Organising A Move Overseas: Step 1 – Getting Ready

organsising a move overseas

Organising a move overseas can be really stressful, and one of the things that can feel overwhelming is the idea of all the organisation you need to do. Deciding what to take and what to leave. Getting your paperwork in order. Knowing that you are going to have to sort through the junk cupboard/ attic/ basement and being slightly terrified about what you might find in there…

I have teamed up with the lovely Mel Carruthers from ‘More Organised’ to bring you a series of tips and and advice on how to organise your move. We have split this into three stages – when you are several months out so can’t start packing but you are kind of itching to make some progress. This will be followed by a post when you are a few weeks til moving and have the packers coming…this is the point when you will be looking fondly back at that time when you didn’t have to pack boxes! Finally there will be a ‘Move Day’ post – all those last minute things you need to remember, plus packing tips for what to carry with you.

I will be living this journey as we are now a few months away from our move and I’m feeling edgy…and disorganised, wandering around the house wondering how on earth we have accumulated so much stuff in such a short space of time. And, while I have done this a few times before, I will be learning from Mel, who is a professional organiser…where as I would probably class myself as a professional procrastinator! I tend to do a lot of opening cupboard doors, sighing dramatically….and then closing them again.

Mel spent many years as an expat and is now a professional organiser. I basically would like her to come and live with me. But the next best thing is this series of tips on moving.

This is the first one….getting ready before you are at the packing stage. This is the phase that tends to drag on a bit, but the earlier you can start this process the better.

1. Declutter

You’ve heard it before, but life is always simpler once you have decluttered, whether you are moving or not. Room by room, go through everything and decide what you want to sell, donate or throw away. The further in advance you can sell things, the less stressed you’ll be, especially if you are organising a move overseas.

For more on the Making Here Home decluttering method – Snog, Marry, Dump (as Mary Poppins said, in every job that must be done, there is an element of fun…) – click here.

2. Food

You won’t be able to take food or drink with you in your shipping container, so start running down your food supplies, and shopping for the week ahead, not for the pantry. Meal planning will help you to use up ingredients rather than throw them away. Start with the freezer and pantry, then the fridge as you get closer to your leaving date. Invite your friends to take food that you know you are not going to eat, or better still, give to your local food bank.

3. Cancel service contracts

If you have service contracts with staffing agencies, memberships and delivery services, write a list of them all and check any legal or contractual notice period that you must give.

Staff/ help: You may have a nanny or maid whose employment you need to consider and either transfer to your new country, or terminate fairly and timely with as much notice as possible.

Memberships: Give as much notice as possible to avoid extra charges and fees. Think about any gym memberships you have, exercise classes, food delivery services and children’s activities.

4. Car

Decide if you are going to sell your car or take it with you, depending on where you are moving from and to. If you are selling, do your research and avoid selling at peak times. For example, if you are moving at the end of the school year, many other people will be too, and the car market is likely to be flooded, thus reducing the price you will be paid for it. Think ahead and sell early – it will be cheaper to rent a car for the last few weeks, rather than panic selling at the last minute and not getting what you wanted for your vehicle.

5. School applications

If you have school age (or nearly school age) children, get clear on the process in your new country. Do your research on the schools in your new area. Will you need to visit the school? Are placement tests required? Is there a wait list and do you need a backup choice? What documents do you need from your current school – make sure you get your requests in early.

Moving outside the school year can be hard – for more on this click here.

organising a move overseas

6. Children’s clubs and activities

Groups and activities are a great way to settle children into their new neighbourhood and meet new friends. Find out what clubs and opportunities are available and get on the waiting list as soon as possible.

7. Health

Get up to date:

Before you leave, get up to date with medical and dental check-ups, routine tests (PAP Smear etc) and vaccinations. Check your family’s vaccination schedule in the country you are leaving, and the country you are going to. Does the family need any vaccinations for the country you are moving to? Ensure you have enough medications to see you through the period between leaving your old home and registering with practitioners in your new country.

Medical records:

Remember to get copies of any medical records, procedures, test results and vaccination schedules to take with you. Also ask if they can be emailed to your new practitioners when you register in your new country. Always get copies of prescriptions or a letter from your old doctor to show at customs if you are questioned about the medicines you are travelling with.

8. Pets

Many of us travel the world with our pets or pick up strays along the way. Include your pets in your planning – take them with you if you can and arrange a new home for them if you can’t. Don’t leave this until the last minute. Check travel process and quarantine requirements, and get help if you need it. It is possible to relocate your animals yourself, but with everything else on your to-do list, it may be easier to use a reputable pet relocation company and tick this one off your list.

If you have a dog in Germany, remember to cancel your dog tax. Yes, such a thing is real.

9. Paperwork

Passports:Make sure all passports have at least 6 month’s validity from the time you will move. Many countries require 6 months validity on passports and / or a blank double page in the passport. It can also be much harder and take longer to renew your passport away from home, so check your passport’s validity and renew as soon as possible if necessary.


Check if you need a visa to enter your new country before you can start arranging residency, and get clear on how to apply. If you need any assistance, get help from a reputable company or speak to your new employer’s HR department as soon as possible.


Ensure you have copies of all your important documents scanned onto your computer and backed up elsewhere.

Important documents:

When the time comes to travel, take your important documents with you. Don’t ship originals but keep them close to you throughout your journey.

10. Say goodbye properly

In all the business and upheaval of arranging to move to your new country, don’t forget your old one! No matter how many times you have relocated, the emotional ties to your temporary home and forever friends are strong. Make sure that you celebrate this period of your live and say goodbye properly. Given the length of your to-do list at this stage, an evening meal at your favourite restaurant or an afternoon tea – together with all your friends of course – may be easier than hosting at home. Although packing parties and help-us-drink-the-cupboard-dry parties also help in other ways!

Organising a Move Overseas Step 2 – Packing…coming up next!

About Mel Carruthers

organising a move overseasWith over 20 years’ experience working in museums, charities and law firms in the UK and UAE, I understand how decluttering your physical space and implementing systems can take away the overwhelm. I recently returned to Scotland after 12 years living in Dubai, with my husband, our son, three cats and an ever-expanding family of Lego mini-figures.

Instagram: @more_organised

Facebook: @moreorganised
+44 (0)7526 955846

One Reply to “Organising A Move Overseas: Step 1 – Getting Ready”

  1. I like your idea to get up to date with medical and dental check-ups before you leave. My friend and her family are about to move to Japan for a few years, and she’s really stressed about getting everything there and running the move really smoothly. It would help a lot if she had a moving company to help her manage the whole project.

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