Joel Griffith knows a thing or two about moving house. The founder of Melbourne removal company Little Red Trucks has overseen countless moves – some big, some small (and at least one involving 21,000 Christmas baubles). And while each job comes with its own challenges, most have one thing in common: stress.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, Griffith says. “If you plan even just a little bit ahead of time, moving can be a really transformative thing. You’re going somewhere new, and that should be exciting.”

The trick is to follow a series of steps – most scheduled before the move with a few important ones after. That sequencing, Griffith says, is crucial. “If you get the packing part wrong, you’re probably not going to enjoy the unpacking part, and then you’re going to miss out on the positive energy that can come from creating a new home.”

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The good news? You don’t need heaps of time to prepare. “Whether you’ve got six weeks or six days, there are things you can do to make it work,” he says.

Before the move:

Book your brawn

Whether you’re using professional movers or coaxing helpful friends with the promise of free beer, you’ll want to get your muscle sorted pronto. “If you don’t, they’ll be busy and then – especially if you’re booking movers – you’ll end up with a crap time or a crap company,” Griffith says.

Regarding time, avoid moving at peak hour if you can help it. “Ideally, you want to move during the middle of the week,” he says. More movers will be available, and the roads will be quieter, saving you time and money.

Set up utilities

It can take days for the utility company to hook your house to the grid. To avoid sleeping in the dark and churning through mobile data, call your power, gas and internet providers as soon as you know where and when you’re moving.

Think outside the box

You’ll need containers to put all your stuff in, but Griffith suggests rethinking the obvious solution. “Cardboard boxes are either expensive or difficult to find. And once you’ve used them, you have to pack them down and dispose of them, which just makes the whole experience worse.”

Instead, consider hiring plastic tubs, which many removalists now rent out. “They get dropped off at your house for you to fill up, and then when you get to your new place, someone comes to take them away.” Tubs cut down on waste, plus “you won’t have a bunch of cardboard sitting around annoying you once you’re done”.

Griffith also recommends snaring as many stripy red-white-blue bags as you can get your hands on (discount stores are a good source). They’re great for odds and ends such as pillows, lamps, vacuums and cat posts. “It's the bits and pieces that make moving uber-stressy,” he says. “With these bags, you're essentially making carriable homes for all the shit that otherwise overwhelms you.”

Take out the trash

Moving is a great time to cleanse yourself of clutter – but throwing things out can just lead to more chaos. The solution? “Most councils offer free hard rubbish collection,” Griffith says, “and most people don’t use it.” Book your collection for a day or two after your move date. “That way, you can just chuck things you don’t want.”

As for things that are too good to turf, pack them up neatly in some stripy bags and drop them off at your local op shop during trading hours, or arrange for an upcycling organisation to collect them.

Sort your stuff before you pack

There’s a formula to packing up a house: do the least-used things first, and the most-used things last. “Go through the common spaces first,” Griffith advises. “The living room and outdoor area stuff that you don’t really need, like books and records. Then do your bedroom. And then do the kitchen and bathroom.”

As you go through each room, divide everything into three piles: stuff you’re keeping, stuff you’re donating, and stuff you’re turfing. Then it’s a matter of placing things in your tubs, your stripy bags or out on the street.

Remember: if you use something often, leave it until the last sensible moment to pack. Griffith recommends taking two or three plastic tubs early on and filling them with everything you need to survive. “Medicine, laptops, toiletries, kids’ toys… Basically, you’re going to camp out of these tubs for a couple of weeks.”

Sweat the small stuff

“Everyone has heaps more miscellaneous stuff than they think: bed slats, fans, knick-knacks, and so on,” Griffith says. He recommends grouping or taping these items together, so you can move them as one. “Otherwise, the little things will drive you crazy. You’ll forever be doing trips back and forth.”

Pack light

Yes, packing all your cookbooks together will make you feel organised. But you aren't going to be able to move the box without hurting yourself. To solve this problem (and be nice to any professional movers you happen to hire), pack heavier items with lighter ones. “Mix cookbooks with, say, soft toys,” Griffith suggests. “Yes, it’d be great if all your tubs could be unloaded in a single space. But you don’t actually need to be that organised.”

It’s the same with any plants you’ve accumulated. Unpot your bigger plants, turf the dirt (or pack it in bags), and give everything (smaller pots included) a nice clean. “Pot plants are horrible and dirty. And they'll get over all your other stuff if you don't have them in something nice.”

Measure your furniture

That Ikea table fits nicely in your living room. But there’s a chance if you assembled it inside your house, it’ll be too big to fit through your doors. To avoid frustration on the day, measure your furniture, compare it to your exit areas and then pull out the electric drill if the numbers don’t add up. “Cots are a common problem,” Griffith says, “as are change tables.”

The same principle applies to your new place. “Many people get so enamoured with their new house, then realise their fridge or couch won’t fit up the staircase and have to store it at Mum’s place.”

Move packed things to one side

“Most people put their packed boxes or tubs in the hallway or in front of their furniture, to clear space,” Griffith says. While this might seem like the organised thing to do, it actually makes it harder for removalists (or friends) to get to your furniture, which you’ll want to move right at the start. (“Get the big items out first,” he says.) Instead, put all your boxes and smaller pieces in one room, with labels on them so your movers know where they go.

After the move:

Take it easy

After sweating your way through Moving Day, all your worldly belongings are now, finally, in their new home. Of course, they’re not yet where you want them. Which means it’s time for the unpacking – and in many ways, the real work – to begin.

But how to start? While you may be tempted to focus on sorting out the big-ticket items – your dining table or beds – Griffith recommends taking it slower. “Grab that tub you had with all your life essentials, unpack that first so you have everything you need to feel human, then grab your laptop or a speaker and put some music on.” Packing up your old house may have been a chore, but setting up your new one should be fun, so take the time to enjoy it.

Unpack in reverse

According to Griffith, the most logical way to unpack the rest of your belongings is to take your original packing plan and reverse it. “You want to get those heavily used and private places done first, so start with the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom,” he says. “That will make you feel more at home, more quickly, because your bed is set up, you have knives in the drawer, the toaster works and you can make coffee.”

Once you’re well-rested, fed and properly caffeinated, you can take the time to look around and work out where those less-necessary items should go. “That’s when you can experience that new-house feeling you’ve been looking forward to. It’s the transformative part of moving.”

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