When planning a move abroad, what will you do with all your stuff lying around the house and hiding between the nooks and crannies of your closets and attic? Sell your possessions? Put them in storage? Obviously you can’t take everything with you on the plane, so how do you make that decision?
There are five things you can do with your possessions:
Getting rid of all your stuff and getting used to living a more minimalistic and less possession based lifestyle. This is essential for travel and it has the added bonus of lifting stress and freeing up time. Remember though it takes a while to unload your possessions.
I opted not to get storage space. I sold everything.
Escaping The Burden From My Material Possessions
In the two months leading up to my departure, I sold all of my possessions except for some clothes, essentials, and my laptop. Some stuff sold fast — TV’s, couches, coffee tables. Other stuff was difficult to sell and I did not always get the price I wanted. In my last week, I sold my car and the bed. I slept on an air mattress for six nights.
At first, it felt strange to have absolutely no possessions, but it was incredibly freeing. It’s amazing how material possessions tie you down and weigh upon your life. I’ve visited other people’s houses and the amount of shit they hold in their home is just staggering.
I’ve never been one to own lots of stuff because I’m not a materialistic person. I’m actually pretty minimalist by American standards. But it took me two months to get rid of all my stuff — putting them on sale on CraigsList and OfferUp, dealing with flakey buyers, lowball offers, and scheduling pickups. I made repeated trips to Goodwill Donation Center to drop off anything I couldn’t sell.
Yet I would always find more stuff to get rid of. It’s ridiculous how much stuff you realize you don’t realize you had crammed into every nook and cranny of your living space until you have to get rid of everything.
Store or Sell?
It depends on two things: 1) how long you plan to be away, and 2) whether you own any property.
If you’re just taking a sabbatical or an extended vacation with the intent to come back within a year, you put your stuff in storage. The monthly cost of storage is roughly $50-200, depending on how much space you rent. Furniture generally does not have good resale value, so renting storage space is cheaper than having to re-buy all the furniture a year later.
Owning a property gives you built in storage space where you could simply keep your stuff. Renting the property out gives you some rental income assuming you have minimal vacancy with a good capitalization rate.
But if you will be gone for more than a year or you’re not sure when you’ll come back, and you do not own any property, sell everything.
Paring Down To Essentials Only
Donate what you couldn’t sell. Goodwill or The Salvation Army will be more than happy to take your stuff. Then trash the rest.
In your last couple days before your departure, you should only pack the essentials — your passport, favorite clothes, dress shoes, clean underwear, a few toiletries, laptop, phone, battery chargers, and an inflatable ThermaRest Lumbar Pillow to keep my lower back happy.
Airline Luggage Restrictions
Another reason you need to be selective in what to pack is airline luggage weight restrictions. These vary by airline, but generally, you cannot board the plane with more than one carry-on baggage and one personal item. The carry-on baggage generally cannot be larger than 22 by 14 by 9 inches (56 x 35 x 23 cm), and it should weigh less than 15 pounds (7 kg).
You’ll have more packing space if you plan to check a bag or two, though. Checked baggage allowances vary across airlines, but generally you can pack up to 45 pounds (20 kg) in one checked bag without getting slapped with extra fees. Even so, just save your back and pack as light as you possibly can.