Monday, 3 October 2011

To keep or not to keep, that is the question

The New Diplomat’s Wife says her own sheets, Kim says her toothbrush, then her computer and H&K’s own Matt says kettle, tea, toaster, but what is the first thing you unpack when you move into a new house, and why?

One couple say that they have to unpack the stereo first, just to get through the enormous task of unpacking, whilst this little survey throws up some results that I’m sure many people think about when unpacking, whether they are constructive or not.

From this small list of things it seems that people like to have four things with them when they move somewhere new. People like to have some that is familiar to them to aid the transition between old and new, like The New Diplomat’s Wife and her sheets, something that makes life more fun, life the couple and their stereo, something to help you communicate with friends and family back home, like Kim and her computer, and then there are the practical aspects – toothbrush, clean clothes, something to eat. 

Packing, moving unpacking can be an extremely difficult time in anyone’s life, but no more so than in the life of an expat. Expats can’t simply pack everything up, hire a truck and drive all their belongings down the road. There is shipping, customs, ensuring there is somewhere for all these belongings to go on the other side. There are many good sites that aim to help make the move a little bit easier for expats, and here are just a few:
  1. Where to begin….
  2. Buying a property abroad
  3. Top tips for a successful assignment
  4. Questions you should ask yourself before moving overseas
  5. How to get an international job
There are many reasons that people don’t like getting rid of their possessions, if you are interested in those reasons have a read of this article, but sometimes it is just necessary. When becoming an expat the question turns from, do we really need to keep this, to do we really need to pay to ship this across the world or pay to keep it in storage here?
So Expat Explorer has compiled a list of things that really, really can be ditched before the big move:
  1. Any clothes that are more than a decade old.
  2. Anything that you have used or worn in 2 years.
  3. That big stash of magazines that is over taking the garage/office/attic.
  4. The contents of the man drawer.
  5. Books. Many books hanging around in houses will never be read again. Give them away. The same goes for CDs, games and DVDs.
  6. If you have any DIY projects half finished, now is the time to let them go.
  7. If you needed to use it and it was packed away at the back of the garage, would you be willing it out? No? Ditch it.
  8. Do the Throw Out 50 Things Challenge
Don't you wish you could just do this?
So, expats, what is the first thing that you unpack when you move home? And what are your top tips for de-cluttering before the big move? Leave a comment below or on Twitter ExpatExplorer.


  1. The first things I unpacked were the kitchen items I brought with me. Pots, pans, and dishtowels. I condensed a three-story townhouse into 5 suitcases of stuff that I brought to Singapore. Purging all our stuff was so therapeutic for me.

  2. Packing up every item from a house into a small number of suitcases is a very difficult procedure, but as you say, it can be very relieving. If you are planning to return home from Singapore, is there anything that you would do differently on the return journey?

  3. Don't get rid of all books if you're moving to a country where another language is spoken. Especially if you have kids! It can take some time to find a bookstore which sells english language books for adults and kids and while you might think you can just get some on Amazon, it can be a while before you get hooked up with internet.

    I quite enjoyed eBaying things 7 at a time. I started with my boyfriends things: somehow that was much easier...

  4. That is a very good point Fiona! Taking some books with you would be a great idea. Thanks for the tip!

  5. I always unpack my books first. Without them, it is not a home.


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