My Nightmare Pandemic Move

Sept 18, 2020

Health & Lifestyle | Lauranne Heres

Some people love moving. They’re excited about setting up a new house, about painting and decorating, about using this time to “spring clean” as they organise their belongings. For most people though, moves are said to be as stressful as a divorce or changing jobs. While there are no official studies so far, ask around in your friend circle and you’ll get both opinions and a bunch of stories to go with it.

Having to move at any time is a hassle, but during a pandemic it has been a nightmare. We were hoping that we could stay in our flat for another year to give us time to have a healthy deposit for a house of our own, but unfortunately our landlord wanted to sell ASAP. Initially we thought we’d have to be out by March/April as he wasn’t replying to us and we didn’t want to have to move during lockdown, but he then told us we could stay in an extra few months.

We spent lockdown hoping he would grant us the extra year, but the announcement of the scrapped stamp duty meant that he could probably sell quickly and so he told us we’d have to leave. Afraid of a 2nd wave in October, we decided to move in the Summer to be able to actually get a moving company!

A friend of mine moved a few weeks before we did and she had several movers cancel repeatedly, while the ones we ended up calling told us they could only do one date around the time we needed them.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before you can move, you first have to visit a lot of places! Where usually you’d just go view a place with an estate agent, the pandemic has changed the experience by a lot. Some people wouldn’t let anyone in (with good reason), so estate agents did video showings which were always wonky and didn’t show you the things you really wanted to see.

Or if you could go, masks and shoe covers were of course mandatory, and only the estate agent is allowed to touch surfaces, open doors etc. This makes viewing a place very awkward, as you don’t feel comfortable to ask someone else to check cupboards or try out the taps or check the windows.

We also have the added problem of being dog owners. Most landlords in the UK do not want dogs (or children, but that’s a harder one to justify) in their properties. So, they’ll either flat out refuse, or make you pay extra deposits. It also means that we need outdoor space (not every dog owner insists on it, but we do) and that’s difficult to come by. We were very lucky in our previous flat because it had a large garden that Krumpet could potter around in, but unfortunately our luck ran out.

Because we have a huge bed (trust me, we need it) it turned out that most “master bedrooms” we saw did not accommodate for the size of the frame. This is partly the fault of the bed, but mostly the fault of landlords who love to squeeze wardrobes and en-suite bathrooms where they don’t fit and so a decent-sized room becomes a tiny box. Which of course leaves a 2nd or 3rd bedroom to be even tinier boxes.

We saw a place that had huge potential (garage, nice living room, quiet even though the train tracks where nearby) but then the master barely fit the double they’d wedged in because someone had built a shower room right next to an existing bathroom (WHY?) and the 2nd bedroom was - I kid you not - the size of a wardrobe. It would’ve fit a crib maybe, but then you wouldn’t have been able to go in and check on the baby.

We also saw a house with 5 bedrooms. What the estate agents’ ad failed to mention, and of course you couldn’t see from the picture or the absentee floor plan, was that every floor had only 1 or 2 rooms. Kitchen and garden downstairs. Then living and dining one up. Then bedrooms and bath one up again. And again. I already saw myself carrying the dog up 3 or 4 flights of stairs every day and falling flat on my face.

I would email or call an agent to inquire about a property I saw advertised on their website, only to be told it was already off the market (mind you I was checking every day and contacting them straight away). We saw an amazing flat in a decent location, but when we offered on it, the owners suddenly asked for £100 more a month.

Eventually we noticed a property where the price had been reduced. We’d looked at it before but had discarded it because we felt they were asking too much for the size. With £200 knocked off the rental, it seemed a better deal, so we went for a visit. It’s half a house (and when I say house, I mean it’s the size of a flat but there are stairs involved) and it has the tiniest backyard ever. Basically a landing strip for drones. But the bedroom fits the bed and then some, the second bedroom actually has space for a desk and a spare bed, and the living room is a good size. Even if the kitchen isn’t.

After successfully signing the lease, we booked the movers and then started to pack (my mum came to help which was nice, especially after not seeing her for 7 months!) and then I twisted my ankle. It happens to me a lot (the pavement near my old flat was atrociously uneven), but usually it’s not so bad. This time it was full on pain, not being able to walk on it for the first two days, crutches and a brace and the whole shebang. My mum extended her stay by 3 days because I couldn’t really do much and I dreaded moving in and having stairs to climb whenever I wanted to go to bed.

Thankfully, the ankle healed well, and I was only using one crutch by the time the move came. On a rainy day of course. With movers tracking dirt in and out of the flat, it soon looked like a bit of a mess, but since we’d booked a clean, we didn’t think much of it. Fast-forward to the day of the cleaning and the staff was yelling at me, telling me our flat was filthy (honestly, a mop and a hoover would’ve done the trick) and they’d need to charge more and work longer. Worried we’d get part of our deposit taken away if the flat looked less then pristine, I didn’t argue and left them to it.

Looking back, I probably should’ve taken a picture when I found the washing machine detergent drawer in the loo (as in, in the bowl) when I went to use my own toilet, because I had so far been banished to my car parked outside. Back at the new flat, we ended up having trouble with the gas cooker within 2 days, followed by a water leak from the tub into the kitchen, not to forget a potential “intruder” of the animal variety in the loft.

As I’m currently not working, I wonder if I’m affected more by all the hassle. I don’t remember the last moves being that stressful, even though there’s always a moment where you just snap and want to quit. Forget crushing boxes or hanging pictures, I’ll just live in this area I freed up around the couch and TV. Fine. FINE.

Once again, the pandemic threw us a few more curveballs because IKEA’s production has been severely affected which means half the stuff we wanted/needed was either sold out or took weeks to be delivered. I moved over a month ago and I’m still missing spare shelves for an existing bookcase, half a wardrobe (which included shelves and doors and drawers) and even after ordering some parts on the website just as I wrote this, they’re still out of frames. So soon I’ll have spare parts in flatpack littering my doorway, but nowhere to mount them in. Sigh.

I certainly hope that once everything is unpacked, the excess is safely stacked in our storage unit (had to get one of those because this place lacks storage, unless you count a Harry Potter style cupboard under the stairs) and every picture hangs in its designated place, I will feel home again and we can stay here until we can afford our own little place. Because I definitely don’t want to move again and have to deal with any more botched paint jobs and dodgy “building managers” or “handymen”!

I don’t want to finish this with doom and gloom, because I’m usually a very positive person (this year has stretched my positivity a bit thin though) and so of course I’m trying to make little things pretty so I have something to be happy about. Like my nice flowers outside. Or the Harry Potter theme I created because what else was I going to do in the guest loo?

I also want to hear about your horrible moves, so please tell me all about them in the comments!