Packing for an International Move

Anytime you move, packing up your house is one of the most painful parts of the process. Packing for a move across the globe is a nightmare! The past three weeks have been some of the longest of my life. The first phase is now complete and while it’s a relief that it’s done, it means we’re in a sort of limbo until mid-April. We will still be in Iowa for a few more weeks and then at my parents’ in Chicago for ten days before we finally fly out. Living out of suitcases is our new norm and will be even after we arrive in Zim.

Our final destination will be a house on the farm. The house needs some renovation before we can move in (a new roof to replace the current thatch, kitchen and bathrooms, etc) so we will be living in town for the first six months or so. We will be two houses down from Dan’s parents and only five minutes from the girls’ school, which I think will make the transition easier for all of us. Our support system will be at arms’ reach for the time being and we won’t have to live in a construction zone, both positives in my book. But this means it will be a long time until we are truly “home”.

We are very fortunate and will be able to take our entire household with us. This is very important to me because I feel that having our familiar objects around us will help make the move(s) a little less painful for all of us. The girls’ bedroom will look the same, they’ll have their familiar toys, I’ll have the pots and pans my parents give me for a wedding gift and Dan will have his well-tested fishing tackle. But getting everything we own from Eastern Iowa to Zimbabwe is not as simple as dropping a few boxes off at the post office and picking them up on the other side. It is a huge task and I’ll admit, one I was not really prepared for.

Our belongings will be shipped to Zim in a 40 foot long container via cargo ship. Remember that hurricane a few months ago where a cargo ship went missing? Everything we own will be on one of those. Pray for good weather!! Dan left with a U-Haul this morning for southern Missouri where professional “packers” will load everything into the container. From there it will go to Kansas and then by rail to Norfolk, VA. Then it’s on to a cargo ship to Durbin, South Africa and finally by truck to us in Zim. We expect it to take two to two and a half months. We’re each allowed two checked bags on the plane so we’ll have ten suitcases of our clothes, medications and absolute necessities with us when we land. But that’s it until the container arrives. Dan’s parents have been busy getting the essentials (beds, coffee pot, wine glasses!) into our temporary house so it’s not like we’ll be camping, but it still won’t be home until our stuff arrives.

To keep everything safe during the trip it all had to be packed in plastic tubs. 69 of them, to be exact. I, alone, have been keeping the plastics industry in the black for the past few months. Everything has to be cataloged and valued for customs and duty purposes. How the heck do I put a value on the videos of my highschool show choir glory days??? I feel like one of those credit card commercials: toy kitchen; $200, china place setting; $95, show choir video; priceless! We are taking most of the furniture as well. That has mostly been Saran Wrapped to protect it. Bubble wrap is everywhere (much to my childrens’ delight) and there are about six half-used rolls of packing tape lying around.

We’re down to the essentials for the next few weeks. We have 4 plates, 4 sets of utensils, 2 coffee cups. We’re cooking frozen food on disposable foil pans and tonight, my friend had to bring her own wine glass over for our weekly wine night. If you really pay attention, you’ll notice that we’re wearing the same few outfits over and over again. But it will all be worth it once the doors of the container open and we are reunited with our things!

I’ve learned a few things about myself during this process. First, I can procrastinate with the best of them. Seriously, I’m a champion. I will find any excuse to not do what I’m supposed to be doing, and usually that excuse involves cookie dough and the Food Network. In the end, everything made it in the U-Haul, and that’s all that matters. Second, it may be time to get my undiagnosed OCD diagnosed. I had a few friends that were crazy enough to help me pack and it just about killed me to not have my fingers on every item that was packed. Towels are in with the china, hangers are in with baskets and the books are facing every which way in their boxes. But the towels are protecting the china, the hangers are filling in the empty spaces of the baskets so they don’t get crushed and books are snug in the boxes like a jigsaw puzzle. Everyone has their own method and it pains me to admit it, but mine is not necessairly the best. This brings me to the third lesson learned. I have a crap ton of baskets and hangers! When faced with a limited amount of cargo space, I’m amazed by what I’m willing to part with and what I must keep. Kitchen table vs toy kitchen? Toy kitchen wins!! Ranch dressing vs black leather boots? Ranch for the win! Spoiler alert: the baskets, hangers and show choir videos all made the cut!

Next we move on to phase two of packing. 10 suitcases at 50 pounds or less each with the rest of our crap. It will be the clothing version of Tetris and Biggest Loser! Keep your fingers crossed that everything makes it! I’ll be holding my breath for the next few months and checking weather reports obsessively. I know that it’s only “stuff” but it’s our stuff and it will make our new home, home.

image                                So many plastic tubs…


image                                     The staging area, formally known as the four-seasons porch


image                                    Leanna has been downgraded to a Pack n Play


image                                     Zebra U-Haul, a coincidence? I think not!




  1. Wow, Kati! This is incredible. Thank you for sharing some of the nitty gritty details. I hope you’re able to enjoy the next couple of weeks in transit. You’re amazing!

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