‘How I decluttered my life to finally move house – with the help of my friends’

Aug 31, 2019
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Moving house was overwhelming for Karen, but she's grateful to have good friends who helped her get the job done. Source: Getty Images

I lived in a small flat, two rooms really and it was minimally furnished, but when it came to moving house recently I realised just how much I had. This task had to be tackled with a carefully devised plan, I even wrote a list. Yet it was daunting. I knew the end result was going to be great, but I just wanted to blink and have it all over and done with.

Well that didn’t happen, of course, as this 66-year-old woman who lives on her own could not quite manage the packing in one go. Instead I would do two boxes a day and then have a lie down. Finding boxes was a job in itself, buying them, begging them and borrowing them meant I was drowning in cardboard with a tape dispenser that I needed a university degree to manage to reload. When exhaustion hit I would pop bubble wrap until my equilibrium settled down.

I downsized even more than I did after a flood cleared my place out 10 years ago and had me starting again with a promise to myself that I would no longer buy anything that was not necessary. I would be a zen minimalist. I was going to be Marie Kondo herself. A bit bigger and not Japanese, but you get my drift. However that promise obviously did not last. I sold items on Facebook buy swap sell sites that would not fit into or suit my new place. I gave away lots of things I knew would be hard to sell, also using the Facebook sites. Most people were grateful for a freebie or two. Some had a bit of a whinge and wanted their freebie cupboard delivered 20 kilometres away in my tiny Suzuki. Go figure. What part of ‘pick up only’ do they not understand?

I decided I really only needed two sets of sheets, one on the bed and one either in the wash or in the cupboard. The same with doona covers and towels. I haven’t managed to stick to that either, because my new place needed a little more ‘Scandi’ flair from Kmart. I got rid of excess everything though. Hundreds of books at a garage sale and car boot sale. I’m still mourning the loss of those books. They were my friends. Relatives even. Dozens of outdoor plants too, as transporting to new place would be tricky as its down a steep hill. I miss my plants.

Moving day came. I’m on my own, so a friend stayed at my old place when the truck had finally finished loading. I put my 18-year-old cat in her cage and drove off to the new place only a few kilometres away and stowed her in the locked bathroom whilst the movers carried my stuff down the hill. How did I ever accumulate so many things? So many boxes piling up and a yowling cat in the bathroom. I longed for a cup of tea but forgot where I had put the carefully labeled box. I felt overwhelmed and swamped and totally ‘over it’ as I hate mess and chaos. I wanted cream buns, pastry, hot chips and a latte.

But an army of girlfriends arrived, old nanas like me who bought me lunch and tea and helped me to get started. Several of them even cleaned my old place. What champions they were. Over the next few days I was in a state of delirium as I lifted, ached, unpacked and sorted. More friends and more high carb and high fat food enjoyed. I could not have got through this time without them. It took a while to get to the point where everything was in its rightful place and the boxes and crates were gone off to be enjoyed by some other poor suckers who have to move house. No more bubble wrap to pop and no more newspapers to fill the bin. I could sit and enjoy a wine and gaze out at the garden while my dear old cat explored her new home, which is roomier than her old one.

Moving house is not a lot of fun, but it has been a good move for me, and in retrospect, maybe it was not quite so bad, but then who am I trying to kid. I know who my friends are and I will always be grateful to them.

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Have you had to move house in the last five years? What was the experience like for you?

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