Six No-Nonsense Tips of Unpacking and Settling In Your New Home (after an overseas tour)

It may seem like a long bridge to become fully settled, don’t worry you will reach the end one step at a time.

After close to six years of living overseas, heading back to the states or what some of us (who are in this kind of mobile lifestyle) refer to as modern day repatriation — this could turn out to be a ‘culture shock’ of all sorts. For this piece, I will focus on tips to effectively settle amidst the crates and crates of stuff accumulated through the years of travel and let’s not forget the storage items left behind stateside ..waiting for us to come back!

Tip #1 Create your cozy nest

As soon as possible, plan to set up one room completely. This will be your designated place to take refuge from all the boxes elsewhere in your new home or apartment unit. If setting up your cozy nest on the first day is not possible, here are a few suggestions to make your first night and day in your new home more comfortable and fun for everyone:

a. Camp out in the living room.

b. Have your favorite beverages in the refrigerator to start chilling and store favorite snacks in a basket inside a cupboard.

c. Check Yelp for nearby restaurants to order takeout dinner or go out and explore — get to know your new neighborhood for some local eats.

d. Don’t forget, prepare the necessities! Have toilet paper, wet wipes, hand soap, and a garbage can ready in every bathroom. Add in your sweet smelling candle (don’t forget a match or lighter) ready, there is something homey in enjoying familiar scents.

e. Hang a shower curtain and put out towels, soap and shampoo. A warm, bubble bath always calms the nerves or shower away your stress. This ritual always works wonders even for kids. Studies have proven that water calms children..and same with us, adults too.

Tip #2 “Unpack and attack “ one room at a time

Scout for the large furniture first and place them where you want them per room. In order to avoid clutter and ultimately — confusion, do not place things just everywhere. If you absolutely cannot find a place for something, label an extra box “Store Elsewhere” and designate this as your parking space for these items who don’t have a home just yet. Be careful in overloading this box. Have a separate trash bin for items that need to be discarded.

Unbox from each room than opening all the boxes in all the rooms, all at the same time. Another benefit of systematically unpacking each room of the house is checking for any damage that need to be filed for a claim.

Personally, after I unpack and tidy up the bathroom and one of the bedrooms. My next target is the kitchen. The kitchen is the heart of our home. We love preparing healthy and diverse dishes that we have known to enjoy from living overseas. Comfort food is also an excellent choice in getting settled. Aside from being able to save on expenses from eating out too much, being able to choose your meals wisely is helpful for your waistline (and gives you more energy, no sluggishness here!). Grabbing a bag of chips is easier, yes, but the consequences are more long term. I usually pre-cut fruits and other healthier food options for snacking.

Tip #3 Recyle, Recycle Recycle

Remove tape from empty packing boxes and flatten. Save them only if you know you are moving again within the year or if you have a large storage space that could accommodate them.

Clothes that are not weather appropriate in your current location? Save a few items and store properly. The rest could be donated or sold during a yard sale or a flea market. That’s extra cash in your pocket!

Tip #4 Time Yo’ Self

Use your cellphone’s timer app or even your kitchen timer to get things done. Set the timer when you feel overwhelmed staring at a pile of boxes to be emptied. Knowing that the timer is ticking keeps you going at a quick pace and helps you stay focused. Once the timer goes off, STOP WORKING. Reset the timer if you want to continue.

Same thing if you plan to rest, relax or even nap in-between. Set that timer to your desired time frame i.e. 20 minutes, move away from unpacking and when the timer goes off…siesta over! If the ever familiar friend named Procrastination comes for frequent visits, there are various ways to overcome this and it only takes 20 minutes (or less) to get you revved up.

Tip #5 Keep All Your Receipts

Make sure to have an envelope for all your moving expenses receipts. This way, come tax time you are able to find these receipts in one place. While you are at it, have an accordion type envelope for all your important documents for the move. On a piece of paper, write down your new address, phone number, internet provider, and other pertinent information at your new place. Take a photo of this paper from your smartphone’s camera and save.

Have a working To Do List to remind you of A to Z tasks that need to be taken care of and remember to be specific on the To Do items. Break the task further if you can not accomplish it in a shorter time.

Tip #6 Take Time To Explore

It is but natural for you to want to get settled as soon as possible. However, don’t spend all your time unpacking. Take the time to explore your new neighborhood and get familiar with your surroundings. Plan weekend outings with your family to explore recreational and even cultural offerings from your local community. Farmers market events, food & wine tasting, and seasonal festivities abound, so don’t get cooped up and give yourselves time outside. Next thing you know, you have your succulent collection ready for that perfect little corner in your house.

Acclimatizing back stateside takes awhile. I have heard myself and my family uttering the words, “I miss… in…”, from the simple pleasures of island living in Okinawa, the grandiosity of Friday brunches in the Middle East, and the unique experiences from the countries we have visited. Home is still where the heart is. Strive to thrive where you are transiently or permanently planted. By organizing your home life, you will have the calmness, feeling of peace, and most of all, clarity on how to embrace your new life.