You are moving overseas. Perhaps your move is job-related or perhaps it’s the realization of a lifelong dream. Either way, you know where you’re going to live, how you are going to get there, and what legalities you need to complete to enter the country. Now, it’s time to start prepping for the move: you need to do some spring cleaning.

To reduce stress and save your sanity, leave yourself plenty of time. Start at least eight weeks before moving day. There is too much to do to leave it for the last few days.


The first step is to categorize what George Carlin famously called “stuff.” You need to decide whether to:

  • Donate gently used stuff
  • Toss worn-out stuff
  • Sell stuff you don’t want
  • Store stuff you want but don’t need
  • Ship stuff you can’t live without

Work room by room

Clothing & personal possessions

Arm each family member with boxes and trash bags and have them begin to sort their clothes. The initial categories include what fits and what doesn’t, as well as what’s climate appropriate and what’s not.

Keep in mind that you may need to overrule or negotiate some choices. Once decided, further sort what doesn’t fit and isn’t appropriate between toss (into the trash bags) and donate clean and bagged clothing, as it generally does not do well in yard or garage sales. Divide the remaining clothes between shipping and luggage. Launder and box the clothes that will ship.

Proceed in the same way through each room in the house. Be sure to include the owner in the disposition of their personal belongings. All toys, gadgets, games and gizmos must be complete and in working order—otherwise, they go into the toss pile. After broken and incomplete possessions have been discarded, sort the remaining items in accordance with intention: donate, sell, store, or ship.

Furniture, soft furnishings

Regardless of whether you give way, sell, store or ship to keep, you should clean upholstered furniture, excess bedding and window treatments. Most thrift stores will reject donations with excessive dirt and wear. If you are selling them, you’ll get a better price if your things are clean. Besides, it’s just the considerate thing to do. Also, stored and shipped items hold up better if they start out clean.

Household goods

As with clothing and personal possessions, make sure all household goods, especially from the kitchen, are dust, grime, and mold free. Sort everything according to category, and make sure all are in good working condition. Consider selling or gifting electrical appliances because even with plug adapters, different electrical systems can compromise their utility and import taxes (even on used items) may make it more cost effective to simply buy new items in your new home country.

Family treasures

Family keepsakes and heirlooms can be the most difficult to prune. Their intrinsic value is inestimable; extrinsically, they are worthless. Do plan to take family photos along, or at least some of them, and store the others. Better yet, scan and store them digitally. If there are items you would like grown children to have, now is the time to pass them on. If your children are not yet grown, you’ll have to decide what to ship or store. Consider sharing photos with family and friends.

Handy hints

  • Incentivize children to sell possessions at the yard sale—they keep the money from their sales.
  • Consult your mover for advice on proper storage techniques. Professional moving companies have specialized supplies for everything from china to books. They can also advise you on storage options: climate-controlled vs. DIY storage facilities.
  • If finances permit, consider not shipping nonessential household goods, furniture and soft furnishings. What you save in import duties (and typically there will be import duties, even on used items) will defray replacement costs on the other end.
  • Consider adding desiccant packs to shipping and storage boxes to alleviate mold and mildew, especially a hot, humid climate is involved.
  • Donate or sell all appliances, even the food processor and iron.

Whether you are moving across the street or around the world, moving is a stressful business. Plan, pace yourself, and try to enjoy the ride as you embark on your new adventure.

Written by Einat Mazafi
Einat Mazafi is the owner of NY International Shipping, an International Shipping and moving company based in New York. She is also a specialist in providing the best relocation solutions to clients worldwide.