How to pack up your house before an overseas trip

Packing up your house for an overseas trip is enough to scare the crap out of anyone. Combine that with wrapping up 2 jobs and a deadline approaching far too quickly and you have an extremely fun situation.

It’s not just like a move down the road to a new home – you can’t just chuck all those undiscovered items in the back of the car, or a loosely packed box knowing you can sort them out when you arrive. When you’re packing up your life completely and won’t be back for for 6 months, 12 months, 2 years, everything has to be securely packed and taken care of.

But we managed it (yay!) and here are the tips we learnt along the way.

Tip 1. Remember why you are doing this.
It helped us immensely to remind each other that this was always going to be the hardest part of our adventure, the trial before the fun begins. Part of earning your freedom involves putting in the hard yards packing up your kitchen and moving countless boxes up and down stairs late into the night. If it was easy, everyone would do it – right?

Tip 2. Be ruthless!
We had a big plans for our house when we bought it. It was where our children were going to grow up, a place we could make our own and were going to live in for years and therefore storage of items was never an issue that passed our thoughts as we accumulated more stuff.

Packing up is the perfect opportunity to have a clean out. And clean out we did! Donating items to your local hospice or charity shop is a great way to ensure that asos purchase that never looked right gets a second lease on life. It helps immensely to remind yourself that the clothing you haven’t worn in 12 months could be helping someone else if I donated, rather than gathering dust in the wardrobe. That tie might help someone get a job, that jersey might keep someone warm this winter.

Tip 3. Make sure you have a back up for things that may not fit in storage…
After doing some calculations around storage units in Wellington we arranged a 3 x 2 m storage unit with 16 cubic meters. Safe to say we under estimated how much space we would need but we also surprised ourselves with just how small an area we could fit most of our belongings into. The saving grace for everyone’s stress levels and all relationships involved was having somewhere extra where a few of the trickier items could go – this could be a friends, parents, or family members – anywhere really, just somewhere that wouldn’t mind holding on that 2m lamp which was just an absolute must have when you saw it in the shop.
Tip 4. Don’t pay for storage you don’t need.
I know we said that we didn’t get a unit big enough for all our processions but a key to keeping costs down is to make sure you also don’t over estimate how much space your household items will take up – especially if you have done a great job with the clean up. Storage is not cheap so make sure you do your homework and get a unit that has a taller than standard roof height – you won’t have to pay additional for the size of the room in comparison to other units but you’ll be amazed at how you can stack items to make the most of that extra space.

Almost there…


The finished result (that stuff isn’t going anywhere!)

We found this storage calculator really helpful to estimate a starting point of how much space we would need…

Tip 5. Give yourself more time than you think you’ll need.
Annah had spent the week prior to packing up our house in Auckland handing over to her replacement at work. This was a must do and an excellent way to make sure work wasn’t left in the lurch however it did make for a tight turn around in regards to packing. In a perfect world you would have a whole week to pack up your house and make sure things are done correctly (rather than putting yourself through the multiple late night 2am trips we had to make to the storage unit to make sure we got it done in time). Which brings me to another point – make sure you Storage unit is accessible 24/7 – its more important than you would think! You will do a better job packing up if you have some extra time so if you are ever planning to do something similar to us, be nice to yourself and make sure you give yourself plenty of time to pack – it will be worth it in the long run.
Tip 6. Prepare to have a love hate relationship with bubble wrap.
Bubble wrap will be both your best friend and worst nightmare – it protects and keeps things safe but it takes up a lot of space and it is expensive! Like taxes it is an unavoidable however so make sure you get some early on as running out will put an immediate halt to all packing progress.
All the research we did online as to how to best pack up a house (in particular the kitchen) was pretty unhelpful so here are our more specific recommendations:
– Use this! A product we discovered at our local Bunnings (hardware store). It was fantastic for wrapping kitchen items but takes up less space than bubble wrap.
– Small boxes can sometimes be extremely helpful for putting in shelves and in small gaps made in the storage unit amongst the bigger items. They may be fiddlier but they are helpful so please prevail.
– Starting is the hardest part (as with so many things in life) but you will get the hang of it so don’t be discouraged.
– Keep one box aside for 2 plates, 2 bowls, 2 sets of cutlery, a tea towel, a chopping board, sharp knife, scissors, your kettle, glad wrap, snap lock bags, a dish cloth, hand soap, paper towels and some spray and wipe. Not only do you need these items right up until the end but they will be some of the first things you need when you out them in a new house and if you clearly label the box it will be a future lifesaver.
– Consider selling items that may be getting a little worse for wear. Yes you will need it when you return but you have to calculate the costs associated to holding on to it while you’re away. We ending up selling off a few of our larger items knowing that with a little shopping effort when we return we would be saving money in the long run.