Who knew that so much joy could be garnered from de-cluttering your home?! I’ve always been a bit of a neat freak, but the looming move has made me acutely aware of how much I love to organise. (Note to self: if my career in academia doesn’t pan out, I should seriously consider opening a cleaning and organising business). It’s coming up on six years in my current flat, and while a self-proclaimed anti-hoarder, it is astonishing how much stuff (aka junk) one seems to amass over several years. Having only moved in mid-2014, Ash was less guilty of this than I, but even he had three or four boxes of ‘misc’ to sort through.

In preparation for what I knew was going to be an intense act of downsizing (since we didn’t want to be faced with moving a bunch of stuff we didn’t really want into storage for a year, only to decide to chuck it once we got back), I decided to read Marie Kondo’s best-seller, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. And boy was it life-changing! Parting with ones’ possessions can be a difficult process, even for the most unsentimental of us. But as she suggests, the act of holding the item in your hands (be that a pair of shoes or an old plate), reflecting on how it has served your life, saying thank you and goodbye to it (knowing that it can better serve another user), adds a real sense of liberation to giving your stuff away. Now, I’m not saying that I talked to my plates, but having this philosophy about the process has helped a lot, especially in my more indecisive moments.

Once I had decided what would stay and what would go (it should be noted that this was an iterative process of elimination spanning several weeks), finding appropriate packing supplies was the next task. But boxes, as it turns out, are darn expensive! I will admit that I initially succumbed and bought a few nice shiny new ones, but I quickly did the math and realised that it was not a sustainable choice and so sought to beg/borrow/steal used boxes from local grocers and the like, since they’ll often give them away for free (if you ask nicely)! I guess they don’t realise that they retail for up to R30 each! Pshh!

Now armed with yards of bubble wrap, packing tape and my best friend (i.e. the label maker), I’ve set about packing (with expert precision I might add) our possessions, ready for storage. I should also note that packing for a one-off move and packing for storage are rather different undertakings. Here are my top tips for the latter:

1. You will need more bubble wrap, tape and boxes than you think. I promise.

2. Your stuff is going to be packed like this for a long time so pack it right. That means moth- and mould-proofing for bedding, linens, and clothes (here I suggest vacuum seal storage bags), tarp-ing for furniture, and a proper wipe-down and dry-off of all kitchen appliances. Remember to store fridges, clean, dry, and with the doors open. It’s also probably a good idea to defrost and clean your fridge the day before your actual moving day. No one wants to be defrosting a fridge in the midst of what will in all likelihood be chaos.

3. Try to get as much as you can packed in the weeks leading up to the move. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and you’ll make better decisions about what to keep and what to toss if you’re not trying to get everything done the night before. I know, I know, in every other aspect of my life I’m a do-it-the-night-before kind of gal but this is the one exception! Start with what I like to call periphery items – stuff you don’t reach for every day, like home décor pieces, out of season clothing, linens and rarer kitchen items. You’ll soon find that the collection of stuff you actually use on a day to day basis and can’t live without is much smaller than you thought!

4. Limit yourself to one (yes just one) junk/miscellaneous box. Sorry Marie Kondo, but there are still some things I can’t yet be parted with. These include but are not limited to medals for achievements past, souvenirs from memorable holidays and small home furnishings. Sentimental items aside though, the general rule of thumb for most items is if you haven’t used, worn or thought about it in the last six months, it should go.

5. Pack heavy things in small boxes. This may seem like an obvious one, but it’s tempting to just chuck all of your books into one giant box and be done with it. Remember that you need to be able to carry these boxes when they’re full. The same goes for fragile things. That way, if you drop or damage a box containing your wine glasses, for example, you haven’t lost all of your favourite plates and dishes too. On this point – try a separate coloured sticker on boxes containing fragile items. You can of course buy stickers that say fragile (although they too cost a small fortune), but for a cheaper option think about plain coloured stickers that you can write on yourself. I’ve chosen neon orange which means that these boxes clearly stand out from the rest.

6. Label meticulously. Writing ‘kitchen’ on your boxes might seem like the logical thing to do, but when it comes to unpacking one day, you’ll be stood in your kitchen desperate for a cup of tea, surrounded by fifteen boxes labelled ‘kitchen’ wishing you knew which one contained the mugs!

That being said, moving day for us is still a week and a half away so my top tips still need to be put to the test. All I can say is that I’m really looking forward to it! Until then, let the packing continue…

The packing diaries