Packing Advice: Order of Operations Matters!

brown cardboard box on white bed

We leave to move to Portugal in just a few days now. Obviously, tensions are high and we’re raging stress beasts, which is to be expected.

One thing I have realized is that if we had planned this a little smarter, the order in which things are happening could have been a lot less stressful.

So here’s the schedule:

Friday (two days from now), the packers/movers arrive to pack up the small amount of things that we’re having shipped to Portugal. These items are enormously sentimental or wildly practical (past few years tax returns, etc) and irreplaceable.

Sunday, the pet transporters arrive to pick up our animals. Unfortunately, it seems like that’s going to be happening at about 5AM, which absolutely blows goats, but we don’t have a lot of control over these situations.

After we leave, my sister gets first pick of the furniture, housewares, and other items we’re not taking.

After that, our real estate guy will have junk removers and deep cleaners come in (so we’re not in the way.)

This all sounded good, until you realize that without access to a large dumpster or large truck, how do you separate the stuff you’re keeping from the stuff you’re giving away from the stuff you know isn’t really nice enough or useful enough so it needs to be thrown away?

In retrospect, I wish I had rented a medium dumpster FIRST, so I could throw things away as I was sorting through our belongings and came across things I knew for sure we weren’t going to take and that nobody would want. We’ve already donated a huge amount of clothing, games, toys, etc to GoodWill (and will likely be making another trip or two there before we fly out on Monday), but the ability to have immediately cleared space by throwing things away right away would have made this SO. MUCH. EASIER.

Right now, I have a section of the living room marked off for stuff we’re shipping. We know the dimensions of the shipping container, so I’m trying to use that as a guide. “If it doesn’t fit in this space, it ain’t coming.” Which is fine and good, but we have a sofa and a loveseat in the living room that we know we’re not taking and take up a lot of the space I have to work in.

There’s a section of the garage that remains “to be sorted”, and another that is definitely junk.

When you’re working with right timelines and finite space (the amount of room we have in the shipping container is finite, after all), having more room to work and immediately rule out the stuff I know nobody (including us) will want would have made this a lot easier. Being able to have one room for things I know my sister will take would have helped her figure out what size trailer or truck to rent.

It’s more expensive, but I wish we had done one round of junk removal before the packing process even started, just to free up some working space.

Most of the time, you won’t be able to reschedule these things after they’re initially scheduled. If you’re moving pets, appointments get made for the USDA vet passport health check, their flights, etc and rescheduling can be enormously expensive or even impossible due to timing restrictions. If you’re moving stuff, you’ll likely be shipping by boat, so these things get planned a month or two in advance, so you may not have options.

This process is already really emotionally taxing – sifting through every single thing you’ve owned in 47 years is a lot, and has a way of kicking up good and bad memories. It will take you longer than you think, and giving yourself grace and patience helps, but getting the obvious shit out of your way goes a long way, too.

I obviously can’t tell you what to take – that’s going to depend on what’s important to you. Does it spark joy? Will you be in trouble if you don’t take it (tax forms, birth certificates, etc)? Does it remind you of someone who isn’t around anymore? Those are all choices you have to make in this process, and nobody can answer those questions but you. But definitely, please, try to get the obvious crap out of your way before you have to start making those very emotional decisions.

Até breve,
Alison (aka “snipe”)

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1 Comment

  • Jay Reeder
    Jay Reeder
    June 1, 2023 at 8:04 am

    These are useful tips for any move! I wish you well in your new home!


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