Settling in a new house or apartment is the summit of the relocation process. And very often this means either dealing with a furnished place that does not reflect your taste or having to solve a puzzle with a space that is not ideal for all the furniture and belongings you shipped.
So, while you are hunting for your next expat place I will share with you some tips for you to prepare to make your next place really feel home away from home. Here are 10 pieces of advice.
1. Declutter before packing.
My first tip has to do with all the oversized and sentimental stuff you probably have been carrying around without too much thinking. It is time to address that.
Do you have a huge box of old pictures that you were supposed to put into albums for years and has simply been shipped to different places? It’s time to digitalize them!
Got 3 boxes of scrap-booking stuff that you never used in your last post?
More than 100 books?
You should definitely follow the strategy: “if I did not use it last year I should consider Sell, Donate or Dispose before packing”
Start this process at least two months before moving. That way, by the time the movers come you will have much less to handle.
2. Gather your essentials.
Now that you have decluttered and you are ready to prepare your boxes, here are some things that you should bring with you in the plane:
– Your linens and your detergent/fabric conditioner
(Especially if you have kids, there is nothing cozier than to sleep in your own sheets with that familiar scent. As time goes by you all will get used to the local scent. This insightful tip comes from an expat friend who helped her children feel at home even in hotels with their favorite cartoon themed sheets.)
– Your favorite books
– Some photos
– Your mug
– Your favorite scent (Don’t have one? Look for it…): some candles, oil diffusers
3. Change your mindset. Rethink rental.
It is not your property. I know. But it will be your home for the time being. Although there must be some rules to follow, they are not so many and no rules should prevent you to feel at home where you live. There is proof that it is not good for your health to spend the next year or years of your life in “endless transition”, feeling like a guest in an Airbnb. So try to make the place your own.
4. Create a process.
Even if you are going to decorate your place by yourself, creating a process will make things much easier and everything starts with a brief.
How do you want to feel in your new place? What do you need to do achieve that? What needs to be changed in the house or apartment to make it yours? How should the place look and feel after your personal touch? Look at the place carefully: floors, walls, hardware, windows, lights. There must be different opportunities, so make a list of priorities that need to be covered in your project.
5. Make cozy a priority.
It does not matter what is your style, if I can give you one piece of advice to feel home away from home, invest in items that will bring coziness to your new house or apartment. Such as throws, pillows and textures to create an inviting spot that you will look forward to come home to.
6. Establish a “comfortable budget”.
We know that any money you put into this temporary place won’t be a lasting investment. But it is very important to invest in your emotional well being for the next few years. What is a reasonable amount for you and your loved ones to feel at home during this period? It is best to define a specific, reasonable and “comfortable” amount of money.
7. Plan now. Time is at an essence.
Together with the money comes the time. The thing is: we can live with the basics. Once we unpack and we get into the routine it is easy to leave the “house projects” behind because they are not urgent anymore. But the fact is our mind and our body will be suffering by missing that home feeling. Trust me on that. This is why it is so important to tackle it before you start settling into a daily routine.
8. If you are moving into a furnished place.
You can and should give to this place a lot a personality! Here goes my main advice:
– Display your collections. Any hobbies or collections are the best pieces of décor.
– Add something vintage: a small chair, side table, stool. Any piece will give a nice story to this place.
– Get one interesting rug. Or two, or three…
– Invest in some lamps.
– Rearrange the furniture at least four times. I mean it.
9. If you rented an empty house or apartment.
You have a bigger “canvas” to paint, so try to express yourself.
– If you need to buy furniture, remember that you can’t go wrong with main pieces in neutral colors and as modular as possible.
– Create an accent wall: bring some texture or color (or both) to some wall.
– Change those “invisible details” that can make a HUGE difference: old hardware and switches, bathroom lighting, toilet seat and paper holder.
– Replace the light bulbs for smart ones. Your whole body will feel the difference.
– Think of art in a different way and dress your walls. Beautiful fabrics, wrapping papers, scarfs and many simple objects you can find in a flea market can be framed and add tons of character to your new place.
10. Keep your home free of clutter.
This is not about design. This is science. Any cluttered surrounding have been shown to increase levels of cortisol* (aka the stress hormone) and can even impact productivity. So, make sure to be “space aware” and use all the unused corners for storage and seriously and consistently remove the crap.