The borrowed cat
One thing I love about our new house is that two cats seem to have adopted us. They have visited every day since we moved in, and my daughter loves pointing out when they’ve arrived, talking to them, saying ‘Hiya cat!’ and a very serious-sounding ‘meooooow!’. Since I’m slightly allergic to cats, I’m really glad that she gets the chance to have pets around, but without me having to clean up after them, buy their food or take them to the vet.
I’m really loving our new little house. It’s still slightly strange to have an upstairs and the garden is quite tiny, but all my neighbours are so quiet! The area is lovely too. It’s a lot more densely populated than our previous area, but somehow it feels more relaxed (or maybe that’s just me). It’s also quite nice to have hustle and bustle just around the corner and going past our house all day and night. We have found an excellent playground where we’ve already made new friends, and within walking distance we have another tiny playground and a popular park. There are small independent shops just around the corner, and bigger supermarkets are only a short walk away. All in all, I’m enjoying it every day.
Now that we have been in our new house for two weeks already, I’m beginning to feel like the dust is in the process of settling. Not quite settled yet, but getting there. (My box room is utterly living up to its name.) When it became clear that we would be moving, I did some reading to find out how best to prepare my daughter for the upheaval of moving house. This is what I found out:
- It can be helpful to read books about moving house in order to let toddlers understand the concept. I meant to do this, but never actually got round to it because money was so tight. There are plenty of interesting-looking books on Amazon though.
- Start packing well in advance, but not too early or you’ll have to dig stuff out again. I started off very gently 4 weeks before the big day and stayed quite relaxed.
- Take photos of your toddler in each room of the old place, so for example a photo waving from the front door, a photo brushing teeth in the bathroom, a photo playing in the sitting room, sitting at the dining table, lying in bed with cuddly toys, perhaps a photo of mummy cooking in the kitchen, and so on. These photos can be printed out and hung up at the new place so that you can talk about the changes with your child.
- Order an online food shop for the new address, including a bottle of bubbly and some treaty food to celebrate.
- Keep toys and books out until the last day. All my daughter’s toys belong in a specific bucket (they’re usually all over the floor of course), which I kept out as well. Her dad, who helped an enormous amount with our move, very kindly took these and her play kitchen over to the new house after her bedtime on the last evening in the old flat so that they definitely wouldn’t get lost.
- Do the main part while your toddler is away at nursery or visiting friends or relatives. This is crucial! My daughter had some moments of upset when I was packing things away and dismantling furniture, and I don’t want to imagine how she might have felt to see her home gradually empty and familiar objects disappear. Plus obviously if you’re actively taking part on moving day, as I did, it’s far easier not to have to keep a little one amused and happy.
- Sort out children’s areas and kitchen first: bedroom and sitting room are probably the rooms my daughter spends most time in, so I focused on these first. I put her bed together (big girl bed now, no longer a cot, so the baby days stayed at the old flat) and sorted out her chest of drawers and all her familiar bedroom bits. I arranged the sitting room in such a way that it would be usable and recognisable, and unpacked most kitchen items so that I would be able to cook meals with no complications. I even managed to put together the dining area with the usual tablecloth and floormat so that we were able to eat dinner in the normal way when my daughter returned from her dad’s who had picked her up from nursery after lunch.
- Stairgates! Check if they fit. Mine didn’t, so I had to rely on a cobbled-together emergency solution and a quick dash to the next big supermarket by my daughter’s dad (he really was very helpful).
- Keep the same routine. The more familiarity you can maintain, the more safe your toddler is likely to feel.
- Expect changes in behaviour. It is a massive upheaval for little ones. More about this possibly in another post soon.
- And finally: pay for professional help! Accept all the help you are offered. I hired two men and a van who seemed very popular in my area (council’s trusted trader etc.) and was also joined by my daughter’s dad and a friend. They were amazing. In the time in which we filled a small car with fragile things they filled a whole van with a sofa, washing machine, big chest of drawers and countless boxes. Nothing got broken and they were extremely quick. I wasn’t even tired at the end of the day! Or stressed! I’m not exaggerating.
I have found a house. It is a terraced house in a lovely area, ca. 20 metres from an excellent bakery, it has a very small garden with a shed (a miracle in this area!), and a box room. Finally my daughter won’t have to share her bedroom with the fridge anymore! I think she’ll have the front bedroom so that I can use the box room (attached to the back bedroom) as my study.
It looked good in the photos and I’d looked at a house in the same street last year, so when the letting agent promised new carpet downstairs, I made my decision on the spot. I filled in the paperwork the same day, and today I gave notice on my current flat. We are officially moving house! As my lease is five years old already, I had to give two months’ notice (nowadays one month is more common), so I’ll have lots of time for packing everything. I think some decluttering is needed!