My Experience Getting Ready For An Overseas Move

Moving Is Always Painful

I am still alive, there were times I wasn’t sure we were going to make it and there were a lot of times my husband and I wondered if it was worth all the effort.  The reality though is that moving is moving, and moving is painful whether it is near or far.  The hardest part of the move would have to be done regardless of whether we moved down the street or across the ocean.  The difference with the overseas move was that it would not be cost effective to ship hardly anything– it would be cheaper to buy new for a lot of things than it would be to ship them, so there was a greater effort in getting rid of stuff than in packing things away.

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What We Did With Our Stuff

We bought a lot of our furniture new 10 years ago and with 8 kids, including 6 bouncy boys– you can imagine what kind of condition our furniture was in — not good condition to say the least.  We didn’t have nice things, we always bought cheap and spent our money on books and trips and quality food, so it actually wasn’t that hard to get rid of our stuff, most of it we literally threw away at the dump– including all the mattresses and all the couches.  The bookshelves, the table and chairs went for free, we got a little money out of the patio furniture, some shelves, the TV, the food storage,  and the snowblower.  We are storing our piano at a friend’s house, our van at another friend’s house and then we have a storage unit for sentimental papers, memorabilia, and there was enough room to store some kitchen stuff, favorite toys and our camping equipment.  Thank goodness for friends!  Everything else of use we either tossed or gave away or in the case of the washer and dryer left behind because we were out of time and the homeowner said it was fine to leave them.

Where Does All The Stuff Come From?

We had moved from Utah to New Hampshire 2 1/2 years previously, and we had gotten rid of a ton of stuff then, and we had moved 2 years before that and gotten rid of a ton of stuff then too.  But stuff seems to grow and we were unable to go through some of the papers  and boxes from before, and we still had a lot of stuff to go through.  So I essentially started the process of going through everything last summer until it got too cold in the garage and then I started again in the spring.  I got rid of all my sewing and craft stuff, most of my old college notes and books, all the toys and clothes we never unpacked. I went through all the papers and school stuff we hadn’t used.  The reality is that there are so many cool things to have and look at, but if you don’t have the space for it, you will lose it in your garage, or you will forget you have it, and you will not get any use out of it even if you have it, so you may as well not store too much and have the space instead.

Mentally Preparing For The Massive Purge

One book I found helpful to get ready for this massive purge, being the sentimental person that I am and enjoying looking at things from a greater perspective– was Your Spacious Self by Stephanie Bennett Vogt (affiliate link). I also watched a bunched of Minimalist type of Ted talks (Ten Item Wardrobe , The Minimalists were a couple), and I decided that clearing all this stuff out was really what I wanted to do.  I didn’t want to be tied to a bunch of junk, I like the idea of loving the things you have and letting everything else go.  There was another popular book about clearing things that I did not read, but did read about online — it was all helpful in getting me geared up to go through everything.  When I started I would only be able to do a little at a time.  Going through things would actually give me a headache.  The Spacious Self book has exercises to go through to help you understand why you are holding on to things and then to let them go.  It also had ways to make it easier like telling your things, “thank you for your service” before letting them go and acknowledging the good use you got out of it. So those were helpful, although I seldom follow anything exactly.  I also did some journaling and some mind mapping, some visualization and continued to practice yoga and meditation.  All those things were helpful, especially as we got closer and had more to do.  Anyway, once I got used to the process, I was fine, no more headaches, and I was able to work long days and just get the work done.

Bad Impression For The Realtor

After our trip to Quebec, we started in earnest cleaning out all the closets and getting rid of all the winter stuff.  We had to get serious because we got word that our landlady wanted to show the house for selling that next month.  It was sort of good that we had a deadline, because it really put us into gear.  We set a time for the realtor to come, but it was never confirmed.  So while we did get a lot done that weekend in regards to the closets and getting rid of junk (where does all the trash come from? crayons, broken toys, missing socks, clothes with holes, papers, little toys, etc., etc.).  The house itself looked horrible when the agent actually showed up.

The 3 yr. old had colored on the carpets in the upstairs hallway with a blue chalk pastel, and there were other walls with “decorations” as well.  The carpets in the entire house were hammered when we moved in 2 1/2 years ago, the living room had white carpet with a lot of new stains that we had not been able to get out.  The kitchen sink was full of dishes, the shoes in the hallway downstairs were literally scattered everywhere, the bathrooms were not clean (since they stay clean for very short periods of time), and there were pretty much toys, books, blankets and who knows what else pretty much everywhere.  The realtor was pretty nice, but it turned out that he thought there was no way we were ever going to get out of there. He thought we were major hoarders and that we were going to leave a bunch of work for the owner.  I think the house looked much worse than it actually was, I’m embarrassed to admit.  But anyway, this put extra pressure on us to leave the house much cleaner than we actually found it when we moved in to compensate for this very low starting impression.  The good thing was that the landlady decided to replace all the appliances, countertops and carpets and decided to wait until then to show it.  So we didn’t have to worry about showings while we moved.

Garage As The Clearing Center

The garage was the clearing center.  We cleaned out the garage and had our first garage sale one Sat. in May.  Whatever didn’t sell, we took to Goodwill.  Then there was more room in the garage for things that had been in the house.  We started moving everything that was in the house out to the garage.  We had 3 piles that everything in the house had to fit — taking to France, not taking to France, but using until we actually left like pillows and blankets, and shipping to France.  Everything else had to go in the garage and then out one way or another.

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So we continued to work while still homeschooling and maintaining a pretty regular schedule with karate, church activities, school concerts and the oldest joining track through all of May.  But we did not schedule any more trips or fun things on the weekends– our priority was sorting, cleaning, clearing and moving.  I had no idea it was going to take the entire time.  I thought we would be able to go through things after school hours and on the weekends and get a lot done, but it took forever and I was glad we had started early and worked so hard, because even though we never made it back to the lake or to Salem or Plymouth, we did go to the beach twice with friends, we made it to science class and the kids made it to karate and to school activities and church activities and campouts, and most importantly, we finished in time.

Finally, as we emptied the house into the garage, we had a pile for trash, a pile to giveaway, a pile to store and a pile to ship.  We had to go through these piles multiple times, but every trip to the dump and Goodwill was awesome!  Every trip got us a little closer.  It actually felt very liberating to get rid of our stuff.    It was so much work, but it felt so good, each little bit we did , each trip to the dump and Goodwill got us closer to our goal. And eventually we emptied the entire house and garage– this is the empty garage on the day we left, and the outside of the house– I should have taken some inside pics– it looked really good! We even got most of the worst stains in the carpet out– even though we knew it would be replaced– we just wanted the house to look good for the owner and her realtor.

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Coordinating The Effort

We had to coordinate dump times, piano movers, people to come pick up things, a carpet cleaner, my friends who came to help clean, professional cleaners, getting the guinea pigs to their new home, renting a storage unit, figuring out how to ship our few boxes, figuring out what to do with the van, finishing the visa process and going into Boston for an interview (subject for a whole other post), going to cub scout meetings, and other important events, vision therapy, doctor check-ups, dental visits etc.  It was a major effort just getting 8 kids to the dentist and doctor, plus myself in a 6 week time period.  14 days out, I was not sure we were going to have enough time to get everything done, I could not sleep.  So I made a list of all the things we had to do in the middle of the night and then my husband helped me figure out what to do when.  So now we had a schedule with a little bit of leeway built in (which we used to see old friends).

Cleaning

The main reason I love New Hampshire so much is because of all the awesome people I have had the pleasure of working with, interacting with and especially getting to know and love as wonderful friends.  There was one weekend I was especially grateful to one friend when she asked if I needed help and the realto was scheduled to make a second visit to take pictures that weekend.  She brought her 2 teenage daughters and they came and helped me clean- washing walls, cabinets, floors, carpets– that was a lifesaver!  The house looked good for the realtor this time, he was shocked at how much we had done, and psychologically, the house was much more presentable with bathrooms cleaned and items in their place and most of the stains and wall “decorations” gone- we even got most of the walls clean.

We had another deadline when the owner wanted to come and just see the house– she had not been since we moved in.  I had 4 or 5 other friends come help, they brought their kids, and the kids all played really well. It was actually a lot of fun because we were able to talk while we cleaned.  My one friend sells Norwex and she and another friend had already helped me set up for the garage sale a bit before that, but anyway, we all love Norwex– it worked wonders on my house, the paste is awesome– so let me know if you are in New Hampshire and need some of the best cleaning stuff ever, plus it’s environmentally really good too.  My other friend who also helped with the garage sale let me keep her vacuum overnight because ours was not working well at all.

Once my oldest was finally finished with Track and end of the school year festivities ( she was a part time high school student, homeschooling the rest), she was super helpful.  I was worried that we were not going to finish in time and then she cleaned one of the bathrooms really well and all three pantries.  Then I knew it was going to work out. She did a lot of cleaning, the other kids helped too, but my oldest really helped and did a lot of the cleaning herself.

Then as we got closer to the end date with all our stuff out, more friends continued to come to help clean multiple times.  Some of my daughters’ friends came and helped too.  I was glad that we were able to give them all nice games, guitars, books, and other random things they could use, so that they got something more than just service feel good feelings for helping us out so much.  It was actually quite fun and if I move back, we are going to rotate houses and get all our houses nice and clean!!  I will clean for them.  And I can’t forget another friend who came over and cleaned my fridge!!  I mean, wow!! I love these people!!  And there were so many.  I feel very blessed and I hope they all keep in touch forever!!

Breaks For Sanity

We did have to take a few breaks. We went to Seabrook Beach once with a couple friends and then to Footbridge Beach another day with our old friends from Utah who live in Maine.  We hadn’t seen them since we moved there, and while the timing was pretty bad- being in the thick of things, it was so great to see them and I’m really glad we took the time.  People matter, people are important.  And Footbridge Beach had awesome waves, it is our new favorite beach in the area.  We will have to return!!  The green pictures were taken on our second to last Sunday in New Hampshire.  It was up on Christian Hill Rd. in Amherst, it was a nice little nature area that I had heard about.  It would be perfect for portraits!!  It was a beautiful day.  New Hampshire is awesome in the summer!!

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Conclusion

 

It was just a lot of work, but we actually went through every single box and were able to keep the most important things in storage, and pare down boxes in order to take the most valuable things to France– just 23 book size boxes- which we hope to ship this week– they are in another friend’s garage still.  Thank goodness for friends!!!  We have been having adventures in France, and we had a wonderful week touring on our way down here from Copenhagen, so I will blog about some of that too.  But we have finally been able to relax, sit back and reflect a bit.  It has been a crazy couple of months.  Now that it is over, I am so glad we did it.  I am so glad we have been able to do it!  And I am going to try real hard to keep up a more minimalist lifestyle– say “no” to things in the store!!

 

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