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RELOCATION

Ten tips to make moving house less stressful

Relocation expert Melanie Haynes on how to get through one of the most stressful life events of all: moving to a new home.

Ten tips to make moving house less stressful
Moving's hard, don't let it get the best of you. Photo: Iris
Moving house is said to be one of the most stressful life events and whilst I agree it is, there are things you can do to make it a little less awful. 
 
I have moved house five times in the last nine years and am currently in the midst of the fifth move. Along the way I have found strategies that have made it all a lot easier, from the preparation beforehand to the move itself. They say preparation is the key to many things in life and with moving it makes all the difference.
 
1. Get a clipboard
 
I was, apparently, the first person our packers had ever seen with a clipboard but I think they were impressed. I put a big wad of paper on the clipboard and make all the lists we needed on it — this time we have three months in a temporary apartment so I needed to make sure we were clear about what needed to go there and what needed to be packed away. I keep any important documents such as hotel confirmations, van hire etc on this so they are all in one place. The top sheet is also just one to jot down things as they come to mind as it is easy to forget things in the confusion of moving.
 
2. Write a schedule
 
On your clipboard, write one page with a schedule of all the days of the move, who needs to do what when, who needs to be where when. Treat it like a military operation.
 
3. Put things in the correct rooms
 
I am sure we are not alone in having things in the wrong places around the house. Before you pack up, whether you are doing it yourself or you have packers, make sure everything is where it should be. All books together, all toys together, all crockery etc — you get the picture. So when you are unpacking you don't find your knives in with soft toys — a situation that will never end well. It makes the other end of the process much easier.
 
 
4. Put things in bags and boxes
 
You will be surprised how many little things you have. To make it easier put them in freezer bags or old shoes boxes and pack these. They’re easier to pack and unpack plus nothing gets lost.
 
5. Get rid of stuff you don’t need
 
Don’t bother to pack up clothes you haven’t worn in years, old tatty furniture or broken electronics. We all have these things, taking up space around the house unless you have Marie Kondo’ed it. Bin them and feel freer with fewer boxes to unpack and things to find spaces for in your new home.
 
6. Run down your food stocks
 
On our last night in our current apartment my son was treated to a tasting menu of edamame beans, fish fingers, cold meat, salad and eggs just to eat up the remaining food. I gave a bag of unwanted stuff to the students who live on the ground floor of our apartment building. But I had made sure that we had not been stocking up the cupboards with too much food so there was less wastage. I am embarrassed to say I haven't always been as good on this front.
 
 
7. Take all your important documents in your bag
 
Even if you are doing the whole move over a couple of days, make sure you keep hold of all your important documents and keep them with you. You never know when you may need them.
 
8. Clean as you go
 
It may be tempting to do a full clean at the end when the apartment is empty but I find that following the removal people as they empty each room and clean it makes it more efficient especially if you are leaving a rental. At the end you can go back round and do a final check.
 
9. The VIP Box
 
This was something I learnt from our very first move when the packers did this. There was clearly-marked one box where they put things like tea and coffee, the kettle, some tools etc. – all the things you need in the first few hours in your new home.
 
10. Take a picture by your front door
 
This is a little tradition I have. I like to take a photo of my son outside the front door the last time we go through it. It is a nice way of remembering all your homes and the passage of time. It is also a great way of metaphorically closing the door on that chapter of your life.
 
Melanie HaynesMelanie Haynes is originally from the UK and has lived in Copenhagen for eight years. She writes about life in Copenhagen on her blog Dejlige Days and after experiencing relocation to Copenhagen and Berlin, she runs a settling-in service aimed at expats called Dejlige Days Welcome and works with Copenhagen Housing to offer an integrated settling-in and home search service. Her ebook, 'Dejlige Days: A Guide to Relocation', is available now.

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DEPRESSION

Moving to Denmark: The emotional challenges faced by mixed-culture couples

If you are living in a new culture or are in a relationship that crosses between cultures, you might be facing challenges you've not met before. But there are plenty of ways to tackle them, writes our guest columnist Hanne-Berit Hahnemann.

Moving to Denmark: The emotional challenges faced by mixed-culture couples
File photo: Christian Als / Ritzau Scanpix

It’s hard enough being a couple in a world loaded with responsibilities and stressors about children, finances, work, family obligations, etc. As a therapist, I often see couples of mixed cultures who have to withstand the difficulties of one or both adjusting to a new life with numerous challenges, such as having to create new social networks, learning a new language, and adjusting to new cultural norms.

The many small social cues that we become so accustomed to we take for granted, until we find ourselves in a new culture where the rules are completely different. When we are thrust into new cultural situations, we often misread the signals. For instance, small talk is generally much less prevalent in Denmark than in the U.S. This we may perceive as people being inaccessible and unfriendly.

It is similar within the “mixed couple”. Couples with partners from different countries can find themselves struggling with some of the same issues inside their relationship.

Different native languages within a couple can limit the couple’s deeper understanding of each other. The feelings of alienation or being “other” in a different culture can be transferred to the relationship and feed misunderstanding and a lack of connection.

Consider – for instance – the ongoing effects on the couple which differs significantly on levels of independence-interdependence.

One aspect of interdependence is an assumption that our partner should understand and react to our needs without being asked. A more independent person, on the other hand, may assume that the only reasonable way of behaving is to clearly communicate your needs, and to then negotiate around how to get these needs met.

Such a combination of traits can often cause confusion and disappointment when you feel unheard or misunderstood. We tend to expect our partners to at least hear us, to at least try to understand what we are communicating.

In my practice, I often see that such frustrations can lead to anger and judgment of the other.

Over time, cultural differences can wear on a couple in ways that are quite unique to the mixed couples’ situation. Even slight differences in beliefs can cause couples to repeatedly argue over apparently mundane things, like who does the dishes or who picks up the kids from daycare. Or less mundane disagreements, such as those related to religious and spiritual beliefs. Culture influences us in ways we often are quite unaware of.

Upside

There is a significant upside to these difficulties, however. Much like living abroad, living with a partner from a different culture can help you open yourself up to new possibilities and a deeper understanding and appreciation of others. Mixed culture couples must discover that the set of rules they learned growing up is just one of many.

The effort and mutual respect it takes to successfully make room for the other person’s values is often rewarded with a closer and deeper relationship that can better withstand life’s trials and tribulations.

It does require work to get there. You must be willing to look both at yourself and your partner with openness to the differences and a willingness to explore. As an expat, perhaps you already have these qualities?

If you and your partner struggle with cultural differences, here are some things you can do. Being as aware of the conflicts as possible is really useful. Only when you have identified the problem can you do something about it. This means becoming aware of your own values, as well as your partners.

I often give couples the following homework: Set aside at least one hour a week to spend together without distractions. During this hour, you are to practice listening to the other without judgment or disagreement. So, you can ask questions, you can repeat and you can reflect. This means asking questions to explore and deepen your understanding, not to voice your judgment or disagreement. Repeat what the person said, but in your own words, then wait for them to respond and add more to their message. Finally, reflect on what the other person has expressed, and see if you can express this reflection without judgment or condescension.

It takes practice and effort, but with time you can begin to change the way you communicate!

Hanne-Berit Hahnemann has a Master's degree in clinical counselling with a supervisory license from Cleveland State University and many years of experience in private practice in the United States. As an expat herself, she specialises in internationals and the challenges that come with moving to another country. She sees clients at the MacFarlane Psychology Group, a Copenhagen practice offering psychotherapy in English.

 

READ ALSO: Why moving to Denmark can cause feelings of loneliness – and what you can do to feel better

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