When Rishi Sunak resigned earlier this month, some of us were less worried about the political implications (it’s not as if we have any influence in choosing the next PM, anyway) and were more concerned about the immediate practicalities. Specifically, just how much notice had Rishi given his wife Akshata of his intentions – and had they pre-booked packers for their ministerial abode? In a similar vein, might Boris Johnson’s determination to stay on until September have anything to do with the fact that he and Carrie hadn’t got a removals company lined up, and couldn’t face bubble wrapping china in a heat wave, ‘helped’ by toddler Wilf? (Because that we’d understand – and the government do not, we’re informed, have anyone on call for such instances. The Camerons, we’ve also been anonymously told, struggled with logistics.) Then, while drinks trolleys, rugs and tablecloths are easily transportable, what about fixtures and fittings? What if, for instance, you’ve spent over £200,000 with Soane, expecting to live somewhere for ten years, but in fact have to move out after only three?
MPs aren’t the only people who have to move house in such speedy circumstances. Maybe you’ve accepted your dream job in another part of the country and need to relocate (almost) immediately? Or the company you work for has posted you elsewhere, with minimum notice? Or perhaps simple reluctance to start, coupled with love for your existing home, has resulted in your waking up on the day before you’re due to hand over the keys, yet to even commence (we can relate). If you’re young and single and everything you own fits in the back of an Uber – well, enjoy a long brunch; you probably only need an hour to chuck everything in a suitcase. But as you’re reading House & Garden, we’ll assume you have an interest in interiors, and, therefore, stuff. The good news is that it not too late. “We’d have a four-bedroom house packed up and half-loaded in one day and come back the following morning for the rest of the boxes, and the beds,” reassures Nick Cavendish of Cavendish & Country. There’s also very little that can’t be taken – from beloved ceramic tiles to unlacquered brass door handles.
But what if Cavendish & Country don’t have availability? And nor do Anthony Ward Thomas, or Burke & Wills or any other reputable moving company? Summer is, after all, the busiest time, says Nick. Of course, you can find a man and van – and many of us have done just that – but do be aware that the moving business is unregulated, and not everybody is on the same professional level (I’m haunted by my accidental experience with theatrical set movers who, terrifyingly, had zero sense of urgency). “Largely, it’s about packing skills,” says Nick. So, what can we learn?
First, you need support – but keep it limited. “There comes a point when there are too many people and productivity goes down,” says Nick, who would dispatch a crew of four people for a four-bedroom house, with the requisite number of cardboard boxes, and a quantity of bubble wrap and honeycomb paper. He’s a professional in terms of guestimating materials needed; know that if you’re tight on time, it’s far better to have too much than not enough. When every minute counts, you don’t want to be running around local corner shops requesting empty crisp boxes (though it’s a handy last resort to have).
The vital rule, says Nick, is “making sure that you pack up every room in its entirety, do not leave bits and pieces out.” And crucial is to make sure that everybody in your packing support system knows what they’re each responsible for. “The kitchen usually takes longest, so that’s where we’d start.” Plates, incidentally, should be packed on their side – as catering companies do when they’re transporting them – as that’s how to guarantee the minimum of breakages. Speaking of which, “one packer would possibly be employed just to work with the fragile pieces around the property, while the other three get on with the rest.” Books should be packed spine up, and for clothes, Cavendish & Country have wardrobe boxes, “like a mobile wardrobe, so dresses and suits stay hanging”.
You also need someone with genuine DIY skills. Cavendish & Country have a parallel handyman company, which is there to help with “dismantling bespoke furniture, or taking out a window frame so that you can winch out a grand piano.” Youtube – as ever – is your friend if you’re doing this alone, being replete with handy videos detailing how to remove tiles (cut the grout first.) It’s even possible to remove wallpaper if you’ve pre-prepared; Hannah Cecil Gurney, director of de Gournay, explains “if you apply muslin to the walls before hanging the paper, you can later take the paper off and re-use it.” (We’ve studied the leaked decorating bills from Downing Street, and can see no evidence of this having been done in the Johnsons’ flat. Lucky, lucky coming incumbent, whoever that may be.)
Vital – if you are going to take away light switches and doorhandles – is to check the inventory of either the sale or the letting, and make sure that, if necessary, you replace them with alternatives, otherwise you’ll find yourself in breach of contract. The same applies to antique sconces, fireplaces, staircase balustrades and – in the garden – trees and established plants (if you’ve ever bought a property that has been repossessed, chances are you know what it’s like to move into a house that doesn’t have these things).
Finally, make sure those boxes have somewhere to go. This is an issue facing Johnson – less so Sunak, who in any case intends to move back to Downing Street in September. The question is whether, if he does win the leadership contest, he’ll decide to return to the flat above number 10 which he and Akshata have already decorated (at their own expense) or take the one with Soane wallpaper above number 11. From an interiors perspective, politics has seldom been so gripping.