Some people love it, others dread it, or even hate it: packing your stuff in boxes and moving! However, if you are moving abroad, it is inevitable. Whether you decide to leave most of your belongings at home or decide to take everything with you, you’ll need to go through the process of decluttering your items, selling some (bigger) possessions, and packing everything you own.
To help you out we’ve created a simple 6-step process to prepare for an overseas move. With tips from fellow expats, straightforward advice from Minimalista Mover (@minimalistamoving), and a sparkle of joy from Marie Kondo. In other words, if you follow our 6 steps, you’ll be a packing-pro before you even jump on that plane :-).
Step 1: Start on time
If you want to avoid stress, set out to prepare and declutter early. Whether you use a moving company or not, do yourself a favor and start organizing your belongings on time (with overseas shipments, we recommend beginning 60-90 days before your planned departure). Ines from Minimalistamover on the importance of starting on time: “Do not wait to declutter until you have moved. Start packing early; you will save money and gain focus”. Think about the items you want to bring, what you’ll need, and start putting things away that you might like to sell or donate.
Step 2: Declutter and downsize
Often first-time expats make the mistake of bringing all their belongings to their new destination.
Fellow expat Caroline shares her experience: “If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t move all my belongings, including things like kitchen appliances. Our container arrived after six weeks of living in Sydney, and in the meantime, we bought everything we needed. 96 boxes arrived in one day, and with our Sydney apartment being a lot smaller than our Amsterdam apartment – it was quite an event”.
When it comes to packing your stuff, make smart decisions and think about what you would really need in a new country. Do yourself a favor and declutter and downsize before you move. When your move is confirmed, set some time aside on the weekends and go through your stuff. Marie Kondo suggests tidying by category (instead of per room), for example organize all your clothes at once. Kondo is also a huge advocate of selecting your items based on the emotional response: Through the process of selecting only those things that inspire joy, you can identify precisely what you love – and what you need.
In other words, when decluttering your home, really think about whether you need the item or if it gives you joy. You might not need that weird little souvenir that you bought on a trip years ago, but if it gives you joy and, most importantly, makes you feel at home – take it with you! When in doubt, you probably won’t miss it. Any items you don’t want or need anymore can be sold, donated, or thrown out.
Pro tip: If there are items that are important to you but won’t be of use in a new country, you could consider storing them. However, storage can be expensive (especially if you keep it for several years), and on top of that, items that might seem important to you now might not mean anything to you in two years’ time. So, really consider if it is worth paying a monthly rent for a space to store your belongings.
Step 3: Make an inventory list.
Before everything is packed, make an inventory list of your belongings. To help you, you can download an inventory spreadsheet free here. To complete your inventory list, take pictures of everything. For clothes and, for example, kitchen supplies, you can just take a picture of the closet or cupboard. But for meaningful (and expensive) items, it is advisable to take individual photos. If you have receipts of the more expensive items, take pictures of those too.
Save all your photos and the inventory list on your computer and store them in a physical folder. If you need to submit a claim with your insurance company – you will have everything in one place and easily accessible. Your welcome ;-).
Step 4: Find a relocation service
There are many international moving companies to choose from when moving your stuff. Finding the right one can be overwhelming. Make sure you do your research and talk to at least four or more companies. Some people opt-in for the more prominent, well-known International moving companies, others, like Ines (@minimalistamoving), go for a local moving company: “Contact a moving company from the country where you will be moving too. They know the rules for their country better”.
Compare international moving companies via Sirelo. You can find reviews from thousands of people and request quotes from moving companies through their website.
Reading online reviews can be helpful, but don’t get too discouraged by horror stories. Lost or damaged items can happen with any moving company.
In the end, only you can decide on the right company for you, whether you make that decision based on lead times, prices, or service. And please, whatever you do, make sure you cover yourself with the appropriate insurance!! Read everything about shipping your items overseas in 3 Things to know about shipping your items overseas.
Step 5: Stay on top of the movers
When the movers arrive to pack up the boxes, the journey is only the beginning. So don’t sit back and relax just yet. Stay on top of the move, and make sure your moving manager keeps you informed about the shipment status. Be proactive about paperwork, and make sure you always have everything handy. Answer questions from the moving company or custom-clearance agencies swiftly, so you don’t cause any unnecessary delays.
Once everything arrives safely, make sure to take pictures of any broken or damaged items straight away and lodge an insurance claim within a couple of days (you don’t want to submit it too late, as there are often strict deadlines!).
Step 6: Enjoy unpacking
If you’ve done step 2 properly, unpacking all your boxes will be a joyful experience. Seeing all your clothes, furniture, and pictures that make you happy will help you feel at home quickly.
So enjoy the unpacking and see it as a great new start – creating a new life in a new country. The first few months abroad can be difficult, and having a place that feels like home can make a huge difference!
Another quick tip: make sure to hang up any picture frames or artwork within the first week; it will make a huge difference in making your new place feel like home.
- Label boxes properly and even consider color-coding them per room. Knowing the content quickly will help the movers and enables you to decide which boxes to unpack first.
- If you have kids, let them “pack” their stuff. Even if it is only one box with their favorite toys, it will help them process the move. Same with unpacking, give them the opportunity to create their own new space and unpack their favorite items.
- Take out batteries. Batteries can leak when unused for a long time, so better take them out of any devices you are packing.
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Moving and packing your belongings is an essential part of your moving abroad experience and one that people often get overwhelmed with. Our 6 steps will be a great way to prepare you and help you with organizing your move. Remember that when it comes to packing your stuff, less is more. It might be an emotional step for you to say goodbye to some of your belongings, but trust us when we say that those feelings will be replaced with relief and excitement once you arrive at your destination. And hey! Shopping in a new country can be really fun, so maybe reward yourself with a little shopping spree once you arrive ;-).