Migrating to Canberra, Australia – Discarding an Old Life(style)

by Rosemarie John on April 4, 2014


In about three weeks, Joseph and I embark on a big move to Australia and the first huge step towards our new life down under was to  decide what to take along with us and what to leave behind.  It’s honestly easier said than done.

We first tackled the question on how to transport what we would choose as things we cannot live without. After much deliberation we decided to have our personal belongings packed by relocation specialists. Relocation sounds pretty easy considering that professionals would be handling the packing load, but it is far from it.

Since the announcement about our migration to Canberra last year in November, we have spent every weekend trying to organize our belongings. We spent nearly twenty weekends trying to figure out what items would go with us to Canberra. We argued with one another, fretted over junk and finally got rid of many things that aren’t useful anymore. It was shocking to see how much junk we had collected over three years!

Some typical conversations between us were:

Joseph: Perhaps I should take my Blue Ray Player.

Me: I have not seen you use it since a year now!

Joseph: But I love it.

Me: What nonsense, are you a hoarder?

Joseph: No, I am not!

Me: Then it’s settled it is not going with us!

Another time:

Me: Should I pack these shoes?

Joseph: You hoarder! It goes into the same giveaway box where my Blue Ray Player went!

We think the digital age has eliminated the use of paper, yet we found ourselves with 5 large garbage bags of unimportant mail, pamphlets, flyers and what not. Naturally it all went into the recycle bin but 5 large bags is just such a waste of paper.

Having spent a bomb on moving furniture from Indonesia to Singapore, we decided that this time we would only move our personal things such as clothes, decor, and artwork. We disposed a lot of our other stuff like the aforementioned Blue Ray player, television, music systems, DVDs and CDs, heavy furniture, refrigerators etc. on online auction sites like eBay and Gumtree. Most of the furniture was sold while certain furniture pieces that my parents liked were shipped back home to Kuala Lumpur.

We also gave away a lot of clothes to the Salvation Army. They were made up of clothes I have been holding on to for the last five years hoping I would fit into them once again and retro shirts Joseph had, but never wore.

Trimming down our wardrobe drastically reduced our freight costs as well because lesser boxes meant lesser space. It was painful though to see so many clothes I bought were not going to be with me anymore.

Within a spread of 20 weekends, we reduced what would have been 70 boxes down to 25 in total, out of which only 4 boxes were clothes. It was difficult for me to give a lot of things away. In a way I was holding on to the past but Joseph keeps telling me to embrace the future instead, and having done that over something as small as clothes has been empowering in way.

The best part… or should I say the best bargain I struck with Joseph was that I get to buy a few new dresses since I’m moving to a new country! *wink* He agreed without even realising my ulterior strategy of acquiring a green light to more shopping. We have 60kgs between us as check-in luggage; why not add a few summer dresses! I don’t see any harm in that – do you?

Movers and packers work very swiftly. If you don’t watch the packers closely during the packing process, they would just pack everything and anything they get their hands on. So we had to make sure the items not meant to be sent through the packers be sifted and stored separately in boxes before they arrived.

It was 10am on March 24th when the packers arrived. When you live in an apartment, it isn’t as easy as opening the gate and letting them in. We had to head down to the management office, fill and sign a form and hand the office a refundable deposit. By the time that was done, it was nearly 11am when the actual packing started.

Packing our clothes, desktop computer, printer, kitchenware and paintings were easy. The time consuming part was packing our home décor that we have collected over years of travelling. By 2pm, everything we owned was sealed in 25 boxes of various sizes.

The boxes were transported to the packer’s warehouse and will remain there until we instruct them to be shipped. We leave for the Australian capital on April 27th and we hope to find our new home within a 2 week timeframe. In that first 2 weeks we will be staying in a short-term rental in the city. We will be documenting our journey of transition and look forward to making Canberra our new home. Wish us luck!

Sharing experiences is a great thing especially when it involves uprooting yourself from one country to another. Have any of you had to relocate? We would love to hear about your packing experiences. Let us know through the comment box below.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather April 5, 2014 at 12:29 am

It’s amazing what professional movers can accomplish in a few hours, isn’t it? We shipped some of our things to Shanghai – and back again – and went through a similar process of weeding out the unnecessary. We also had bags and bags of paper to discard of and old clothes to donate. It’s a pain to go through everything, but it feels great afterwards!
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Rosemarie John April 5, 2014 at 2:10 am

Haha yes, those bags and bags of paper is really quite shocking. No idea why we were keeping them in the first place. The number of magazines were horrendous too and if you calculate the cost, it’s crazy that we spend so much on printed material. We have decided to stop on that one! 🙂


Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans April 7, 2014 at 10:04 pm

So funny that your husband immediately accused you of hoarding for wanting to keep your shoes. My husband can’t understand why we women need so many shoes. But it’s always good to go through your stuff and get rid of things you don’t really need. I try to audit my closet every year although like you, I’m still holding onto some clothes I’m hoping will fit again someday. In any case, good luck to you guys on your move. Wishing you lots of great adventures and a smooth transition to Canberra!
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Rosemarie John April 8, 2014 at 11:33 am

Exactly! I couldn’t understand the word horde associated with me over shoes! *wink* But i did make effort to trim my shoe collection drastically. I think i shall practice your concept of a yearly audit on my closet too! Great idea in fact! Thank you for your wishes! We are pretty excited about our move.


Claudia Looi April 7, 2014 at 11:23 pm

Bravo my friend – only 25 boxes! That’s an accomplishment.

I remember over 2 years ago we got rid of three quarters of what we owned, moved to an apartment and trimmed another quarter of what we had in the apartment. Now our stuff is in a storage unit while we are living a nomadic lifestyle. After living out of a suitcase for a year, I can honestly say I don’t need much.

Have a great trip and may you and Joseph live a healthy, happy life in Australia.


Rosemarie John April 8, 2014 at 11:24 am

Thank you for your warm wishes Claudia! I admire how you have trimmed down your belongings, I hope I can do that and we could save a lot of renting a smaller place. I don’t know how I will let go of my priced possessions, but I shall work towards trimming things down. Not sure how much storage space cost in Australia, something to check out. 🙂


Lizzy (Good Things) April 9, 2014 at 11:19 pm

Welcome to Canberra, Australia, Rosemarie. It is an honour to make your acquaintance! : )
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Rosemarie John April 9, 2014 at 11:29 pm

Thank you so much Liz, lovely to meet you too! I believe that your recipes might turn out to be staples in my kitchen if I get them right! Love your blog!! I liked that the frittata recipe is simple and straightforward 🙂 never made one before but it’s time for change!


Lizzy (Good Things) April 14, 2014 at 9:28 am

Thanks very kindly! : )
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ben April 11, 2014 at 1:42 am

congratulations on your new home! 🙂
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Rosemarie John April 13, 2014 at 6:04 am

Thank you very much Ben!


Lesley Peterson April 14, 2014 at 8:50 pm

That is an excellent tip–to have the ‘junk’ for donation well out of the way before the professional packers and movers arrive. Best wishes in your new chapter, Rosemarie and Joseph. I look forward to your posts from Canberra!
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Rosemarie John April 15, 2014 at 5:09 am

Oh yes Lesley, that really helped bring down the costs too. When we moved from Malaysia to Indonesia and then Indonesia to Singapore, we ended up with so many things we actually didn’t need to keep. At least this time we were well planned.


Contented Traveller April 22, 2014 at 2:25 am

Gordon is the worst hoarder I have ever met. We recently moved and the boxes are still sitting unopened in the garage where they will remain forever. We go to Canberra often so will need to do lunch one day. Good luck with the move.
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Rosemarie John April 22, 2014 at 2:34 am

That is exactly what I don’t understand Paula, why do these men like to keep things they will never use…. but I must say Joseph has imporoved, he did get rid of a lot of things. 🙂 Will definitely love to catch up once we are settled in.


Serene September 5, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Hey, I am moving over next year feb. Not sure if you could give me some advice? My hubby and I are in our preparation phase. Would love to meet you when we arrive. 🙂


Rosemarie John September 6, 2014 at 12:29 am

Hi Serene, thanks for dropping by. Good luck with your big move. From the looks of your blog and the real estate background you come from, I don’t think there is much I can say to add to the knowledge you probably have 🙂 would definitely love to meet up! Give us a shout when you are here.


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