Tips for Moving Overseas

3 suitcases, 2 backpacks, 1 stroller + carry bag, 1 car seat, 1 toddler and 1 husband

When my mother and father moved to Canada in the 60’s, they brought five suitcases and 22 boxes of stuff. They went by boat and train. It took a while.

Here we are at the Skytrain station less than 24 hours before arriving in the Isle of Man.

I’d like to say we kicked my parent’s butts on the packing of stuff, that I rolled up 27 pieces of clothing in a carry-on plus a few cloth diapers for Henry, and we were moved. But that wasn’t the case. Those three suitcases were heavy. The official count was 75 kgs of baggage plus our carry-ons that held three laptops (Chris has a work and personal one), one Kindle, and one iPad (Chris bought one as he weans off the iPhone and considers selling his personal laptop). If you could see into that suitcase a wireless router, a lot of cables and adaptors, and even a few sets of silverware would be carefully tucked away in the t-shirts and suit jackets.

We had a small delay leaving Vancouver from the volcanic ash cloud but other than that it was really smooth sailing getting over here. Henry was asleep before take off and only woke up about an hour before we landed because the person he was sleeping on, me, needed to use the bathroom. For a nine hour flight with an in-arms-toddler it doesn’t get any better than that.

The UK border guards were nonchalant about our arrival and with a few stamps in our passports they sent us on our way. More moving of heavy luggage and the dreaded car seat into a big cab, a dreamy hour or so ride to Gatwick that left us all sleepy, and we were on to our second and final flight.

If you ever move to an idyllic island in the Irish Sea, I highly recommend arriving at sunset on a clear day. Chris generously gave me the window seat (or maybe he wanted the aisle because he needed the leg room) and I was treated to a breathtaking view of the Isle of Man as we approached. Nonstop postcard worthy views of lush green country and Oceanside cliffs. Made me feel like I can get past the whole no Starbucks thing.

So… we’re here. Getting over jet lag, finding a new home and familiarizing ourselves with a new city. I think my puffy crying eyes are almost healed from the departure farewells. By far this is the hardest move I have ever had to make emotionally. And I’ve moved plenty: to university, leaving university, leaving an old boyfriend and family to pursue an Olympic dream. All those moves were challenging, some a bit sad, but I got over it pretty quick. It’s so much easier to be the one leaving than to be the one left behind.

The day before we left Henry played for hours with his cousins, big and small ones. With this move, he’s missing out on nine cousins, seven aunts, six uncles (five of the six of these uncles are legally named David – crazy!) and two Grandmas. It really hurt to say goodbye to them. Even with the excitement of the move and the certainty that we want to take this opportunity to live in the UK, it was really hard to leave. I know there are bouts of homesickness just around the corner.

I’ll hopefully have a bit of time this week to upload some pictures and lists of what we shipped and what we stored. Feels like we got rid of a lot, all of our furniture plus a load of stuff to donations before we left. But when it came time to pack Chris and I were just plain tired of all of it. Moving is an energy suck. Having a lot of stuff to move is an even bigger energy suck.

Even if you’re not moving overseas, you can still live like you are. Check out this piece by the amazing Tsh Oxenrider of that was published a while back on CNN. Some great tips here for decluttering and paring down the in the framework of moving overseas. Very helpful even if you just signed a 1 year lease or took out a mortgage.

Oh, and Tsh got down to 15 boxes to ship before they moved to the Middle East 4+ years ago. We got down to 14. Proud to be in the same ballpark as The Simple Mom.

Consumed: fighting clutter on the small screen

Host of Consumed, professional organizer Jill Pollack

Getting my bearings and finding a home this week as we start our new life in the UK. I’m probably looking at rentals today. Hoping for a flat but am told most of them don’t allow children. Fingers crossed for a townhouse instead. I won’t be able to moderate comments until next week at the earliest. Thanks for your patience!

Decluttering and the fight for simplicity in our homes is coming to the small screen.

Consumed, a new show on HGTV, helps families declutter and find space in their homes. Assisted by professional organizer, Jill Pollack, families get motivation and tools to help them purge the clutter and live with less. I heard about this show via and wanted to know more so I contacted the producers. They were very kind and responsive and gave me more details on the show to share here.

I love this concept and that it’s getting a space on television. We need to show every day people decluttering their stuff, that it’s possible, that it’s beneficial and that most of us North Americans are living with too much stuff. While I think the show Hoarders is fascinating, I also think it purveys this idea that a level of too much stuff only happens if you have a mental illness. That just isn’t true. Feeling overwhelmed with full closets, basements and shelves happens to most of us. And there is an answer: less stuff.

Consuming less and owning less can be a panacea for the ills of modern living: not enough time and not enough money. I know I’ve said it before but I will keep saying it. It’s true. It’s simple. It might not always be easy but it is completely worth it.

Consumed won’t air until the fall of 2011 and, for now, will only be available in Canada. I am hoping it is a huge hit and I can finagle seeing a show. Maybe my mother-in-law will DVR it for me and I can watch it when I am back in Vancouver at Christmas.

More about the host of Consumed, Jill Pollack:

Jill became an organizational expert after over thirteen years as a TV producer. She worked on a variety of shows such as CBS News, Extra, The Rosie O’Donnell Show,  and The Wedding of Trista and Ryan. Knowing her talent for persuasion and getting things done , she decided to utilize her highly honed organizational skills to truly help people live their best life by getting rid of clutter.  Her philosophy is “to own your stuff, don’t let your stuff own you”.  After working with Jill, clients not only report a physical feeling of lightness, but also an amazing surge in psychological well-being. Not only do their homes and offices run more smoothly, but they have more focus, motivation and increased productivity.

Are you a family in the Greater Vancouver area wanting to declutter? This is a dream opportunity to get help and guidance in paring down. Consumed it looking for families to be on their show. You will have to put in work yourself, the don’t clear the clutter for you but you get A LOT of help.

  • assistance taking things to recycling centres and charities.
  • designer and handyman create space saving solutions and superficial changes to your home to help you stay clutter-free.
  • you’ll have the motivation of being on TV!
  • coaching and support from Jill Pollack on letting go of stuff and learning to live with less.

This is a great opportunity if you have a large household and a mix of minimalist wannabes and pack rats. Jill Pollack is a talented referee and objective voice that will guide your family through the process of decluttering.

Are you interested or do you want to recommend a friend for the show? Contact Rachel at or 604-873-9777 ext 251.

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Debt Update: spending money like water

Pile of debt

I’m either frantically packing, canceling our electricity or in-flight today.  I won’t be able to moderate comments – hopefully back online next week.

At the end of February our non-mortgage debt was down to $21,392 from $81,607 a year previous. I’ve written a lot about how we killed over $60,000 in debt so quickly. It was hard work + luck. We cut our monthly bills by over $1000, we sold our car, we sold clutter, we sold some investments and we got a small inheritance. We cut our casual spending and we stopped buying things we didn’t really need. There was always room for improvement so in March I gave myself a challenge. With some public accountability and all the encouragement and suggestions from you, it went quite well.

Confession: our April and May finances have been a mess.

The expenses involved with moving overseas, preparing our home to be a rental and being overly busy with getting it all done has killed my budget. I’m down to tracking just our costs associated with home repair, transportation and profit from selling our stuff. There’s been a few too many Thai takeout nights and lunches on the go. We’re taking every chance we can to see family and that’s involved a few restaurant meals and more car rentals/ ZipCar use than usual.

And I’m okay with this.

For now.

We’re still eating at home mostly, walking for errands when possible and I’m trying to get as many home repair projects done myself as I can.

Our finances right now very much mirror my nutrition in the last two months. Not great but doing the best I can. Much like my budget tracking, I haven’t stepped on the scale in two months. I’ve been lucky to get to Crossfit twice a week and one run in (usually it’s three runs). There’s been a steady supply of chocolate in our cupboards. I’d guess I’m up 4-5 pounds.

And I’m okay with this.

For now.

It’s not often that you move out of the country. Sometimes you have to make concessions that you can’t “do it all” and still get enough sleep. I’ve been sacrificing runs to visit Home Depot for window latch screws. I figure it’s splitting the difference as I get a 40 minute round trip walk in.

Some numbers:

  • Costs associated with renting our home out: $1921.88*Includes new washer dryer, plumbing maintance and repair, blind repair, and general parts for small home repair.
  • Profit from selling our belongings: $3644

Good news: we found what we think are great renters. A school is renting and furnishing it for visiting faculty. We met some of the faculty. Nice quiet older men. I am doubtful they will throw any raging parties.

Debt Update

After that ramble you may wonder why my debt ticker reads that we paid off $7674 since February and our non-mortgage debt is now down to $13718. Chris and I made the decision that with the move overseas we wanted a fresh start and simpler finances. If we were trying to pay off $21,000+ in debt in Canadian dollars while living in the UK and earning pounds sterling, it was going to get complicated. We’d be losing money on exchange rates and wire transfer fees.

We decided to cash out retirement savings to reduce our debt and to assist with the costs of our move. We’re still not sure where the dust will settle on all of this once we move and pay our start-up costs on the other side. We’re hopeful that a good chunk of our remaining debt will be gone and we will pay the last of it off before the end of 2011.

I’m tired of debt. I’m tired of paying it off and I’m tired of talking about our debt pay down strategies with Chris. I want to start saving. I want that debt ticker to be a savings ticker. Patience has never been my strong suit.

Anyone else working on debt? Victories or set-backs to report? Strategies that are working for you?

Photo Credit

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Flights booked and bags almost packed.

It might be quiet around here for a while.

Our original plan was for Chris to head over to the UK before Henry and I. He has urgent work to get done and fast approaching deadlines. I would stay back to clean up, ship things, get our condo painted and in good order for the new tenants and see that they were moved in smoothly.

Then our visas arrived on Monday and Chris arranged to leave the following Monday. He was actually on the road, last tour with the band, when this was decided and coming home Friday (today). Meaning he would be home for three days and then leave. I looked at the long list of things I would be managing on my own, the logistics of moving myself and Henry out of our place and in to short term accommodation, and decided I wanted to leave early too.

So we all leave Monday.

It’s been a busy week.

I’ve hired/begged Katy to run the show after our departure. She has graciously agreed to manage (and help) with the painting (we have other family that will be working on it too) and the rest of the details we have left behind. Our property manager will help the new tenants get settled in.

I have a few posts ready for next week but after that it may be a while until you hear from me.

But I will be back. This international move is teaching me a lot. I’m more frugal than I thought and yet, this has been a very expensive month for us. I’m taking advantage of employer paid shipping to bring things I thought we would sell and replace on the other end. My furniture selling has been a small disaster. Packing has made me question all over again how much do we really need. I was at a very comfortable level living with our things but packing them has made me want to just donate everything but a suitcase of clothes and a frying pan.

One of the harder lessons from this week: never seal a box until you have to.

Have a great weekend and see you (virtually) soon!



At the movies: two films on less stuff

Many thanks to Laura for sending me a link to a great piece about a film director that gave up his mansion for a trailer. His story was featured on Oprah and you can read more about him  here.

Tom’s journey to living a simpler life, and eventually making the film I Am about the experience, started with a debilitating head injury. He found “new eyes” when he was in constant pain and didn’t want to live. What did he want from life? What was his purpose? The trailer for the film is below.

Yes, minimalism is just a small part of this story but it’s a catalyst for change. I’ve found for myself that getting rid of the stuff has just been the beginning of re-imagining what I can do, what I want to do, with my life.

Think minimalism is only for documentaries? Check out this trailer for Everything Must Go. Sure, the getting rid of the stuff is probably only a small part of the movie but, wait for it, I bet it’s the symbol of growth and moving on that ties it all together. I did take a few classes in film theory once upon a time.


Excited to see both of these films and I will post reviews here when I do.

Like what you read here at The Minimalist Mom? Sign up by RSS or Email to get posts delivered to you. You can also find The Minimalist Mom on Facebook (I’ve deleted my personal account but have a page for this blog). Comments are always read, appreciated and responded to – even if we don’t agree on the subject at hand.

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