Tips for moving house


As anyone who has done it will surely testify, applying for graduate positions is a delightful process. Oh yea, though it be many years ago now, I remember that heady thrill – the fun-filled experience of answering the same 6 selection criteria phrased just fractionally differently enough that you can’t cut and paste. The little frission of excitement when you have to make up another example of ‘time I showed leadership’ or ‘how I dealt with a difficult colleague’.* The awkward day-long assessment centres doing group activities with other hopefuls, everyone trying to masquerade as a supportive leader without being a bossy jerk or a weirdo (note: some people are not capable of even faking this for a single hour long exercise, let alone a whole day).

But one thing I particularly loved was the personality tests. Because it is vital, ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL, that they be able to assign each prospective graduate a set of letters which tells them all they need to know about their personalities. I mean, if they didn’t have that label, how would they know how to interact with these humanoid young university students at the interviews?

Interviewer: So, Sam, I see you are an…SLBWBMOR.*** I was going to say ‘how do you do’, but I feel like that would intimidate you, so I’ll just do this interpretive dance to the theme song from Alias.

Me: I appreciate that, thank you. I raise you a headbanging to the theme from Buffy.

Interviewer: You’re hired!

Anyway, I did a lot of these stupid tests. One format was to have each question be two options of personality traits and you had to choose between them. Are you: creative or organised? Do you like: maths or English? Would you say you: had good attention to detail, or were capable of looking at the big picture? They’re always stupid. They’re never real alternatives and choosing one always implies you suck at the other (why are maths/science and English always offered as alternatives? They were my top 3 subjects at school. They’re not either/or. And creative people can meet deadlines!) so you end up guessing what they want based on the nature of the job you’re applying for.

An actual, real, unexaggerated conversation I had with one interviewer went something like this.

Interviewer: *Normal polite greetings, leads me to a meeting room.* Now, Sam, thanks for coming in. I’d like this to be as informal as possible.

Me: Sure, thanks.

Interviewer: Ideally I’d have just done this at my desk instead of in here. But it’s a bit of a mess, and I know from your profile here that that’d make you very uncomfortable.



Me: Sorry?

Interviewer: Well, I know you’re extremely neat.

Me: *unable to suppress laugh* Am I? I had to change my shirt twice today already because I spilled my breakfast and my coffee in two unrelated incidents.

Interviewer: Hmm. It says you’re super organised and you’d get anxious if you saw clutter.

Me: *baffled silence*

Interviewer: *giggles*

Me: What else does it say?

We then spent the rest of the ‘interview’ poring over the profile and laughing. It went well! I got offered the job.

By now, you’re probably pretty sure I mislabelled this post, or else wondering when the hell I’m going to get to the point.****

The point is, in some circumstances I apparently give the impression of tightly ordered precision, of neatness and efficiency and accurate labelling. This may have something to do with my sometimes weird compulsive sorts of traits, my love of spreadsheets and my military enforcement of rules about How to Pack the Dishwasher. It does not mean I have a neat desk at work. I do not. My house does not look like the pages of a Swedish lifestyle magazine, though I do enjoy looking at those pages. I would get that white couch dirty so fast… But I digress. Some aspects of my personality, perhaps the type I apparently over-emphasise when filling out personality tests for analytical type jobs at least, give people an impression that I am highly organised. Which brings me to the title of this post: tips for moving house.

A friend in a writing community asked for tips to help him move house efficiently. Being such a paragon of organisation, I volunteered the following tips, and thought I would share them more broadly with you all so that you, too, could make moving house as efficient and painless as possible.

Sam’s tips for packing/unpacking

  • Step 1: purchase a variety of coloured A4 paper – a stack of each, one colour for every room of the (new) house.
  • Step 2: as you start to pack, stick a sheet on the side of the box (tape down carefully), choosing the colour according to which room you’ll be unpacking in (eg blue=bedroom, green=bathroom, puce=sadness). Note on the paper everything you pack in the box. This will make unpacking a breeze.
  • Step 3: Your hands will start to get tired from all the writing, especially if you usually use a computer and never write longhand. You’ll need to start abbreviating terms on those lists until you can no longer recognise letters, let alone meanings. Don’t worry about it. You’ll remember the code.
  • Step 4: You’ll be getting even more tired and the stuff you’re packing seems to be having little junkbabies right in front of you because the piles are getting denser and more random. Let yourself cry for 10 minutes per hour, no more.
  • Step 5: As 3am approaches, start hurling things randomly into boxes just to make the packing end.
  • Step 6: Dawn breaks. Tip the last boxes on their side and use a broom to sweep the remaining piles in. Label these boxes with smudges of your tears. Drink a whisky. Or eleven. You know, exercise moderation.

When you unpack, do the easy ones with labels first. Cram all the ‘misc’ boxes into one room, henceforth nominated as the Box Room, close the door and pretend that room doesn’t exist for 3 years.

When next you move, you’ll be able to take your box room boxes straight to your new box room without having to deal with the middleman. What a time saver!

You’re welcome.

* To be fair, since I wanted to be a professional liar back then too, I sometimes DID have a little fun making up some of these ridiculous and pointless answers. Writing ‘I don’t deal with difficult people at university because I slink into the corners of lectures and don’t speak to anyone’ doesn’t get you across the line, but you should have** read my heartwarming tale of discovering WHY my prickly and uncommunicative group member wasn’t contributing and us eventually working together (hands held, implied) to ace the project. Doubtless it brought many a cold hearted selection panel to tears.

** Maybe you did. If so, you should know I only made up stupid stories when the questions were stupid. I didn’t make up my grades or work experience. I swear. 🙂

*** Shy loser, but with big mouth once relaxed.

**** Oh, you are new around these parts, then. I almost never get to the point. There usually isn’t even one. Just an ever-spiralling abyss of footnotes and rambles.

4 thoughts on “Tips for moving house

  1. I’ve completed a couple of “strengths” or “talents” tests over the past few years for work. To their credit, they don’t try to pin-point precisely what personality type you are, but rather offer a range and indicate the direction on a particular strength continuum you tend toward. People are too complex to put into one box. Or for just one colour of paper. 🙂

    Great packing tips, Sam! The few times we’ve moved, our organized packing has devolved into Misc Boxes too.


  2. E.Maree says:

    Happy to join you in this abyss of footnotes and rambling. Thanks for stopping by at my place, Sam — it’s great to have a look around yours, too! I hope you get to come back to Scotland with your boys some day. 🙂

    The whole idea of basing job interviews around personality tests is a strange one… it’s not done here yet, though I could see it taking off eventually. It all seems quite surreal.


    • I think here it’s something unique to graduate positions – I’ve certainly never seen it in any other context. The world of graduate applications is a strange one though! I had always assumed the tests were just used to identify people who couldn’t be consistent, or who couldn’t fake sanity for 45 minutes – this was the only time I saw an interviewer directly reference it!


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