Take it from someone who’s moved over 100 times in her life that somehow when you move — even if you’re not materialistic — you become attached to your THINGS! Sentimental things like your high school yearbook, Barbie dolls, sports jerseys and photos (that you haven’t looked at in years!) become items you can’t possibly get rid of. Practical goods that you’re not sure you’ll need or be able to find in your new country (or city) such as thermometers, books, dryer sheets or holiday decorations you look at differently when faced with not having at your new home.
So the debate begins. If you’re going for a short time, do you put things in storage and buy new when you get there? Do you ship what you have and risk having to throw away or buy new anyway? Before I tackle this unruly topic, let me say there is no easy answer on this one, only options. I feel I am uniquely qualified to begin your process around this one though. Here are the lessons I learned as I share my own experiences.
Be Clear on What’s Important for You to Take
I moved here with the philosophy that I was only coming to Oz for 18 – 24 months and would move back to where I came from when I returned, so I stored nearly everything I owned. Yup — school certificates, towels, office supplies, Christmas decorations, furniture and yard tools. I shipped legal documents, clothing I thought I needed, a few items of furniture and most importantly, my dog. Great thinking at the time and probably better choices I could have made looking back on it now.
Consider Size: In most countries housing is much SMALLER than in the US (think NYC or SF size places in many cases). Or if you’re moving out of home into an apartment, in with a partner or to a dorm, there are always size considerations. Consider the amount of personal belongings you’ll have access to and/or be able to use on a daily basis. It may be less than what you’re used to.
Consider Your Environment: Styles, environmental and/or cultural differences may have an impact on your clothing and/or furniture choices, so put yourself into that new environment before you decide on what’s important. I did not need a snow blower in Sydney, for example. Nor did my wool business suits work for the casual warmer climate. Take the bare essentials and repurchase what you need for the climate and culture you’re relocating to.
Consider Your ‘Home’: Take sentimental things that you may not think are important at the time, but will become so. I shipped my favourite reading chair, a sweater my mom knitted, a shoe box full of photos, recipe books, a few small pieces of artwork and my twelve-year-old dog. Although these may not have been pragmatic choices and many were expensive to ship, I do not regret them one bit. Once unpacked, these were things that made me feel at ‘home’, even when I was homesick.
Make A List
Or Lists…finalize them and stick to them. Have a friend support you when it’s emotionally too difficult. If you choose to give things away, your donations may be tax-deductible. If you choose to sell unnecessary items, there are plenty of places to do so on-line. The money you’ll save on storage or shipping can be used for relocation or NEW THINGS!
Inventory and Label Your Boxes
When I returned to the US on holidays or for work, I broke into my storage unit often. I had forgotten certain documents for tax purposes, I wanted a couple of Christmas ornaments for the tree to remind me of home, I needed some old family photos for a geneology project.
These items were difficult to find as I did not inventory or label the boxes to the right level of detail. The box said something like: “Christmas decorations” — I had 5 boxes and had to go through them all. I would suggest both for storage and shipping that you not only put an overall category on the box, also put a list together of the items inside with some meaningful detail such as “ornaments Sarah made at school, coloured tree lights, tinsel” etc. Put descriptions on that make sense to YOU (not the mover, if you’re being packed). This will also save you time if you store now and decide later to ship, as nearly everything in the box will need to be inventoried.
Next week…Part Two: Shipping Organising and culling is the emotionally difficult step. Next week we’ll explore how to get your stuff where you’re moving to.