Sorting out Your Paperwork and What to Note During Your In-Home Survey
Two distinct but connected topics as your path towards Packing Day is one way; and it’s coming up soon.
You may be a supremely organised person who deals promptly and efficiently with all your paperwork as soon as you have some. Or you may be like me; stuffing it randomly into a drawer to file another day… most likely, that ‘another day’ is when you next have to move house…
The first part of this episode is all about organising your paperwork for disorganised people!
In the second part of this episode, I’ll take you through step by step, what happens with your in-home survey: when the removal company’s assessor comes to take stock of what you’ll be shipping.
Lots of useful hints and tips for those of you who don’t move overseas with just two suitcases!
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.
Hi, welcome back. I'm continuing with the preparations for packing day on the podcast at the moment, and in this episode I'm sharing two distinct but connected topics. We looked at decluttering in the previous episode and I touched on the fact that paperwork is something that can really build up. So I'm going to look today at a quick way of sorting through your paperwork. Well, I say quick. It depends on how organized you are. And the other one I'm looking at is preparing for the in home survey.
You're on the path now to packing day and actually moving. Oh, my God, it's happening soon! You need to keep at it by being organized and methodical this can become as stress free as possible. Now, I'm not promising totally stress free, it's moving, it's moving to another country, it is inherently stressful. But I've got some tips and tricks and advice and tried and tested methods that can help you organize yourself. It does make me laugh because I am so disorganised personally, but I can tell other people how to do it.
And the thing is, I've also recently spoken to quite a few people who just move with a handful of suitcases, which does really baffle me, but we're all different. And if you're one of those people who move light, then perhaps only the first part of this episode will be relevant to you sorting out the paperwork. The second part is how to prepare yourself for the removal companies in home assessment. Now, as I say, you may well be supremely organized person who deals promptly and efficiently with all your paperwork as soon as you get some, or you may be like me stuffing it randomly into a drawer to file another day, most likely that another day is when you next have to move house.
I wish I was kidding. Paperwork sorting is a thankless task, and that's why I recommend tackling it well ahead of time. So if you're like me, sorting out your paperwork is possibly going to be your main challenge.
Go on, be brave. Set out a good batch of uninterrupted time to get this task done. Uninterrupted being the key point things that you will need time sorting. Paperwork works best when you have a good, solid amount of time to devote to the task without distraction and without interruption. Easier said than done, I do realise. But just see what you can do to get some sort of filing system, whether those are box files or envelopes or something that you can keep everything together.
This is to store the important stuff and files, to store the semi important stuff and so on. I'll explain what those are in a moment.
Paperweights basically something that you can use to keep all the piles of paper safely together in case you get interrupted. Have to rush away or with me, my cats like to sneak in for a little devastating playtime.
A camera or scanner. You can save space and take photos or scan important documents and save them on your computer. If you have an iPhone, you can use the notes app on there to scan your documents. Basically, you create a new note, tap the camera icon to choose the scanning option and then you can scan your document. It makes it easier to email. It will save in a format that you can email to yourself. It's best to store them in the cloud rather than directly on your hard drive.
And that also means that you can get access to them wherever you are in the world. You could steal them on a USB stick if that's easier for you. I've had so many computers die on me over the years that I've also taken to emailing certain document copies to myself as well and storing the little folder in my general email system. It just means that I can find them wherever I am, even if I don't have an Internet connection. I've got the phone data.
If you have a shredder, you'll find this very useful. So what you do next is to dig out every single scrap of paperwork that you have in various drawers, folders, cupboards, everywhere. All of the paperwork put it all into one place and then sort it into piles like this. So you'll have one pile of, say, financial papers, bills and bank statements, another pile of important documents. And I'll tell you what, those might be in a moment.
Another pile of semi important documents, another pile of not even remotely important documents and a separate pile for what on earth is that document and why do I still have it? And another pile of receipts and other pieces of paper that you intended to get around to dealing with. And what you do know is to work through just one pile at a time and then repeat. So start with a pile that fits the time that you have available. Not much time, a small pile, loads of time, big pile.
But working on only one pile at a time is the most important point here. It is so easy to lose track if you stop and start now going through this one stack of papers, separate them further into three more piles so you move all the other bits of paper either way for the time being and you're just working on one pile and that gets separated into keep, to deal with, and to trash and just quickly separate them out. At this point, you can read through them properly in a moment.
The key point here is to clear as many of the papers as possible, as quickly as possible.
And like I say, you might get interrupted. So what you're doing here is preparation. Anything that is clearly trash, trash it away. Bin it as you. Go put your to deal with pile in a special file so that you can actually deal with them and deal with them as a matter of urgency, preferably as you go.
Otherwise they will end up being moved with you and then shred file or store with the keep pile scan or photograph each document to make a digital record, create several backups of this whichever form you prefer, and then file them or dispose of them depending on just how important they are. For receipts. And I'm so guilty of this. I've got boxes of receipts for items that went just broke or sold many, many years ago. Go through your receipts to sort out the important ones from the items long gone, paper receipts for valuable items in a separate file.
And take these with you in your hand luggage in case you need to make an insurance claim during your move and again, make a digital backup copy of the important receipts. No, when I mention important documents, they could vary depending on your life and your lifestyle. But one of the most vital things to prepare for when relocating is to have easy access to your important documents, whether these are hard copies saved in the cloud, scanned and saved onto a USB stick, or preferably all of the above, you need to make sure that you have access to them easily and quickly.
If anything does happen, or even just for everyday purposes, you need to be able to get hold of them instantly, carry them with you in your hand luggage, as well as ensuring you have instant online access to them. So, for example, if your flight gets diverted and you need access to your bank account or to talk to the pet relocation agent urgently, you've got easy access to everything. And these important documents usually include things like the medical records for everybody, dental records for all members of the family, vaccination records for you and for your pets, copies of all passports and visas, financial records, your wills, property information, school records.
No, not yours. You cluttered those last week. We know that the current ones for the kids, some schools asked for them. Some schools don't. Insurance documents, including any no claims bonuses. You have all your tax details. So you need your tax number, your national insurance number, any self-assessment, tax information. Now, while I'm in filing mode, make sure to save all your contact, email addresses, phone numbers and addresses, make a backup of your email system.
Sometimes they just go and everything disappears. You do not want to lose these due to some kind of glitch, but there are ways to make backups of your email addresses. Just check out your own system and you'll find it. Also, note contact details for where you're going before any kind of emergency happens, especially in this global pandemic world we're living in at the moment. Unexpected occurrences can happen on flights. You may end up getting stuck in a country that you're not intending to.
So make a note of all the contact numbers for the important people and businesses in your new country that you need to have contact details. So these would include your children's school and you and your partners workplaces so you can contact them in an emergency if necessary. There is nothing worse than something happening or going wrong. And you flapping around trying to find the right number, especially in a foreign country, is all about being prepared. So that's how to do the paperwork.
Just be methodical, organised and plod through. Now onto getting your home and more importantly yourself prepared for the in-home survey. Actually, before I go there, I want to suggest a shopping trip. Yeah, I know. I'm sorry. You've been cluttering like mad, and now I'm suggesting you go off and get more stuff.
What is this? Carole. You may need to get special clothes if you're moving to an intensely different climate. Hopefully you'll have done enough research and will already have this stuff in the home already. I just want to quickly remind you of a couple of other things that you may not have considered stocking up on.
Not everything you need may be available in your new country. You may be surprised at the very high cost of certain items, especially if they are imported, even if they're available at all. One of the most commonly sought after items in some countries are good quality children's shoes. We actually had to take some extra large sizes with us when we moved to Japan from England because we discovered a very specific style issue was required as part of the school uniform at the school my daughter was going to.
But that style wasn't actually available in Japan or her uniforms had to be ordered from America. It was a very strange set up. And in Germany, the only footwear that seemed to be available for kids was trainers. Now I'm a non-standard sized person. I'm six foot tall. I find it hard enough to buy clothes that fit in my own country. Can you imagine the fun I had in Japan where I was basically a giant women's shoes in Japan only go up to a UK size five and my not enormous size eights were only available in the men's department.
So I tend to take more shoes and clothing than most people would normally would because I just know that it's not going to be possible to find anything anywhere else.
Another one, this one for the ladies. You may find that your preferred sanitary wear is also worth stocking up on. Not all options are available in all countries. So take a supply with you right back to the in-home survey. Just a reminder on what this is. Your removals company needs to get a proper estimate of exactly what you are moving from your home to give you an official quote, apart from finding out how much it will cost you, it gives the removal company an idea of what size lorry to send and what size shipping container you'll need.
In our case. It also helps to make sure that we don't go over our permitted allowance. We have a set weight allowance to ship in our container. And if we go over that, we have to pay a lot of money, kind of like an excess baggage.
Fine, and we don't want to pay them.
So one reason for all that is cluttering has been to allow the assessor from your removal company to get a realistic idea of how much you will be shipping. The other reason is to get you prepared for this. For most people, this will be straightforward. If you're moving everything from one home to another, it's much easier because you're basically just saying we'll take it all for others and this includes us. We don't take furniture or white goods with us as we move into furnished homes.
However, this furniture doesn't include such items as kitchen equipment, crockery and so on TV toy boxes, coffee tables. So when we move from one of these furnished houses, I need to know which items of furniture are going. My computer chair, my computer desk, for example, and which is not the sofa, the bed and so on. I use the term rationalise and I don't know why, but that is my shorthand way of describing how to separate all of your different packing locations.
What is going on the ship? What is being sent by airfreight, what you're packing your suitcases and what's going in your hand luggage? Personally, I find this event really stressful as the survey usually takes place long before I'm ready, long before I'm probably too cluttered or anywhere near prepared. I get irrational about rationalizing. Basically, you need to be extremely clear about what is going where and what is staying behind. You don't have to physically move it all either way, but you do need to know the details.
There is some room for manoeuvre with a few extra boxes of clothes or toys when it finally comes down to it. But it's not a good idea to change. Change your mind about moving a piano when you were originally said you were not? Well, not without a lot of extra expense on organization. However, it's better for the surveyor to overestimate than to underestimate underestimating costs you money. So what happens during the in home survey or the in-home assessment? The assessor or estimate or visit your home sometime before your move to calculate the cubic capacity of all the items to be shipped?
They are experts at this. I can tell at a glance how much space something will take up. They arrive with a clipboard and a pre-printed sheet of paper or several sheets of paper listing standard household items. All they may have something cool and digital depending on the company. They walk around the house with you writing up what is to be taken and what isn't. And as I say for us, this is complicated by us not moving any of our fixtures and fittings and furniture.
So if you're in a similar position, you do need to be alert the entire time and not miss anything. And the language differences always make this an interesting experience. Once the assessment is completed, the company will work out the space required and how much it will cost. And then we'll send you the official quote. Now, here are some points on specific items to note when preparing for the in-home survey. As you do the home walk around antiques, heirlooms and valuables, most removal companies prefer the priceless heirlooms be taken with the owner, if at all possible.
And then the responsibility is out of the hands, of course. But this might not be practical. If these items must be loaded onto the truck, inform the assessor now about their importance so they'll take extra precautions, make sure you have sufficient insurance cover for those two. On our last move, we were provided with an unbreakable metal box in which to pack all my antique Japanese porcelain into. I stood over the packer as he did it. He was extremely careful.
It was beautifully done. Once everything was packed into it, it was locked with a padlock and I was given the only keys to it. I then had to keep those keys safe for the next two or three months before it was all delivered at the other end. So that was fun. I did it, though, and I remember valuable jewellery and other small items must be carried on the plane with you and don't forget to insure them separately as necessary clothing.
We estimate that at least three quarters of the family's clothes will go on the ship. It's generally a little more. Some extra clothes and shoes do go into our airfreight and the rest we take in our luggage. Now, if you've kept up with me, you'll know that your suitcases that you take on the plane very rarely end up with space for clothing. And that's why we send some via air freight. You have the option of choosing ordinary boxes or special hanging wardrobe boxes.
I recommend ordinary boxes. I found the hanging boxes don't hold anywhere near as much as the standard boxes do. They take up a lot of space in the container. So you end up paying more and there's no guarantee that the clothes will arrive neat and crisp anyway.
If you have any flat pack furniture and an experienced assessor can estimate how much space the currently assembled it originally flat packed furniture will take up once disassembled. You must dismantle anything that collapses before the Packers arrive. Generally, they will not do it for you. They don't have the time. Don't forget to pack tools to put it all back together again and all the little screws and bits and bobs ago put it all back together. What I recommend you do when you're dismantling your desk or your piece of furniture carefully bag up all the little screws, bolts, doodads, etc.
tape the bag securely to the item of furniture they belong to. If you also happen to have the instructions. Well, well done. For a start, put them in the bag as well and then tape the back down some more. And then when you unpack it at the other end, all you need to do is to use the back of figments to put it all back together again. Bicycle's also have to be taken apart before they're shipped. Don't forget again to pack the necessary tools so that you can put them all back together at the other end.
Remember, though, if you're moving to somewhere with strict rules about importing soil outside items, for example, all bikes will have to go through a stringent decontamination process. Talk to your removal company about the right toiletries. Some moving companies permit the packing of toiletries, while others do not. It kind of depends on your route as well as the individual company. So ask first if you are allowed to take them. I wouldn't recommend taking half used toiletries, just brand new ones if.
You've got the left, make sure they're well packaged in airtight plastic boxes to avoid contamination if something bursts or breaks or leaks. Definitely no aerosols, though. And the garden. Don't forget to point out any garden ornaments or furniture that you'll be taking. And don't forget to include any items in the attic, under the stairs, in the garage or other hidden storage areas. Ask the assessor about any special treatment these items may need so you can start processing that now.
So what happens after you've done the walk around and the home survey? Once the survey is being completed, you'll be sent the details and quote for you to confirm and sign off. Please read it very, very carefully. You need to make sure it looks accurate to you and that nothing major has been missed off. For example, a lot of ours. I forgot to include all the items in the garage, even though they've done the walk around and written them down.
When somebody transferred the information, it was just completely missed off. That was a whole room of stuff. Take a photo of it to keep with you and you will need this unpacking and unpacking day. And then you get given a date for packing date. Oh, my God. It's really happening right now. The assessors have been you'll have a better idea of whether you need to offload even more items or not.
Perhaps you've managed to slim down your belongings to within a reasonable amount of time. You can feel relaxed in your final weeks before the move. If so, well done. A quick comment about packing it yourself. Don't just don't. I've gone into why I don't recommend this before. However, there are certain items I do recommend packing for yourself.
I know I'm contradictory. I have many tiny we need little ornaments and jewellery and other small special items. I prefer to pack certain objects myself, mainly because they are so tiny. It's quicker than leaving it to the Packers. For these I use sheets of kitchen roll or tissue paper and sturdy plastic boxes or cardboard boxes such as shoe boxes. Shoe boxes are an ideal size for this sort of thing. I wrap each of my little knickknacks and pack them into the box and I seal the box and clearly market as ornaments, bedroom or ornaments.
Office don't mark a box with jewellery, just use ornaments. You know what they are. I obviously do this for costume and inexpensive jewellery. Of course, anything valuable comes with me and my hand luggage. Here's a quick tip for packing necklace chains, which have a horrible habit of tangling themselves into knots, unknown to humans.
Get some straws. Yes, you have my straws. Drinking straws feed one end of the chain through the straw and redo the clasp, pat the straw craft necklaces into a box and they'll never be able to get knotted again.
Those are my tips for sorting out your paperwork and a few tips for the in-home survey. And everything's now all coming together. Ready for packing day is actually happening. The in-home survey is to list everything that you'll be shipping, so you need to know exactly what that is and what isn't. And don't forget the garden shed, garage and attic. It's really easy to miss these places. I have some very heavy stone Japanese ornaments that I'm constantly forgetting to tell people about.
It is all right. They got here in the end. And as I said just now, once the assessment is completed, a company do all their math and then send you the official quote. Please make sure you check this over carefully before signing it as this is your contract with a removal company. If anything is missed off, deal with it immediately. And then what comes next? Well, you just keep on cluttering planning, taking time out to relax often.
I'll be back soon to let you know the best way to prepare and cope with packing day night. Don't forget, I've got fabulous resources available for you on ExpatChild.com. I've got packing lists. I've got my wonderful packing book and if it's all going to match, I've got my to do list buster. I will put a link to all these in the show notes. And if you're listening to this podcast that doesn't show you those show notes, just go and find the episode on Expatability dot net or find the resources on ExpatChild.com.
I'll be talking to you again soon. Have a good day. 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 favourite social media. Don't forget to join me next week for another episode. Until then, bye bye.