Moving Abroad: What to do with All My Stuff?

It wasn’t until I started packing that I truly realized how much stuff I had. Not only did I have a ton of stuff, but embarking on my new...
Moving Abroad

It wasn’t until I started packing that I truly realized how much stuff I had.

Not only did I have a ton of stuff, but embarking on my new adventure, most of it appeared so useless now. You see, I was moving to another country; starting a new life. I wasn’t just moving around the corner either, I was moving to Cambodia, literally the other side of the world.


To Ship or Not to Ship

Moving to another country

I knew I couldn’t bring everything. Shipping costs are too high and after transportation fees and any other unexpected costs, there is a good chance I will spend almost as much shipping the item as it costs to replace it. There is also the chance that some of the more expensive or delicate items like TVs or decorations may break en route. If you are only going for a few years, it can sometimes be best to leave really precious or irreplaceable items with family. For me, the best and cheapest way to go was to bring everything via airplane. The cost of an extra piece of luggage is cheaper than shipping that same box.

Your best bet is to cut it down to the bare necessities; things that you will not be able to get in your new home country. If you have never been to your destination before, then you better start lurking on the expat forums for your particular country. Find out what the other expats are complaining about. It’s a great way to get an insight on what kind of items you won’t be able to find.


The Dirty Work

packing to move

Now don’t expect this to be easy. You need to get ready for some hard work. It may take a few days and your house will be trashed the whole time, so you just need to deal with it.

Start by ransacking your whole place. Separate everything into three areas; don’t need, maybe want, and bring. At first, most will be reluctant to let things go so it is best to start with the easy things like that rake in the garage or the old computer in the closet. Put things in the don’t need section that are obvious you are not going to bring.

After a while you will start getting to things like kitchenware, furniture, tools, and decorations. Things you actually use and like. By now you will be in the mindset to get rid of things. You will already have this huge pile of stuff to get rid of and it will feel liberating to watch it grow; like breaking chain after chain tying you to your old life. You may even begin to get a little excited as you daydream about living in your new homeland. Just keep this in mind and plow through. You can do it.

Do you really need that set of dishes? What about those pots? Don’t they sell pots wherever you are going?

What about that painting or statue? Get rid of it. Won’t you want new décor to reflect your new lifestyle?

As you run across items that you just can’t get rid of, you will want to separate them into two different piles. One pile of items you need to bring, that you just can’t live without. The other pile is for items that you can’t bear to part with; sentimental items. Later you will have to go through the sentimental items and decide which can be left for safekeeping with family or friends.


The Leftovers

how to move overseas

Ok. So you have spent days ransacking your house. Half of your house is now a giant pile of stuff you don’t need. What do you do with it?

Well you sell it of course.

A garage sale is a great idea, but you will usually have to sell for the lowest prices so we will save that for last. Start by listing the larger or more valuable items on Craigslist and then the smaller valuable items on e-bay as well. You will want to let your craigslist ads run through at least two weekends, and update them throughout the 10 days before you have your first garage sale. It is also best to do two shorter auctions on e-bay, such as two 3-day auctions vs. one 7-day. After giving your valuable items a chance to sell online it’s time to start with the garage sales.

If your house is not in a good location for a garage sale, try asking a friend who lives on a larger street or perhaps joining in a neighborhood garage sale. Make sure to put up lots of signs a few days before so people know about it. Some people even recommend taking out classified ads, but I have never bothered. This isn’t the time or place for tips to a successful garage sale, but I leave you with these tidbits of advice; make sure you start your garage sale early, put prices on all of your items, and don’t be afraid to say no to lowballers.

After multiple garage, e-bay, and craigslist sales, I had finally sold everything I was going to sell. The rest was going to charity. I donated some of the leftovers to my local Red Cross and the rest for a Haiti Charity.

After leaving some sentimental items with family, I had somehow managed to get everything I had left into two large suitcases and one backpack. There is something liberating about being able to carry everything you own around with you. It’s a feeling of freedom from so many of the material attachments that hold us back.

So looking back, what mistakes did I make? What did I bring that I didn’t need and what should I have brought more of? Check out Useless Things I Brought Moving to Another Country and What I Wished I Had.


Brett Dvoretz

A long time traveler and recent expat, Brett wandered through over 25 countries before he decided to settle in the little beach town of Sihanoukville, Cambodia. After struggling through the process of setting up a new life abroad, he decided to start Expats and Aliens to help other expats find the info they need before making the leap.

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