The 6 Emotional Stages of Packing for a Move Abroad

While I write this post about packing for a move abroad, I really should be packing for my move abroad. I’ll write up lists all day, pin packing guides like a madwoman and lay out my clothes beautifully, but when it comes to the actual act of packing – I’ll put that off as long as I can. It’s currently Tuesday, however, and I move on Thursday, so unfortunately it’s time to face the music.

The 6 Emotional Stages of Packing for a Move Abroad; perfect for moving abroad or study abroadpassport case // vegan leather tote bag

Since I’ve moved to Arizona for college, LA for work, then back to St. Louis, you’d think I’d be a pro at preparing for a major move, but you would be thinking too highly of me. There is also just something much more decisive about an international transition that makes it that much more intimidating. I can’t just ship a couple pairs of jeans and that hairbrush I forgot to pack – that’ll set you pack several hundred dollars. My parents can’t just bring my forgotten photo frames when they visit me over a long weekend – I won’t be home until Christmas.

No, this move just feels bigger all around (I’m probably also being over-dramatic and procrastinating), so I thought I’d share the many emotional stages you’ll go through when stowing away your life for a move abroad, in case you’re ever faced with such a traumatic packing event.

Stage 1: This Will Be A Leisurely Affair
A week ago was such a happier, idyllic time. I was young, naive, and a whole expanse of packing days seemed to lay out before me. Instead of packing ahead of time, I’d take leisurely lunches, order a few more things to pack (because why not just add two five more things?) spend whole afternoons planning my future wedding on Pinterest and waste away the evenings out with friends (although I definitely think you should do this before you move anywhere). My packing contributions included making lists of what to pack and buying more things to pack.

Stage 2: Pack All the Things!
After a few days, the reality of moving abroad set in and I decided to make up for lost time and pack ALL THE THINGS. I laid out literally every piece of clothing I thought I could or would wear in London. Since I’m packing for the autumnal and winter months, and London is no LA, a lot of these items are bulkier sweaters, coats and vests – because who doesn’t go to London without a little faux fur – so while I made some progress, I knew not everything would fit in my two checked bags and one carry-on bag budget. I also didn’t really pack anything, but instead laid it out in our guest bedroom – so this stage doesn’t really count as “packing.”

How I Packed for a Move Abroad without Going InsaneThe carnage in my parents’ guest room.

Stage 3: Surely I’ll Wear/Fit Into This Jacket I Haven’t Worn in Two Years!
To help thin out my massive piles of clothing, I decided to set some ground rules. If I hadn’t worn it in one year, it’s not coming. If it doesn’t fit me right now, it’s not coming. These rules sound sane, but packing for a move abroad does strange things to a person. I envisioned myself losing a ton of weight from walking and becoming a model-esque European, and while losing weight may happen, I can force myself to wait until it actually does and grab my thin clothes when I’m home from Christmas. Pack what you actually wear and what will make you comfortable – not for a body or fashion sense you predict may develop.

Stage 4: Purge All the Things!
While I started culling through my stacks and eliminating items, I was tempted to go a bit overboard. Envisioning a minimalist wardrobe, I wanted suddenly to sell all my clothes and rid myself of the dreaded packing problem all together. I’ve given into this temptation during past moves and always regret under-packing. A little bit of a diva, I like options when it comes to clothing and being prepared for unexpected situations. While I did sell things I haven’t worn in over a year and am not packing all my summer clothing, I still am going to throw in one swimsuit for any spontaneous holidays that pop up. It’s all about balance.
I’ll be sharing more specifics in future posts about what I end up bringing for this move, but check out my favorite packing tools below:

Stage 5: Denial
This stage is the worst for progress, but seems to be my favorite to dwell in, even if not on purpose. My moving date encroaches quicker and quicker, but it just doesn’t feel real. I suppose I haven’t had enough time off yet, but sometimes I feel as if I’m on a little work holiday and could be heading back into the office any day now. I know it will feel VERY real when I’m getting ready to head to the airport, but for now I’m in this odd purgatory  where I know I’m making the move, but my mind hasn’t fully accepted the reality – and the packing work that comes along with it.

Stage 6: Acceptance
Currently I’m hovering somewhere between denial and acceptance. I had to say goodbye to one of my best friends today, and that realization felt like a bucket of cold water waking me from a dream. Suddenly, I feel the pressure of the move and being ready in two days. I’m still not in total freak-out mode, but I think I’m finally disciplined enough to buckle down and get shit done. One of my larger suitcases is packed after some hustling, and while the task is nowhere near finished, at least there is some progress.

Have you guys ever packed for a big move before? Any tips? Luckily, I don’t have to bring furniture or anything, but I always accumulate more clothes than necessary. You can follow my packing and prep adventures more on Snapchat and Instagram Stories.

The 6 Emotional Stages of Packing for a Move Abroad; definitely save if you're moving or studying abroad