Packing for a move is a big job. It scrambles daily life, be it dressing, cooking or even walking from room to room.
Here I offer a simple strategy for how to pack for international moves.
If you’re moving across town – Easy, peezy. For every item you ask “Keep it or leave it?” …and most everything makes the cut.
Packing for an international move? Oh, now there’s a challenge.
Shipping costs are higher. Transit time can be in weeks, not days. Then there’s customs.
Yeah, packing suddenly sucks. (Well, it always sucks, but now it really sucks.)
The Problem: “My Mom Would Kill Me If I Got Rid of This!”
With international moves, you can’t just ask “Keep it or leave it.”
Two choices are not enough.
How about that 150 year old, 30″ tall hurricane lamp from my great-great…grandmother?
How about these 2 mammoth bookcases? (and what about all these books??)
For the oversized and sentimental stuff, “Keep it or Leave it” doesn’t work. Damn.
Yes, a move helps you get rid of prized possessions. But some possessions are just too valuable. That is, if you expect to keep family ties after your departure. (By the way, you did tell them you’re leaving, right?)
The Solution: A Simple Strategy
Easy 3-pronged approach: Ship, Store or Sell
SHIP: you’re shipping stuff to your future address
STORE: you decide to keep stuff, either with family, friends or in storage
SELL: you decide to part with it. It’s someone else’s stuff now.
Your Wicked-Fast Decision Guide
1. Do I use it daily or almost daily? If so, SHIP
2. Would I be heartbroken for weeks if I lost, broke or sold this? If so, STORE
3. Too heavy or used too rarely to lug with you? If so, SELL
Yeah, it’s really that simple. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much you sell. And I can almost guarantee when you wake up the next day, you will feel physically lighter yourself.
We all see scams like “How to lose 20 pounds in 1 week,” but here you get more joy after losing 500 pounds in one garage sale.
Note: If you’re a minimalist, you’re more apt to sell. Then again, if you’re a minimalist, you’re not apt to have a whole lot of stuff to begin with, right? 🙂
Exceptions & Other Tips:
Electrical kitchen appliances
- Your 4-slice toaster, the food processor and those hi-tech gadgets which are obsolete in weeks (if not already) –
- . Oh yes, sell them quick while someone’s willing to pay for them. Would you want to return today to the 22″ flat-panel LCD TV that you paid thousands of $$ in 2006? (disclaimer: I know so little about TV, that may be a stupid example)
- An exception. By the
- above, you would either ship or sell furniture.
However, even half-decent furniture can be a sizeable investment (not milk crate and timber bookshelves like you had in university). Replacing it after a couple years would be expensive, so you can’t sell it. Shipping it would be idiotic, even if your company paid for it. So you store it.
How? Wrap in plastic and store in a humidity controlled environment.
–Or ‘store’ in someone else’s house, while they make good use of it.
Note: If you store items with family or friends, make it clear that you’d like the item back when (if) you return. Could be 6 months, 6 years or never, but it’s your wish today. This just saves the awkward “Oh, I thought you gave it to us.” talk
- Another special exception. By the
- above, you would sell books. Ouch.
If you’ve got a sizeable library, I’d recommend bringing fewer than 5%, unless you really need several for your work.
If fewer than 100 books, limit yourself to 10%.
Do not bring books with the mindset “Oh, I’ll have extra time to read those ones I never got to.” No, you won’t. And when you do have extra time, you won’t pick up those books.
- If you have frames on the wall and they’re not holding band posters, you probably want to store them. Make sure they’re protected, both from humidity damage and breakage.
Here’s a short video I made of how we protected multiple pieces while in storage. And if the video seems a low-rate production, well, hey that’s because it is.
Some Personal Mistakes
If you’ve gotten this far, let me share some of our bigger “poor judgement calls” with this ship, store or sell strategy.
DO NOT STORE BOOKS IN CARDBOARD BOXES, else you find yourself laying the least-moldy ones out in the sun, hoping for the best. See?:
So, if you’re going to store books for years, store them in plastic totes like these (Amazon link).
Another: A huge box of photos that we’ve been meaning to put in albums (for years). We should have stored it, but no, we shipped it. Upon our return 4 years later, we find ourselves reshipping the very. same. huge. box of photos. We did made one album there, …which used maybe 5% of the photos.
And another: We also shipped 3 boxes of scrap-booking stuff we’d been meaning to use “some rainy day.”
Trust me, when living abroad, monsoons can come and scrap-booking will never seem the coolest thing you could do.
In case I have to spell out my preference – use the strategy in reverse order:
Think first: Can I sell it?
If not, can I store it?
Okay, damn…I have to ship it.
At Last, Someone We Can Recommend…
If (& more likely ‘When’) you do need a Shipping company, check out F & N Removal Company. They got a sharp website where you can request their quote, no commitment, no hassle.