I am not the most naturally organised person. But moving countries demands a lot of co-ordination…the ‘sorting out’ variety, not the sporting type of co-ordination. Although you will feel like you are juggling a hundred things at once and, when you start to pack up, the more you can carry the better.
Organising for a Move
But I digress. Because I am far better at digression and procrastination than organisation. As with many things, when we have a lack we tend to over-compensate. This is me with organisation. I had to be efficient at work, and so I was…especially once the children came along (that’s such a funny phrase isn’t it, as if they just appeared with no effort at all…). Like every other working Mum I know, had to operate like a machine. So with our first ever move, from the UK to Bangkok, I went into over-organisation overdrive. Colour coded spreadsheets, labels on everything, instructions on how to follow the instructions. Looking back, it was a clearly a manifestation of my state of mind – ‘I am out of control so I must try and control everything I possibly can.’ Also, to cut myself some slack, I was on my own with two small children, locked in a battle with HR at the company I had been working for (that’s a story for another time) whilst my husband was on a different continent. As the song goes, the first move is the hardest (ok, it doesn’t go like that but it should). Once you’ve done it once you realise that actually, stuff will get there in the end. As long as YOU all get there in once piece (physically and mentally) then you are doing great.
The second move from Bangkok to Germany was super stress free. I was wondering about this the other day and then I remembered why. We had help in Bangkok. Ah the luxuries of being an expat in the Far East…
And now here we are, getting ready for our third move. Once again, husband is absent. Sadly no help here. So I introduce to you my disorganised method for getting organised – forget Marie Kondo, this is the ‘Snog, Marry, Dump’ method.
You’ve played the game right? If not, you’re in for a treat the next time you go on a girls’ night. So you choose three people and then your friend has to decide whether to ‘Snog’ (to translate this means a big smoochy kiss…a pash for the Aussies out there – or anyone who grew up watching Neighbours. For the Americans…erm…’making out’? ‘First base’? Never could quite work out what all those bases were. Answers on a postcard please!), or to ‘Marry’ which means this is the person you have to stay with forever or ‘Dump’ which means, well, you can dump them.
So now you just need to look around your house and play this game with all your stuff and divide things into three categories. Fun, right?!
These are the items that you really liked and then went off straight away. You just didn’t click. It’s not them, it’s you. For example, the dress you bought on sale because it was a bargain and only a little bit too tight…two years on you still haven’t worn it because you haven’t *quite* kicked your addiction to those delicious pastries filled with some nutty chocolate stuff that tastes like Nutella. Or the boots that you bought when it was winter and really cold and you tried them on with no socks and they didn’t have your size, but the smaller size fit like magic and you REALLY wanted them…until you tried wearing them on a normal day, with socks, when your feet hadn’t shrunk with the cold. It was a like a scene from the end of Cinderella, except you’re not Cinderella and the boot most definitely does not fit.
(It’s becoming obvious that in these examples it’s not ‘you’ but me, isn’t it?)
This is also the category for the things you bought just to tide you over. The equivalent of ‘Mr Right Now’ rather than forever. A fair few things in this category probably come from Ikea. Or the electronics you bought in Europe because the voltage means your American stuff won’t work – or will potentially blow up your house.
It’s also for things that are still perfectly useful, but you’ve just outgrown each other. Kids’ bikes. All the baby gear you’ve been carting around from country to country ‘just in case’…
So what do you do with these items? Sell, swap, give.
There are tons of selling and swapping sites on Facebook. We set one up for our school community and the carpark at pick up is like a trading pitch. eBay – while not available everywhere and tricky if you are selling in a different language – is a useful tool.
Those too tight boots had their Cinderella moment with a smaller-footed friend…but then I kind of blew it when I used the money on a pair of shoes that didn’t quite fit someone else…
Now this is the category for the things you can’t live without. These might be the items you adore, that make your heart race, your treasured possesions. They are also the everyday things that you don’t especially notice but can’t manage without…
My ‘marry’ list includes the pictures and paintings we have collected over the years from different places. The memory boxes I have for the kids. And, more prosaically but rather fitting, our bed. Or rather, our mattress which was quite possibly the best thing I have ever bought.
These are your keepers. Don’t let them anywhere near the ‘snog’ or ‘dump’ piles.
And now, the dumping ground. Getting rid of stuff that you don’t like any more is freeing. Decluttering might not be the most fun, but you definitely feel better after it.
Clothes wise, this is the list for things that you wouldn’t be able to sell or swap. If an item is beyond repair then you don’t need to keep it in your wardrobe. Dump it. Old bras and knickers that you’ve had for so long you can’t remember buying them? Dump.
A lot of kids’ clothes will end up in this category, unless your kids are far better at keeping their clothes stain-free than my girls.
Those herbs and spices that someone gave you when you moved in because they were leaving and they are now two years past their sell by date? Dump.
And when I say dump, some of this stuff will literally be taken to the dump (or the tip, as we call it in the UK). But a lot of these things can be recycled or donated. Clothing can be donated to charities – here in Germany it’s the Red Cross – and items that can’t be reused are then recycled. Check if there are charities who will collect any unwanted items of furniture. Are there any local groups in need of items that may not longer be of use to you?
When we leave a country if we can put a bit of time into thinking about how any unwanted items may be helpful to the communities we have been a part of, then that’s good karma. Is there a food bank that will accept the boxes of pasta that you have stockpiled but will never get through before you leave? Those bras I mentioned? Well there are charities that specifically collect used bras. So I guess what I am saying is, when you are dumping something, if you can do it thoughtfully, with a little bit of kindness, you’ll feel better about it.
Snog, Marry, Dump Your Life
And, with a slight change of semantics, these rules apply to your life in this crazy run up to a move.
Dump all the extraneous crap that you do not need right now. Bake sale at school coming up? Put the cake tins down and go to the bakery. Or give a donation. Dump any associated guilt.
You need to dump all that stuff, because you have some snogging dating to do (word change was required to stop this getting too weird). Date your friends. Go for dinner. Spend time with the people that you care about and you enjoy being with. Date the place you are living in – spend time going to the places you love. You won’t regret dumping the housework but you’ll remember these ‘dates’.
And marry? Well you need to marry the people closest to you. By this I mean put the time and effort in with them. With your kids, your partner. And although this sounds obvious, you can sometimes forget about each other because everyone is so busy, and the focus is on the friends you are moving away from – your family are moving with you, they are always there. But they need the time. They don’t want to feel dumped.
Finally there’s you. You may feel like the dumping ground now for everyone else’s angst, anxieties and stress, but you are not on the dump list. Drink the wine, do the yoga, eat the cake – whatever it takes to get you through. The ghost of Jane Austen will be rolling her eyes but reader, marry yourself.