Getting your belongings ready for shipping to Australia takes some hard work. Yes, your shipping agents will come and pack everything for you, but there’s still a lot to sort out before they arrive. As a self-confessed control freak, I found is so difficult shipping items to Australia – I hate leaving things to the last minute and would have much preferred being able to pack everything up myself over a period of weeks leading up to the move. It felt strange leaving everything for someone else to come and do the packing for us.
This post contains affiliate links.
Getting ready to ship your belongings to Australia
Don’t have time to read it all now? Get my Prepare for the Shippers guide + receive my weekly emails so you can read the key points later.
If you’ve gone through my four-month decluttering exercise already, you’ll have removed anything that is mentioned on this list and this list of items that are prohibited in Australia already. If you haven’t done that yet, skip back and get on with it. You don’t have to do it over four months, that was just a relaxed timescale I decided on – you could easily cram it into a week or two depending on how much stuff you own and how much time you have spare to dedicate to the task of decluttering.
So when you’re fully decluttered and your Australia shipping date is looming, it’s time to get everything in order and start cleaning ready for your move to Australia. I’d suggest starting this process about two months before your shipping date – any earlier and the things you clean might get dirty again, and any later and you might find you’re in a rush to work through everything. With a family, it’s all about balance – you can’t spend every waking minute getting ready for your move as your kids are bound to have activities and parties to go to on the weekends, so you need to give yourself plenty of lead time to get ready so you don’t end up overstretched. It’s also important not to prep for the shippers too early – once you’ve cleaned things, you need to keep them inside to keep them clean. Your house can quickly become crammed with everything you’re trying to store, so tackling it later rather than sooner means you live in chaos for a shorter period of time.
Want to ship a few bags instead of sending a shipping container? Read this post about Send My Bag’s luggage shipping services and get a 5% discount off your first order.
How to ship items to Australia: What needs cleaning?
When you are shipping household items from the UK to Australia, you need to clean anything and everything! If you’re taking tools, shoes, bikes, scooters, sports equipment, a washing machine, vacuum cleaner, tumble dryer, barbecue, garden furniture or anything from outside in your shed, garage or garden then it needs to be thoroughly cleaned.
This is a time for reconsidering what’s coming with you. If you’ve got a pair of welly boots that have dirt in the treads, is it really worth the effort cleaning them? Ditto your vacuum – if it’s old and dusty then it could be worth leaving it behind and replacing it when you land. Then again, when you’ve got items that are relatively new, even if they are dirty, it is often worth cleaning them to take. We had a big Weber barbecue that was only a couple of years old, so we decided to clean it well and take it with us as we knew we’d only need to buy a new one in Australia. Bikes were slow going – a toothbrush on the tyres took a loooong time but I’m glad we bought them as there are cycle paths everywhere here.
What tools do you need to prepare to ship your belongings abroad to Australia?
Cleaning products to prepare for the shippers
One of the shippers who came to quote for us suggested we use a smelly cleaning fluid such as Jeyes Fluid to clean everything so they would smell it was all clean when they opened the container in Australia. I’m not sure if it’s true, but it’s worth a try.
You will need lots of sponges and scrubbers so that you’re ready to tackle the cleaning like a pro.
Get your bikes cleaned up
Get your bikes ready to go with this bike cleaning kit.
Buff up your golf clubs
Clean up your golf clubs ready for the move.
Clean up outdoor gear with a pressure washer
Clean up your garden furniture and things from your shed using a pressure washer.
Shoes and boots
Your shoes and boots will need a good clean up before the shippers take them. Make sure the treads have no mud in them and make sure they look clean.
Clean up footie boots with this tool
Protect your hands while you’re cleaning by wearing rubber gloves.
Clean your washing machine
Give your washer a deep clean if you plan on shipping it (which you should as they are expensive in Australia!)
Clean up leather goods like your sofa or handbags
Clean up any leather gear with a good leather cleaner.
When you’re confident you’ve cleaned everything, consider whether you need to repaint any outdoor furniture or play equipment you want to take. A fresh coat of stain or paint will hide any bare patches of wood.
How to prepare for the shippers
After cleaning, I’d bring the things indoors and then inspect them again the following day because there were always bits I’d missed (especially with things like the bike tyres). The hardest part of the cleaning was finding somewhere sensible to store things when they were clean. We couldn’t guarantee they’d stay clean and spider-free in the shed, so instead most of it came indoors. By the time the shippers came, we had a huge barbecue, tool boxes and five bikes in the dining room but at least I knew they were clean!
Next job was to get everything down from our loft. We’d been through it all once to declutter, but there was still a massive amount of stuff up there. We left this until two weeks before the shippers were due as we knew we’d need to allocate one bedroom to store the stuff. To make space, we took our bed apart and then used our bedroom as a big store room, and Matt and I moved on to the sofa bed in the living room. It was a pain but it gave us a big space to organise everything.
At this point we put our wardrobes on eBay. We knew that most houses in Australia had built-in wardrobes so there wasn’t much point taking them with us – plus we couldn’t take them apart so they’d have taken up a lot of space in the container and probably wouldn’t have lasted the journey. Getting rid of them meant we had lots of clothes to store – we just stacked them in piles in our room ready for the shippers.
Next I created a ‘keeping’ list. On it I included everything that was coming in our cases and hand luggage or things we were still using so didn’t want to ship. My pdf download below includes a list of things you should keep out to go in your travel luggage. Grab yours below.
Your hand luggage list should include things like bills we needed to pay off or statements for accounts we needed to cancel, 2 x portable hard drives backing up everything that was on the computer the shippers were taking, tablet computers that we wanted for the journey, my laptop, chargers, cameras, jewellery, smellies, first aid kit, medication, birthday cards and gifts I’d bought for people whose birthday fell in the next couple of months (as I knew once we landed I wouldn’t have time to think about that), my address book, confirmation print outs of bookings, passports, tickets, visa paperwork, any print photographs that I didn’t want to risk losing (I ran out of time to take digital copies), favourite toys and books plus clothes and shoes that we’d need for the next few months until our belongings arrived with us in Australia.
After the shippers had been we had four weeks left in the UK, and we knew it would be about eight more weeks before our belongings arrived. We had to balance having enough things to live with for at least three months with not taking too much as we needed to stay within our luggage allowance for the flight.
I gathered everything we wanted to keep with us and put it in one corner with a LEAVE sign attached to it so the shippers knew not to touch it. I also took things that we needed to keep for the house clean up and put them in the shed so the shippers wouldn’t accidentally pack them.
Top tip: Unless you’ve specifically asked your shippers to quote for dismantling furniture, assume that you need to do it. So any beds, tables or cots that are coming with you will need taking apart before they arrive.
On the day the shippers arrive…
When the shippers arrive, you can walk them around the house and show them the stuff you don’t want them to touch (e.g. food in the pantry and your corner of things that are going with you which are clearly marked with a LEAVE sign) and you can ask them to leave certain things until the end like the sofa so you have somewhere to sit, and kitchen things so you have somewhere to make food and drinks. Leaving the kettle and mugs til the end is essential, as is having a few packets of biscuits as your team of packers will appreciate being able to refuel.
The shippers work as a team, tackling different rooms and they pack at a crazy speed so you won’t be able to be everywhere watching them telling them as they go. You need to be organised otherwise you’ll blink and they’ll have packed something you were hoping to keep out.
When it comes to your kitchen, make sure all of your food stuff is boxed and labelled so it doesn’t get packed accidentally. Although if your shippers are used to international moves they should be savvy about what can and can’t go in.
Top tips for shipping your belongings to Australia
Be available on the shipping days. Yes, you could get them started and then leave the house for the day, but they will constantly have questions about things – like how you would prefer a particular item packing, and you might find you need to flat pack some extra items to make space in the container.
Make sure they pack your tools last as we used our screwdrivers more than ever when the shippers were there and if they’d gone in first we’d have been stuck as the shippers only had limited tools on them.
Aim to have your kids out of the way during the shipping process. The shippers work at lightening speed and it would be dangerous to have small people under their feet as they’re carrying heavy furniture. Also, they leave your front door open the entire time and you don’t want to be worrying about your little ones escaping onto the road. There was no way I could have handled two four-year-olds and a two-year-old while all of that was going on.
Fill your fridge with easy meals on the run up to shipping. There was no time to cook so being able to grab an oven pizza and bag of salad or a ready roasted chicken from the fridge meant we still got to eat without having to order in take aways (we reserved that for after the shippers had been when we had no kitchen gear left!) But if you do end up living on take aways for a week, it’s not a big deal. It’s a difficult period of your life. The kids won’t hurt from missing a couple of home-cooked dinners so don’t beat yourself up – this is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of craziness.
Ask for help. If you have young kids you need help as it’s impossible to do it alone. Whether this comes from a childminder, family or friends it doesn’t matter, but doing all of this with young children and/or babies around 24/7 is challenging and really adds to your stress levels.
Don’t worry that your house looks bizarre. I was worried the shippers would think we were crazy for having an a barbecue and bikes in our dining room and stacks of clothes toppling everywhere but they told us we were really organised compared to lots of families and completely on the normal scale. They said they’d arrived at houses before where they couldn’t even fit through the front door due to the piles of stuff and they had to literally pack before they could step into the house.
Don’t book the insurance offered by your movers without checking out independent insurance too. I saved about £300 by going with another company and it wasn’t as complicated as the removal company made out it would be to go with an external insurer. We ended up having quite a bit of damage to our belongings and the insurer paid up without any issue, so going with an external insurer doesn’t need to create any added problems.
Try to allow yourself some time after the shippers have been to do all of the other admin jobs before you move. There are a lot of things to work through before you go and while you’re busy with the packing/sorting you won’t have time to ring up to cancel credit cards or sort out your child benefit. And having a leaving party while you’re busy packing up your things will only add to the emotion of it all. We spent four weeks after the house sale with family and this gave us some quality time with our parents as well as time to sell our car and do the remaining paperwork.
This is definitely the hardest, busiest phase of the whole process, so you just need to tackle things a day at a time, live through the chaos and before you know it you’ll be stepping off the plane on the other side of the world. Let the adrenaline and excitement pull you through.
Download the pdf summary which includes a detailed checklist of the things you should put aside to go in your travel luggage.
Are you getting ready for the shippers at the moment? How is it all going?
If you are getting close to your moving date, have you seen my Ultimate Emigration Checklist yet? If not, be sure to check it out as it walks you through everything you need to do in the UK before you move, and everything you need to do when you arrive in Australia too.