HOW TO LEAVE A COUNTRY: WHAT TO KEEP, WHAT TO GIVE AWAY, WHAT TO THROW OUT
Moving abroad for an expatriation assignment can be viewed as a great opportunity to downsize your life and take stock of all the ”things” you have accumulated over the years. Now is a good time to re-assess the practicality, value the usefulness of all the items in your household and ask yourself whether or not you really need to take them with you on the next posting. Moving is already quite stressful, so the more organized you can be leading up to it, the better. Make lists and do whatever works for you in helping to plan better for the upcoming move.
A lot of what you decide to keep, donate or throw away comes down to if you will need to take your own things or if you will have a fully or semi-furnished place on the other side. It will also depend on if your or your partner’s company will be taking care of the moving costs (which is usually the case in an expatriation). One thing we can highly recommend is doing a decluttering session before you move so that you don’t end up hauling unnecessary items across the ocean to your new abode. In the growing trend of minimalism and being mindful of ones possessions, now is as good a time as any to decide what to keep and what is no longer useful or practical, and therefore better to sell, give away or throw out.
Most international removal companies should offer storage solutions or at least be able to point you in the direction of long-term storage options. This is only worth considering if it’s something you want to do, need to do and are able to afford. It may be an option in the case of heavy and bulky furniture, valuable artwork, antiques and other personal keepsakes that you don’t want to move back and forth every time you make an international relocation.
Here are our suggestions for what to take with and what to toss out (donate or throw away) as a guideline:
What to take with you
When deciding what items to take with you, take into consideration the convenience and cost of finding these items at your next destination. For example, here in Ghana, many expats feel that there is not a lot of choice when it comes to good quality furniture, and the options that do exist, are very pricey. So in this case, you’re better off bringing certain furniture with you, such as your lounge suite. Once you have a clearer idea about the type, size and style of apartment or house you will likely be moving to, the furniture decision becomes a little clearer. It also depends on if you will know this information upfront or if your living situation decision can only be made after moving abroad.
You will obviously want to take anything of value (sentimental or monetary) with you. One of our best tips is to convert old media, like LPs, cassettes, videos and DVDs into digital copies in order to save on space. This can also be done with most important documentation.
Here is our suggested list of what to take with you to your next posting:
- Important documents and paper work – but be sure to go through these and organize them in a methodical and organized way for ease of reference.
- Furniture and home comforts, especially items that cannot easily be purchased in the next place, or are extremely expensive to buy there.
- Valuable or sentimental items that you treasure such as family heirlooms, antique furniture, expensive and valuable art pieces.
- Clothing (don’t forget about seasonal clothing for when you travel back home or go abroad to cooler climes on holiday).
- Electronics and gadgets, and any hi-tech devices that may be difficult to find or very expensive in the next place you are moving to.
- A substantial stock of any chronic medications that might be difficult to come by in your new country of residence.
- Your favourite beauty products, especially those you use everyday and cannot do without.
What to throw out /sell /give away
If you haven’t used an item in the last six months, consider getting rid of it. Your options are selling it (if it’s still in good condition) or otherwise, give it away to a friend, neighbour or charity organization – especially if it’s a piece of furniture that won’t fit in your new home in terms of space or style.
Marie Kondo, known for her KonMarie method of organization and simplifying life by asking whether or not an item sparks joy, is quite the trend these days. Hoarding clutter and unnecessary items not only takes up space and collects dust but also becomes just another thing that will take up container space when you move. If you only use something on rare occasions (if ever), if it has worn out or does not function properly, does not fit into your new house or apartment, or won’t be useful to you in future, it would be a good idea to think about selling, donating or throwing it out. Use the move as a chance to clear out your cupboards, wardrobes and drawers. Involve your kids so that they also feel included, especially with their own things. Encourage your children to give away toys they no longer play with or clothes that no longer fit them, to needy organizations.
You might decide to sell big-ticket items such as furniture, especially if it won’t fit in your new place due to size and/or style. There are various ways to go about selling these items, such as online market places, or hosting a moving out party or yard sale.
Some items you may wish to give away or donate include:
- Unread books, as well as those you are never going to read. Donate these to your local library; offer them to neighbours, friends or the local retirement home. You can drop off magazines at the dentists or doctors waiting rooms.
- Pot plants and indoor plants: as you can’t take them with you, what better idea than to gift them to a friend, neighbour or local small business.
- Clothes and shoes you’ve not worn in the last 6 months, or kids clothing and shoes that they have now grown out of. There are plenty of NGO’s and charity organizations where you can donate clothing that is still in good condition.
- Mismatched cutlery and crockery can very easily be given to thrift stores, charity shops or to people who you know could use them.
- Extra luggage and bags that are not being used, but still in good condition, can be given away.
- Kitchen appliances and gadgets that still function properly, but that you no longer use would be very appreciated by somebody else!
- Old linen and towels can be donated to animal shelters and rescue organizations.
- Extra blankets, covers, and quilts that are not soiled and are still in relatively good condition can be donated to street shelters.
Throw these things away
- Items you have been hoarding that are not practical and of no particular value (sentimental or monetary) that you might be holding on to just because.
- Broken items, kitchen utensils or gadgets. Anything that is damaged beyond repair should be thrown out. Check to see if any of the materials are recyclable (glass/paper/plastic).
- Knick-knacks and other cheap curios.
- Socks and underwear with holes in them!
- Promotional flyers and random pieces of paper or useless receipts that have been piling up around the house.