Friday, August 24, 2012

Packing for a move to temporary housing

It seems that I should be a professional by now at moving, as I’ve gone through the process enough times by now. Yet no matter how accustomed I believe myself to be to the transition process and all the little details that go with it, there are always a few things I forget, something that surprises me or that sense of déjà vu when I realize the exact same thing happened on the previous move.

We learned to pack for a few months on our previous two moves. The shipment with our belongings would have been delivered a month later, but as we were still in temporary housing and didn’t want to have to move all our belongings an additional time, we requested for the shipment to be stored until we found a more permanent home. In France Lauris managed to outgrow almost every single article of clothing I had packed during those six months we waited on our apartment, and I had to buy a winter coat as I somehow ended up in Clermont-Ferrand with nothing warmer than a fleece during the winter months. Before that, when we moved to South Carolina the first time, we made quite a few purchases for the temporary apartment as we searched for a house and awaited our belongings. So before the move I sent Roberts ahead with a few extra suitcases that then awaited us here, and although we might end up not using some of the things packed within them, we have had very little that we miss from the container that is currently somewhere on the Atlantic.

Here is a list of things to remember when making your big move!

For the kids:

Clothes a few sizes larger and for different seasons. Children’s clothes are expensive, as are shoes and coats. We learned the hard way on our last move, and this time we are prepared for autumn and for Mikus outgrowing his 9-12 month clothes at 7 months.

Toys: We packed Lauris’s backpack and the diaper bag with a few toys for the plane ride, but one of the suitcases we sent ahead of time was packed with toys, including a blow up play area for Mikus so I would have a place to put him down while he is learning to sit, and a doorway swing so that I can get things done. Soon he will have outgrown both, but we’ve gotten plenty of use out of both and they took up relatively little space. And for Lauris, having a multitude of cars, trains, puzzles and books has been wonderful, as it’s hot outside, so we’ve spent too much time in this apartment.

Extra sippy cups, plastic plates and utensils: Bringing these things has given Lauris a sense of continuity during the transition, and they really don’t take up that much space or weigh that much in your luggage. The apartment here had nothing suitable for a toddler or baby other than a travel bed for Mikus, so the dishes are used every day.

For the kitchen: (and these are some things that I wish I had brought on the previous three moves!

Kitchen knives: The temporary apartments we have stayed in have been furnished, and although it’s great that we don’t have to lug sheets, towels and plates in our carry-on luggage, some things just aren’t functional. Currently I’m using two Swiss army knives to cut everything from fruit and vegetables to meat and potatoes.

Measuring cup and spoons: They don’t take up a lot of space, and especially if you are switching countries (and therefore going from metric to feet) you might want them for your favorite recipes. Plus, the cup can always find a different use if the temporary apartment has one, for example it can be a sugar cup, or a vase, or even a bath toy for les petites.

Wooden spoon and a good spatula: If you’re planning on taking advantage of being in transition to frequently eat out, I wouldn’t worry as much about the kitchen stuff. However, with all the things to do during the day I would rather eat a nice dinner at home, and so we are cooking up some typical American comfort food in the evenings as a “welcome back to the US” (where you can buy things like mac and cheese, hot dogs, peanut butter and waffles!!!). I’m finding the pots here completely adequate, but the plastic spoons and spatulas have already failed. I remember the same thing happening in Clermont-Ferrand when we moved there, and I wish I had thought to pack a few more things for the kitchen, just to make life in transition a little bit easier.

Improvisation is key! No cookie rack, no problem! (Rack from oven)

For us:

An external hard drive: On our previous moves we’ve taken only laptops in our baggage, with a few jump drives that have files we think we’ll need on them. This time we took our external hard drive as well, and the access to all those documents that you didn’t think you would need has been great. The old spreadsheet that has those addresses I was looking for, the photographs from a few years back that I wanted for a blog post, and best of all, it serves as one more back-up in case something happens to the actual hard drive on the way across the ocean. This is the model we have that has served us well: 

All those electronics accessories: We’ve gotten somewhat used to carting around all our charging cords and memory sticks when we travel, but there are a few things definitely to be remembered to pack in your luggage, such as rechargeable batteries and charger, SD card reader, voltage adapters if you’re traveling overseas. I have a European voltage plug and an American plug for my iPad, and luckily I located the American plug and packed that, along with the correct camera battery charger.

Off-season items of clothing: Although I tried to think in layers when packing my suitcase, I was ill-prepared for a winter in France on a previous move. This time we sent ahead winter coats, hats and gloves, just in case. Although I really, really hope we’ve found our permanent lodging by wintertime!

Maps, language dictionaries, paperwork: Depending on where you are relocating, remember to take any books or maps that will help you with the local terrain. Whether simply a road map or maybe you are moving overseas and you need help with translation, the best resources are those that are available and easy to use. And second copies of all paperwork come in handy when things have been lost in the mail, lost in translation or simply lost. We traveled with medical records, birth certificates and translations of birth certificates in addition to our passports, driver’s license and other official paperwork. I also made sure to pack things like my American checkbook, store loyalty cards and some American money.

Fresh flowers make me happy! Notice the blender vase...

I asked my husband what/if anything I should add to the list. To sum up his response (and I believe he’s currently reading a WWII memoir): the immediate concerns during D-Day (after survival) were 1) to set up communications, 2) transportation inland and the 3) strategy/destination. Should I be concerned he was comparing our move to a wartime invasion?

Sooooo…. (and hubby, please correct me if I’ve translated this wrong!)

Communication: Keep your mobile handy. We had a charged trac-phone waiting for us, as our French cellphones don’t work in the US. A trac-phone is a great alternative to immediately signing a cellphone plan, as it is a small initial investment and you can buy additional minutes as needed.

Transportation: Have arrangements made to ensure you are mobile, a rental or borrowed car and a map if needed. If you do have a smart phone and access to mapping software and yellow pages, great, if not be prepared for possible snags with back-up plans.

Strategy/destination: Lay your groundwork previous to travel. Establish contacts that can help with anything from making a few phone calls for you or restaurant recommendations, to inviting you over for dinner or watching the children while you search for houses with a realtor. Transition can be unpleasant, but it doesn’t have to be. With proper preparations and planning it’s easy to make your temporary lodgings a home until you find a more permanent one.


  1. I'm confused, are you gone? Already??

    1. Yes... although originally we had planned on 3-5 years, we were offered a great position a little ealier on. Life is always full of surprises, I'm grateful for the time in France we did have.

  2. Oh the joys of temporary housing. I am not looking forward to that again. I'm sure I'll look back at this post when the time comes. We didn't have any kids when we first had to do endure it! I hope you are adjusting well back in the States.

  3. Been there, done that 8 times over the course of 15 years. Ah, such is the life of a military wife. Thankfully none of my moves were overseas but I know many a friend who had assignments overseas and the amount of time getting things to where they were going or getting them back to the US takes a minimum of 30 days. I'm so glad that's over and done with and we can keep our feet firmly planted in 1 place now!

    I'm sure you are thrilled to be back in the US and near family again. Hopefully you'll find more permanent living arrangements and will settle in quickly.

  4. I think that often the winter coats are overlooked when you move. Before we moved, we bought new Girls Winter Coats for our daughters. They were close to needing something new (actually they just wanted something new), but we figured it would allow us to ship the new coats ahead and then use the old ones until it it was time to leave (if we ended up needing it). Luckily with Burlington Coat Factory we found great deals that made this decision even more affordable.

  5. In addition, fragile materials like plates, glasses, mirrors, figurines, and so on, must be coated with bubble sleeves, plastic wraps or foam sheeting to make sure that none of them are going to be damaged during the moving process. Label every single box to avoid problems in identifying them and to have a smooth flow of unpacking.

    Tyrone Obey

  6. I think your literary advice was great. It’s very beneficial to read maps, language dictionaries, and other paperwork about your destination - particularly in your case since you are moving to another continent. I’m glad you’re through with it though. Staying in temporary housing in a completely foreign place is no joke. ;)

  7. You should have learned your lessons on your first move, right? The second time around, I hope you already know what’s the best thing to do and spare yourself from the unnecessary stress. Creating a checklist will surely help you remember what you’re supposed to do when moving. Also, make it a habit to plan. This will give you ample time to prepare physically and mentally.

    -Erik Littles

  8. These are indeed the must-haves when you move in to a new place. Guess what? My friend asked for help a few weeks ago when she moved from her apartment to a new and much more spacious unit. The only problem we had after we’ve organized everything was her pet dog. We had to find a way to provide a good and comfortable storage for her pet so that it will feel free from stress and anxiety.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...