For me, one of the most daunting parts of moving to Australia was moving all of our belongings. We’d lived in our house for ten years so had a lot of junk, we had three kids under five who had (and still have!) a lot of stuff, and I’m married to a total and utter hoarder. It didn’t make for a fun move. We had two sheds full to the brim, and a loft that was groaning under the weight of boxes.
What to take to Australia
This was the first big question. When moving house to a new country, what should we take with us? Our friends had literally given away the contents of their house and migrated to Australia with just a few suitcases, then replaced everything new (or second-hand) when they landed. They made it sound so easy – the idea of completely overhauling your life and starting again fresh with shiny new things. This may or may not work for you.
We decided to ship most of our belongings to Australia. These were our main reasons:
- Although we knew we’d be paying a fee to ship our stuff (our 20ft container ended up costing us around £4k plus insurance), we figured we wouldn’t need to buy much when we landed. Online research had shown us that some items were more expensive in Australia (white goods and books, for instance) so we felt neither option would really work out much cheaper than the other – it came down to what was more important to us: having our own things or starting fresh with new things. We liked our stuff, so that won for us.
- We knew that selling everything and giving it away would add to the time pressure we were already facing – there’s a lot to do when you’re moving country and we didn’t want to add to our stress. (A year earlier we’d bought some things off Gumtree from a UK family who were about to migrate to Sydney the next day. They had sold tonnes of stuff cheaply on the condition that it was picked up on this exact day – and they looked SO stressed out as different buyers came and dismantled their beds, tables and playground equipment while they ran around packing their cases – I made a vow that I wouldn’t add that amount of stress to my life when our time came).
- A practical reason we thought it was a bad idea to shop for everything new when we landed in Australia was that we’d have two energetic four-year-olds and a two-year-old in tow, with nobody around to help with babysitting. Shopping for an entire house full of stuff with those guys would not have been my idea of fun at all.
- We are really attached to our stuff – we’ve collected so many things during our lives together like a vase from Belize, a rug from Mexico, a chair from a little antique market – our things tell the story of our lives together and our family. And I have cases of baby clothes that I can’t ever let go, hand prints from the kids, even school books from my own school days. Neither of us wanted to part with all of this stuff.
We considered just taking the memory boxes on our international house move, but realised that we actually wanted to take everything – beds, sofas, our dining room table, book cases, the lot. We felt that we’d spent a long time gathering the contents of our house to make it a home and we didn’t want to start from scratch again. We also felt the kids would settle in easier if they had familiar things around them.
If you don’t feel so attached to your things, or your furniture is old and needs replacing anyway then it can be a good idea to get rid of everything and start fresh when you land (there is still Gumtree, eBay and Facebook selling in Australia which helps for finding second-hand goods, plus there are garage sales on all over the place every weekend). The real estate agent who sold us our house told us when she moved over from the UK she brought everything over only to find the styles didn’t suit her large, modern Aussie home, so again you might want to think about whether your things will suit your new lifestyle in Australia. If you don’t want to take a full container to Australia, there’s still the option of shipping a few boxes or extra suitcases over if that suits you better. You can read more about the shipping process in this post.
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Here’s the plan of action I used for decluttering and packing for our international move. I gave myself four months to declutter so that we were just left with the things we wanted to take. The fact that I was able to do it so quickly also helped us sell the house, because by the time I’d finished decluttering, we were ready to put our newly renovated house on the market and as it was clutter-free and neutral, it sold in just four days.
Four-Month Decluttering Action Plan
Even with a house that is packed to the rafters (like ours was) you can declutter and get organised and packed for your move in four months without it feeling too stressful. Honestly. You just need to break down the tasks and tackle them one month at a time. While you’re in the middle of sorting a room it will feel chaotic, but as you’ll only tackle one room at a time, it won’t feel so daunting and you’ll feel like you’re on top of it rather than feeling overwhelmed.
Before you begin, it’s a good idea to read this list of prohibited items along with this list of what not to bring. Although the purpose of decluttering is to get rid of some of your stuff, it’s also the ideal time to do the first round of prep for shipping by getting rid of anything that you can’t take with you. Even things like pictures your kids made with dried flowers or leaves need to be pulled out, so you need to go through e-v-e-r-y-thing!
Moving abroad declutter action plan: Month one
You will need the following items:
Sturdy cardboard boxes
Month one actions:
- Mark up one box ‘to sell’, another box ‘for charity’ and another ‘to give away’. Pick a room to start in. Your aim is to sift through everything in that room and literally go through every item in every drawer and cupboard. Thin out your belongings by placing them into relevant boxes or throwing them away into a bin liner. When you’ve been through a drawer/cupboard, neatly put back the things you want to keep. Work your way through every room in your house this way, one at a time.
- When it comes to your bedroom, go through all of your clothes and shoes – which items haven’t been worn for years? Which items no longer fit you? Which items look old and worn? Be brutal – you only want to take the best things with you so get rid of the junk. Consider the climate of the city you’re moving to – it can get cool in Melbourne and Sydney so you will need a coat and jumpers there in winter. And even though Brisbane and Cairns are much warmer, you will acclimatise quickly so don’t throw away all of your jackets, slippers or winter pyjamas just yet! (I may not have worn a coat since we moved to Brisbane but I do dig out my winter pjs and fleeces during the cooler months for a few weeks of the year!)
- Only tackle one room at at a time and make sure you put it back together before you move on to the next so that your house doesn’t feel too chaotic.
- Grab a notebook and allocate a page per room to make some notes. List any items you won’t be taking but that you need for a while longer (a vacuum cleaner which you may feel is too much hassle to clean, for instance) so you have a log of things you still need to get rid of later. Also, make a note of anything that’s going to require a major clean or a repaint before your move.
Result: By the end of month one you’ll have gone through everything in your house. You’ll have a few bags of rubbish, a stack of things to sell and a stack of things to give away to friends and charity shops. Nice work!
Moving abroad declutter action plan: Month two
You will need the following items:
Heavy duty garden waste sacks for tip runs
Month two actions:
- Allocate a couple of days to empty the entire contents of your shed and garage into your garden. Go through everything and work out what can be thrown or given away now. If you have kept any half tins of paint, you might need these to touch up your walls if you’re selling or renting it out, so be sure to keep them handy. Your shed and garage are usually home to a lot more junk than the rest of your house so you’ll probably find you need to make a few tip runs to get rid of things. If you have A LOT of stuff to get rid of, you could think about hiring a skip or a big rubbish sack, but if it’s a manageable amount, try to do a tip run every week for the rest of the month to get rid of it all.
- Look over your garden furniture and toys and work out what you want to take and what you want to give away and sell.
- Use your notebook again to log anything you’re going to need to get rid of later, and to note what things will need deep clean or a repaint before you move. There’s likely to be a lot more cleaning involved in anything that is stored outside your house. Bikes, tools, camping gear, garden furniture etc. will need a thorough clean. There’s no point cleaning them all until your shipping date is coming up as they’ll only pick up more dust and dirt in the meantime. For now, put everything you’re keeping back away neatly.
- Next, go through your loft. As before with the rooms, take a bin liner and boxes up there so you can get organised. If you have any larger items up there that can be sold right away, then take photos of them and make some detailed notes about their size and description so you can start your sales listings. We managed to tackle our overstacked loft by going up every evening for a week – it was a horrible job but felt amazing to finally have an organised loft space. Hopefully your loft isn’t as crammed as ours was!
Moving abroad declutter action plan: Month three
- Start listing your more expensive, large or more unique items on Gumtree, eBay or local Facebook selling pages. You’ll get a better price selling them individually than at car boot sales. Gumtree and Facebook pages don’t come with any selling fees so this is often most cost-effective but then people try to haggle you down whereas with eBay you can sell for a fixed price without negotiation if you prefer. If you sell through eBay, you can easily post large items using a online parcel collection company like Parcel Monkey (you put in the measurements and pay online and a courier comes to your house to pick it up on a day of your choosing – or there are other services where you prepay online and drop the packages in to a local pick up point like a supermarket). You can find local Facebook selling pages by typing your town/city name into Facebook and seeing which groups come up, or another good way is to post a Facebook update asking if friends can invite you to any local selling pages they’re part of (as sometimes they’re hidden from the search listings and are invite only). Be sure to read the rules for the group as there are some that follow very strict guidelines about how they like their selling pages to work and how you list items. You can usually list things across all methods providing you state that the item is for sale elsewhere and you pull the advert as soon as someone has bought it (double check group rules before doing this though as some prohibit it).
- Gather together your charity items and things you plan on giving away to friends and drop them off now. This will free up space and will give you a quick win.
- Do more tip runs to get rid of the sacks of rubbish.
Moving abroad declutter action plan: Month four
- Continue to list larger, more expensive items on Gumtree, eBay and Facebook.
- Start doing car boot sales if you decide that is something you want to do. Read this post to get the best tips about how to maximise your income from car boot sales. If you decide car boot sales aren’t for you, then start to take bundles of things to charity shops.
So that’s how to declutter your home in just four months. Want the cheat sheet? Click here to get the decluttering action plan + my weekly emails!
Moving abroad declutter action plan: Month five
I know this is a four-month declutter plan, but I needed to follow it up to explain what happened next for us. In month five, I took things to the next level – I scaled down our house even further ready to put it on the market.
This is what I used:
Stackable boxes to store toys, books and ornaments
Large under bed storage units to store coats and shoes
I went through every room and I thinned out our book shelves, I bought storage boxes so that I could tidy toys away neatly, and I packed up most of our shoes and coats which usually lived by the front door into plastic boxes. I put it all in the loft or out in the newly emptied shed. This left my house looking clutter-free ready to put our house on the market. It meant potential new owners could visualise the way they could live in their new home, without being distracted by all of our stuff. (I wrote this post about inexpensive tips and tricks to sell your home over my family blog at the time which you might find useful if you’re selling up too).
Tips for making your international move
Decluttering ready for your move abroad is scary and daunting, and it can be hard work but it feels amazing once you’ve gone through the process. Letting go of junk is such a relief – it’s really therapeutic and I think it helps get you ready to move on to your new life.
If you’re still in the decluttering mood and want to sort out your digital life next, my friend Mim offers this handy little decluttering challenge that is well worth a look. Decluttering your digital life is a whole other aspect of moving but it is definitely a good idea to organise your computer files and electronic gear before you back everything up.
Download the key points to my four-month decluttering action plan now in my declutter your home checklist and get started today. Even if you aren’t moving for a while, it’s amazing how light it makes you feel when you have a fresh, clear house.
I’d love to hear if you found this useful in the comments below! Let me know where you’re at in your decluttering journey.