Decluttering and Organizing your Expat Move



I have moved back and forth from the UK three times in my life. Once whilst a teenager to Kenya (and back in a year – it was not for us) and twice to Dubai. Being organized and decluttered I was able to travel with only a few boxes from each country (yep I have always been this organized, even as a teenager), but understandably for many people moving countries is an incredibly stressful time, and there will be much more stuff to ship to the next destination.

I have helped quite a few clients in the last few years to declutter pre-move out of the United Arab Emirates. Each situation is different for the clients, but there are four distinct type of expat moves:

  1. The move back to the home country, and usually to a smaller home.
  2. The retirement move with the plan being to leave the country in two years but this year will be the downsize from villa to apartment and year 2 will be the move to either the home country or another country.
  3. The next country relocation to live the expat life for a few years; and
  4. The diplomatic move, when you know you will only be in a country for 2-3 years and will then be required to move back to your home country or another country.


It can be an incredibly stressful time, no matter what type of move you are making.  Not only are you dealing with deciding what stuff to take with you, but also with the logistics of moving the stuff, cancelling your utility services, ending your job and dealing with the visa formalities and of course saying bye to the friends you have made over the years (I had 5 farewell parties for the first move out of Dubai – they were not amused when I returned 9 months later!). To ease the burden of making the next move, here are a few of my tips to help alleviate the stress:

  • Start reviewing your clothes and accessories – will you need 5 ballgowns for your next destination? 10 flipflops might be a bit extreme for the European weather. Are the items old, don’t fit, out of style or something you have never worn? Donate, sell or throw them away.
  • Declutter the books and magazines – you don’t need to take the old copies of Time Out Dubai and What’s On to your next destination (unless you are in it – frame that page and get rid of the rest of the magazine). Lots of travel books? Donate them and for future holidays, get the phone app which is issued by that country (it is normally free). Books are some of the most bulkiest items and can increase your shipping costs, so don’t take the books you will never read again or don’t hold any sentimental value to you.
  • Items still in the boxes from the last move – Leave it outside and let the gardeners or maids take it away. If you didn’t open it post last move, then you never will.
  • Designer carrier bags and shoes boxes – Yes they are very pretty, but no you don’t need to take them across the world with you. Recycle them.
  • Gifts you were given and never liked – Donate them or give them as gifts to friends now (one person’s junk is another person’s treasure…).
  • Review your paperwork – Do you need to take all the papers from your job? Those business cards from 2007 are most probably obsolete now. Nope you do not need your DEWA bill from 2011. Shred or recycle all of these items. Just take the paperwork that you need for accounting and legal purposes or are permanent records.
  • Throw away old toiletries and makeup – Both types of items have a sell by date (and some of the dates or on the products) so if you are not using them now, throw them away and buy new toiletries and makeup at your new destination. Remember a lot of toiletries burst during transit. Do you want old suncream on your bottles of perfume?
  • Declutter the expired food, medicine and other household items – if they have expired, throw them away. If they are close to expiring use them now or donate them to your maid, gardener, friend, etc.
  • Starting selling the bulky items – if you know there is an IKEA in the country you are moving to, don’t waste your money on shipping the IKEA items with you (unless they are vintage). Start selling furniture and appliances now using the Facebook second hand groups, secondhand apps or to your friends. Be warned, it is a buyers market so be prepared to not receive very much money for your items.  If you are from the USA, Canada and other countries which tax expats, make receipts for all the items you sell or donate so you can claim them back when filing your tax returns.
  • Sell your car – Yes you loved it, yes it is big and bulky enough to protect you from the crazy Nissan and Toyota drivers, but it’s time to let it go. Cars are more difficult to sell and involve a lot more paperwork and bureaucracy, so don’t leave it until the last minute to try and sell it.

Start dealing with these points as soon as possible from the moment you decide you are moving. The more time you have to review your items, the less panic you will feel.

As you get closer to the move date, start reviewing the items left in each room and decide if you really love them enough to take them to your next destination. Donate anything excess such as plates, cutlery and appliances such as spiralizers and juicers (that you used once).

Keep a suitcase open to start packing items that must have with you on an immediate basis.

If you feel overwhelmed with the move, contact DeCluttr Me to help you declutter the stuff you don’t need and start organizing your move, so that it is as painless and stress-free as possible.

Good luck with your move!


Shelina Jokhiya







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© Image – Dylan Gialanella

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