How to prepare for UN-packing day

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How to prepare to receive your shipment

Or, to be more accurate, Preparing For The Day All Your Shipped Items Get Delivered…

Because unpacking can take way longer than a day… yes, I’m still unpacking boxes nearly five months after arriving back in the UK; mainly because there isn’t anywhere to put any of the contents. Mind you, there were also boxes retrieved from twelve years in storage and thirty years from Mum’s attic, so it’s been a bit of a nightmare.

This will all be slightly different if your packing crew are unpacking everything for you, but the basics remain relevant.

Before they arrive

You will need:

  • Your packing inventory
  • Pens
  • Note paper
  • Sticky tape/pins
  • Scissors/knife
  • Mugs
  • Kettle
  • Cash
  • Camera

You will also need to have a plan for disposal of the packing materials. Sort this out before everything arrives; some removal companies will revisit in a limited amount of time and take it all for you. And some do not. So you will need to find a way of getting rid of the boxes and paper, bubble wrap, packing foam etc. It all builds up really quickly once you get going.

Right… You will be told when your container has passed through customs and to arrange a date for everything to be delivered to your new home. If you have kids, make this date a school day – I promise you it will be less stressful for you all. If you have pets, arrange for them to be out of the way, if possible. Cats and dogs under feet doesn’t always go well.

Your packing inventory

You have your inventory in an easy to find place, of course! The day before the removal company’s arrival, get your inventory out and study it.

Look at how the rooms in your previous home were labelled and translate this to the layout of your new home. ‘Bedroom 1’ will be ‘Bedroom 1’, but ‘Bedroom 4’ may now be ‘The Garage’, and ‘Dining Room’ could be ‘This End of The Living Room’ and so on.

Write the names of the previous home’s rooms on paper and label all the doors. In any case, revise the names and quick location info for your own use, eg “Upstairs, second room on the left”, “Around there, by the window” and so on. You will need to be wide awake and on the ball as when the unloading crew arrive, it all happens very quickly.

You will also need scissors or a knife to open boxes immediately – more about why in a moment.

If you’re lucky, you will be able to read the box numbers and contents on your inventory. Often, translating the writing can be tricky – I had a box labelled ‘hambaks’; if you say it aloud it’s easier (handbags!), and it will have been a while since everything was boxed up so can be confusing. Make a list on a new sheet of paper in this format: Box numbers 1-24 = Bedroom 2; Box numbers 25-67 = Kitchen etc. Generally, everything from one room in the previous home would be labelled with a sequence of numbers. It’s also useful to have all books, for example, go to one place for now. And the same goes for pictures, as you won’t be putting them all up at once, I expect, so it helps to have them out of the way for now.

When the removal company arrives

Be ready for any paperwork, signatures and confirmations and then they’re off!

When the boxes are brought in to your new home from the lorry, the removal people call out the box number and you need to direct them quickly and confidently to the correct room. They do not like to be left holding a heavy box while you dither or try to make small talk. There may be several people queuing up to be directed too, so it’s all pretty intense.

What happens is this: Removal person staggers through the door yelling “Box 128” and you must instantly tell them “Bedroom 2, upstairs second on the left”. They will be rapidly followed by several other removal people all shouting out box numbers almost simultaneously. The box numbers never come off the lorry in numerical order. Never.

Damaged strong box

As the boxes are brought in, check them over for obvious damage. If any box is damaged, deal with it immediately. Take photos of the box and the damage, making sure to show the box number. Unpack it as much as possible to check the contents. This is why you need the knife or scissors. It is important to deal with damage ASAP as you will be signing off the delivery when it’s all finished.

The blue box on the left is the special ‘strong box’ it was recommended I purchase from the packing company to protect my antique Japanese ceramics. Something extremely heavy and solid has obviously been dropped on it as it was supposedly ‘unbreakable’. The crew told me about it as they brought it in, so I needed to find the padlock key for it, open and check it immediately. Articles in the vicinity of the damage were fine, thank goodness, but I haven’t yet had chance to look through it all due to house renovations.

Broken cup from an undamaged box

But don’t panic about having to unpack everything while they are there, just the obviously damaged boxes. It’s possible you will find breakages later, in seemingly undamaged boxes. Just don’t leave it too long to unpack everything as the insurance doesn’t last forever. Check your contract for this information. With all damaged items, photograph everything for a potential later claim.

If you’re having the removal team unpack everything for you, then you need to be able to split yourself into several people, so you can be everywhere. To solve this problem, have the crew unpack and deal with just one room at a time.

Looking after the unpacking crew

The team will need refreshment. Tea, coffee, cold drinks. Which can be tricky if your kettle and mugs are in a box somewhere. Luckily, we had just enough temporary mugs, but our wonderful removal guys actually brought their own anyway!

Once all the boxes are off the lorry, you will sign off the delivery and tip the crew. The amount you tip will depend on your personal preference and the country you’re in. As far as I know, it’s not compulsory to tip, although it is much appreciated.

Check the lorry yourself to make sure nothing is left behind and that no random cat has climbed inside… yes, my cat decided she wanted to go adventuring!

And then you can crash out for a while before tackling the interminable job of unpacking.

Actually, unloading doesn’t take long. Our 168 packages took just 45 minutes to unload. Unpacking has is still going on…

Good luck and all the best! I’ll be thinking of you 😊

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