When to start packing for a move

Packing for a move generally takes much longer than people may at first expect.

Starting early is advisable to reduce stress and make the onward step as well ordered as possible, whether that be a move into a new home, onto travel or abroad.

Around two months is a sensible amount of time to allow to pack up a family home, whilst a month may be enough to deal with a smaller flat or house.

That means starting to pack before you have a firm move date is usually advisable.

Should I start to pack before exchange?

If you are buying a new home it can be difficult to know whether to begin packing before exchange of contracts.

Up to the point of exchange, the sale is not legally binding and can fall through, which may mean you need to stay where you are for longer.

However waiting until exchange before you start any packing is probably not wise as it means time will likely be short.

The period between exchange and completion – when keys are handed over – is usually between seven days and up to four weeks.

A large chunk of the possessions of most people and families are not in everyday use all year round and beginning to organise and pack all those things first will allow an excellent head start.

When should I start packing to move? – a timeline

A good strategy can be to start organising and packing the rooms and areas that are furthest away from the heart of the home to begin with. That means sheds, garages and lofts are an excellent place to begin. Followed by spare rooms.

Getting those areas into an organised state also means you’ll create areas to store boxes you are able to pack in advance of moving rather than having them all over the house.

Most progress is made by taking one room at a time and packing up as much of it as you practically can. You’ll likely be able to do an initial clear of each room and then return to each one to pack the final items.

Mark boxes well with the room they were from and a description of the contents. That’ll help when you arrive in a new home too as you, or anyone helping you move, can place boxes straight into the corresponding room for unpacking. Take care not to overload boxes and make them difficult to lift.

If you’re moving into a smaller home but are not ready to let go of certain things, renting for a while, moving abroad or want to allow yourself a short period of time to allow you to do a deep clean and redecoration of your new home, putting furniture and other items that aren’t in daily use into storage is an excellent option. Commercial storage means ensuring your items remain dry and safe until you want them back.


Room When to start packing
Loft 8 weeks before move day


Most people have a lot of items in the loft that they no longer really want or need. Now is a great opportunity to clear those.


Most other things in the loft are not in regular use. Move anything that is likely to be needed sooner rather than later toward the front (such as suitcases if you’re taking a trip) and pack everything else into marked boxes at the back.


Take care to stack heavier items at the bottom and more fragile things at the top.

Shed 7 weeks before move day


This is another haven for junk – so be ruthless and clear through.


Ensure you dispose of hazardous items like chemicals and batteries correctly.


Keep essential gardening equipment, such as the lawn mower accessible and pack everything else up.

Garage 6 weeks before move day


Much like the shed, clear the junk from your garage, dispose of anything hazardous appropriately, advertise and sell or donate anything of value that you no longer want and pack up anything that isn’t in daily use.


Spare bedroom 5 weeks before move day


Sort through cupboards and wardrobes and clear out any old clothes. A good rule is to get rid of anything you haven’t worn in over a year.


You may wish to take this chance to have a rake through your main wardrobe too.

Dining room / living rooms 4 weeks before move day


Contents of display cabinets and furniture can be cleared through and packed carefully at this stage.


If you have official or important documentation, such as passports, tucked into drawers it’s a good idea to start a file and put this somewhere safe and accessible to keep with you on moving day.

Home office 3 weeks before move day


Clear through drawers and organise documentation. Be careful to shred or dispose appropriately of anything that includes confidential or sensitive detail.


Again, ensure you keep a file of your most important documents that stays with you on moving day.


Kitchen 2-3 weeks before move day


Most kitchens are full of gadgets and items we don’t actively use on a day-to-day basis. Pack all but the daily use items.


Now is a good time to start running down the larder and freezer too.


Leave one or two plates, bowls, glasses, mugs and sets of cutlery for each person who lives in the house plus a few spares for any guests. A good tip for move day is to throw these, a washing up bowl, kettle, tea, coffee and sugar into a box at the last moment and either keep it with you or ensure it is the last thing onto the removal van – meaning it’ll be the first thing off and you can have a cuppa whilst you get organised at the new house.


Bedroom 1-2 weeks before move day


If you didn’t choose to sort through your wardrobe at the same time as clearing any spare bedrooms, now is a good time to do so.


At this stage also pack any clothing you’re unlikely to need before you move, such as out-of-season items.


Remember you may be able to leave the contents inside any chests of drawers you’re taking with you. The drawers can be lifted out to lessen the weight and then slid back into the carcass on the removal van.

Bathroom 1-2 weeks


Again, just leave yourself with the daily essentials and clear or pack anything else that is lurking in the backs of cupboards.


Dispose of any old medicines appropriately.

Walls 1 week before


Clear paintings, pictures and art works from your walls and pack them up.


It’s wise not to do this before now otherwise your home can start to feel empty and unwelcoming.

Final sweep of all rooms Final week / final day


In the last week you can begin to pack the last few items in each room. As far as possible continue to do this one room at a time to retain order and make things easier to organise the other end.


Take extra care when moving and packing bulky items, fragile or volatile items, like fridges and TVs.


Be sure to either keep with you or load last:


  • Important documents
  • Your essential clothing such as workwear for Monday / a change of clothes
  • The kettle, a couple of mugs, tea and coffee!


What to do if the property chain collapses

Moving home is one of the most stressful things you’ll ever do, not least because your plans can all unravel if the exchange of contracts has to be delayed due to a change of circumstances for anyone in the chain.

If the sale of your home is still secure but the house you were moving into is no longer available, you may wish to go ahead with your sale and move into temporary housing either with a friend or relation or a rental.

Storage of all your bulky items and boxes that you’ve marked as not in daily use is easily arranged and much more affordable and flexible than you may realise, with differing size units available.

Our moving home guide is packed with more tips.

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