Moving Abroad? 9 Tips to Help You Declutter Your Home like a Boss

The prospect of moving house is daunting enough. When your new postal code happens to be in a new country, things get even trickier.

No more arsing about. You have to declutter your home for real.

If Sporty and I were to move abroad, we could probably pack in the morning and still arrive at the airport in time for a pre-boarding coffee.

Slight exaggeration, given that we recently acquired a washing machine, a bicycle and a pot plant, but you get the point. We travel light.

It wasn’t always like this. Prior to selling almost all our stuff in 2008 we were up to our ears in all the usual trappings that come with living in the modern world. We weren’t hoarders, but we definitely had more than we needed.

Adopting a minimalist lifestyle has shown us the value of owning less. Most notably, it’s made moving an almost pleasant experience. It’s also saved us money, made us happier, reduced our stress levels, the list goes on.

Recently, friends of ours announced that they were moving to New Zealand later this year. It’s a small country and very far away, but I hear it’s rather nice there. They have a lot to look forward to.

But first they have to get there and therein lies the rub.

It’s a super stressful time for them. What to take with and what to leave behind are questions they’re grappling with right now. It’s not easy to figure out, either. Along with weighing up the moving costs, there’s also the sentimental aspect to consider.

Like I said, not easy.

Whether you’re looking to retire abroad or are relocating for better work opportunities like our friends, fear not. All you need to get you from where you are to where you’d like to be is a solid plan and a lot of wine. 

I can tell you where to buy the wine, but formulating a plan will need the input of folks who’ve done this before. I trawled the blogosphere to find them.

You’re welcome.

Minimising Starts With These 2 Questions

Minimizing is always better than organising. Finding better ways to organize your stuff helps in the short-term, but before long you’ll find yourself facing the same task again. And again.

Joshua Becker —author of The Minimalist Home— suggests removing the items you don’t need, rather than just reorganising them. When you do that, he says, you’ll experience permanent benefits.

1. Essentialize 

Since she knew a few months in advance that they’d be moving abroad, Ashley from OLA systematically went through each room in their house, removing the non-essentials from the shelves and closets and putting them in boxes.

The boxes then got packed away and forgotten about. Ashley promised herself that if she didn’t go rooting around in them to look for something in the lead-up to their move, she’d donate the boxes without ever looking inside them again.

According to Ashley, by the time she and her husband donated the boxes they’d completely forgotten what was in them to begin with. Is that genius or what?

Read more >> Our Little Apartment

2. Scan and Shred 

The days of carting hard copies around with you are long gone. Aside from official documents like birth and marriage certificates, you really don’t need to hold onto actual printouts.

Nikki from SHR claims she spent a happy few evenings annihilating every tax invoice and utility bill she’d ever paid – whilst photographing the receipts in case anyone wanted to know about a payment she’d sent to the taxman in 1997.

She doesn’t say, but I’m sure she was quaffing vino at the time. I know we definitely would have. I mean, no more paper is a cause for celebration people.

Read more >> She Hit Refresh

3. Don’t Rush It 

It might seem obvious, but don’t rush the process. Humans have a knack for overestimating what they can do in a day. You might think cleaning out the garage will only take a morning, but c’mon.

Don’t start something you can’t finish. As the guys at Best Life say, you don’t have to do it all in one day. Finish the smaller tasks first and avoid doing anything part way. Very few people have the energy or focus to spend eight hours decluttering.

Rather than set aside one day to complete the task, break it down over a few days or weeks. Not only will this approach motivate you to do more, it won’t leave you feeling completely burned out by the process. Also, you’re less likely to lose your sense of humour.

Read more >> Best Life

4. Don’t Take Your Car with You 

Humans are also unreasonably attached to their cars. I get it. I loved my refurbished vee-dub, Joan. So much so that I put her on a train and sent her to Cape Town when we moved here in 2006.

When we eventually sold her the lump in my throat was so big I nearly choked. I’m not going to lie, there’s a small part of me that still wishes I could have her back. Fortunately, new me is way too practical to let that happen.

Vehicles are expensive and impractical at the best of times. Dragging one across the ocean with you is just nuts. As IAO says, it’s a long and laborious process filled with endless administration and expensive bills. In short, it’s not worth it.

The emigration consultants helping our friends relocate to New Zealnad are of a similar opinion. Along with incurring additional costs and unexpected fees, your driver’s seat might end up being on the wrong side of the car.

Look, I’m a no-car kind of person, you might not be. Rather than take my word for it, investigate the pros and cons of shipping a car overseas and make an informed decision based on your finding.

Read more >> Irish Around Oz

5. At Least Consider Selling Everything 

While you may have your heart set on taking your stuff with you, MM suggests spending at least a moment or two considering the extreme i.e. getting rid of everything and starting over.

Moving is expensive, so it’s worth at least running the numbers on what it would cost to replace everything when you get where you’re going.

Attachment to our belongings can make us unreasonable. A pros and cons list will help put things back in perspective. Sometimes, all it takes for common sense to prevail is to see the costs laid out in black and white.

Read more >> Miss Minimalist

6. One Memory Box Per Family Member 

Humans can’t bear the thought of parting with our things. Why? Because we’re inclined to store our memories in our stuff. Each item has a story behind it and we think getting rid of it will make the story vanish too.

You’re going to need to employ some tough love here. If you don’t, each family member is going to insist on taking their vast collection of stuffed animals, jerseys, DVDs or whatever, with them

Allocate one shoebox per person and that’s it. Whatever doesn’t fit in there, doesn’t go with. End of story. This is a great opportunity to find somewhere more practical to store yout memories.

Read more >> Overseas Packers

7. Throw a Housecooling Party 

Housewarming parties are popular for all the obvious reasons, so why not host a housecooling party when you leave your home? Have an open house and invite your friends, family, neighbours, etc. to stop by.

They can avail themselves of the free beer and snacks (or whatever you decide to serve) with the proviso that they take something with them. It can be anything: a houseplant, food, books, magazines, whatever.

This idea is courtesy of Patricia from Tales from a Small Planet, but it too came from the article linked below.

Read more >> Overseas Packers

8. Make an Inventory of Everything 

This idea will appeal to the spreadsheet geeks and cause the rest of you to break out in hives. Do it anyway. Having an inventory of everything you own and what you plan to do with it will help you keep tabs on how your decluttering is going.

It makes locating things really easy and it’ll help you remember what you’re planning to do with a particular item. When you have a lot of stuff you won’t necessarily remember if was earmarked to sell or if you’d promised it to your mother-in-law.

TPW goes into a fair amount of detail, so be sure to click through to her website to check out her tips and take a gander at the screenshot of spreadsheet. It’s pretty impressive.

I think it is, anyway, but I’m not the Excel guru in the fam.

Read more >> The Portable Wife

9. The Four-Box Method

When Joshua and his wife first set out on their downsizing journey, the four box method was their go-to technique for decluttering. It’s as simple as it is smart.

Each time you start on a new area to declutter, get yourself four boxes. Label them trash, give away, keep, or relocate.

Everything in that room has to go into one of the boxes. No exceptions. Some areas will be quick, while others will take much longer. The principle remains the same, though. Carefully consider each item and then place it in one of the boxes.

Rinse and repeat. Easy peasy.

Read more >> Becoming Minimalist

What About Pets?

cat in
Photo by Luku Muffin on Unsplash

I’m not for an instant suggesting your pets should be lumped into the same category as the rest of your household items. I just figured since we’re talking about moving abroad, it’s worthwhile mentioning them here.

You love your animals and can’t imagine leaving them behind, but is taking your pet on an airplane worth the risk? Along with being stressful, it can also be dangerous for them.

I’ll be honest, Sporty and I aren’t fans of the idea. However, if you feel your friend has the emotional wherewithal to deal with the move, the The Dodo has some practical tips on how make that happen.

Additional Reading

Declutter Tips: How to Tell If You Have Too Much Stuff >> Mostly Mindful

Too much stuff doesn’t just clutter up your house, it hinders productivity, stresses you out, and makes you less sociable. These tips will help you figure out if you have too much stuff.

Downsizing is proving a struggle for Richard and his 37 jerseys. >> An English Woman Abroad

This one’s just amusing. Enjoy.

The 12 Things Every Expat Needs To Do Before Moving Abroad >> Forbes

Moving abroad is about more than just figuring out how to declutter your home. There are all sorts of practicalities that need to be thought through, taken care of, and arranged.

From unlocking your cell phone and double checking visa requirements, the article covers the things you more than likely didn’t think of in your excitement to sell your stuff and bugger off.

How to Organize, Pack, Find a Job and Move to Another Country >> The Spruce

The Spruce is like a rabbit hole of super useful information. Each article links to another five equally helpful articles. It may even be worth your while to go straight there and not come back here.

No, wait, don’t go. Come baaaaaaaack.

Featured image by yousef alfuhigi on Unsplash