The History of Moving: How People Moved Homes Through the Ages

Explore the evolution of moving homes, from prehistoric nomads to digital-age relocations. Discover how technology and society have transformed the way we change addresses.

7 min read

The History of Moving: How People Moved Homes Through the Ages

Picture this: You're surrounded by cardboard boxes, packing tape is stuck to your hair, and you're wondering how on earth you accumulated so much stuff. Moving house is a pain in the backside, but at least we have trucks, professional movers, and or to help us out. But have you ever wondered how our ancestors managed this whole relocation gig? Grab a cuppa and settle in, because we're about to take a wild ride through the history of moving house.

Prehistoric nomadic societies (Before 10,000 BCE): The original tiny house movement

moving - prehistoric nomads

Back in the day – and I mean way back – our ancestors were the original minimalists. These prehistoric nomads were like, "House? Nah, mate, we'll just take our home with us." They were the OG tiny house movement, except their tiny houses were probably made of animal skins and mammoth bones.

These hunter-gatherers were always on the move, following herds of animals and seasonal food sources. Their version of packing was basically, "If you can't carry it, you don't need it."

Moving day for these folks was probably announced by the tribe leader grunting and pointing at the horizon. No "two weeks' notice" for these early renters. It was more like, "Pack your spear, we're off!"

Ancient civilisations (3000 BC - 500 AD): "Honey, I think the neighbours are building a pyramid"

moving in ancient Egypt

Fast forward a few thousand years, and humans decided that maybe staying in one place wasn't so bad after all. Ancient civilisations like Egypt, Greece, and Rome popped up, and with them came the concept of permanent homes. But that didn't mean people stopped moving.

In ancient Egypt, if the Pharaoh decided he wanted a new pyramid, guess who had to pack up and move to the construction site? That's right, the entire workforce and their families. Talk about a company-mandated relocation!

The ancient Greeks and Romans were a bit more sophisticated about it. They had carts pulled by oxen or horses for moving their stuff. Imagine trying to parallel park that on a busy Roman street. And you thought finding a spot for the removalist truck was hard!

Medieval period (500 - 1500): Movin' on up (the feudal ladder)

moving house in the medievil period

The Middle Ages brought us knights in shining armour, castles, and the feudal (land-based) system. It also brought us a whole new way of not moving. During the feudal era, the majority of individuals were bound to the land they cultivated. Moving house often meant moving up the social ladder, which was about as easy as trying to get a perfect avocado at Woolies.

For the lucky few who did move, it was usually by cart or pack animal. Imagine trying to fit your moving home essentials like entire Ikea bedroom set on the back of a donkey. Actually, medieval furniture was probably easier to assemble than Ikea, so maybe they had it easier after all.

Age of exploration and colonisation (1500 - 1800)

moving in the colonisation period

The Age of Exploration was like the ultimate season of "The Amazing Race," except instead of a million dollars, the prize was spices, gold, and other peoples land. It was also the era of some serious long-distance moves.

Picture this: You're an explorer in the 1500s. Your moving truck is a wooden ship that may or may not make it across the ocean. Your GPS is basically the stars. And your "new home" is a completely unknown continent. Makes moving interstate seem like a walk in the park, doesn't it?

For the colonists who followed, moving was a one-way ticket. They packed their entire lives into a few trunks and set sail for months. No "oops, I forgot my favourite mug" and turning back for these folks.

Industrial revolution (1760 - 1840): Full steam ahead

moving industrial revolution

The Industrial Revolution changed everything, including how we moved house. Suddenly, there were trains! You could move your stuff further and faster than ever before. It was like the invention of the teleporter, but with more coal and top hats.

This era also saw the birth of professional moving services. No longer did you have to bribe your mates with beer and pizza to help you move. Now you could pay someone else to throw out their back lifting your ridiculously heavy wardrobe!

The Industrial Revolution also kicked off a massive wave of urbanisation. People were moving from farms to cities faster than you can say "smog-filled streets and questionable sewage systems." It was like a giant game of musical chairs, except instead of chairs, it was tiny, overcrowded apartments.

20th century (1900 - 1945): World wars and wheels

moving house in the 1930s

The early 20th century brought us World Wars, the Model T Ford, and a whole new way of moving house. Cars and trucks revolutionised the moving industry. Suddenly, you could pack up your entire house and move it across the country without having to worry about your oxen getting tired.

This era also saw the standardisation of moving boxes. Before this, people just kind of shoved their stuff into whatever containers they had lying around. Imagine trying to stack a bunch of oddly shaped baskets and tea crates in the back of a truck. It was like real-life Tetris, but with your great-grandmother's china set at stake.

Post-World War II era (1945 - 1970): Suburban dream or traffic nightmare?

moving house in the 1950s

After World War II, everyone decided that what they really wanted was a quarter-acre block in the suburbs. This led to a massive boom in suburban development and, consequently, a whole lot of moving.

The interstate highway system in the US (and similar developments in Australia) made long-distance moves easier than ever. It was like someone had laid out a giant Scalextric track across the country, except instead of tiny cars, it was moving trucks barrelling along with people's entire lives packed inside.

This era also saw the rise of the professional moving industry as we know it today. Looking for moving companies were faster than finding mushrooms after rain, all promising to handle your prized possessions with care (results may vary, as anyone who's ever unpacked a box of broken plates can attest).

Modern era (1970 - 2000): Containers and computers

moving house in the modern era (1970 to 2000)

The late 20th century brought us two major game-changers in the world of moving: shipping containers and computers.

Shipping containers revolutionised long-distance and international moves. Instead of unloading and reloading your stuff onto different trucks, trains, and ships, everything could stay neatly packed in one big metal box. It was like a giant game of pass-the-parcel, except the parcel was the size of a small house and contained everything you owned.

Computers made the logistics of moving much easier to manage. No more paper trails and lost inventories. Now, moving companies could track your stuff with pinpoint accuracy. Of course, this didn't stop them from occasionally delivering your kitchen boxes to the bedroom and vice versa, but hey, progress is progress.

The digital age (2000 - Present): There's an app for that

moving house in the digital age

Welcome to the age of smartphones, Wi-Fi, and asking the internet to solve all your problems. Moving in the digital age is a whole new ballgame.

Now, you can virtually tour your new home before you even set foot in it. You can book your entire move online without ever having to talk to another human being (introvert's dream, am I right?). There are apps to help you measure your furniture, plan your move, and even find temporary housing in your new city.

And let's not forget about platforms like, which help you find and compare moving services with just a few clicks. It's like Tinder, but instead of swiping right on potential dates, you're swiping right on potential movers. Much less chance of heartbreak, but probably about the same chance of disappointment if they show up late.

Future trends: Beam me up, Scotty?

moving house in the future

So, what's next in the world of moving? Well, unless Scotty finally perfects that teleporter, we're probably stuck with trucks for the foreseeable future. But who knows? Maybe Elon Musk will come up with a Hyperloop for furniture. "Melbourne to Sydney in 40 minutes, and we'll bring your couch too!"

Climate change might force us to rethink our moving patterns. Beachfront property might not be so appealing when it's underwater. We might see a rise in climate refugees, moving to escape rising sea levels or extreme weather. It's like the nomads of old, but instead of following the herds, we're fleeing from Mother Nature's temper tantrums.

Virtual and augmented reality could make long-distance moves easier to plan and execute. Imagine being able to virtually place your furniture in your new home before you even move in. No more realising too late that your oversized couch won't fit through the door!

The more things change, the more they stay the same

As we've seen, the way we move has changed dramatically over the centuries. From nomadic tribes carrying everything they owned on their backs to digital nomads who can work from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection, the concept of "home" and how we move it has evolved.

But some things remain constant. Moving is still stressful. It's still a pain to pack and unpack. And no matter how advanced our technology gets, there's always going to be that one box that goes missing or that one piece of furniture that just won't fit through the door.

So the next time you're knee-deep in packing peanuts and wondering why you own so many novelty mugs, take a moment to appreciate how far we've come. At least you're not trying to strap your entire life to the back of a wooly mammoth or sail across an uncharted ocean to your new home.

And hey, if all else fails, you can always just sell everything you own and live in a van. After all, sometimes the best way to move forward is to go back to our nomadic roots – just with better Wi-Fi and fewer sabre-toothed tigers.

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