My Mum shares her 13 tips for moving house with kids!

a baby, a blonde 2 year old boy and a blonde 4 year old girl

I have a friend who is moving house and I am so excited for her, the new place is lovely! The only problem is she’s trying to do this with three small children. When I thought about it I realised one important thing – MY MUM IS AN ABSOLUTE HOUSEMOVING LEGEND.

This occurred to me in the middle of the night, as these things do, that she would have moved house at least seven times with three kids, all eighteeen months apart, under the age of eight, without much help from my Dad.

Because he worked long hours as a student doctor and later on as a surgeon, and was often doing wardrounds on the weekends, most of the parenting and household cares were my Mum’s responsibility – as was pretty much the norm in the 70’s.

What wasn’t much the norm was the fact that we moved house so often, and because my Dad was working, my Mum did most of the packing. As he completed his training he was posted in various hospitals around England and Scotland and we just tagged along behind, our accents changing every year.

Of course as kids we never considered the work that went on, we were just excited about having a new house to live in.

After we moved to South Africa when I was eight, we moved a further three times until we finally settled in a home in Johannesburg. On one of those moves my Mum drove the 14 hour journey up from Cape Town with three of her (now five) children, one of whom was two and the other a three month old baby, as well as a dog that ran away, stopping every three hours to breastfeed while trying not to lose the dog.

Now, since I moved out of home after school, I have moved house more than twelve more times, in fact I have moved about 24 times in total. That’s an average of once every two years of my life.

My husband and I have packed houses, cleaned and moved twice while pregnant and have done it all over again with a seven week old baby along with three other kids. We have always borrowed friends and family’s vehicles to help with the removals and it has always been stressful! One move my hubby said he thought we would be divorced by the end of the day.

Moving in to our first home as a couple in Johannesburg in the 90’s, our parents ‘bakkie’ was the removal truck.

I have experienced emigration twice – once southwards and once northwards (my hubby and I have since moved to Ireland).

We emigrated to Ireland with one toddler and one bump in 2004.

This February marks the ten year anniversary that we have been living IN THE SAME HOUSE non stop, for ten WHOLE years!! Hallelujah.

Now that I’m a mother myself, my perspective has changed and I can tell you something, it is NEVER fun moving house with children. It can be chaotic, exhausting, frustrating and downright scary.

However, there are loads of tips for making the process a bit simpler and guess what, I asked my resourceful mum what strategies she used and she has kindly provided 13 of them, so here they are:

  1. Be very organised.
  2. Label every box with contents, plus where it’s going.
  3. Get children involved with their own stuff.
  4. Rationalise – Most people can make do with half what they have, so get rid of things that are not being used/ haven’t been used in the last couple of years. No room for sentimentality except for small memorabilia.
  5. Keep children occupied either out of house ie farm them out, or ask someone to look after them when removers are in.
  6. HAVE A HUSBAND WHO HELPS AND DOESN’T B*gg€r OFF WITH 300 EXCUSES. (Ed’s note- if finding a new husband at short notice proves tricky, enlist help from friends or even better, get some movers in to help with the packing too if you can spare the money).
  7. Prepare prepare, prepare, don’t leave everything to the last minute.
  8. Reserve a set of cutlery and plates to use on the night you move in so that you don’t have to hunt through boxes on the first evening. (Ed’s note: or get takeaways/use paper plates).
  9. Pace yourself before and after the move. Don’t expect to unpack everything within the first week. Set realistic targets both before and after the move.
  10. Give valuable documents and jewellery to a friend or family member to look after at least 24 hours before the movers arrive.
  11. Try to finish off as much as possible from the freezer store cupboard.
  12. Try to make packing kids stuff into an adventure so kids are happier to be involved. Likewise unpacking, however ensure you leave out most beloved teddy et al to go with child. Bribery also works!
  13. Relax rules for a few days before and after. That’s if the family has rules. If the family has no rules and the children reign supreme, buy a crate of gin. (Ed’s note: the gin is not for the kids, I won’t be held responsible for my mother’s advice, I’ve never known my mother to drink gin but I’m sure there are many who would welcome her suggestion).

Timing a move when you are not pregnant or have a newborn child would be wise, but as both my mother and I proved, just impossible sometimes. However, no matter what stage of parenting you’re in, you need help, so this past week some of us have been assisting our friends with childcare so that they can pack. I’m sure a few welcome-to-your-new-house meals would go down a treat too over the next few weeks.

It is lovely being settled in one spot but every now and then I get a little itchiness in my feet, I see a lovely house for sale (looking with my childhood eyes) and wonder, could we, should we, would we possibly move again?

Do you have any more tips that you’d add to this list? How have you coped with moving house with small children? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

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