I am moving back to the UK from abroad and although it is exciting, I am concerned about how to manage the move. I don’t know how to decide what to bring over with me and what I should just get rid of. Do you have any advice on how I can decide without losing too many of my belongings?
Thanks for contacting us.
What you want to take and leave will depend largely on where you’re travelling from and where you’re planning to stay when you arrive.
For example, in hotter climates you may have fine chairs for outdoor use. They’ll last two minutes in the rainy UK. Decision made, really – it’s pointless bringing them back.
You’ll also want a professional mover if you’re bringing a house load. Get in touch with them and ask how much space they allocate you. This at least will give you target ‘volume’ for packing and moving.
In terms of organising yourself, try the following:
What do you no longer use? What can you sell on towards the costs of the move? What could go to charity shops? What would friends or neighbours appreciate?
We recently had decluttering specialist Chloe Jessamy offer some sound advice on this front: Declutter to destress.
When moving from abroad, being tough on yourself is easier – every item you keep will be adding to the transportation costs.
Don’t, however, do what I did with my last international move: I was so brutal that I still miss all kinds of things, from a beautiful John Lewis oriental cabinet, to glass shelving, from kitchen equipment to favourite quilt covers.
But do be firm with yourself. Most things that have sat in cupboards for years are unlikely to suddenly make a reappearance in your new home.
You don’t say where you’re moving from, but if the sockets and/or electric current is different, your electrics may well prove useless, or worse, dangerous back in the UK. Decision made: these can be given away or sold, and replaced back in the UK. (Many charity shops across Europe won’t accept electrical items.)
We recently wrote about packing up to move home: Ten tips towards taking the pain out of moving home.
This should prove useful.
However, with an international move you’re better sourcing the boxes locally than trying to import them from us at easyStorage – Brexit means customs checks and that can mean taxes and delays. (Of course, we may always move abroad and this could change – watch this space!)
Whatever you finally decide, do make sure the boxes are good quality for the safety of your belongings.
Booking transport for an international move is a little more complex than a move in the UK. Often goods will leave a month before you and arrive after you.
Book with plenty of time, and flush out any extra hidden charges.
With Brexit came the end of freedom of movement – for things as well as people, so there may well be import and export taxes imposed until further accords are reached. You don’t want your things being held ransom in a container until you pay any unexpected export tax.
In this sense, if you have anything that shows what you originally took out when you left the UK, it can save you a fortune. Good shipping companies will help you with this and be clear about what taxes may be imposed, and when, along the way.
Big furniture is one of the toughest decisions for an international move. Bulky and heavy, transport costs can make your hair curl!
Take a look at the local market and/or get some local advice when it comes to furniture.
For example, I have a mahogany table that I once took out to Spain with me. At the moment, In the UK no-one wants big dark pieces of furniture. They’re just not fashionable. Yet in Spain, big dark pieces of furniture were then earning premium prices, even second hand. The decision to take it was easy, and as the space I was moving into was large, it proved a very welcome addition.
Other considerations will be the space available at the other end. UK properties are often smaller than those abroad, so the tape measure is your friend when it comes to decisions about moving sofas, beds etc. Don’t incur the shipping costs simply to find that you can’t use what you’ve brought with you.
If you’re returning yourself (as opposed to your belongings) to the UK by car or van, you’ll have an idea of how much space you have for the last minute things. If you are flying, book extra bags. Either way, you know what space you have for last minute things, which will dictate whatlast minute supplies you keep and what you dispose of.
Up until the last minute you’ll need some bulky things like quilts/bedding/pillows and basics like kettles. If you’re in rental accommodation, these may, of course, be leavable, but if they have to be cleared from your current home, make sure you have yourself enough disposal time before setting off to travel.
Quilts can be good for having in the car for a long international journey, for cushioning and for warmth on any unexpected overnight stops sleeping in the car. But if you’re flying, the cost of brining it back may prove higher than the cost of a new one. Dog rehoming charities are often really grateful for them if you decide not to bring them back.
Don’t forget that food and liquids may not be allowed across borders, so check before you travel. Again, your shippers will probably let you know a lot of this, but make sure you know the rules.
Often people head back without having yet bought a new property or fount somewhere to rent, relying on temporary accommodation or the kindness of friends and/or relatives until all is settled.
If you have already got somewhere, our packing instructions (above) will be useful, but if you don’t, the last thing you want to do is upset kind hosts by landing them with the entire contents of someone else’s house.
Buy yourself a reprieve. You’ve lived without everything in that lorry (bringing your things home) for a week or two, you can live without it for a little longer. Consider some short term storage to tide you over.
Animals with their passports seem to be able to move almost more easily than humans from Europe. However, this is not the same for all countries and not the same for all animals.
Check well in advance what paperwork and injections (if any) are needed to bring a pet back to the UK.
If pets and children are travelling back with you, factor this into your journey times. You’ll need far more regular stops, and may need things to entertain children en route.
If you had children abroad, make sure their citizenship and paperwork is all clear, and in any case check everyone’s passports are still valid.
Either way, children and animals will increase what you need to travel with but decrease the available space. Make sure you factor this into moving arrangements.
Perhaps your pet would be better travelling with a professional cross-border pet transporter?
Amongst your things will be items that have no apparent value except to you.
The last time I moved I was being pressured to take photos of the children’s paintings and get rid of them to make space. I’m still glad I resisted. The paper is somehow more evocative of their chubby little hands holding pencils and brushes than any glossy photo, which, to be honest, would probably have sat unseen until the phone holding them broke.
I’m glad I kept them. Others will have baby booties. Record collections. First Valentine’s card from a partner.
Some things are worth more than money. Pack them first! I realise that this will have declutterers clenching their teeth in horror. Apologies to decluttering purists, but having moved many, many times, I speak from the heart.
Being able to move in with just essentials allows you to achieve certain goals - for example, finding the right place for the sofa and chairs in the lounge; deciding on bedroom allocations if they’re different sizes; finding the right places for things in the kitchen (which cupboard for food, which for saucepans or crockery); having a thorough clean before moving everything in.
These things are harder with lots of things around.
Having half of your things put into storage for a couple of months will allow you to get organised and settled far faster and in a far more relaxing way than boxes staring at you from the corner constantly reminding you to unpack, or worse, needing constant moving as you get organised.
There’s even a handy little space estimator to help you work out how much space you need.
May we be the first to wish you every success with the move, Jack.
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