Modern*Simplicity

Creating a Life Free From Chaos

How to Make An International Move a Little Simpler

How to Make An International Move a Little Simpler * Modern Simplicity. Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

This is a guest post from Colleen Higgs from Living Well, Right Where We Are.

My daughter’s grade one class hatched salmon eggs as a science project. As their hatchlings grew in the class tank, the kids learned what all animals need to survive. Water, air, food, shelter, and elimination of waste.

That last one doesn’t seem as critical as, say food and air, but it is. An excessive build-up of waste can kill you. Or make you feel like killing someone! Have you ever been around a constipated child?! It’s the worst!

It’s all too much

When we don’t clear out the excess our health suffers and we feel lousy. It can happen in any area — physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social.

In his book, Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne identifies four areas that contribute to anxiety and behavioral problems in children.

  • Too much stuff
  • Too many activities
  • Too much choice
  • Too much information

I feel pulled towards the same excesses in my adult life. 

I need to filter out the waste and excess in every category. How our family does this has been shaped by transitions — international moves and frequently overhauled daily routines.

In the past 11 years, our family has gone through many transitions

  • We’ve welcomed four babies. 
  • We’ve lived on three continents and moved six times. 
  • Our kids have attended public school, private school, and homeschool. 
  • Some years my husband averaged 70+ hour work weeks. Some months, he was on another continent, other months he was home full time. 

Our days look different month to month.  Here are some ways that has played out.

Too much stuff – Pass it on

An international move is a great chance to purge. I refuse to pack, ship and store items I may never need again. 

We’ve left strollers, car seats, high chairs, and playpens behind when we’ve moved. And we’ve always found another one (rarely new). 

I’m currently borrowing a high chair and winter gear. My friend is borrowing items that don’t currently fit any of my kids.

It’s a win-win – less to store and less to buy.

Too many activities – Choose well and reassess often

Each move provides a chance to reassess. We are not minimalists in this area, but we do set intentional limits.

  • One sport at a time plus one instrument through elementary school.
  • No early specialization — no one activity demands 20 hours/week or 10 months/ year. 
  • We look for opportunities unique to our location — horseback riding was convenient and economical in Argentina.
  • When a child stays dedicated to an activity, we make it work.
  • Plan ahead and carpool! 

Too many choices – Fight decision fatigue

Being adaptable serves me well when I land in a new country, but sometimes everything feels open to debate. The decision fatigue can be paralyzing. 

When the specifics of my schedule are upended, rhythms and routines become my lifeline. For example,

  • A sit-down family breakfast on Saturday morning
  • A trip to the playground after dinner
  • Tucking kids in the same way every night – the same book, blankie, tucking-in routine, singing a short blessing

Too much information – Set an intention

There is much to learn with every new move. Schools and classes to find. People to meet. Names to remember. Cultural norms. New foods. Language. Local news and history. 

When we arrived in Argentina, we set very clear priorities for our first months. 

  1. Get the kids settled in school, and making friends. 
  2. Learn the language. 

That’s it. 

That meant many, many days, I felt like I accomplished next to nothing. But I did it with intention. I shopped with illustrated Spanish notes. Conversations were awkward. I understood maybe 20% of what was said at church.

But we learned. Six months in, we could read tourist brochures and follow verbal directions. We booked our own reservations. Ordering pizza still proved tricky. 

In a new and beautiful place, I could have spent time reporting for everyone back home. But that would have taken energy and attention from our priority — being present there, in our new home. 

Staying in touch matters, but not with everyone. I had limited capacity and I needed to get to know people in real life. Learning the language, making friends and helping the kids do the same was our main focus.

Eliminating the excess

We know removing waste and excess from our lives is important to our health, so we: 

  • Pass stuff on to people who can use it now, not later
  • Choose activities carefully and reassess often
  • Fight decision fatigue with grounding rhythms and predictable rituals
  • Set an intention so it’s clear which information is serving us and which is a distraction

Is there an area in your life where you’re dealing with “too much”? Choose one of these steps to implement this week. I bet you’ll feel better.

Colleen Higgs

Five babies, three continents, and six international moves have kept Colleen Higgs in a state of transition for most of her parenting life. Her mini-course will help women handle change better — with less overwhelm, more grace and sanity. It’s coming soon! Sign up at Living Well, Right Where We Are to be first to know when it’s ready. 

Check out Colleen’s website, Living Well, Right Where We Are , where you’ll find practical advice for travel with kids, moving, and parenting. Find grace for living with uncertainty, adapting to change and learning from it.

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