(o‘∀‘o)*:◦♪ Again, this was originally put on my now terminated FC2 blog. However, since I decided to move, all of my stuff was deleted. Here it is again:
There were a couple of mornings prior to leaving for Japan where I woke up and stood in the middle of my room, staring at the belongings and sizing up what I wanted to bring along for the ride and what was being relegated to the trash. Naturally, there was a huge list of sentimental items that, if I had unlimited shipping ability or a Star Trek transporter, would have come with me. But international moving is not easy. Moving even down the block from your original location isn’t even easy.
I learned that the first time I went to Japan from October 2010 to April 2012. Since it was for school and the dormitories were furnished, I didn’t have to worry about packing too much. I brought clothes, books, technology, and myself. Anything else important could be picked up for a relatively decent price at a supermarket or 100 Yen store. Plus, previous occupants in the dorms were nice enough to pile their items outside when they vacated the area, meaning that whatever you needed was up for grabs. I still have some treasures I picked. Hand-me-downs or not, when you’re a starving college student, you take what you can get, no questions asked.
The second time I moved out of my parents’ house, I was headed to Baltimore, Maryland. Unfortunately, my perceptions of the area have then since dwindled to disdain, but I digress. I brought things with me that weren’t of any use. I bought new furniture, new gadgets, and in the end, had very little storage space inside my “studio.” My third move was impromptu and sudden. Unable to tolerate the unsanitary conditions of my student-friendly housing (what a terrible joke), I packed up what I could fit into my Toyota Corolla and jettisoned off to York, Pennsylvania. The new apartment was three times larger than my Baltimore studio, twice as expensive, and infinitely less like home. And now here I am, once again packing up to move.
Having gained a lot of packing expertise, I now share these tips with you:
1. Roll, don’t fold. Unless your clothing gets permanently wrinkled, roll it up and stuff it into your suitcase. You’ll notice a lot more space.
2. DO NOT use “space” bags. I don’t know if they’re still considered popular, but Space Bags, no matter the brand, are not worth your time or frustration. Despite the claims of keeping clothes safe and dry, mine repeatedly came out damp. Turns out that the Ziploc seal at the top didn’t shut entirely, and so the humidity of summertime Japan clung to the inside. My clothes smelled like mold for months.
3. Get packing cubes, like the ones I purchased here: Packing Cubes
Basically an organizational tool or the nomad’s equivalent to Merlin’s bag, these nifty cubes hold a huge amount of clothes and supplies without taking up space in your bags. Plus, you can use them afterwards to keep things from getting chaotic (like your
sock drawer). Seriously, in the smallest bag available I fit 4 washcloths, 7 pairs of underwear, and 6 pairs of cushioned athletic socks. In the smallest size.
4. If you’re a wanderer like me, I recommend either a traveling backpack or a convertible backpack (like the one I’ve purchased here: eBags Weekender Junior. Unlike a normal book bag or day trip satchel, traveling and convertible backpacks offer the convenience of extra space and protection for your goods. There are a bunch of types out there now. My recommendation is to go for one with decent straps and designated sections. If you’re going to be backpacking, you want to be able to stay organized and comfortable. I have scoliosis, so I know the struggle of heavy backpacks and stiff shoulders. But a backpack that displaces the load and offers reliable straps can make a world of difference.
Plus, unlike hiking backpacks that open solely from the top and force you to dig through everything crammed inside, these have a variety of zippers and compartments.
Some of my favorites can be found on this site: eBags!
BONUS! They now ship to Japan.
5. If you have the luxury of moving your clothing via wardrobe boxes, do it. DO IT. You don’t even need to remove the hangers, which saves so much time later on.
6. Speaking of wardrobe boxes, or storage containers in general, use see-through ones so you know what’s inside. If you can pack your clothes based on seasons, then you have even less to worry about when you unpack; because if there’s snow outside, why bother sorting through your summer stuff?
7. Purge what you don’t need. Trust me, as nice as it is to keep Great Aunt Myrtle’s hand sown Christmas sweater for the memories, you probably don’t need it. You’re definitely not going to wear it. You also don’t need those shoes you bought on sale but never wore. And all those scarves tucked away in that fashionable brown paper bag? Nope. Grab the articles that are gently worn, put them in a box, and get them to the homeless shelter or the Salvation Army. There are millions of people who could use what you haven’t. If you have some garments that are still trendy and youthful, take them to Plato’s Closet or ThredUp.
BREAKABLES & SENTIMENTAL STUFF
Sadly, when we move we often have to abandon the things we’ve accumulated that make home feel like home. Yet, it is essential to bring some of these artifacts, especially if you’re moving with children.
8. Pack the fragile knickknacks up in your rolled clothing. For example, I have ceramic sake cups that I refuse to leave behind. Taking my shirts, I’ve gently wrapped them and placed them in the center of the suitcase.
9. FILE your plates. Instead of laying them down horizontally into the box, insert them vertically with bubble wrap or newspaper separating each plate. Not only will you have more space, but this makes them more resilient to chipping and cracking.
10. STACK your cups. Use newspaper, fabric, or bubble wrap to cushion the insides then stack them. I typically go for a honeycomb pattern.
11. If you have Tupperware or plastic containers, use them as protection for some smaller
objects. For example, I used my larger containers to organize my silverware and accessory/tapas plates. And yes, I even used a few as makeshift packing cubes for undershirts and frilly things.
No, I’m not talking refrigerators and ovens but microwaves and rice cookers, et cetera.
These things are a huge hassle. You can’t squish them like clothes. They’re heavy, cumbersome, and sometimes carrying them up three flights of stairs makes you want to put them in the garbage.
12. If you’re not moving internationally and can afford to pack up your handy appliances, do it. If you can’t bring them, try selling them on Craigslist or Ebay for some extra cash. Seriously.
13. If you’re like me and are absolutely adamant on bringing your Ninja food processor
along for the ride, break it down in its components (this works for anything similar). Wrap the blades carefully and use the containers for extra storage space.
14. Donate and sell what you can part with. Leave the unnecessary things behind.
15. I’ll say it again: If you have books that you’ll never read again, donate them or sell them.
16. Can’t bring your mattress? Donate it. Sell it. Give it to your parents and tell them that you’ll be using it when you visit over Christmas.
17. Eat perishable food items before you go. Nothing burns the frugal more than having to throw away perfectly edible food that may spoil during the travels.
18. Pack ahead of time, and take as long as you need. I said it earlier. Moving isn’t easy. There were times when I had to leave the things I was packing or tossing and go for a walk to clear my mind. Do not stress yourself out by rushing to cram every single thing you have into cardboard boxes.
19. If you can’t bring your houseplants, find someone to “adopt” them. Preferably someone with a green thumb.
20. Create a “to-do” list as far as several months ahead of time. I created a rudimentary
spreadsheet two months before my move to Japan listing things like: taxes, utilities, credit cards, banking, and mailing address. Don’t leave your present residence without switching off the electric. Also, make sure you know who to get in contact with for your new place. Double check that everything will be ready for you as soon as you move in, like your internet.
Nothing sucks more like telling your family you’ll Skype with them only to find that the utilities aren’t on or your router hasn’t arrived. Like me. ( ﾉД`)
21. If you don’t have a job yet, I found it advantageous to put out feelers. I did this for Baltimore, York, and most recently Japan. I emailed several locations, told them of my situation, and was able to snag interviews that would take place during the first or second week of residence in that area. This mitigated my financial concerns slightly, because I knew there would be income.
22. Pack an “essentials” bag. For me, this is my carry on. Just in case your suitcases end up in another city, you at least have a change of clothes, toiletries, and all of your documents on your person. Other useful things for your essentials bag is first aid supplies, some snacks, and a phone charger. You never know.
23. If you’re flying, know what is allowed for your flight before you go. Repacking your
suitcases to make sure you can board is aggravating. Different airlines also have uniquely irritating rules. Be aware of any weight or luggage limitations, the customs procedure of the terminus airport, and what you’re going to need on hand immediately upon arrival. Keep your boarding passes close and your passport closer when flying internationally. Domestically, don’t lose sight of your itinerary. Sign up for email or text alerts in case there are changes, delays, or cancellations.
In short, moving house can be a harrowing, heart-wrenching experience. Regardless of where your destination is, starting up where you left off in a new town is a great challenge. Luckily, there are actions you can take to simply the process and make it more enjoyable. Feel free to contact me with any questions or leave a comment sharing your thoughts and experiences.