How To Declutter Before You Move Overseas

Tips on How To Declutter Before You Move Overseas

Once you’ve decided to move overseas, you’ll probably start thinking about what belongings you might want to take with you and what items you might prefer to leave behind. Ensuring that you declutter before you move overseas means that you won’t waste thousands of your hard-earned cash transporting things to your new home that you don’t actually need or want.

So I’ve put together this comprehensive guide on how to declutter before you move overseas.

Why You Should Declutter Before Moving Overseas

Some people might just throw everything into boxes and ship it all. And while that’s the easier thing to do, it can also be very expensive and doesn’t take into account what your new home might look like when you arrive.

Houses in Australia have a very different design and layout to houses in South Africa and the UK for example. I’ve spoken to many South Africans who’ve brought over large pieces of furniture because they are high quality or have sentimental value. But when it’s arrived, they’ve found it awkward or impossible to fit into their new homes in Australia as the rooms can be smaller.

Similarly, shipping furniture from the UK can be a waste, as the houses are much smaller so your furniture ends up looking small in the large spaces here.

Decluttering can also be cathartic – you get to go through all your belongings one by one, remember when you bought it, why you bought it, and then decide on whether you want to keep it, or release it from your life – whether you sell it, chuck it or give it away.

Plus, the more stuff you can get rid of, the cheaper your international shipping quote will be!

When To Start Decluttering Before Your Overseas Move

You can really start to declutter your home as soon as you know your move will be happening.

Whether it’s one year away or a few days, it’s never too early to start.

Obviously the more time you have, the more you can approach it in a leisurely way. Perhaps working through one room per week until the whole house has been reviewed and decluttered.

Just don’t leave it to the last minute if you have a few weeks or months to prepare. Your final few days before emigrating should be spent with loved ones, not stressing about which box goes where and how you’re going to get rid of your extensive DVD collection.

Things To Consider Before You Start Decluttering For Your International Move

The main thing you need to consider before starting to declutter is why you are doing it in the first place.

Are you planning to ship what’s left and so therefore want it to be as cost-effective as possible?

Have you lived in the same house for 20 years and accumulated so much stuff that it’s really just a good excuse to have a good clear-out before you start a new life overseas?

Do you need to sell some of your belongings to save more money for your big move?

Whatever your driving factor is, identify it and keep it front of mind throughout the whole decluttering process. There may be moments when you want to give up but knowing why you are doing it will help you get through it.

How To Declutter Your Home Before Moving Overseas

There are a few key steps you can take when you start to declutter your home before moving abroad.

Step 1 – Check custom rules

The first thing you need to do is check the customs rules of where you’re moving. Countries like Australia have very strict customs and importation rules regarding specific items so you need to make sure you won’t be packing anything that won’t be allowed to enter the country.

In Australia, some of the things you need to be wary of include raw wood, shells, feathers and any animal products.

Get all the latest government information regarding moving your belongings to Australia from the Department of Agriculture here.

Step 2 – Check your airline’s baggage policies

You need to do the same with airline baggage policies for anything you’re hoping to take with you in your checked luggage or hand luggage when you emigrate.

Ensuring you’ve shipped all the things you can’t take with you on board when you fly will take an additional stress out of an already stressful process.

It will also help you to keep within the airlines baggage limits and not have to spend money on paying for excess baggage.

Step 3 – Ask for advice on what to keep

Getting advice from locals on what you should and shouldn’t bring can also be helpful. Although don’t take everyone’s word for it as their advice may not be suitable for you.

I see heaps of people on Facebook groups asking what to ship and what to ditch before the emigrate to Australia. Overwhelmingly the advice is usually ship as little as possible and start afresh here, and while that could work for many, it may not be best for everyone.

I also asked my Aussie friends whether I should bring my curtains and they all said no, and it’s the one thing I regret to this day! All the rentals here have to have curtains or blinds, but usually they are the cheapest, crappiest ones.

We had such lovely curtains in our UK home and I sold them all before we moved – it’s the only thing I regret not bringing as they are quite expensive here and decent blackout lined ones are hard to find that don’t cost the earth.

Step 3 – Make an inventory of all your belongings 

If you have the time, make a full inventory of your belongings before you start working out what to do with everything.

Doing this on a spreadsheet can make it easy to keep track of and you can later divide all the items into different categories depending on what you plan to do with each thing.

This can be helpful if you want to make notes about who you might give things away to, or whether you want to sell something and how much it might be worth.

Step 4 – Create a system

When you’re ready to actually start the decluttering process, divide your items into 4 categories:

Category 1 – Pack 

Category 2 – Sell 

Category 3 – Donate 

Category 4 – Bin

When you start sorting through a new room, have 4 boxes on hand labelled pack, sell, donate, and bin, and place items in the relevant box.

This will help you work through rooms methodically and quickly as you know exactly where to place each item and they can be grouped together easily and stored until you are ready to donate, sell, or pack. The bin boxes can go straight in the bin when they’re full!

Step 5 – Sell your items

Take clear photos of all the items you’ve earmarked to sell.

Use sites like Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree to sell online – you can reach so many people this way. Local Facebook buying and selling groups are also a great way to find people nearby who may be interested in your items.

Once sold, mark them as sold on your inventory and the price you sold them for, if you want to keep track of how much money you’ve made.

Step 6 – Donate your items

Once you have a few boxes of items to donate, find a local charity near you that may need them.

You may want to divide them up between a few different charities.

For example, kid’s toys could go to a local children’s home or toy library, towels and bedding could go to a local animal rescue (like TEARS) or vet, kitchen items or furniture could go to a local women’s refuge, books could go to a local children’s charity that promotes reading and education like The Bookery.

Step 7 – Ready to pack


After binning, donating and selling your belongings, you’re now left with everything you actually want to pack up and bring with you to your new country.

If you want to get international shipping quotes now that you know exactly what you’re taking, find out about getting free international shipping quotes online.

7 Essential Tips For Decluttering Your Home Before Moving Overseas

Be brutal – don’t keep things for the sake of keeping them. Ask yourself when last you used the item or if you will ever use it again. And be honest!

Don’t feel guilty – guilt is a big reason why we hang on to stuff for way longer than we should. It cost a lot of money, so we should keep it. It’s practically brand new, so we should keep it. Our kids would want them one day, so we should keep it. If it’s not adding value to your life right now, then try to let it go.

Think carefully about electronics & appliances – appliances can take up lots of space in a container, and space = money. With technology moving so quickly these days, electronics and appliances are no longer built to last 10 or 20 years. And you’ll need to change the plugs on them (which in Australia can only legally be done by an electrician – so that’s going to cost you more money when you’re here) before you can use them.

Scan your documents – holding onto documents like bank statements, payslips and invoices? When not scan them to a hard drive or USB and ditch the paperwork? Obviously keep important legal documents like certificates or licenses, but that old payslip from 1987? Scan it and shred it!

Declutter without the kids – if you have kids and have ever tried to declutter around them, you would have found it practically impossible. They suddenly have to play with and keep every last toy you try to get rid of! So if you’re trying to declutter the kids’ rooms, clothes or toys, do it when they aren’t around.

Consider your new climate – before packing all your clothes, consider the weather where you are headed. Do you need all your heavy winter coats if you’re heading to the Gold Coast? And maybe you can downsize your collection of heels if you’re headed for rural Australia?

Have a house cooling party – I love this idea I came across online. Instead of a house warming party where people bring you gifts, throw a house cooling party where people who attend have to choose something from your home to take away when they leave. This way you get to hang out with your friends and family, and you get to declutter at the same time. Genius!

I hope you found these tips on how to declutter before you move overseas helpful. Do you have any tips of your own you want to share? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Thinking about what to ship and what to ditch? Read my post all about shipping household goods to Australia – what should you bring and what should you ditch now.

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About Author

Helping you move to, settle in, and explore your new home in Australia. Avid reader, beach lover, and horse addict. As someone who has emigrated, not once, not twice, but three times, I know exactly what you’re going through. The ups and downs of emigration are faster than a rollercoaster and I’ve been there – three times!

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