FIFO Survivor Auntie Sandy on relocating AND keeping your sanity

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Hi! I'm Sandy (although lots of people call me 'Auntie') and my husband works offshore in oil/gas on a 6 in 1 roster. We've been together for 27 years and are the proud parents of two daughters, aged 19 and 21. I wanted to write for Mining Family Matters to show you can survive FIFO.


I've just had move number seven in two years. Three countries and three states later and really I am still sane. Think the total number of moves over the many years is 19.

Goodness, I have had some interesting moves along the way. Husband had been doing FIFO for a while when I decided to join him and live this lifestyle. When I arrived he had been shipped to another state for a bit of work. Fine I can do this! I was thrown one of life's curve balls in the form of his company ringing to say they would move our belongings, but it would take over a month for everything to get to us. Small problem with this was that he required a lot of the gear for his new job. Hello! We were only moving states, not across the world. I was stuck in a new city with no idea and no-one. Thank goodness for the internet and cell phone. All the belongings were loaded into the back of a car and dropped on the floor of Pac and Send. Part-way through the move it decided to rain and the suitcase I was carrying down three flights of stairs decided to split open. Wow - could my day get better? The lady at the unit below was a bit amazed to see clothes flying from the 3rd floor balcony. Honestly I'd had enough.

I have relocated between countries carrying at total of 20kg. (We do tend to travel light!) We have moved from the east coast to WA towing a trailer - basically if didn't fit on the trailer, it couldn't go. Some 5000km later and that's another adventure I hope to write about at a later date. What a country of extremes and beauty.

The key to maintaining sanity is organisation. Everything in boxes must be clearly labelled with the intended room, basic contents and of course whether it is heavy or fragile. I tend not to label too much detail in case a box gets into the "wrong hands" and perhaps disappears. Boxes for each room are counted and I keep a hard copy for the day and one on the computer. I know how many boxes should be in each room and always double check before the removalist leaves. When we arrive at the new destination I make it clear which room is which. A good idea for this is to print a label for each room and stick to the door or wall (so everybody is sure which room belongs to little Alice). I always transport personal papers with me as much as I can - my backpack with a folder seems to work. I also carry my jewellery, and don't forget to keep medicines that you may need, or even a handy little first aid kit.

You can download inventory lists from the internet - they're excellent with helping removal companies to provide accurate quotes. Some expect you to know precise cubic metres, and these lists make it easy as you will always under-estimate the amount of gear you actually own.

Ahead of time, make sure you have enough cleaning products. Don't forget that you will need enough for two houses (old and new). Keep these together and in a central place.

Boxes to be unpacked on arrival include the kitchen basics such as jug, tea and coffee. Next to be unpacked and dealt with immediately are the bed and bedding. It's always essential to have a good night's sleep ready for the next day of unpacking. Next item to be installed is the washing machine, as there will aways be something spilled and in the need of a freshen up. (Dinner on the first night will usually be takeaways and the essential bottle of wine to celebrate ... up early the next morning and ready for the onslaught into those dreaded boxes!)

While unpacking, try to keep some form of organisation. Boxes flattened or packed out of the way, and stacked into each other to reduce space. Our boxes have now done move #7 and are looking a little sad on it.  Everything straight into their new home.

In this day of modern technology a digital camera is wonderful. I have been known to take 400 photos when arriving in a new house. This may seem extreme but it's so handy at the end when the landlord argues about what damage was there when you moved in. I set the date on the camera (but as someone pointed out recently, this can be altered, so when you start taking the photos take the first one and then some along the way with the morning's paper showing the date). These are downloaded and kept on a memory stick in the filing cabinet. Remember to take note at the new house if there are faults or damage and notify the landlord as soon as you can.

Moving with little ones would try the patience of a saint. Back to the grab bag filled with treats and new toys or old ones that have been unseen and rediscovered. I ensure that there is an endless supply of treats. Nothing too sugary or you may have fuel added to the energy levels of the little cherub. Lots of little sandwiches, dried fruit, fresh fruit, cheese wedges etc. They too can be involved in the unpacking. And of course the boxes can provide hours of play! How about some marker pens and scissors to transform the humble cardboard box into a jet plane or pirate ship? Or a few tubs of play dough and they make a cake for the new house? A few minutes out to do this might just keep the peace in the house.

Because we are a fairly transient family, I have a friend who has copies of important documents and always knows our travel plans. She has master sets of keys etc.  If something was to happen then hopefully she could come to the rescue. I also keep copies of passports and important certificates for all family members. I use those plastic coloured folders for filing. I know, for example, that the clear one contains product information on household appliances, the red one is medical etc. Clearly labelled and filed for everybody to have easy access to.

Another thing to consider when relocating overseas is the vaccines required. The Travel Doctor has branches all over the world - they will inform you what is necessary for the area. Don't leave this to the last minute as some courses of vaccines may take a couple of months. Don't rely on the company to arrange this as it is better to be safe than sorry and hope that you never need them. Do pets need vaccines to travel within states? Also don't forget visas.

So here's my summary to stay sane when moving:

  1. Arrange your removal company early. Ask friends for someone they would recommend. Ensure you have insurance on items. Make inventory lists. If packing yourself, don't forget the boxes, bubble wrap, marker pens, tape.
  2. About two weeks before moving, start to pack items that are not essential.
  3. About a week beforehand, do your redirection stuff at the post office.
  4. Around this time also start the hardcore cleaning or arrange professionals to come in and do this. Oven can be cleaned, freezer emptied and defrosted. Carpets cleaned.
  5. Remember to get final readings on water, electricity, gas etc and don't forget to have it connected at the other end.
  6. Night before: can someone cook a meal for you or can you have one prepared earlier? Get rid of rubbish.
  7. Arrange someone to look after children and pets.
  8. Final inspection and returning of the keys.
  9. Once at the new house, don't forget to do new address on drivers licences and update your insurance and bank accounts. You never know - you might be lucky enough to get a refund on your insurance. I just got $70 back on my car.
  10. Get out and about and discover the new area. You never know how long you will be there. Join the library and community groups. Contact the local visitor centre - some actually have packs containing information relating to the area. Townsville had an excellent one. Their pack included local markets, what to do in a cyclone, emergency doctors and upcoming events.

And above all, have fun!


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