The words we’re moving echoed in my head as I fought back the kaleidoscope of emotions. The reality of moving again made my mind swirl. I thought of all the tasks that needed to be done, all the goodbyes to the people I loved, all the places to visit one last time. Everything suddenly felt overwhelming as I asked myself, Where do I begin?
After 14 corporate relocations, I knew all too well what went into the preparation of a move and about the emotional toll on a family. If you are facing a move in the near future, don’t panic. Instead, take a deep breath and begin by repeating Proverbs 16:9, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Then, as you continue to pray for the Lord to direct you, consider these guidelines to ease the process of moving your family.
Ideally, you will have at least an eight-week heads-up before you move. Of course there are circumstances that crunch your preparation time, so adjust these guidelines accordingly.
Countdown to a Hassle-Free Move:
Eight Weeks to Go
- Get a notebook and pen, and start listing. Write down everything you can think of — errands and chores to be done, people and services to contact, items to move and not to move. What will you give away, and what will you sell? Divide your notebook into section headings for easy reference.
- Decide how you will move. Get estimates from moving or rental-truck companies. Select a mover. Choose a target date for the move.
- Arrange to transfer children’s school records. Obtain medical, veterinarian, legal and tax records, as well as glasses prescriptions. Ask for referrals.
- Tell your children about the move as soon as you can. The more time they have to think about and prepare for the move, the easier it will be for them. Allow them to express their feelings, fears and doubts.
- Begin modeling a positive attitude, no matter how you feel about the move.
Six Weeks to Go
- Measure the furniture, rugs and drapes or curtains you’ll be taking. If possible, get the room sizes of your new home (keep all measurements in your notebook). This will help you know what will fit where when you move.
- Clean out closets and unwanted items. Involve your children in the process of cleaning out their rooms. Have a garage sale and donate items to charities.
- Create excitement by having kids find trivia about your new town and try to stump each other or by finding one great way that their new city will be different from their current city. End each new city game with a treat.
Four Weeks to Go
- Notify all newspaper and magazine subscriptions of your address change.
- Begin to gather boxes and packing supplies. Take a room a day and begin packing seldom-used items. Color code or label boxes for each room and list contents on the side of each box.
- Let your children begin to pack their rooms and label boxes.
Three Weeks to Go
- Contact utility and service companies to set turn-off dates.
- Anticipate what your pet needs for traveling by car or plane.
- Return library books.
- Make change-of-address labels to give to family and friends.
Two Weeks to Go
- If you do not have professional movers, start packing what’s left in each room, leaving out items you’ll need such as clothes, medications, toiletries, bedding and towels. Begin with rooms used less often.
- Begin saying goodbye to people who are important to your family and to the places that hold special memories.
- Make an effort to spend extra time together and talk about any anxious feelings. Perhaps do this as you visit places in your area that you would want to see if you didn’t live there.
- Give your children an address or autograph book for friends to sign, or help them create a scrapbook of memories.
- Arrange to transfer bank accounts to a new bank or branch, and notify any creditors that you will be moving.
One Week to Go
- Give away plants not being moved.
- Return rented movies.
- Cancel the newspaper and forward your mail by filling out a change-of-address form at the post office or online at usps.com.
- Let the children fill their own backpacks with snacks, games, books, paper, pens and their favorite blanket or stuffed animal for the trip.
- Pack a “survival box” with things you’ll need when you first arrive at your new home — from coffee to soap. Have it loaded last, or carry it with you.
- Set aside jewelry, vital documents, prescriptions and valuables to carry with you.
- Give lots of hugs.
- Pack the kitchen last. Meal time together creates some normalcy during the upheaval of moving.
- Start the day with prayer
- Involve your children by giving them small tasks.
- Do a walk-through of your home with the movers to discuss specifics.
- Double check closets, refrigerator, pantry, drawers and shelves to make sure they’re empty.
- Leave the house vacuumed and the bathrooms and kitchen clean.
- Remember enthusiasm is contagious — make your move a “big adventure”!
I recently sat across the table from a young military mom whose eyes were brimming with tears. “We just got our orders,” she said. “Our new duty station will be in Germany, and this will be my first international move.” She took a deep breath, then said those all-too-familiar words: “Where do I begin?”
In addition to all that’s involved in a stateside move, moving internationally requires extra preparation. Whether you are a military spouse, a missionary or a soon-to-be corporate expatriate, here are some things to consider as you get ready for an opportunity of a lifetime — an international move.
Three Months to Go:
- Get passports and other official documents needed for the country where you will live.
- Learn all you can about the country and culture. Make it a project for your children. Search the Internet, and visit the library.
- Begin learning the language. Get to know basic words and phrases. It will make life easier and more fun for your family.
- Do your homework on housing, medical care and schools.
- Decide whether you will be taking your car.
Two Months to Go:
- Arrange storage for the things you can live without. Remember, less is more.
- Make arrangements for your pets to go or not to go with you.
- Talk to other expatriates in the country to find out what essentials are limited or unavailable at your new location, and stock up before you leave. Items may include deodorant and other hygiene products, your favorite brand of coffee and spices you use often, etc.
One Month to Go:
- Inquire about banking accounts and money exchange.
- Find out the best long-distance telephone service for your needs. There are VOIP services that allow you to make low-cost international calls. All you need is a computer, a microphone and Internet access.
One Week to Go:
- Pack your luggage, making sure you have enough clothing and other essentials to last for a while. It could take a few weeks before the items you ship overseas reach your new home.
- Move unneeded items into storage.
- Buy traveler’s checks.
- Make sure you have your passport and official documents with you.
- Make sure your luggage is not over the weight limit for air travel.
- Don’t forget your camera.
- Take lots of pictures; make lots of memories in your new international life!
Susan Miller is an author, speaker and founder of Just Moved, an outreach ministry for women and families who are relocating.