The house-moving ritual is a time-honoured fixture of the English Season. It traditionally takes place on a Friday, before the school summer holidays start. In and around the Thames basin, every other street is blocked by Mr Pickford and his pantechnicon.
They say that moving house is the third most stressful thing after bereavement and divorce, which is why we do it only once every seven years on average. 'Before you move,' confided one newly relocated friend, 'enquire if The Priory has a special section for house-movers. It's as stressful as coming off a Class A drug.' Another friend told me that, just as the final cost of moving house is double the estimate, so the stress of it is four times what you expect.
Which of course is rubbish. These people should go out more. My house-moving was a doddle. Cardboard-box phobia and tea-chest anxiety? Where's our sense of reality? The English are too sensitive about their possessions.
I've just visited Japan, where the people think nothing of doing their bit for the domestic white-goods economy by trashing everything they've got on a yearly basis. But in England we horde things covetously like an agoraphobic pharaoh. A shop assistant at Heals told me I'd be amazed at the number of couples who have blazing rows over which sofa and bed to buy. 'One couple even began divorce proceedings in soft furnishings,' she says.
People should view moving house positively. You tell yourself you're kissing your biggest possession goodbye in order to buy into an even bigger biggest possession, so why not seize the chance to redefine your relationships with your lesser possessions? Or ask yourself: 'Were I to cease to exist, which of my possessions would be thrown away instantly by my heirs?' Probably 95%. We're just a terrible waste of space and misplaced sentimental attachments. I'm pathetically attached to a load of personal heritage lumber that any sane person would consider rubbish.
This point has not so much been brought home to me as moved house with me. The removal chaps did a terrific job. Arriving at Home Sweet Home II, I picked up the first package I saw, lovingly wrapped in two-ply tissue paper. I felt like a Dickensian urchin on Christmas Day. Having carefully unpicked the double-sided tape, I found it was the bathroom rubbish bin, still stuffed with detritus. This seemed the perfect metaphor for, not just my life, but society as a whole: the triumph of packaging over content.
William Morris was right: 'Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or do not believe to be beautiful.' Now, I can hardly wait to move again. I won't hire a removal van. A skip will suffice. And I'll do my local charity shop a favour. Moving will be a purging act of radical de-cluttering and rationalisation. I'll rid myself of those suits I'll never squeeze into again, books I'll never read, annual reports I never understood, tea sets that have clinked their last and wedding presents I'll never unwrap.
You too. Go on. Let go. Unleash the minimalist within. Not only will you glory in the incredible lightness of unpacking, you'll stop worrying about where to put things. And when friends inspect your airy new pad, mention how Ian Schrager recently had a big moment with just three cushions and a lot of creative white space; they'll get the message that this is a valid look for this season.
Another friend, recently moved to Guildford with his wife, three children and a lifestyle survival kit compressed into 2.5 small removal chests, concurs. 'The chests themselves can be used as tables, chairs, rubbish bins, dolls' houses, ladders, firewood or even his 'n' hers dinghies in case of flooding,' he grinned, with the assurance of one of life's natural light-removers. He added ruefully: 'My wife nearly got rid of me too. My back went during our move. To anyone with a bad back I strongly recommend moving house during that time. It's a good excuse to stay in bed.'
His wife sighs happily: 'A change is as good as a rest. If moving house is stressful, it's nothing compared to living with a husband and children in a house that's too small.'