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Preparing for a move to the USA

Updated 4 Aug 2017

  ~ an excerpt by Julie Musk, author of A Slice of Apple Pie: Your One-Stop Guide to Living in America

During the run-up to the move you will probably experience mixed feelings. When we moved to the US, people kept saying, "I bet you’re excited!"

In reality though, we were so involved in preparations, knee deep in the mountain of administration, in sorting and deciding what to do with possessions, that we simply felt drained.

Moving house can be liberating as you consider all the things you have accumulated over the years and decide whether you really need them in the next stage of your life. Moving overseas adds another dimension.

If you are taking over from a work colleague, your predecessor and his/her family may be a good source of local information and help, especially if they had to go through the same rigmarole you are now experiencing.

You will need to value all your possessions (no mean task) for insurance purposes. The removal company will probably ask you to complete a valuation form, detailing a breakdown of all possessions. Use their inventory to prepare your insurance list (far easier than trying to think of everything yourself).

Electricity and white-label goods

Because America uses a 120-volt electricity supply, it is probably best to leave behind small, movable appliances that require high voltage, such as toasters, food mixers, vacuum cleaners and hairdryers. You can buy voltage transformers, but they are bulky, heavy and costly. Moreover, because American power outlets are a different physical design to British sockets, you will need adapters for any UK plugs. If you do decide to take your appliances, buy a couple of adapters in the UK so you can convert the plugs on your essential electrical appliances as soon as you arrive in America. This minimises aggravation in those first days of moving in.

Storage concerns

Paying for storage of personal possessions in the UK is costly. Consider whether the cost of storage is greater than the replacement value of the items. If so, then it may not be worth the expense, unless there is some sentimental value attached. Storage in America is possible while you look for a new home, and self-storage lock-ups are easy to find.

Wet items, such as dishwashers, freezers, fridges and washing machines, must be dried out days in advance so they are perfectly clean, dry and ready for long-term storage. Otherwise they will suffer from mould growth and deterioration. Ideally, freezers should be defrosted and left unplugged, and washing machines and dishwashers should not be used seven days prior to collection. Air them outside if possible.

Likewise, bedding such as mattresses, duvets and pillows should be aired and not used the night or two before so that they have a good chance of surviving the storage period unscathed. Recently washed and dry-cleaned clothes should be aired for several days before packing. In fact, it is not advisable to wash, dry clean or polish any items immediately prior to collection as the residual moisture can cause condensation and spread to other items in storage.

Preparing items for shipping  

Any items you want to take to America, e.g. gardening equipment, bicycles, shoes and boots, should be thoroughly cleaned as there are strict health regulations concerning dirt. Any item containing fuel, e.g. heaters, lamps and lawnmowers, should be drained and left uncapped in an inverted position for at least three days prior to removal.

If you pack anything yourself, note the contents. List all the main items you pack and give a copy to the removals company. This is to ensure that all goes smoothly at Customs. It also helps in case a box goes missing and you have to account for the contents.

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