As a kid I moved house I moved three times, during University I moved six times and since then I’ve moved eight more times. Wow, as I count that up I realise it’s a lot. 17 moves. That’s averaging a move roughly every 1.8 years. In case you’re wondering, it’s not that I’m a terrible housemate or get chased out of the areas I live. Think changing Uni courses and moving back home, short stays in places over summer holidays or pre-getting married and just the general inconvenience of London rent! Anyway, I was very young and don’t particularly remember those first moves but as an adult, I think I’ve become quite good at moving house (if that’s a thing), although I’d definitely rather stop and stay settled!
A few months before Little brother was born we were thinking about whether it would be a good idea to move. Our previous house wasn’t ideal and we wondered if we could find a better option. So, we decided we’d have a little look at what was available to rent nearby, not move yet, but just figure out our options. Long story short, we found an amazing house, two roads away. Exactly the same rent and it ticked all our wishlist boxes. It seemed crazy not to move (it also seemed crazy to move with impending due date, but crazier not to!)
We moved 6 days before Little brother was born.
Here’s what I’ve learned about preparing a toddler for moving house, and then doing it.
Thinking about moving and finding a house
Chat with them about it
When we began to think about moving I wanted to make sure Big brother was as prepared as we were, particularly as it was likely to be a fairly quick turnaround. I didn’t want him to miss any of the planning and then feel surprised or anxious because we’d not given him time to process too.
Chat to God about it together
We chat to God about whatever is going on in our lives. So when we’re making big (and little) decisions we pray about them. Doing this with Big brother helped him to understand what it looked like to process and pray through the house move and also to learn how we listen to God in that process.
Trust their gut feelings and ask them what they think/feel
I booked several viewings in over a few days and decided to take Big brother with us. My husband wasn’t able to come to the first but he did come to the second. On the first visit, Big brother was very inquisitive, enjoyed looking around but very much acted like it was someone else’s house. In the second house, he was keen to take his shoes off and settle in. We went upstairs and he chose which bedroom he’d like to have if it were our house and he was devastated when we suggested it was time to head home. He told us his heart felt happy in that house.
I am realising more and more that no matter what age kids are they get these incredible gut feelings and are so much more in tune with them than we are as adults. My husband and I were sold on that second house pretty quickly too but Big brother’s immediate connection with it was part of what totally convinced us.
Make a plan. Plan what you’re going to pack and when. Have a think about which items you don’t need in your current house, or future house for a while and get those out the way first. If you have a room you won’t use then use this to put all your packed boxes in so your house remains as liveable as possible for as long as possible. Whilst we wanted our toddler to be prepared and see the process we also didn’t want to make him feel completely unsettled.
We’ve also always found with packing that we start off really enthusiastic when packing then trail off towards the end and just shove stuff in. So it was worth thinking about how we could plan best to still have energy at the end! (In reality, I had no energy at the beginning either since I was due a baby in a month but I could still plan!) I also took Big brother out as often as I could so that my husband could pack.
Get them involved if they are old enough
Toddlers may not always be responsive to packing away their toys but they seem to quite enjoy helping pack boxes. I had to bite my tongue a little (re-pack after he’d gone to bed) with some of his box arrangement but he really felt part of the process when he was able to get involved.
Visit a day early (if you can) to show them their room/the house
We had an overlap on our two houses just in case I went into labour early so we could postpone our move. This meant that we were able to pop into the house the day before we moved in so Big brother could see it again and look at his bedroom. He was so excited to know which room he was coming back to. This made saying goodbye to the old house much easier.
Explain the day a lot to them
Big brother really needs details and explanation, it helps him feel prepared. I am aware that for some toddler all this information might be unsettling (or just plain boring!) but for him explaining the day a lot really helped. And, being willing to repeatedly answer his repeated questions!
Stay in a hotel
We packed down our bed the night before our move and given how pregnant I was there was no way I fancied sleeping on a mattress on the floor. We decided that Granny, Big brother and I would head to a local hotel. We sold this to Big brother as a massive treat, which it was as we took him to IKEA in his pyjamas for ice cream! This also meant that my husband could pack down all beds and furniture the night before and be completely ready for moving in the morning.
Go out for the day
As much as he might have enjoyed the process having Big brother there would have been an interesting experience! Had I not been so pregnant I probably would have been involved in the moving but it worked out well that we went for a day out. Pick somewhere they love and just make it a really fun day! Ours included being chased by geese and for a moment me wondering whether all the exertion was going to kick labour off. Thankfully it didn’t!
Plan the order of packing and unpacking
You can probably sense that a lot of planning was key to making this work for us. Think about what is going to feel the most settling at the other end. For us, we knew we needed Big brother’s room and the sofa to be unpacked first. The aim was for his room to be mostly done (apart from a few bits for him to do) before we arrived home, and for there to be a sofa to sit on.
Have people who offer to help do different jobs
We had a few friends offer to help who could come at different times in the day so we had one help with the van and the other with furniture building. We moved when I was pregnant with Big brother and we had friends help with cleaning and unpacking the kitchen at the other end too. I think asking people to do things that are specific and helpful helps to make the whole things so much less stressful.
Let others unpack/get stuff away and sort it later
I could have spent days standing in the kitchen trying to figure out where to put everything. It’s quite likely I would have still been figuring it out when Little brother arrived had I not let my Mum just get on with it! Make getting the boxes away a priority and then sort as and when you can. It so helps the whole place feel like home so much quicker!
Stop to play and connect with each other. Go out if that’s what they need.
If you expect your toddler to just entertain themselves whilst you do all the unpacking you’ll probably be disappointed. So, whilst getting stuff unpacked quickly helps everyone to feel more settled, make sure you stop and all still feel connected. If your toddler needs you just to snuggle with them and watch a film or go to the park then do that. If you’ve had people offer to help then don’t be afraid to ask them to help unpack whilst you connect with your kid.
If you can, have a dumping ground
As we were imminently due a new baby we were never going to fully unpack and sort in time so we designated the spare room as our dumping ground for those things you just cannot figure out where to put. In reality, our dining room also became a dumping ground and only in the last month has it become a useable space. But, what worked for us was getting certain rooms liveable and homely and working our way through the others rather than having junk everywhere! (N.B. We do always have junk everywhere in our house. We have two kids, who doesn’t?! But, we had significantly more in the spare room!)
Have you moved with little ones? What tips would you share?