The most important word when it comes to packing for Israel is DECLUTTER. This is true for any move anywhere. When we live in one place for many years, it’s natural to accumulate many things. But when it comes to moving to Israel, you don’t only have moving to a faraway place working against you. The apartments and houses in Israel are a lot smaller than we are used to in America. Many of the luxury items we enjoy here are also available in Israel, making it unnecessary to pack them from the US. With that said, decluttering is best performed in 3 stages:
Stage 1: Pre-Aliyah (about one year before Aliyah date)
Go through your house and take notice of things you would not bring with you to Israel. All of the junk you’re keeping in the garage or attic- if you haven’t used it in a year get rid of it. Adopt Marie Kondo’s method of decluttering: if it doesn’t spark joy when you see it, toss it out. Start with your clothes: get rid of anything that doesn’t fit you right now. Then be honest with yourself, are you really going to wear that? It can be hard to part with our possessions, but to organize a messy house you’re going to have to be ruthless in getting rid of clutter. After that, take a good hard look at your bookshelf. This may be the most painful part of the decluttering process. Take more expensive books like chumashim and siddurim with you to Israel (they may be harder to find with English translations). Then decide on just a few other books such as novels to take as well. Books take up a lot of space, and paper is heavy. Speaking of paper, the next step is to go through all of your paperwork. Save things you’ll need for Israel, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, social security cards, proof of residency, etc. If you have piles of mail, bills, old business documents that are obsolete, then shred them. The final part of this process is to go through everything else in the house. Toys the kids don’t play with anymore, tools in the garage you never use, and pool supplies when you don’t even have a pool anymore all need to go. Remember with anything you are discarding, there are organizations you can donate to for the less fortunate.
Stage 2: Packing for Aliyah (six months – the day before your Aliyah date)
Note: A lot of the information in this section I learned from a NBN seminar hosted by Rebekah Saltzman, a personal organizer. Her business is called Balagan Be Gone, and she is very knowledgeable about packing for Aliyah. She has a free workbook on her website, and offers a free consultation so be sure to check it out!
In this stage, you’ll want to examine very carefully each item if you’ll need it (or even will be able to use it) in Israel. Divide your packing into 4 sections: carry-on luggage, checked luggage, the lift (if you’re taking one), and before the lift. One of the first things you’ll need to know is whether or not you know the dimensions of your new home? This includes the dimensions of the doorways, so you’ll be able to fit things through them. Know how many steps lead up to/ are in your home. If you don’t know the size of your new home, limit oversized furniture, leave large appliances, and do bring big sturdy storage bins to protect your belongings from moisture (i.e. mold). Israeli power runs on 220 volts with European outlets, so you may need to get a transformer in addition to an adapter/converter. Transfer family photos, videos, and important documents to a USB drive as much as possible to save space.
Designate an empty room as the staging area for your packing. Take inventory, and video record the condition of your belongings as proof should you need to file an insurance claim. Assign colors or numbers to the boxes according to family member and/or category (Dishes, bathroom supplies, etc.) If you know where you are moving to, the lift should be packed as much as 3 weeks prior. Otherwise, wait as long as possible, because it can take a while to get your items back. In Israel, you are entitled to 3 tax-free shipments. This can either be used for 3 lifts or say 1 lift and 2 cargo boxes from FedEx. Depending on which company you use, the lift may be priced according to weight or volume so pack carefully!
You’ll want anything really important/valuable with you at all times, so pack these in your carry-on. Such items include: important documents, medications, SMALL electronic devices, jewelry, food (TSA compliant), change of clothes, chargers (with adapters), SIM cards, and cash. For your checked luggage, have some extra season-appropriate clothing for Israel in case it takes a month or two for your lift to arrive. Also include toilet paper, box cutters, a first aid kit, basic kitchen utensils, and Shabbat supplies (kiddush cup, Shabbat/havdalah candles, siddur, tallit).
Stage 3: Post Aliyah
Once you land at Ben Gurion Airport, you arrive at your new apartment, and you take a look around, you may find yourself needing to get rid of even more things! Coming from Texas, we have a saying: everything is bigger in Texas. This statement could not be any more true. Our houses are bigger, our cars, our beds, our couches, pretty much everything is indeed bigger in Texas. This is so not the case in Israel- just the opposite. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s going to be okay. You can buy new smaller furniture in Israel if you need to- Ikea, anyone?