So you’ve made the decision to move abroad. Congratulations! Now comes the work of starting your new life. You can trust me on this, it IS work! But more than likely, it will all be worth it. As I was preparing to leave the U.S. to travel indefinitely (a long process), my friends, family, and coworkers had a lot of questions, and one of the most common was – What are you doing with all your stuff?
Many people struggle with downsizing before embarking on a long travel journey, simply because in modern life, we quickly accumulate a lot of stuff! Lucky for me, the process was a bit easier, as I rented, rather than owned my duplex, and had only lived there for two years. Still, there were moments where I had to ask myself – where did all this stuff come from? And why do I have so much!?
Of all the preparation required for long-term travel, getting rid of stuff was the most time consuming and emotionally exhausting part. But it was also fun and pretty liberating.
How to Get Rid of Stuff Before Moving (or Traveling) Abroad
The first and possibly most important step is to get into the right mindset. Remember that sometimes in life, you have to empty out in order to fill up. And also that you can buy whatever you need in your new destination (it may even be cheaper)!
Moving out of your place is a good opportunity to scale down. Make time to go through and eliminate things that you don’t use, or that don’t truly bring you joy. Marie Kondo’s excellent book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up can help you get focused here.
If you’re like me, you hate throwing things away. The good news it, there are options for all of those things in the “not going with you” pile. Here are some of the most common things people do with possessions before moving abroad:
- Donate – Aside from national charities like Goodwill and The Salvation Army, every community has local resources that will be happy to take your lightly used items. DonationTown.org can help you find a worthy charity in your ZIP code.
- Store – In my case, the goal was to store as little as possible, as the average monthly cost for a climate-controlled storage unit is $82.77. For items you really don’t want to part with, such as family heirlooms, childhood keepsakes, or antique furniture, PODS are a flexible and affordable option. If you can be creative, do it! Shout out to my big brother for storing family furniture and other important items in his upstairs office!!
- Safe Deposit Box – For smaller valuables like family jewelry, expired passports, birth certificate, social security card and other important documents. Make sure you have a trusted family member on as an Authorized Signer, in case you need to access something while overseas. $30- $40 per year depending on your financial institution.
- Sell – Sell your stuff online and/or have a garage sale. For garage sales, advertise on NextDoor, Craigslist, and your local newspaper. Team up with friends if possible to share the work, and then list your yard sale as multi-family, which is more attractive to shoppers. Be sure to include some furniture and larger items for increased curb appeal. Selling your stuff online will yield more than at a garage sale, but will take more time. To maximize your efforts, give yourself plenty of time, and sell only items in good condition and with good resale value.
Tips for Selling Your Stuff Online
As you can imagine, selling your stuff can be time consuming. But if you do it right, it can also be lucrative. I was able to make about $1000 by selling my stuff before shipping off to Europe. That’s almost 1000 Euros that I can now spend on hotel rooms, train tickets, and Spanish wine.
Here are the types of items most likely to sell second-hand – in good condition of course!
Best Types of Items for Selling Online
- Camping gear and gadgets, hiking gear, and sporting equipment
- Electronics and stereo equipment
- Vinyl and DVDs
- Fine jewelry that has a hallmark for verification – sterling silver, 14K, platinum, etc.
- Designer jewelry that has a hallmark for verification of authenticity – Mikimoto, Tiffany & Co, James Avery, etc.
- Vintage clothing and shoes – Be sure to include detailed measurements such as chest width, waist, inseam length, etc.
- Designer or brand name clothing and shoes or boots – Levis, Converse, etc. are popular in other countries.
Best Online Sites and Apps for Selling Your Stuff
- Craigslist – For items that are too heavy to ship, such as furniture, large electronics, camping gear or sporting goods, cars, motorcycles
- Ebay – For clothing, jewelry, collectibles, vinyl, smaller electronics. It’s helpful if you already have an established profile with some positive reviews.
- OfferUp or LetGo – These apps work similarly to craigslist and are available on GooglePlay or the iTunes app store.
- Post on Facebook or other social media – It doesn’t hurt to let your friends and family know if you’re getting rid of something specific. Chances are they’ve admired it already, and would be happy to get a great deal on your antique lamp or handmade curtains.
- CarMax – Reputable site for selling your car.
Creative Ways to Downsize Before a Big Trip
- FREE box at your going away party. This was great for things I needed to use up until the last minute. My friends liked the added perk of getting new stuff, and I liked seeing it go!
- Give plants away as party favors. I also did this at my goodbye house party – This option and the free box both allow you to show love to some of your favorite people by giving them some things they love that remind them of you.
- Loan things – Leave your stuff in the care of trusted family and friends. This can get awkward if something happens to your stuff, so choose only those you trust to keep your things in good condition, and set clear expectations for getting your stuff back.
- Leave it on the curb, New York style – this works best in urban areas. Try leaving one or two useful items at a time on your curb to be taken overnight (your neighbors and the city won’t appreciate a giant trash heap on the sidewalk). You can leave a “FREE” or “Take me” sign if you like.
Other Tips on Downsizing Your Stuff
Get rid of stuff in cycles. That way it doesn’t feel so crazy. By purging in stages, you adjust to each new level of “emptiness” gradually, and realize how much unnecessary stuff you had anyway!
There may be one or two items you got rid of that you do actually miss!! That’s totally normal, and it doesn’t mean you messed up. Simply take note of those items, and what it is you miss about them (the more specific the better). This will help you out the next time you’re getting rid of a lot of stuff.
Finally, another huge shout out to the friends and family who put me up for two weeks after moving out of my place.