Preparing for the big move. The ultimate guide from the professional organiser & the relocation agent


By Helena Zachariassen, Home & Lifestyle Editor

Preparing to move, especially if it involves an international move, is a giant project. There’s no denying it. It takes time, energy, and a loot of effort, even with the external help of a relocation agent and a professional organiser like myself. Yet, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming and stressful.

My personal top tips include visualisation and simplifying your mindset from the start, way before the moving boxes are even delivered. With these basics taken care of, you will be able to survive all the rest with hopefully an unburdened heart and a big portion of joy and excitement for the new amazing chapter in your life about to begin.

And, if you’re looking to move to Switzerland as an expat, read on, as I spoke to the lovely Sandra Furrer, a Swiss relocation agent from Zurich, and asked her for her best tips on how to make a move to Switzerland as smooth as possible.

Let’s get moving!

The KonMari Consultant’s
TOP 5 list for a smooth move

#1 VISUALISE your ideal life

This is the most important prep work you can do. Don’t overlook it, take the time to work on yourself and your goals. Believe me, you will be so happy you did!

  • Schedule a block of hours with no interruptions
  • Put on some relaxing music if you’re into that
  • Meditate or just sit still with your thoughts for a while. Ask yourself:
    • What do I want from my new life?
    • How does my new home look, feel, smell?
    • What do I do?
    • What colours am I surrounded with?
    • Who is with me?
    • What items can I see?
    • How do I feel?
  • Get creative and extremely detailed: make a visionboard, write down your thoughts or draw. Whatever works for you.

    Your ideal life vision will be the red thread for your moving process and guide you towards making whole hearted and intuitive decisions as well as set the tone for your moving mindset.

Your home should look and feel like a declaration of love.
To yourself and your family.

Helena zachariassen

#2 DECLUTTER like a mother & attitude of gratitude

Nobody can declutter like a mother. Let’s face it. Motherhood brings stuff upon us that makes us resilient, flexible, and incredibly strong. Let’s use this strength to our advantage! However, whether you actually are a mother or not, everyone can learn to declutter like one. Trust me. If you’re having a hard time deciding if something is worth bringing or not, ask yourself (and your loved ones when decluttering with a family member):

  • Will this fit into my new home?
  • Where will it go?
  • Do I love and enjoy it enough to ship it to another location/country? Read beyond the lines: space, costs, carbon footprint…
  • Do I have more than one of this?
  • Have I used it in the past year?
  • Does it move me closer or further away from my visualised ideal life?

    Examples of things you can let go of with ease:
  • broken, damaged or worn down items
  • old tech equipment
  • clothes and shoes you don’t love, haven’t worn in a year or don’t fit
  • expired stuff; ie. medicines, food
  • old paperwork, except tax papers (check your local requirements!)
  • external storage space (no need to keep anything you don’t intend to bring with you, right?!)

    Maybe you can even organise a garage sale for your community before leaving – donate to charity, sell or give away things you won’t be needing!

Do NOT bring anything with you that doesn’t spark joy for you or make you or your family members happy. It really is as simple as that. Think about all the new and amazing opportunities a clean slate can offer you…exciting, right?!

And then embrace it all. With deep gratitude for the space you have been given to live in and for the gorgeous things you own.

#3 PACK by category

Once you’ve finished decluttering you can finally move on to packing. Rather than packing room by room, collect all items belonging to a certain category, and only then can you start packing. This way you will reveal potential duplicates and not end up with random boxes filled with a mix of odd things but rather boxes filled with smaller boxes belonging to a certain category. Labelled of course. Make sure to follow the KonMari decluttering order also when packing, here’s a reminder of the categories:

Clothing (incl. shoes, jewellery, accessories, and bags)
Books
Papers
Komono (miscellaneous items; ie. kitchen items, bathroom items, bed linen & towels, toys, tech appliances, home decor, artwork, etc.)
Sentimental items

Unpacking will be a breeze with this packing strategy and take a burden off your shoulders when you know where everything can be found.

#4 Fold like a pro

Folding clothes to stand upright saves space in any closet, so it will be a space saver also when packing into boxes and bags. You can choose to fold by category also here: t-shirts, sweaters, socks, pants, underwear etc. In case your clothes are already folded, well done, you can simply transfer your folded packages from your closet straight into your packing cubes! Check out my favourite packing cubes and some of my folding videos here.

Psst with the code HAPPYHOME15 you can get a special discount on these gorgeous cubes.

#5 Have your essentials with you when moving abroad

Think practicalities, legal documents, and your most important sentimental items.

Practical items would include clothing, medications, daily tech items, chargers, and potential adapters, etc.
The legal side might include passports, visas, birth/marriage certificates, any other entry/registration papers required, and potential wills.
Your most important family photos or journals will for sure fit this category. This way you can display them at all times when you need to look at a familiar face during the moving craze.

My final tip is about YOU – make sure to prepare yourself, especially if you’re going to be the trailing spouse. If needed get yourself a coach, and make sure you read this amazing book by my dear friend Katia Vlachos: The Great Move – surviving and thriving in your expat assignment.

The relocation agent’s TOP 5 list for a smooth move to Switzerland

Sandra Furrer is the founder and CEO of Matterhorn Relocation in Zurich, Switzerland. Make sure to check her list below if you’re planning a move to this safe, well-organized, and simply breathtakingly beautiful country!

#1 Always be well prepared

The Swiss are incredibly organized and structured. And they love their habits. The “we have always done it this way” attitude is hard to shake. Therefore, always be well prepared then it will run like clockwork. Here are just a few examples:

  • Always carry with you all important documents when registering or applying for something. If something is missing, you will already be sorted out. 
  • When registering at the municipality or migration office also have everything with you, otherwise you will be sent home.
  • Banks need a registration confirmation otherwise they won’t open up a bank account.
  • Often there are also regulations that you have to reserve parking spaces one week before the move, so always reserve in time. If you ask only 6 days before, it is already too late and unfortunately it is rather rare that they turn a blind eye.
  • Not all agencies accept electronically signed contracts, many prefer the original signed ones which need to be returned within 5 days.

#2 House hunting

The market is drier than ever. Therefore you have to be even faster and submit a proper application incl. cover letter. The thought that you can take your time and that even better properties will come on the market is gone. 

Often 10-50 interested parties apply for one apartment and you have to put even more effort into your application. With a nice cover letter with a photo and all the necessary documents, you can make it to the top selection. A properly completed application form also leaves a positive impression. Brokers and relocation experts often receive “off-market” offers and are definitely more recommended than ever during this time. 

There are online platforms like Homegate, Newhomes etc. which you can use as well. Or on Facebook, you find groups like Housing in Zürich. But you need to be fast, often the homes are gone in a few hours or a few days. 

#3 Learn the language

“Le ton qui fait la musique” the key to conquering the hearts of the Swiss can be with a smile, friendliness, respect as well as learning the language and culture. The effort speaks louder than words.

#4 Travel

Switzerland is a fascinating country and I can only recommend taking in as much as you can. The mountains, lakes as well as the different languages simply enchant. Being active in nature and exploring new areas strengthens and connects you.

#5 Get to know people

Hmmm…so with children and dogs you get to know people very quickly. Also when joining a local sports team, tennis or soccer team etc. you are likely to find new friends fairly easily. But in Switzerland, you have to try a little harder. We are not talented for small talk, but we are loyal friends for life.



Don’t rush to fill your new home with stuff. Let your home tell you what it needs and also what you need. Live in it for weeks, or longer, and feel and breathe the energy of the new home. Remember: it takes two to tango!

Helena Zachariassen / my happy home

Have you downloaded our free ebook – 21 Hidden Gems of Switzerland? If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to download it while planning your Swiss Getaway.

To read posts from September, click here

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