Pack your life and go.


Oh, packing. I hate thee. Is there anyone in this world who likes packing at all? I mean hardcore “packing everything before moving for good” kind of packing? The kind when  you can’t leave bits and bobs and whatnot lying around in the old place. The kind when you have a two-year-old with the obvious needs, inefficacy and lack of comprehension and sympathy of a two-year-old. Yes, that kind: the exhausting, manic, never-organised-enough kind, which also operates on a constant low-frequency alternation of farewell-sad and reunite-elated.

In the past two weeks we’ve been doing just that. The logistics of what we pack first (stuff we’ll need last), what we pack last (the crib and the toy pig), what we should really just chuck out and what we should pack together. The occasional eureka moment when long-lost toys emerge from forgotten corners. The desperation over the relentless incompatibility of the shape and size of things with the shape and size of boxes. The realization that we bought too much bubble wrap (happy toddler) and too few rolls of parcel tape (dismayed grown-up).

Now that we’ve got some of these move-for-good moves under our belt, here are some tips for those who face their own epic saga of boxes and tape.

1. Leave enough time. No, it absolutely cannot be done in a day. Or two. Especially if you plan to live afterwards. If you don’t, just lie in a box and wait for the van quietly.

2. Asking for a little help will save a lot of time. This includes your spouse.

3. Get a big box as early on as possible and drop everything you can and want to give away as you live, work and exist in the old place for the last couple of weeks. Every time you look in the cupboard or your closet for something, make sure you choose something to put in the box too. Then go through your flat with a fine toothed comb before the last hurrah to add more. You’ll find that most of your stuff is actually unnecessary, replaceable or just dead old and disgusting. No matter how much stuff you get rid of, you’ll still have twice as much as you need. And this from a prudent spender living in a rented flat: you may find this number even higher if you like shopping or have discontinued hobbies. It exponentially increases by the number of years you have spent in your old place. Having kids or living in your own property also adds to the pile.

4. Try and stack all packed boxes in one corner to have a vague idea about the volume of your stuff as you go.

5. Use double bin bags for clothes and bedding. You can tape them and squeeze them almost cubical for easier stacking.

6. Use as many identical boxes as possible: it will make loading the van and estimating the total size of haulage easier. It also helps to estimate how many of each boxes you’ll need, which is especially handy when you face the moving companies’ usual question  BEFORE you even started packing: “total volume of shipment?”. It is rare that moving companies are satisfied with any of your three possible answers (Normally these are: 1. Ef off. 2. Are you serious? 3. I haven’t the faintest clue, can’t you just guess?)

7. Each time you pack a box, label it clearly with a marker pen and indicate the contents on a SIDE that’s easily visible when the box is stacked. No, it’s not anal, it’s absolutely vital. Just think of how you will be kicking a hundred boxes around for a week instead of unpacking, and finding yourself in a dire situation urgently needing your swimsuit or potato masher.

8. If you’re sending your stuff off in an unsupervised van, you may also want to number the boxes and add them to a list, so that you have a shipping list. Make sure to have this signed by the driver. If you have a certain number of types of box (e.g. three standard sizes), number them by type: e.g. S/1, S/2, S/3 for three small boxes and M/1, M/2, M/3 for medium boxes, and so on). This is important if you need to calculate the volume of the shipment (see above).

9. Don’t forget that books and paper can be heavy: packing these in smaller boxes will help prevent injury while lifting and losing friends who offered help with packing. Why I packed all my PhD notes, I do not know. One thing is sure: knowledge weighs a metric ton.

10. To pack like a god: Normally you’ll pay for volume and not weight, so pack densely, but pack light and heavy objects in the same box to achieve an average box weight. Use towels and linen to pad boxes you use for fragile stuff. Boxes should be filled to capacity to prevent tipping and make sure nothing rattles or grinds. Socks and undies are good fillers for cups and glasses, but make sure you list them on the box too otherwise you’ll never find them again – you’ll unpack kitchenalia last and may need clean undies somewhat earlier…

11. Remember how you kept the TV box and stereo packaging because you had the foresight that you’d have to pack them up at some point? The time has come. Of course nothing will never go back into the same styrofoam endbits again (electronic goods expand during use), but at least you don’t have to try and find a flat box for the tv or wrap it in toilet paper and string (remember, you will run out of parcel tape).

12. Sort and label your cables even if they are blatantly obvious when they lie around on your desk. They will cease to be obvious when you open a box and see a viper’s den of tangled black cord which all look like USB ports, but curiously resist plugging into your phone, camera or any other device. Smug Apple people are a little better off, but not much.

13. Keep all screws and bolts you take out from flat-packed furniture securely together (ziplock bag or mini tupperware). You may want to gaffa tape it to the parts of the piece they belong to.

14. Have some idea of what you’ll need between packing and unpacking, i.e. at least a change of clothes and your toothbrush. It seems obvious that you shouldn’t pack stuff you may need during packing, i.e. painkillers, scissors, votive candles and parcel tape, but easier said than done.

15. No perishables, half-opened bottles, explosives, live animals, toddlers.

Status update on our move: van arrived in Budapest and waiting for us to catch up with it. Old place scrubbed until it blushed and sighed – we were obviously successful, as we got all our deposit back!

Pictures to follow (packed camera cord, of course), in the meantime feel free to add more tips! No one really reads them and takes notes. This explains why there are so many ex- and re-pats that wear bell bottoms from 1994 while their perfectly fine skinny jeans are hiding under an ornamental lamp base in a box that shall only be unpacked once skinny jeans are totally out of fashion again.

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