This post was last updated on February 24th, 2017
The main thing to consider when packing for a move abroad is whether or not the item will add any value to your new life. If the answer is no – don’t bring it. I had to really think about the things I owned and got rid of anything that I didn’t really want, such as home decor. When you are forced to narrow things down to one or two suitcases you start to look at your each item differently.
What you bring depends a lot on the kind of living arrangement you have chosen, of course. I would advise anyone to get a furnished apartment when moving to a different country. If you move to a place that is not furnished you will have to start thinking about whether to ship your appliances and furniture or purchase new items when you arrive. This will make things more complicated as you will not only have to consider the financial aspect but also figure out if your new home can fit everything you want to bring. A furnished apartment takes care of all of that and also provides much-needed stability. You can sell your furniture and appliances back home if they are still in good condition and use the money on anything that might be missing from your new place.
As far as electronics go, it’s better to stay within certain limits as well. I only took my laptop, my digital camera, and my smartphone with me. Taking your phone with you and getting a new prepaid SIM card once you arrive is the easiest way to stay connected after a big move. For anything else you decide to bring make sure to find out if you need adapters and then pack those as well.
The vast majority of what I took with me were clothes. It’s important to really consider the climate. I moved from a city with a cold winter to one with a pretty mild winter, so I could leave some things back in Germany. You don’t need to bring your warmest coats if you’re moving to Hawaii or bring five swimsuits if you’re moving to Alaska. If you move to a place with extreme weather conditions try to buy necessary clothing after you arrive. If you currently live in Thailand, clothes for extremely cold winters are probably more difficult to find as well as more expensive. In Canada, they will be available pretty much everywhere and at lower prices. Do be informed though that your body will adjust to the climate very quickly. What you considered warm before can soon feel cool.
You should also use the move as an opportunity to get rid of any clothes you don’t feel comfortable wearing, anything that is worn out or doesn’t fit you anymore. The less stuff you take with you the better. Don’t bring anything “just in case.” You don’t want an item like that to waste precious space in your suitcase. The same goes for gym clothes if you don’t work out. If you move abroad with good intentions such as working out more you can always buy workout clothes upon arrival. If when you are packing you have not worked out in months there is no need to pack your gym clothes.
Try not to bring items that are of no practical use. I understand that you may have built a relationship with your doll collection but moving abroad is a good time to move on and get rid of things you don’t actually use. Try to digitalize anything that serves as a memory.
Don’t ask people to store anything for you. Most of what you cannot take with you right away is not that important. Having a huge amount of stuff in storage means that you will need to organize how to get those things to your destination.
CDs, DVDs, and books take up too much space, and you know it. For CDs and DVDs, there is really no reason at all, as you can digitalize everything. I only packed a few favorites, and even that was not necessary. Those DVDs and CDs have not even been played once since I moved here.
Books deserve an entire blog post on their own, but for the purposes of this specific topic let me just say that when I moved to Greece, I knew it was impossible to take my books with me due to the space they would take up. Storing them with my parents was not an option either because it would have taken ages for them to bring or send all of them. I realized I had to leave almost all my books behind and ended up only bringing three books: a book about Greece that a friend had given me as a farewell gift, the book that I was currently reading, and the most recent book I had purchased. As sad as it may be, remember that you don’t want to be over the maximum weight. You don’t want to spend money on bringing more stuff. That money can be put to better use when you arrive.
And now for some more practical tips:
To save space stuff empty spaces with small items. Socks fit in shoes or boots. Half-used shampoo bottles or concealers take up unnecessary space. You are better off using that space for things you really want to take with you and purchasing toiletries at your destination.
The most important things should, of course, be in your carry-on, so that if anything happens to your checked baggage you will be able to get by for a few days. This includes important documents and toiletries because you don’t know what exactly will be available at local stores. Also make sure that you take any medication that you absolutely need. Once you arrive at your destination go to a pharmacy and ask them for equivalents so that you know what you will be purchasing in the future.
Once you realize how liberating it is to leave a lot of things behind you will make sure not to accumulate too much stuff again.