Expert Tips on Moving Overseas: Step 2 – Packing Up!

tips on moving overseas

Here is the second instalment of our series of tips on moving overseas. Mel Carruthers, professional organiser, gives her expert advice on what we need to do in the run up to a move.

We have already covered tips on getting organised here, plus the life changing (haha) Making Here Home decluttering method, Snog, Marry, Dump (it’s pretty obvious I am not the professional organiser, right?!)

This is about the stage where things are starting to get real. This is the point we are at right now. I have just organised our relocation company; for this move we are using a smaller, local company. I wish I’d had Mel’s tips when we moved last time. I didn’t realise that lots of the larger companies use outsourcing. The team did a fab job in Thailand. When we got to Germany…not so much. We actually saw the delivery guys damage furniture with their knives when they opened boxes – and this happened more than once. Fingers crossed we have a better experience this time….

Also, really think through what you will take and leave. I asked this question over on the Facebook page – a few other people, like me, regretting not taking their bikes with them. On the whole, most people advised getting rid of as much ‘stuff’ as possible…but if there is something special that will remind you of your time living in a country – buy it!

Tips on Moving Overseas – Packing Up


Choosing your moving team:

  • Your location and destination will likely decide method of transport – land, air or sea. Each has its own requirements for packing, rules for what you can take, pros and cons, and pricing. Consult a few different moving companies before making your choice, ensuring that they are accredited and have good feedback. Ask around your expat community to get recommendations too.


  • Look closely at your moving company’s insurance policy. Most insurance policies require you to check each item and report any breaks and damages on the day of unpacking. Yes seriously! Don’t be caught out with this one, and unless you have Mary Poppins helping you out with your move, make sure you find a policy that gives you a more sensible time frame to make a claim.


  • Some companies will provide a door-to-door service, others will outsource to a local moving company, especially at destination. Don’t get too hung up over the door-to-door service – it’s the team that you get on the day that counts. But be careful to check who the contracting companies are at each stage of the move and be sure to examine their credentials carefully.


  • If you are short on time (or inclination), a professional organiser could help you with the decluttering, donating, packing and organising of your move. Check out to find your local organiser in the UK and in the United States, or Google. Most countries now have professional organisers who can help you take the stress out of packing and unpacking.


tips on moving overseas

Decisions, decisions

  • Depending on your method of transport, your moving company will issue you with a list of items that you are not allowed to pack and take with you. Typically, this includes food and drink, plants, paint, household cleaners and other chemicals, etc. etc.


  • It is likely that your consignment will at some point pass through hot conditions, whether dockside in Dubai or in a railway yard in a summery UK. Temperatures inside the actual container or truck will be much hotter than outside, so pack accordingly. Candles and crayons will melt, snow globes will turn yellow, sticky photo albums will fuse together. Keep this in mind when decluttering, donating and eventually packing.


  • Mattresses should be changed every 8-12 years. If yours is older than this, or approaching its sleep-by date, consider leaving it behind and buying new at your destination. Not only will you save loads of space in the container, your back will thank you! Especially after all the packing, moving and unpacking!


  • Flatpack furniture is a favourite with expats because it’s cheap and easy to move around. Before you unscrew the IKEA Kallax unit for the fourth time, remember that there are only a limited number of times you can dismantle and reassemble flatpack furniture before the fixings start to get damaged. Assess your flatpack furniture carefully – for the price of the room it will take up in your shipment, you may be better off leaving it behind and buying new in your new country.


Other things not to pack

As well as the items on the list provided by your moving company, these are a few other things that you may not want to pack:

  • Valuables: Don’t pack valuables but take them with you. In your hand luggage if possible.


  • Paperwork: Likewise, don’t pack important paperwork, but take it with you. Hand luggage for birth and marriage certificates, insurance policies etc. The rest can go in the hold, but make sure you have scans of everything on your computer. (Backed up of course!)


  • Photos and memories: Due to the potentially hot conditions inside a shipping container or removal lorry, family heirlooms such as documents, albums and archives may not travel well. Decide whether to take these with you or airfreight them rather than sea freight. If in doubt, your local professional organiser or photo organiser should be able to advise on the best method to keep your precious memories safe.


  • Art supplies: Craft and art goodies such as glue, markers, pens and paint will dry up (or even worse, leak) during the move. Donate them instead and treat yourself to new when you get to your destination.


Preparing for the packers

  • Before you start to pack anything yourself, check the terms of your moving insurance. Some insurance policies are invalidated if you pack yourself. And besides, why spend time packing when you are already paying a team of professionals to do it for you?


  • Having said that, there are certain items that you can pack yourself to get a head start:
    • Clothes: You can pack clothes in vacuum bags, using plenty of silica packets to soak up any moisture and avoid mould.
    • Bedding: Sheets, blankets, duvets and pillows can be vacuum packed in the same way.
    • Small items: Belongings like stationery, toys and kitchen utensils are often easier to find and unpack if you wrap them yourself. For example, put similar items in a bag, or wrap in packing paper, and transport in the drawer that they usually live in. It will make unpacking a lot easier.


  • Fill up the drawers and chests with clothes, bedding and other non-breakable items (but make sure that you keep furniture light enough to lift).


  • If you are taking bikes, garden equipment and other outdoor items with you, be sure to wash them thoroughly before the packers come. You don’t want infestations or mould from dirty equipment to damage the rest of your shipment, and some countries are incredibly strict about earth from other places crossing their border.


  • Fridges and freezers should be defrosted, cleaned and dried at least 48 hours before the packers arrive. Stuff them with packing paper, silica packets and even tea bags to soak up any moisture and avoid a nasty-smelling appliance on arrival in your new kitchen!


  • Take batteries out of everything. (Parents – this is a great excuse to leave noisy, nerve-shattering toys behind!)


tips on moving overseas


Some final words of advice!

  • Prepare to be amazed at the amount of cardboard, packing paper and silica packets that will arrive at your door pre-move. International moves require a lot of packing materials – just make sure you have a plan in place to get rid of it all at the other end!


  • Make sure that your valuables are locked in a safe place throughout the duration of the packing. Packing day is crazy, so this will ensure that no-one is blamed for lost or missing items of value.


  • We’ll deal with packing day in more detail in Part 3 of this series – The Move Itself!


That’s not all! For more tips on moving overseas, here’s the Making Here Home guide to decluttering, plus Part 1 in this series – Getting organised before your move.

If you have children, you might also want to check out Expat Move With Kids? and, children or not, here are my 8 Essentials For a Successful Expat Move

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


11 Replies to “Expert Tips on Moving Overseas: Step 2 – Packing Up!”

  1. Great advice. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Excellent tips! Thank you for sharing your experience.

  3. Wonderful article and great tips. I’m planning to move from Los Angeles to Brisbane, Australia with my family next year and I could absolutely use your tips. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Great post. Thanks for this valuable advice.

  5. Thanks a lot for sharing this useful and attractive information and I will be waiting for other interesting posts from you in the nearest future. keep it up.

  6. Outstanding tips. I needed that kind of tips that you shared in your article.

  7. I am really happy I’ve this information. Thanks!

  8. I’m not moving overseas any time soon but I’m moving out for the first time ever. I know some of these tips are going to be very helpful. Thanks for sharing them.

  9. Great experience. I like your blog. It’s a very helpful. Thanks for sharing.

    1. makingherehome says: Reply

      Thank you!

  10. Thanks for the amazing tips, I really appreciate and like your work. Keep it up.

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