Top 5 Rules When Packing to Move

What is it like to move to a new country? Crazy expensive. Crazy stressful. Maybe just plain crazy. Is it an adventure worth taking? Absolutely.

One of the hardest things about moving countries, especially those separated by water, is what to keep and take with you. Overseas shipping is amazingly expensive, so for us, this meant parting ways with almost everything. We were broke, dirty backpackers when we got married, so most of our belongings were accumulations of thrift-store finds, curb-side treasures, and cast-offs from others. Nothing much valuable worth taking. Due to different voltage and current in Northern Ireland, any electronics with moving parts, aka my kitchen appliances, were a no-go, too. 😭 But what about the small stuff? What about the stuff that is totally up to you to take or not take?

Here are my Top 5 Rules for Packing to Move:

1.      Start EARLY. I mean, as soon as you even have a notion of moving, whether domestic or international, go through one small area a day and purge. One drawer. One dish cupboard. Doing this in little bits rather than all at once will reduce the stress factor by a bazillion. Even if you don’t end up moving, you’ll love having less clutter.

For items you are actively using, but know you won’t take, start a list. Just add to it as you come across the items. As soon as a decision is made, write it down. Don’t waste time and energy reevaluating later when you have already decided.

If you try to rush at the end, you might do something silly like pack all of the pegs and shelves for the pegboards you didn’t pack… 😑


2.      Determine if the cost of replacing an item is more or less than the cost of shipping it. If it is a low-cost and easily-found item, like socks, don’t ship it. Shipping overseas is done by volume so even though socks are light, they take up room costing you money. You only have two feet, anyway. How many socks do you need? 🧦


3.      If you don’t use it, lose it. If you don’t actively use it or wear it now, you won’t once you move, either.  Put things you forgot you had or don’t use in a box in the basement or a spare room as you come across them. When closer to packing, if you don’t remember what is in the box or haven’t had to use anything out of it, seal it up and donate it. Don’t go back through it. Just seal and go. Repeat with me: Seal and go. 📦


4.      Let go. Similar to number 3, but this addresses those things with sentimental value. You can treasure something, or the memories attached to it, without owning it. This is a hard one, I know. I was once a packrat extraordinaire. Backpacking for a few years and having to carry every possession I owned broke me of that, but I still understand how hard it can be. If you have several sentimental items attached to the memory of someone specific, line them up. Which one evokes the strongest feelings for you? Keep it and lovingly donate the others. Know that you don’t love that person any less, value their memory any less, or retain any less of them.

Boxes taped, labeled, and categorized into weight classes.

Boxes taped, labeled, and categorized into weight classes.

For me, this was the baby doll crib and highchair that my Grandma gave me as a little girl. My Grandma is still an extremely special person to me, even though she is no longer with us. She helped raise me, always talked straight with me, and was an indomitable example of a strong woman. But…I am not planning on having kids, they were big and awkward to pack, and they would just sit in the attic or closet of my new house, too. I have Grandma’s jewelry, her advice to sit up straight, my first memories of baking, and at least a sliver of inherited strength to remember her by.


5.      You MUST have your own box manifest. Here’s what happens. You pack all your things in a bunch of brown, identical boxes. The movers come and as fast as they can, slap numbers on boxes while you are supposed to write down the number on a list they gave you, with the contents. They will NOT wait for you to figure out what was in that box.

 Why isn’t their manifest good enough? Their manifest will tell you how many boxes you have total, but not what is in them. So, as happened with us, when not all of our boxes arrived, I could refer to my own manifest and I knew exactly what we didn’t get. Not just item 45 and 37 but my Grandma’s hope chest containing the wedding vows my husband wrote, my Grandma’s earring collection, family photos, and other irreplaceable items. The other missing box was full of my baking pans. Not cool. This knowledge helped me gauge how strong of a reaction to have to the missing boxes and how to leverage the severity of that when talking to the shipping company.

Also, when you unpack, it is fabulous to know exactly what you are getting into. You can move boxes into their appropriate rooms before opening, possibly while you still have movers or friends helping, which makes it a lot easier.

Want a free copy of my box manifest template and instructions? 




Bonus Tip: Have some water or drinks available for your movers. It was a warm day when the movers came for our stuff and while it wasn’t a lot, they were probably moving heavy boxes and furniture all day. I had prechilled several waters and Gatorades in the fridge and freezer. During the time they were in the apartment, I offered them cold drinks and paper towels to help with sweat. I also gave them a wee box of the frozen drinks and paper towels to take with them.

On one hand, I have a lot of respect for and gratitude to these hard-working people. On another hand, the movers are less likely to throw around the stuff of the nice person who took the time to offer them a refreshing drink than the jerk who just leered at them accusingly the whole time, assuming they are going to break or steal something.

The man in charge of our move took extra time shrink wrapping and packaging a few of our items, which is normally an upcharge. He might have done that anyway, but I was glad that he would be a little more hydrated for his efforts, too.


Tell me your moving horror stories. What stresses you out most about moving? 👇Comment Below👇