Decluttering Before a Move Overseas
Or just decluttering... you don't need to be moving home to have an occasional clear out of excess 'stuff'.
Decluttering is actually stage one of your preparation to move overseas!
Start as soon as you know you’re moving abroad. Whether that’s two years in advance or two months. Getting started is often the hardest part.
With tips, tricks and advice from someone who hates decluttering, but has had to do it often! Find out how to declutter with kids around, discover logical methods to make this necessary task easier and learn my one key mantra to help you make tough decisions.
Even if you’re not moving overseas, having an occasional clear out of the clutter really does help clear some mental space too.
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Welcome aboard the Expatability Chat podcast, helping expat parents navigate the challenges of moving and living overseas with Carole Hallett Mobbs expat life mentoring consultant and founder of ExpatChild.com.
Welcome back to Expatability Chat. So in the UK, we're back into lockdown once again, and along with a new year, I think it's about time to start having a bit of a clutter. Now, this isn't something I do regularly unless I'm moving, but I guess I got used to having a good old clear out, so to speak, every four years or so before I move overseas. Now, my urge is a bit more dictated by wanting to clear some mental space.
I'm a great collector of scraps of paper with very important scribbled notes on. I'm also a collector of absolutely gorgeous notebooks and planners, but the two never actually meet. So I'm changing that up. This year. I'm rewriting my scrapie notes into lovely notebooks categorized into different subjects. As I mentioned in my last podcast episode, 2020 was a big year of learning for me. I started doing lots of different challenges, learning about new ways of working, getting some ideas in my head for the future of ExpatChild.com Expatability.
And I just need to know actually put some of those into action. Now, people are still moving overseas during the pandemic and I'm continuing to support you all with a mix of practical and emotional help and advice via here the Expatability Chat podcast with my ExpatChild.com site, with my one-to-one services and in my private Facebook group. I'm always here for you. That's not going to change. So let's continue with the practical side of things for this episode as part of the preparation for moving out.
There's actually quite a strict order, which I recommend you do, to help you get packing day and moving out day, working most efficiently for you. So the order I recommend you do all this is start decluttering as soon as you can. It takes far longer than you can imagine, especially if you've lived in the same home for years. Next is paperwork. This really builds up. However digital you think you are, there will still be paperwork.
And I'll cover this in detail in another episode. Finding a removal company. I've already spoken about this with a whole episode dedicated to finding the right company for you. And plan your packing groups is the next one. And again, I've already covered this in a whole separate episode and remember, I have a full set of packing lists available on ExpatChild.com. These are basically shipping air freight luggage and hand luggage, the next stage is preparing for the in-home survey, also known as the removals estimate.
I've partially covered this in the removal company episode and the planning packing episode. I'll go into it in more detail in a later episode along with the following arrival packing. This is working out what you will need on arrival in your new country because this needs to be packed before you go as well. And then the countdown to packing day two to three weeks before the Packers arrive a day or two before the packing day and that day itself packing day. So de cluttering before moving overseas is something best started a very long way advance start as soon as you know that you're moving abroad, whether that's two years in advance or two months, of course, if you're emigrating permanently, your needs and wants will be very different from those of a family setting off on a finite placement.
The closer you leave de cluttering to moving day has one of two outcomes, you either take everything with you is you run out of time or you get carried away and check out stuff you really should have kept. I tend to fall into the latter category. It's not recommended. And definitely get a good start on de cluttering before inviting the removal companies, et cetera, around, otherwise it can get very complicated. Yes, we're taking that. No, we're not taking that, although I'm not sure about that one yet, is just too complex.
So don't worry, I'm not going to mention anything about sparking Joy. This is me. I don't live in a minimalistic home by any means. And those of you who have been on a zoom call with me will know this because I don't hide anything with one of those weird zoom backgrounds. You'll know how many bits and bobs I have behind me before you start decluttering. Make a plan, but don't spend too long thinking about it. Do not overthink it.
Decluttering is basically finding a balance between arriving at your new home and discovering the perfect spot for that piece of furniture you got rid of and saving a load of money with your removal company by not taking every single item from the back of your cupboards. Don't get distracted trying to assess whether it's worth financially worth shipping stuff that will be available to purchase in your new country. Yes, it's tempting to think about buying everything new when you get there for some reason is often men who think this, but you have to live as soon as you arrive.
You have to be able to sit on a sofa, which in the UK can take two months or more to get delivered. You have to cook meals almost from the moment you arrive who's got time to go out and totally restock an entire household in one day, even if you do have the money to throw at it. Mainly, though, having familiar items around will help you and your children feel more at home quicker. And that is really important.
The only items to truly consider in this, whether to take it or buy it new when we get their thought, are all your electronic items and this will depend on the voltage of your new country. We took no electronics from the UK to Japan because the voltage was simply too different. Yes, you can you step up or step down transformers. But they're ugly and they're bulky. And frankly, it is a right pain in the butt to keep pulling them out whenever you want to make a cake.
Oh, and TVs have different systems to. So find out about that. Oh, I've just remembered another point about this. People moving to the UK are often shocked to discover how small our houses are in general. Obviously there are big houses around, but they are somewhat smaller than you may be used to in a different country. They then discover that the huge furniture simply doesn't fit in. Literally, it will not fit through the door. And you know what I'm going to say?
Now, don't you? Do your research. So it does make sense to declutter before you move, but don't get sucked into the we can buy it all again, thought as a it's a waste of money if you already have the items and B, you want time to start enjoying your new life. On the other hand, you don't need to take absolutely everything, especially if you're a bit of a hoarder and still have things like your old school books and the pictures that your toddlers have drawn.
Getting started is often the hardest part, so create a sorting system if you have a lot of stuff that you know you need to get rid of her escape or a dumpster. This is particularly useful when you have lived somewhere for a long time, and especially when you need to tackle places such as the garage, the shed or the attic. You need to get four boxes. I like to get large plastic crates for this, preferably in different colours.
So you have four separate boxes for keep, donate bin and store. These boxes will always come in useful later on, which is why I like to buy the big plastic crates, stick labels on them with keep bin donate and store. The store box would be for items that you don't want to get rid of, but you also don't want to take them with you. Obviously this won't be necessary if you are not going to be storing anything in your home country when they move from Germany to South Africa.
I put all of my super winter clothes and snow boots into storage in the UK because obviously Africa is hot, isn't it? Well, no, I should have kept a few items with me because I discovered the winter in the African mountains is actually really cold. So each time we started cluttering session, have these four boxes with you or three, if you're not using storage and you need to make a decision on each item instantly. Once the box is the full deal with and straight away, then that means straight away, if you keep them hanging around, things will magically move from one box to the other.
Sometimes, as I say, it's better not to overthink. So you've been the rubbish, you put the keep items back where they belong. Ready for packing day and then it's up to you how you deal with the donate and storage items. I tend to put the donate and storage bits and pieces into separate piles in the spare room to save too many trips to the appropriate places, but try to deal with them all as soon as possible. As I say, it's all too easy for things to migrate back to the Cape area and then you just rinse and repeat as often as necessary.
When you're finished with your clattering boxes, keep them because they'll come in handy when it comes to preparing for packing day. Just want to make a comment about cluttering with kids around. It doesn't usually work out well for anyone. Children, especially young ones, have a great attachment to their toys and will resist your attempts to downsize their collection very strongly. An old broken plastic toy they haven't played with since early toddlerhood will suddenly become the main toy that they cannot ever live without.
So if possible, try to do the main bulk of toy clattering. Without your kids around, you have to be stealthy and remove all the true rubbish as soon as possible. However, I have found that children are naturally empathetic and are happy to know that their pre love toys can go to other children who need them. So if this works with your kids, capitalize on it, get them involved and donate as many as possible to charity shops and to hospitals and keep reminding them that your children are doing a good thing by passing their toys on to little kids who have more need of them than they do.
When you have your kids around, you may find it easier just to work on a small space at a time. Put aside just 15 minutes here and there to clear out small areas. So how do you decide what to keep, what to store and what to throw away? The absolute key phrase that works for me is, do I want to keep this? This was absolutely life changing for me. And I only learned about it on my last move, which is a real shame.
Before that, I was saying to myself, do I want to throw this away? And the answer was always no. But simply reframing by twisting that question to do. I want to keep it made a huge change in my head. And weirdly, a lot of times the answer is no. I don't really want to keep some of the tips are to be practical about what you're taking. Ask yourself the following questions. Will I use this in my new country?
Will my new lifestyle need this item? If I didn't have this in my new life, how much would I miss it? This seems to mostly sort out the essentials from the nonessentials, some people find it very hard for sentimental reasons to get rid of anything, and it is absolutely fine to be sentimental about objects. I have numerous special items that other people would consider absolute pointless rubbish little ornaments. I've gathered through my travels over the years, things I've collected like stones, feathers and porcupine quills.
And I am not a sentimental person at all. My husband, on the other hand, well, I made up an enormous bag of unloved teddies to donate with my daughter's blessing. She was fine with that. When I unpacked back home, I discovered my husband had packed them all. So we now have an enormous bag of teddies in the attic again. Mind you, he also kept her baby teeth. So there's no right or wrong way for doing this.
Well, apart from keeping teeth, I have no idea what he was thinking.
The truth is there are risks attached to shipping your belongings overseas. If you own something irreplaceable, then consider how long you are moving for and whether you have somewhere secure to store it. Here are some questions to ask yourself about the very sentimental items. Firstly, of course, do you want to keep it? How upset would you be if it got lost or damaged? Consider carrying it with you in your hand luggage, if possible. Will it make you happy to have this item with you in your new life abroad, or would it be better to leave it safely in storage. If you had forgotten it was even there?
Definitely get rid of it. Still not sure. Sleep on it. Sleep helps clarify decisions. You can always swap the item from box to box if you change your mind in the morning. Just don't spend too much time pondering otherwise that you find that you end up taking everything with you just in case. Make sure all the boxes are labelled very clearly. You don't want the keep box to be accidentally binned. And yes, it happens. There are various methods of decluttering, some people prefer to declutter one whole room at a time, and some like to declutter categories of items some people declutter as part of their daily life.
Others may can just about manage one tiny space at a time until last minute panic takes hold and then either throw everything away or take everything with us. Neither of the latter options is recommended. The two main methods are room by room or category by category. I think working through your home room by room is possibly the most efficient way to declutter, but with everything else you've got going on right now with children day to day family life, you may find it easier to clutter a small area at a time rather than tackle an entire room.
If you prefer to declutter by category, then gather items together. Are all the same. So all clothes together, all shoes together, all books together, books, for example, maybe in several rooms, kids toys are likely to be in all rooms. Putting similar items together in one place makes it easier to see the sheer quantity of those things and also highlights possible duplicates. And you can then make quick decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of.
Choose whichever method suits you best. Whichever method works for you gives you a huge sense of accomplishment as you complete each task and a combination will probably work for you as it does for me. You actually start by tidying up, tidy everything that's in the wrong place. For example, put all books on the bookshelves, remove anything from bookshelves that isn't a book. This will be good for a couple of reasons. Firstly, you won't find the packers dropping books onto delicate ornaments that happened to be on a bookshelf.
Yeah, that happened to me. And secondly, when the packers arrive, they work on the room by room basis. So all items in the kitchen will be boxed up and labeled kitchen pans or room 2 books. It makes life much easier for you when you unpack at the other end, relocate all items that don't belong in a specific room. Always interesting when you have teenagers move all items from the room you're working on back to the room where they belong, threaten or bribe family members to keep it like this.
During your remaining time in your house, one step at a time is better than no steps. Or you may find it easier to go all out and get it all done as quickly and as intensely as possible. As I say, there is no right or wrong way of doing it. It's just necessary. So do cluttering room by room for every room. Start by removing clutter that doesn't belong in that room and put it in its correct place. As you're doing it, you say, does it belong here?
No. Am I going to put it away or am I going to throw it away and use this mantra in each room? This is general tidying up, really. And it's something that seems to be a bit alien in my family. As you tidy up, try to declutter as you go. So get your big boxes out and your bin bags you're going in. The living room is probably the most frequently used area in the house, apart from the kitchen.
Also, the living room seems to be the room that most stuff that doesn't belong here wanders into a mysterious fashion. It's actually quite an easy room to get on top of. So let's start with that. Dining rooms seem to be the most well, in my experience. I don't have one, so I'm just going to go by what I've seen in other people's homes, take the opportunity to go through the items there to check if you really do want or need to move them to your new home.
Kitchen. Well, now we're getting into difficult territory. Clearing the kitchen is far more daunting than anywhere else, I'd recommend leaving it until last. As there's a lot of stuff in here and you need to keep using most of it until you leave. Don't replace rarely used food stuffs. Start that quite a way back. Can you really go through all those herbs and spices before you leave? You can have a bit of a go now if your kitchen is stuffed with stuff.
Mine. Yeah, guilty as charged and you can come back for a final do you clatter near a packing day, look through the cupboards. Do you really need to keep that set of cheese knives that you received as a gift many years ago? What about that pasta maker? Have you actually ever used it, though? Possibly the only person in the world that has pots and pans keep the good stuff plan on getting rid of the cheap stuff when you move out and the same with everything else, really, and plan to use up your ingredients before you move.
You can't take food with you and it's a terrible waste if you don't have anywhere to pass them on when you actually do move out. Declaring a bathroom mainly requires purging the items on countertops, shelves and drawers much of the day to day stuff you'll be taking with you and your luggage in a wash bag. Anyway, if you are toiletries hoarder, who, me? you need to deal with it long before you move. Meaning don't buy anymore. Use things up.
If you have more than one bathroom, gather all the items together in one place so you can see what you have. You may discover that you've got enough soap to last through a zombie apocalypse or another lockdown.
Most shipping companies will not allow you to ship anything liquid, and that includes creams and lotions and definitely no aerosols. This makes sense when you consider the ship might be travelling through many different temperature zones.
Boom, messy. Not allowed to take aerosols. You can donate old or surplus towels to a local animal shelter who will be thrilled to receive them. And then onto bedrooms, and this is where times get tough because it's clothes clattering, what will the climate, culture and lifestyle be like in your new life? If you're moving from a cold country to a hot country, your needs will be very different to those moving in the opposite direction if you expect to move back or elsewhere in future.
It may be well worth keeping hold of certain climate specific items and placing them in storage or packing them up and taking them with you de cluttering your clothes and shoes and handbags and all that stuff means using an 80/20 rule.
80 percent of our clothes and shoes are worn, a mere 20 percent of our life or less.
Yeah, right. We know that's not going to happen anyway. I know it's hard, but always promised ourselves that we will wear them when we've lost those last few pounds. So ask yourself these kind of questions and be really strict with yourself. Does it fit? Have I want it in the last year, is it in good condition? Am I really going to fit into my pre child jeans again? Really, the kid's 16. No, it's not going to happen.
What about the fancy eveningwear? Will your lifestyle accommodate that? And do you really want or need to take your wedding dress to the other side of the world? If you answer no to any of those questions donate, throw still be brutally honest with yourself and let it all go. Wetsuit is fine if you're going to be near the sea and plan to travel and you plan to dive. Well, we didn't live by the sea ever. I personally have never dived and never going to. My husband's wetsuit.
Seem to travel with us for 12 years. Do you know what the most annoying part of that is? It still fits him. OK, continuing bed linen, it's worth taking a set of bed linen in your luggage so that you can make up beds in your new home and spend the first few nights in familiarity. And this is especially important for children to be aware, though, that bed sizes and their names differ from country to country. Your beautiful Egyptian cotton sheets may not actually fit the beds in your new country.
So that's the hard part out the way the clothes now I go back and do them again because I know you put some stuff in the keep when it should be in the donate go on I know. Onto the children's rooms here. Now you have to declare to the kids rooms, not easy. Charities always need kids clothes though. And children grow so quickly you'll probably find many don't fit anymore, let alone still fit in a couple of months when they arrive in their new country.
The toys and books, though only you can decide about what to do with these. Do keep back A few items to carry in your luggage show and maybe a few more in airfreight. I promise you, you will be thankful to be able to distract your kids. After just a few days in a new empty home, some families find it a bit of an uphill struggle getting rid of toys and treasures. First of all, take a look around their room and decide which items, no matter how small, cannot be replaced.
That'll be something like christening gifts or certain teddy bears, the toy that elderly granny gave them when they were born and things like that. Keep in mind that your belongings may arrive some considerable time after you've arrived in your new home. So bear in mind those items that your child would really miss if separated from for a few weeks. Don't forget, Teddy, try to pack all these into your suitcase or hand luggage instead. And the thing is, once everyone has lived for a few weeks in your new home without all the toys, two things actually happen.
Firstly, you'll realize just how much stuff your children possess and just how little they actually miss it when it's all not there. And then suddenly it all arrives again. When it does finally arrive, you can enjoy a couple of days of joy while they discover all of their forgotten toys. As for de cluttering a teenager's room, well, good luck with that. Teens can often be surprisingly sentimental about childhood bits and pieces. One day. The next day, they'll just dump it because it's no longer cool and then they'll be desperately looking for it a few months later.
I suggest that you get them to declare to their own rooms. It's much better for your health. Bribe them if necessary.
I find that simply the hint of me entering my teenager's room with a bin bag to the clutter has a surprisingly positive effect on her motivation. Once they're cluttering has done and it may take some time, just go with it, go through everything that has been thrown out and rescue anything valuable or that you find particularly sentimental. There's nothing wrong with keeping a few childhood memories, and you may also need to rescue certain items that you feel they may appreciate in years to come.
And depending on what mood the teenager was in when they were chucking stuff out is also really important to go through because you'll find things that are actually valuable or really important, because what happens is, like you, they get fed up with the whole day cluttering chaos. I've rescued things like a Nintendo DS, an iPod and even more from the big binbag before. Now on to places that you might easily forget about and would certainly be putting off the basement, attic, shed and garage, put aside a huge chunk of time for addressing these areas.
They aren't usually quick fixes, actually delegate them if possible. They can be very challenging places to clutter, especially, as I say, if you've lived there for a few years. Just a reminder about outdoor equipment, if you're thinking of taking things like bikes with you. Some countries, notably Australia and New Zealand, but others, too, will not permit the importation of anything that may conceivably carry soil, which in turn may carry contaminants and diseases.
Check the relevant websites about importation. There may be very, very specific decontamination procedures that these items have to go through and then be certified before being permitted to enter the country. You have to be really keen to take them. So consider carefully and look into the details very thoroughly. If any of these areas are inhabited by an avid sportsman, a DIY-er, a gardener, a hobbyist, a car tinkerer or similar, then you risk incurring some serious wrath.
If you attempt to do clutter without their input, something you see as junk may actually be a very important and expensive tool for adjusting and fixing a certain thingamajig. If this is the case in your family, let them get on with it, make them clear and clutter those areas themselves. You may have a home office or a workspace decluttering my office is my least favorite part of moving house because my office is my haven as well as my workspace.
This room is also my library and home to several collections of bits and little ornaments. Weird stuff I've collected. I actually pack these items myself into little boxes when I'm decluttering and then the little boxes get packed into bigger boxes. Hopefully you are more organized than me and I only have papers and a computer or similar to sort out. I'm going to talk about sorting through paperwork in another episode. So that's a quick overview or not that quick, but that's an overview of how to declutter and it really is important and it can be difficult when you've lived somewhere for a very long time.
It does make sense to declutter to before you move. You don't want to move overseas with excess stuff. Look at it as a chance for a new start with a clean slate. But please don't get rid of everything with the thought of completely starting over. Having your stuff with you helps you and your children feel at home so much more quickly. And you want to make this move as easy as possible for you. So some quick reminders. Make a plan before you start. Decluttering with kids is tough.
Even a little progress is better than throwing away two old magazines is progress. And remember the key phrase, do I want to keep this? And just keep repeating that with each item? These are my tips now that I've moved a fair bit. I am not a minimalist, tidy person. This is what's worked for me mostly. Just start and keep going. Whether you're moving or not is always a good idea to have a bit of a refresh of your home.
Good luck and I'll talk to you again soon. Bye bye. Thank you for listening to the Expatability Chat podcast. Please check out ExpatChild.com for more free information and resources and follow me on your favorite social media. Don't forget to join me next week for another episode. Until then, bye bye.