Right now, I’m two-thirds of the way through seeing my home packed up in boxes, ready to be moved to Tokyo. Tonight is the last time we sleep in this home and in a few days we’ll be boarding a plane and leaving Singapore for good.
Having moved, in the last fifteen years, from Sydney, to London, then Delhi, Hong Kong, Singapore and now onto Tokyo, I’ve had the chance to learn a little about how to do this. Here’s some stripped back insights from all those moves.
1. Collect The Mail
As soon as you know you are moving, make a list of all your mail as you receive it. This is a good way to get your head around the services you need to disconnect and the final bills you’ll need to pay. Start your redirections early, because some publications take up to three months to hit a new address (more for international subscriptions). I always invest in post office mail redirection services, which are pricey, but have saved my bacon on a few occasions.
2. Take Out The Trash
One of the benefits of moving, is the chance to go through all your stuff and dump things you don’t use, never got fixed, or no longer need. The less you pack the cheaper your move will be and the faster the unpack at the other end.
3. Back It Right Up
When we left India, I remember watching all our belongings being loaded onto a truck, then driven away. A few tearful minutes later, after we had said goodbye to our house we saw the same truck, broken down by the side of the road. Moving house is a powerful reminder of how fragile our belongings are and, if you are not careful, how fragile your digital assets might be. Back everything up, then back up it again, then backup your backups to the cloud. And, don’t wait till the last minute to start backing up, or you will run out of time.
4. Make Lists Of Lists
If there’s a time in life when being a detail obsessed list-freak pays off, it’s during a move. Lists are powerful. Ideally, before a move, you will turn every room in your home into a series of to-do, how to pack, what to throw out, kinds of lists. Having detailed lists will take a lot of the stress out of everything from every little chore involved in moving. Again, start the lists early, in fact, start them as soon as you know you are going to move.
5. Think In Terms Of Your Future Home
When packing, it’s easy to get obsessed about the order of your current home, but you’ll save a lot of time if you pack with your future home in mind. Our place in Tokyo has about the same number of rooms and overall floor space as our place in Singapore, but the layout is a little different. So, I’m making sure everything is labelled not just for the room it came out of here, but the room it will go into there.
6. Pack Some Joy
While I like my moves to be neat and tidy, it’s also fun to add a little randomness. Even though it’s inefficient, I like to pack a few magazines that were on our coffee table when we left, to give us a sense of continuity. And, I drop little notes and photos into my daughter’s boxes, so when she unpacks, there’s some extra reminders at the other end she is loved. It’s a smile now and smile later kind of thing.
7. Get Some Rest
Right now I’m down with a cold. Looking back, I’ve come down with a cold around the time of every move. It’s a stressful time and it’s hard to sleep and eat well with so many things whizzing through one’s head. You need to make some time to get a little rest, give your brain a break, or it may well get to you, as it has for me.
8. Say Goodbye To Everything & Everyone
When I left London, I didn’t really say goodbye to everyone and everything. I kind of assumed after a few years in Delhi, we’d pick up where we left off in London. I was stupid and as a consequence, deeply unhappy. Five months after moving to Delhi I came back to London and said a proper goodbye, everything from friends, to my old workplace, to the street where we lived. After that, things really began for me in Delhi and I started to enjoy life again. Say goodbye to everyone and everything and start saying goodbye early. I believe you should give yourself a month, for every year you’ve lived in a place, to say goodbye.
9. Clean Out Your Contacts
Something of a controversial one this, but every move I go through my contacts list, clean and trim things a little. I always prefer to keep a smaller list of active contacts, than long lists of people I can hardly remember and never stay in touch with. And, with every move, it’s good to reorganise your contacts. I’m not going to delete my Singapore taxi booking numbers just yet, but I can move them off my contact favourites now.
10. Get It Out Your System
Moving is an emotional time. Saying goodbye to friends, watching your stuff go into boxes, walking though the empty shell of the place you once called home is all tough stuff to go through. Give yourself permission throughout the process to let out your emotions. Every move I go through it all, anger, sadness, joy and the blues. You may want to pick and choose who you express which emotions to, there’s no point denying the range of pent up feelings that will try and bubble to the surface, often at unexpected times.
11. Take A Break
Some people like to take a break between leaving one place and starting life in somewhere else. Others like to take a break soon after moving and unpacking in their new home. I guess it would be nice to do both. Whichever option is available to you, there’s a lot to be said for taking a break and getting centred again. Relocating has a weird way of making you lose your connection with the present, since you are always thinking about the past (what you are leaving behind) and anxious about the future (what you are going to face). Take a break and reconnect with the feeling of living in the present.
Anyway, I hope that helps. I’m sure there are other more practical (or more supportive) lists out there. This is just a little of how I approach this experience and what has helped me get through this move up to the this point.