Friday Five: Five golden rules of packing

Boxes ready to move

My stuff (well most of it) is now on the way to Auckland. Things are a bit more real. The 19th move is under way. Wait, no it’s not. The 21st move is under way. (I just realised I forgot to count moving to Clacton-on-Sea and back when I was 23. NOMADIC.)

As moving seems to be the accidental theme for this week, I thought I’d round it off with what I’ve learned from the many moves I’ve made. Some of these things are gained from long experience, some particularly from this move, which is the first time I’ve willingly decluttered and downsized extensively before moving.

1) You have more stuff than you think you do.

Doesn’t matter how well you think you know your wardrobe, or your fabric stash, or yarn stash, or furniture, or books…there is always more of it than you think there is, and usually a lot more.

I thought my yarn stash was down to one 60l tub. Then I found the rest of it.

Bear this in mind when you’re getting removal quotes where the amount of space you’re taking in a container has a bearing on the cost (bonus golden rule about this at the bottom!). Obviously, with all this stuff, you could just sit there like Smaug in the Lonely Mountain but, if you’re moving house, you’re going to have to pack it. Which brings me to…

2: You can take it with you…but you shouldn’t take all of it.

Moving is a really fantastic chance to declutter. It gives you a great question to ask yourself- “do I need/want this in my life enough to pay to move it to my new place?” (‘do I have space for this in my new place- and do I love this enough to make space for it?’ is also a good question). I’ve sold almost all the furniture I own, with two notable exceptions: a big chest of drawers, and a sewing machine table. It took me ages to find a chest in the style that one is, at the right price, in good condition. I like the sewing table, it’s the right size for my sewing machine or my laptop and the right height to act as a little desk. Neither item was easy to find, thus, they go with me.

On the other hand, while I like my bed, and it’s comfortable, moving it to Auckland when I got it second hand on Trade Me for $100, isn’t really worth it. So I sold it, and am taking the opportunity to buy an actually new new bed at the other end of the trip.

If you’re decluttering by donating, it’s worth noting that at least in NZ (and I suspect other places too), charity shops will often have a truck so they can come and collect large donations and take them away. If, like me, you’re getting rid of a lot of stuff and don’t drive, this is a godsend!

Once you’ve worked out what’s going to the new place, and what’s just going, it’s time for rule 3.

3: You will need more boxes than you think you will.

Yes, even if you decluttered with a will. But the chances are, friends of yours have boxes. Especially if they’ve moved recently. Ask around, or if all else fails go and see if you can sneak round the back of a local shopping park and grab a bunch of boxes out of their skips. Or if you’re more above-board, go into a big shop and ask if you could have some. But it seems more punk rock to go sneak them out of the skip to me. It’s a mini adventure! You know, if you look at it the right way. Yes, you COULD buy fancy packing boxes from the removal company but if they don’t insist on it, free is better.

4: Books are heavy.

Books. Are. Heavy. Pack them in smaller boxes. Don’t ask me how I know. Put it this way, I learned the stupid way.

5: Set up your bed first.

You are going to be tired when you get to the new place. Plan accordingly. However motivated you THINK you’ll be to unpack, the absolute best thing I’ve learned is that the very first thing you should set up when you arrive is your bed. To that end, it’s a good idea to have, in a readily accessible suitcase, your sheets and pillowcases, and to make sure that your duvet and pillows are the first thing you find. You could pack all said bedding in a box, clearly labelled. In fact I’d recommend it- put it all in one place, in one box, so you only have to deal with one thing apart from the bed itself.

That way, no matter what, you’ll have a place to sleep. Once you’ve made your bed, you don’t even have to unpack anything else! You could just go get some takeout, and then go to sleep. Trust me when I say this thought will be incredibly cheering on moving day.

Bonus round- 6: International freight is competitive- make the most of this.

If you are planning a move to or from the UK, where the other end of the trip is Australia, South Africa or New Zealand, there is a lively and competitive market made up of companies who want your business. This means even if you hate haggling, you can usually get a good price for moving your stuff, from the company you want to move with. Don’t just look at price, see what you think of the company. Are they reputable? Have they got good feedback? (word-of-mouth recommendations for movers are worth their weight in gold). Get prices from a few different places, then go back to the company you want to go with. Tell them you want to go with them, but you were hoping they could match the price of the lower quote. If they’ll match the lowest quote, great. If they can’t but will reduce the price a bit, then hey, you can still go with the company you want to use but pay less to do it.

Monsterful Monday

Yep, it’s that time of the week again. I hope you all had a lovely weekend. Mine involved the Best Beloved, breakfast in bed, not being booted out of bed for getting crumbs everywhere (those last two may be connected), delicious Italian food and karaoke in good company, many snuggles and finally seeing the Footrot Flats movie. I feel a little bit more Kiwi just being able to say it. Also it gives an interesting new spin on some Dave Dobbyn songs I love. I also ran into someone I first met 8 years ago- as in before I had officially moved to New Zealand, and it turns out we actually also ran into one another last year at a convention- it’s a very small world. All things to be grateful for, but here are some other highlights:


We’ve started casting for a big LARP I’m helping run, and it’s one of my favourite parts of writing and running a game. I enjoy working out what characters to offer people, and then seeing which ones they take. It’s often quite surprising which ones people choose- more often than not it’s not the one we would expect. But it all builds up to the moment of seeing everyone walk into the room as their character, which is such a fun thing to see. I’m also putting together the cast list for another game I’m running at the same convention (apparently I don’t learn). I’m always grateful that people are excited about games I run, and casting is when that starts in earnest.

Using up the stash

I have quite a bit of yarn left that didn’t sell at the Social Wool Fair, and I’ve been browsing Ravelry for inspiration to use it up- and it has delivered! I’m quite keen to adapt Lee Meredith’s Krewe cowl into a blanket pattern, using up a whole bunch of my worsted/aran weight. I’m also going through my fabric stash, and coming up with plans for the fabrics I want to keep. I’ve got some navy polka dot fabric which I think is begging to become a Jorna Dress (though I plan to lengthen the skirt to just below the knee for that retro feel).

Hotting up on the job front

The destashing and decluttering is going on with a will again, as I’ve had a few nibbles on the job hunt in Auckland. I don’t want to say any more than that, but with the move becoming more likely to be in the near future, I want to get rid of as much as I can before it’s time to start packing.


On Friday the Best Beloved and I went to ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’. It was exactly as big, loud, and over the top as I expected. As we’re both children of the 80s (well, technically I’m a child of the 70s but all my memories are of the 80s) of course we were excited to see some of the toys of our childhoods coming back, and seeing it together meant we could relax and just get on with enjoying the movie because we both knew the other person was as unironically thrilled by the prospect of a giant robot smackdown as we were. He was looking forward to seeing Hound brought to big-screen life, and for me it was the Dinobots. While I was a little disappointed that Grimlock didn’t talk (because what are the Dinobots without pronouncements starting “Me Grimlock”?), they were still epic and cool in the way that only robotic dinosaurs (or robots, or giant monsters) can be. What can I say? It’s a bit of my childhood. And they still make the proper transforming noise. These are things that matter when you grew up with something.

And the little things:

A lovely thank-you card, Wellington Library’s awesome selection, delicious cheese, exploring, crumpets, cups of tea, hexipuffs, a warm bed, and missing some of the really bad weather by being indoors.

What about you? What are you grateful for this week?

Things I Think About Thursday: It’s just stuff, it’s not love

I have a lot of stuff. I may not be about to be contacted by the producers of ‘Hoarders’, but there’s stuff, and there’s a lot of it, and it’s mine. Aged 19 I was told by my flatmates that I was taking the biggest room because I had the most stuff. My Mum would subtly offer to lend me books with titles like ‘Freedom from Clutter‘. It didn’t stick.

When my marriage ended, I went from a (full) two bedroom house to one bedroom in a small flat about 1/3 of the size the house had been. It took two car journeys just to move the stuff I had left BEHIND when I left. When I first left my husband permanently, I moved in with some (amazing) friends (to whom I am grateful to this day), in a small single room. At the start I had just a suitcase. 3 months later it took a car to move everything I had to the new flat.

Fast forward 3 years and I have, finally, had enough. The thing about too much stuff (whatever too much is for you, and it’s different for everyone), is that it weighs on you. I don’t just mean when you have to carry it up a hill or a flight of 40-odd steps to move. In terms of energy flow, it slows you- it makes you feel weighed down, which is very different from grounded.

Then  there’s the fact that, surprisingly for someone who has always been a pack rat, one of my dreams is to live in a tiny house. Specifically, my wild dream is to build a Tumbleweed Harbinger (the one bedroom model), with solar panels, and live small and mortgage free. If I did that right now I could probably live in a fort made of plastic tubs o’stuff while they built it.

Add to the mix that I want to move cities (which involves transporting everything I own, at once, on a 10 hour trip, and you have the clincher.  A big downsize is in order.

The thing that prevented me in the past from getting rid of, well, anything, was sentiment. If it was a gift from someone (especially from a close family member, or a dead family member) I had to keep it. If it was linked to a special memory, I had to keep it. When I moved to New Zealand, one of the hardest things was having to get rid of some of my books- in fact I promised myself I would never get rid of books ever again. They’re one of my big memory-triggers. I can tell you when I got any given volume on my shelves, who gave it to me, or where I bought it. I didn’t think I could ever bear to use a Kindle.

Well, plus ca change. I started small- with clothes I didn’t wear, taking them to the charity shops or selling them to friends (or, soon, on Trade Me). And as I began to release things, I started to feel lighter. The big moment for me was when I was looking at some bits and pieces I had kept automatically because they were from, in particular, my Mum and Dad. I suddenly asked myself the most useful question I ever have about stuff:

“Do you think that the love they have for you will go away just because this thing does?”

Well, of course, the answer is no. It was freeing- I can divest myself of things that no longer serve me, secure in the knowledge that it doesn’t change the happy memory, or the connection I have with another person if it’s still present and felt by both of us. It’s one of the most important things I’ve learned to do while decluttering- be conscious. Don’t default to ‘I have to keep that’. Do you really? Why do you? Is it because you genuinely love it and it makes you happy just looking at it, or is it from a feeling of guilt or worry about what would happen if you no longer had it?

Of course, there are some things I would never get rid of, things that still have a lot of meaning to me, things that are unique and special. Those things have a special, joyful energy of their own and it gives me joy to have them. Things like a book with an inscription from my Grandfather to my Grandma, given to her while they were engaged. A patchwork bedspread from my Grandparents’ house. A signed first edition of my favourite book.

And getting rid of something doesn’t mean you have to sell it or donate it. If it’s a family thing, there might be a sibling or cousin of yours who would love to have it, to keep it in the family (or if you can’t stand it, and you know nobody else can either, you can always give it to your least favourite family member and let them deal with having it in the house…not that I’m endorsing that idea.)- and spread the love.

Which brings me to my next point- by releasing things from your possession, you’re freeing them to go where they will be of service. They’re going to, say, the family member who will love and treasure it. Or to a new person who needs it when you no longer do. It’s this thought that has helped me, for the first time in 5 years, to start getting a pile of books ready to go. They’re books I don’t read, that I’m not attached to. Releasing them gives them a chance to go to a new owner who will love them, and gain enjoyment from them. Probably not even their last owner. It’s the same with clothes. When I started decluttering I had a lot of clothes which, while I thought they were lovely, I didn’t wear. Beautiful things deserve better than to hang around unused and hidden away. By taking them out of my wardrobe and passing them on to excited new owners, I’m giving them the chance to be used and loved as they deserve. Shown off. Complimented. Twirled in. To be put on by someone who feels like a million dollars in them.

It’s this same motivation that will see me, on Saturday 21st June, heading with a couple of suitcases full of yarn and craft books to St Anne’s Hall, Emmett Street, Newtown, for the Social Wool Fair. I looked at my yarn stash- all four huge plastic tubs of it- and realised it was daunting. There was way, way more than I could realistically knit up any time soon. It brought me down. I felt I didn’t have any freedom to choose projects that wouldn’t be made from stash yarn. And I had a lot of lovely yarns that I just wasn’t going to do anything with. Like the books, and the clothes, by destashing these and taking them to the wool fair, I can send all these pretties to new and loving knitters, who will get pleasure from them (and look, if they sit in THEIR stash that’s OK too. The point is that the skeins will make them smile!). And I, hopefully, get some extra savings to bring my succulent wild dreams closer to reality.

If you’re in Wellington on the 21st June, why not head over to Newtown between 10 and 4, and come say hi? I’ll be the one in the retro-pin-up dress with the half-table (and the many skeins and balls of lovely yarn for good prices), twitching slightly as I try to resist the temptation to buy yarn from other traders. I managed it at Fabric-a-brac…

Monsterful Monday- Happy birthday, yer Maj

Queen’s Birthday!

This bank holiday creeps up on me every year, because we don’t celebrate it in the UK, but that can be a good thing because it means I often end up with a stretch of time to do my own thing (though this year I wish I’d realised as I could’ve booked flights to go see the Best Beloved). But it’s meant plenty of time to relax, tidy, sort through more of my stuff and put more of it ready to go, and of course sew and knit.

I’ve started a Super Sekrit Birthday Gift project which I won’t post a photo of here, but I’ve also finished the Grey Gardens turban. It’s very bright, and very quirky, and it makes me look like I should be a fortune teller on Balamory and I love it.

Photo of Ellen in finished Grey Gardens turban


I’ve also cut out the fabric for the Mad Tea Party dress, and I’m excited to get sewing on it.


I try to do this every morning and the past couple of weeks in particular, it’s been really great. I recently discovered The Purpose Fairy, who has a weekly guided meditation on her blog. Different types of meditation work for different people but I’ve found that guided meditation and using affirmations really helps me quiet my brain down- normally I have 100 ideas before breakfast, so switching off is a bit of a challenge! I especially recommend the Six Phase Guided Meditation- so relaxing and powerful.

Clearing the blocks and serendipity

I definitely believe that decluttering is a way to open the way for good things to come into your life. The way I see it, if you put things back out into the world they can find their way to the people who are seeking them, and the things that are seeking you have a space to find their way to you.

I’ve also been finding that when I want to get rid of things, ways open up for me to do that. I went to a local op shop which opened just the right distance from my work for me to head there and drop things off on my lunch break, and saw a poster advertising a Social Wool Fair in a few weeks- you’d better believe I got straight in touch with them about a stall to sell my excess yarn (if you’re going, come say hi!).

I’ve got a ways to go, but I’m getting there.

Special mentions

My flatmate Jenni finished editing her novel and I’m so excited for her! Cute texts and Gchats from the Best Beloved, finally getting my camera and its battery charger in the same place, lovely sunny weather (I’m enjoying being able to do my laundry while I can still dry it outside), flatmates being patient with my love of strange, experimental vegan cooking- tonight it’s portobello mushrooms asada;  X Men: Days of Future Past, Maleficent (silly but had great costumes), the new Dresden Files novel on my Kindle. Finally, The Tiny Owl Knits Care of Magical Creatures charm bracelet is a really fun project- I’ve just knitted my first charm (the toad, if you were wondering)- you have to complete a challenge before you knit each one. It’s a lot of fun!

What about you? What are you thankful for this week?