The expat’s guide to unpacking

The expat’s guide to unpacking

Expat’s move a lot and so we unpack a lot. It is just part of our bizarre lives! Some expats are pros at this (my friend Nessa is awe inspiring when it comes to getting the family possessions into overseas crates!). I wrote this article after our first move aboard as expat relocation  novices!


Faced with the mountain of boxes that need unpacking, its not long before the boggie man of feelings – Overwhelm, also moves in to your new home. So how do you show him the door, before he moves in permanently, along with that dreadful picture that your aunt gave you, that you just can’t throw away?

There are three questions you can ask yourself to navigate through the chaos:

1. What is an easy win?
What can you do, right now, that is small, fast, but would make you feel sooooooo much better? What really is bugging you, right now, that in half an hour, you can sort out? What will be effective in lowering your blood pressure and stop you killing your loved ones?

2. What BIG job would make the most difference?
For us, it was building the wardrobe. It’s a BIG job. We have lost the instructions. Some of the bolts are in another box, somewhere. However, building it will mean we can put our clothes away, get rid of the boxes in our bedroom, and actually find clean socks!

3. What job is the lynch pin?
What job do you have to do, that so much else relies upon? For us, it was the cupboard in my office. It was a flat pack chaos, surrounded by boxes, books and files. By building it, we could see where everything else in the room could go, unpack the files and find the paperwork we needed to register for our visa.

4. What is the nearest thing to you?
This is the question where all the others seem far too much. Keep it simple. Forget all the screaming priorities. Focus on what is in front of you. Literally. Nothing else matters. What is physically close to you? Reach out and start on that box. Just that box, it’s the only one that matters, right now. Unpack that one. Wonderful, you made a start and before you know it, you will be onto the next one, and the next one……


These questions apply to moving, but they can be applied to many situations where the boogie man of Overwhelm has moved into your life. Is that pile of paperwork on your desk overwhelming you? Does that assignment look so big you don’t know where to start? Ask yourself the questions and get the job done and show Overwhelm the door.


But what do we do with all the clutter that we accidentally brought with us? Read more in this related article!


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1 Comment

  1. The boogieman of overwhelm – love it! There’s nothing like taking action to calm the nerves, get unstuck and get your breathing back into a regular rhythm.

    What I would also add is this: remember to take a break, breathe, go outside, remind yourself that there is life beyond boxes, and you don’t have to wait until ALL the boxes are done before you enjoy them 🙂



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