A Moving Post (if you’ll excuse the pun) : Liz and Sarah tell all

Moving is never easy

moving day boxesLiz: Moving is a two-way problem. Either you’re upsizing, in which case you don’t have enough furniture, or downsizing, in which case you have too much of everything.

moving van awaits

My Old Man said Follow the Van…




Sarah: To make things worse, I moved twice within twelve months (I know, madness, but we had A Plan… more of that later).

moving boxes ready to load

Liz: Aargh! I have just downsized from a five bedroom, four reception house to a two bedroom flat. I had too much of everything and what I’d have liked to have kept was mostly the wrong size. Where on earth do you start!

moving preparationsSarah: I know exactly what you mean!  We had a dream of moving to the west coast of Scotland but we had no property in mind when we moved out of our old house, so no idea what we would need to keep. All I knew was that we would not need much


Liz: I began with emptying my wardrobes. There was stuff that I’d forgotten and clutched with joy and the never-worn mistakes. The charity shops did very well and Ebay became my new best friend.

Moving : why does the furniture never fit?

Liz's Shiny New Desk!

Liz’s Shiny New Desk!

Furniture was more difficult. Some I waved goodbye to with joy. I never liked my dining room furniture! My daughter had her pick – a very fine break-front bookcase, a hall table and a revolving bookcase made by her father are family pieces that have a new home. Some went to charity but not everything. Hang on to your fire safety labels, people, or the only place that will take perfectly good furniture is the recycling centre. It did mean I was able to buy some new – I especially love my new desk!

How was it for you, Sarah? Did you have to dispose of furniture that wouldn’t fit your new home? Or did you use it as an excuse to go for a new look?

Sarah: I found disposing of “stuff” the most painful part of the whole moving process. We had been in our old Pennine farmhouse for nearly thirty years and had to dispose of so much that held family memories.

moving boxes fill the spaceWe had always had the space to put off getting rid of anything, so the outhouse, cupboards, loft and garage were all full. Our Grand Plan was to make an interim move while we looked for the house of our dreams (with a sea view).

We crammed what we could into our teeny townhouse and put some things into storage, but even some of that had to go.  Most of it was old and had little value to anyone but ourselves – like you, Liz, we made numerous trips to the tip and the charity shops.  

moving begun, space emptyI told myself it was worth it, so we could make a fresh start in a new house, whatever its size: we wouldn’t be constrained by furniture that wouldn’t fit in size or style into our new home.

Moving out : but what about the books?

But then there are the books…books on library shelves

Liz: Yes, books… Sigh. Having written more than seventy books, my own archive takes up a lot of space. My research books, dictionaries and probably more thesauri than anyone would ever need were must haves.

Liz's books behind bars

Liz’s books behind bars

There were books in which I’m either mentioned or are dedicated to me which have their own shelf space. We packed up a lot of non-fiction for the grandchildren, I sold more on Ziffit and took an awful lot of fiction to the local charity shops – a major reason to be thankful that these days I read on a Kindle.

The hardest was parting with my husband’s huge library.


Sarah: I parted with hundreds of novels, but justified keeping my history books etc because I needed them for research (and it’s true, honestly. Some of the information I need just can’t be found easily on the web).

…and the pictures?

picture frames on wall

NOT Sarah’s Waterloo prints

Also, there are pictures – I have some fabulous Waterloo prints that I bought when writing A Lady for Lord Randall, part of Harlequin’s Waterloo Brides trilogy (written with Louise Allen and Annie Burrows). I doubted I would ever have wall space for them again but I couldn’t bear to part with them, not until we made the final move and I was sure they wouldn’t fit. Thankfully, our dream house has plenty of white wall space, so my pictures are on the walls again. Hurrah!

Liz: I have stacks of pictures, too. So far I’ve hung eight. China and glass were a big problem, too. The 12-piece dinner/tea/coffee set given to us the year my daughter was born is boxed up and stored in her home for when she needs it.

Moving in : with all those boxes…

moving pallet graphicSarah: Okay, Liz, we are agreed about the pain of downsizing – how did you cope moving into your new home?

Liz: My second bedroom (now my office), was so full of furniture I couldn’t move in it. I had kept my good glasses and my wedding china – six months later they are still in boxes. There are all kinds of bits and pieces perched on windowsills and on the top of bookcases.

The ottoman didn’t fit in the bedroom and has to go, along with a storage unit that I hung onto temporarily until I could buy wardrobes (the house had all fitted ones). Worse, despite having too much furniture, I had to buy more. dressing room with empty shelvesCupboards in which to store files, six years of accounts and photograph albums going back a very long way. I’d say hooray for external hard drives but they take up a shelf all by themselves. I need to go through them, delete the repeats and downsize them onto one. Or maybe two…

Sarah: Our bed had a wooden frame that added inches all round to the size of it, and it was just too tight a fit in our interim house, so it had to go (sharp wooden corners were turning my shins black and blue). And boxes of family photos – yes, yes yes, I know it would be sensible to scan them all onto a disk but Life, as they say, is just too short….

Liz: Scanners and I do not have a happy relationship!

I had to get rid of the huge super king sleigh bed that the dh and I treated ourselves to one Christmas. I did treat myself to a new desk, though, which I absolutely love.

Moving in : but where does an author work?

Sarah: I bought a new desk, too, once we had made our second move last September. We managed to find our dream house in the wilds of Scotland, right by the sea. I had had to get rid of my huge desk when we left the farmhouse and had been managing with a tiny computer desk in an equally tiny box room,

Sarah's tiny temporary office

My teeny tiny temporary office

so when I finally had an office again, I bought a new desk – nothing huge, but big enough for my laptop, second monitor, keyboard and still room for a notebook or two.  It feels like luxury! One point, though – the room I chose for an office has no sea view. I thought that would be far too distracting! 

Liz: My office is still a bit of a dumping ground. I need shelves. I need to put up more pictures, I need a towel rail in the main bathroom but, with a lot of help from my daughter, who is the DIY queen, I’m getting there.

Sarah: My new office has a huge cupboard in one corner, complete with a light, so I can sort all my boxes of notes, old accounts etc.  In the farmhouse, the second reception room had doubled as my study and a sitting room/guest room. Now I have the luxury of a proper office, where I can keep all my writerly things and shut the door on it (or indeed shut myself away in it if we have visitors. Bliss). AND I have these views on my doorstep!

view of sea from Sarah's new houseview of sea from Sarah's new house

So, Liz, you have been in your new home slightly longer than I have, what do you think? Are you settling in now?

Moving : was it worth it? Really?

Liz: I am, Sarah. It took a while, but I’ve discovered I really don’t need so much stuff and I’m getting less sentimental about “things”.  It’s people who matter. I’m close to my family now and that’s a lot of fun. Christmas has been crammed with child-related events, including the local pantomime. I’ve joined the local Book Group, I’m going swimming at least once a week – I have a gym with a pool very close — and there is always something going on in East Grinstead. I am also able to get to London to Romantic Novelists’ Association events now. And then there’s the garden, but that’s for another day.

Your dream home has meant a much bigger leap for you. How are you finding it?

view of sea from Sarah's new bedroomSarah: We feel very much at home here, now and have already made new friends. There is a strong local community but we are taking it slowly and not rushing to join too many clubs etc. That will all come in time. The important thing is to get the house straight. It is bigger than we expected to get and right by the sea.

The views are spectacular, even from my bed – once it is light, of course –  there is a resident otter on the nearby rocks, and we regularly see seals and a heron in the bay. We had the family joining us for Christmas and that put pressure on to get everything straight – deadlines are great, and not only for writing, don’t you agree, Liz?

Liz: it certainly concentrates the mind, Sarah!

Willow the dog relaxing in basket

I wish we could be more like this!
[Sarah’s Willow shows how true relaxation is done]

Sarah: So we have both done it. We have packed up, downsized, moved out and set up another home.  I think we both deserve a pat on the back and perhaps a glass of bubbly to celebrate. Cheers, Liz!champagne glasses to celebrate


Liz: Cheers, Sarah. Here’s to a really productive 2019 minus cardboard boxes.


28 thoughts on “A Moving Post (if you’ll excuse the pun) : Liz and Sarah tell all

  1. Elizabeth Bailey

    This totally resonates with me. I downsized last year from a 3 bed to my tiny sheltered flat. The full garage and the loft were the toughest. There are still loads of boxes in-store as it was too fast to check with family so a lot more sorting still to do. My mum Is in a home with Alzheimer’s so i had all her stuff to handle as well as my own, which meant most is family interest. Hence the storage.
    The upside is i adore my little flat and have made friends with the other tenants.

    1. Liz

      So glad that your move had bern do positive, Liz. I’m lucky that my daughter has room for the boxes of photographs, and was on hand to choose what she wanted. If it had gone into storage, it would still have been there ten years later!

    2. Sarah Mallory

      You sound to have had a very similar experience, Elizabeth! Glad you are settled now – I found the emotional ties to material possessions the most difficult – logical decision-making went out the window! Good luck with the rest, I am sure the family will be able to help.


    What an utterly BRILLIANT piece of writing, Liz & Sarah! It resonated hugely as my man and I have just emptied a whacking great Georgian pile, along with various sheds, outbuildings and cottages – all of which contained an astonishing amount of clutter. Less is definitely more…
    In bocca al lupo in your gorgeous new homes.

    1. Sarah Mallory

      Thank you for the good wishes, Sharon. Clearing the clutter felt like freeing me up,. making it much easier to move and do new things (and probably build up more new clutter!!!) Good luck to you, too!

  3. janegordoncumming

    I’d lived in the same house in Oxford for over thirty years, so it was a huge upheaval, both physically and emotionally, when we moved in 2013. I’m a keeper, so it took a lot to persuade me to throw out things like my university notes, and the appointments diaries my mother had when we were children. When someone writes my biography – or more likely my sister’s – they’ll need that stuff! Anyway, it’s so lovely here, we haven’t regretted it for a moment.

    1. Sarah Mallory

      Those ties to the past are like tiny threads of cotton – they don’t appear very strong but boy, once you get enough of them…. So glad you are happy in your new home, Jane

    2. Liz

      I so understand, Jane, but the more I get rid off the more relaxed I become. The only clutter my mother left was an old handbag in the bottom of her wardrobe with all the essential paperwork. There were still family secrets to uncover, but It was a blessing.. So glad you’re happy in your new home.

  4. lesley2cats

    A few years ago I thought about moving, and started actively looking. I gave up in the end, due to having four children, two of whom are boomerangs. I have all their Stuff, a lot of my parents’ Stuff, much of Aunt-by-marriage’s Stuff and the remains of the two non-boomerang children’s Stuff. About ten or twelve years ago, I had a lovely summerhouse built in the garden, which I hoped I would use as an office. It was leapt on with cries of delight by The Family and suddenly – it was full. Liz and Sarah – your accounts fill me with mixed dread and envy. Sarah because I’ve always wanted a sea view, but moving that far away would terrify me, and Liz because I fantasise about a flat and I loved living in East Grinstead, but downsizing that much is sort of horrific. Well done, both of you.

    1. Sarah Mallory

      How I understand that, Lesley, and good on you! One of our reasons for moving was that the house we had was big and needed both more physical work and money to keep it that we could commit to. A move was necessary, the dream of a sea view gave me the incentive I needed to put in the work required, which I felt was a real bonus.

    2. Liz

      You are too soft, Lesley! Your summer house! That said, I finally handed Amy the last of her stuff a couple of weeks ago. But at least you’ll have no guilt about leaving them to deal with the mess. 🙂

  5. Sandra Mackness

    This great feature made me smile and wince in sympathy! After three years and three months in our new house, we still have boxes of ‘stuff’ put away plus items from both our sons who’ve moved from the UK and left them with their long-suffering folks. It’s good to know you both feel you made the right decisions as to where to live, as we also do.

    1. Sarah Mallory

      So pleased you, too, feel you have made the right decision, Sandra. In the end that is what matters! It’s all about life choices, isn’t it? Balancing what you want against what you have to do and finding the happiest route.

      1. Liz

        So glad you’re happy in your new home, Sandra. It seems that offspring always leave stuff behind. We had a box that John made for Amy as a footlocker at Uni. It never left the house but is now Eti’s toybox. 🙂

  6. Sophie

    Good grief. Had to lie down in a darkened room to recover, after reading this.
    Note that you both bought new desks, though. Good to see where your priorities lie. Keep up the good work!

  7. Joanna

    I remember our last move as if it were yesterday, though it’s nearly 20 years ago. In fact there were two of them. Like Sarah, we had to do a temporary move and then a permanent one. We were in our temporary home for about 9 months and much of our stuff was in store. When we finally moved to this “proper” new home, it was almost Christmas and the storage company refused to give us our stuff until the New Year. And when it did arrive, my washing machine was broken! All those months waiting for it, and I still had to go to the laundrette (which was several miles away, too). As for the problems of getting rid of our hoards of accumulated “stuff”, I still shudder. Not planning to move again, because we’ve got decades of stuff all over again. Sigh.

    1. Sarah Mallory

      What a nightmare, Joanna, no wonder you remember it! “Stuff” is building up here again, too. I think I am too old to get into minimalist habits, so not going to worry about it.

    2. Liz

      Both recent moves were helped by the fact that in Wales we’d cleared the loft for an extra layer of insulation. Once in the loft it’s out of your life. The only stuff that ever came down were the Christmas decs. We still needed a skip. And then in Wiltshire, we had cleared the garage for a conversion. It helped, but there was still a ton of stuff. And I still moved stuff that I should have got rid of. We learn, but slowly. 🙂

  8. Katie Fforde

    We’ve lived here for nearly 40 years and have far too many possessions. Someone thought I should have my office done out in a more office-like way, but to do that I’d have to tidy it – more than tidy it – and my heart fails.

    Late mother in law had many book cases and I insisted on moving them all down. They are still in store but I know I’ll find homes for them.

    I know someone would say, just get rid of all the stuff and you wouldn’t need them.

    Well done Sarah and Liz for biting the bullet and doing it! Much love, Katie

    1. Sarah Mallory

      Thank you, Katie! “Stuff” has so many emotions swirling around it that it’s difficult to be logical. As for office-like offices… heavens, what a thought. We are writers. Artists. Creative beings! If I tidy my office then I might tidy away all my ideas, too. Then where would I be? Never!

    2. Liz

      Since I was downsizing significantly, Katie, I had no choice. The office tidying is still a work in progress. 🙂

  9. Rosemary Gemmell

    Love this post as we moved house and area (but still in Scotland) almost two years ago to be nearer granddaughter. We haven’t downsized, yet, but did start getting rid of things a year before moving! It’s an ongoing process, especially with all the books I’ve gathered but we’ve resisted using the attic in the new home. Glad you’re both settled, Liz and Sarah. Welcome to Scotland, Sarah and the Scottish RNA group of course! What wonderful views you have.

    1. Liz

      Thank you, Rosemary. Thinking ahead was obviously a good idea. Did your removal men look at the books and go “I hate books…” 🙂

  10. Sarah Mallory

    Thanks for the welcome to Scotland, Rosemary. We are loving our new home, even when the weather is bad 🙂 We haven’t a loft in this new house, which is a blessing as the one in our previous house was a dumping ground. Not only that, but it was dark (despite the lighting), accessible only by loft-hatch and ladder and had creepy-crawlies. Which meant I let the men of the house go up there and hand things down to me (!) – now we have cupboards that I can get into much more easily, and I do not intend to let things build up as before!

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