The Ultimate Expat Moving Checklist

You would think that we had moved enough in our lives that when the news was dropped that we were moving again, I could have just whipped out a moving checklist from my files and bingo, all I needed to do was start checking off items.

But sadly I had no such list.

Well, to take that back, I do have a Moving Checklist on my blog, forever a resource of amazing breadth whenever I need to find something. But it is more geared towards moving TO South Africa, not AWAY from it, and it is also not nearly specific enough.

What I wanted was a list with every single moving-related to-do on it.

I think the reason we don’t keep those kinds of lists around is that they get so messy so quickly, with items being added and crossed out continuously, and that they also pose a reminder to a period of upheaval in our lives that we’d just as soon like to forget. The first thing we do upon arrival in our new home is throw out all those dog-eared lists, as if we wanted to ban the whole business of moving from our lives as well.

expat moving list

So there was nothing left to do, sometime during the second half of 2012, but to once again painstakingly jot down every single thing that must be done to get our family of six extracted from one continent and established on another.

The result was a labor of love, or at least a labor of attention to minute details, several pages of them, taped to the wall of my South African bedroom staring at me accusingly every single morning, pressuring me to accomplish something – anything – so that it could be crossed out with a flourish.

I know this is a tedious business and some of it won’t apply to your life. My kids, who I’ve let read some of my blog post drafts during our Europe trip, read this one and proclaimed it as “the most boring story ever.” So you are excused if you are now moving on to check out hot sales on

Or hot dudes on

But if you’re sticking around, I thought I’d share my Ultimate Expat Moving Checklist here with you.

Or, if not with you, at the very least my own future self.

Just somebody please remind me when the time comes again (the mere thought horrifies me) to Google my own blog.

Moving Checklist

1. In South Africa:


  • Terminate rental agreement
  • Advertise furniture and appliances for sale
  • Clean out kids’ rooms and donate/discard old toys
  • Update/create valued inventory of all items to be shipped
  • Back up computers to external hard drive(s) or cloud storage
  • Schedule packers
  • Schedule rental furniture delivery and pickup
  • Dismount/unscrew wall hangings to pack
  • Repair and paint walls
  • Schedule house/carpet cleaning
  • Find home for pet(s) or contact pet relocation service

Personal belongings

Tip: Set aside an empty room in the house for items outside of packers’ reach (or mark larger items with masking tape):

  • Passports!!
  • Immunization records – the new school will ask for them before letting kids start!
  • Other files (i.e. services to cancel, school reports, birth certificates)
  • For sale items
  • Donation items
  • Items that stay with house (garage openers, remotes for alarms, keys, manuals)
  • Paint
  • Painting tools
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Adapters/chargers/power strips
  • Suitcases
  • Backpacks/hand luggage
  • Clothes/personal belongings
  • Laptop computers
  • Modem/router
  • Kindles
  • Phones
  • Money/wallets
  • External hard drive with backed up data
  • xBox
  • Games/toys
  • Rented musical instruments
  • Medicines
Our “special” room while packers were at our house. I’m sure yours will look much neater!


  • Schedule last checkups if necessary
  • Obtain immunization records
  • Buy last medicines to stock up on
  • Dermatologist records
  • X-rays from hospital
  • Dentist records
  • Orthodontist records
  • Family doctor’s records


  • Close/transfer balances from kids’ accounts
  • Cancel debit/credit card orders for school feeding scheme, Multichoice, Telkom, internet, Vodacom, instrument rental, insurance, Tracker.
  • Transfer remaining funds to new bank
  • Close bank account


  • Clean/take photos of car
  • Advertise car
  • Sell car
  • De-register car
  • Cancel car insurance
  • Cancel tracking service
  • Schedule rental car delivery


  • Buy South African artifacts
  • Have pictures framed (much better prices in South Africa)
  • Buy stock of Mrs. Ball’s chutney and other special food items
  • Order cases of wine for container

Services (also see The Expat Game in Reverse)

  • Cancel Multichoice
  • Prorate Eskom and COJ bills and make payment
  • Cancel Afrihost
  • Cancel Telkom
  • Cancel Vodacom cellphone contract
  • Cancel garden service
  • Cancel recycling
  • Cancel pest control
  • Cancel gym membership
  • Cancel post office box


  • Return rented instruments
  • Cancel music lessons
  • Obtain all outstanding report cards
  • Ask for teacher recommendations/testimonials for each child
  • Sort out and sell/donate school uniforms
  • Cancel horse riding, gymnastics, cricket, and other private sports 


  • Bonus for domestic
  • Place ad for domestic and tell friends
  • Hand over charity projects
  • Use up/transfer video store credit
  • Use up/transfer tuck shop account at school
  • Return borrowed books
  • Have a, or rather a series of, goodbye parties

2. In the United States*:

  • Research schools
  • Research neighborhoods
  • Contact realtor
  • Look at houses
  • Buy a house
  • Buy car
  • Schedule house repairs and improvements
  • Give friends and family your new address
  • Change your address for all your credit cards
  • Fill out school paperwork
  • Schedule physicals for school sports
  • Schedule dentist
  • Schedule orthodontist
  • Start utilities and services: Cable, phone, internet, mobile phone, electricity, gas, water, trash, recycling, garden service, pest control
  • Set up wireless router
  • Research and pick school and outside sports and activities
  • Research and pick music teachers
  • Invite your new neighbors over to follow up on We Should have Dinner Sometime
  • Inexplicably wait for six months
  • Hang all your pictures


You’re not truly done moving until you’ve hung all the pictures!

Are you still with me? That’s amazing. You deserve an award just for reading all of this. And if you actually ever DO all of this, alongside doing all the other unsung things that need doing like cooking, washing, and cleaning for your family, and repairing things that don’t work, and buying birthday presents for everyone, and finding time to repair stuffed animals, you can officially call yourself a Saint.No, wait, a Mom!

* Disclaimer: That second list of to-dos in the United States is not nearly as long and exhaustive as the first. I admit that Noisette did a lot of the things on this end while he was already here. I’m sure he’d say there was a whole lot more to it.

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