWB transit van
  • A 3 bedroom house: 7.5 tonne luton box van

This will obviously depend on how much gear you have, and you may need to do a couple of trips. 

You can drive a 3.5 tonne Luton van on a normal category B car driving licence. But, unless your licence was issued before 1997, a 7.5 tonne van will be off-limits. 

Bear in mind that Luton vans are huge! It feels a lot different to driving a car. But that said, after a while you can get the hang of it, and it’s a great way to trim back on your home-moving costs. 

Click on the buttons below to read more content about selling your home:

How to prepare your home for viewings
A guide to cleaning up when you move house   

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