Packing Your Bags and Dreaming of Adventure
Ready to pack your bags and move to the other side of the world? Living abroad can be an exciting adventure! Packing your bags for adventure is easy. Packing your bags, boxes, and books for long-term storage is much less exciting. But selling everything you own and saying goodbye to all your possessions isn’t much better. So before you head out on your grand adventure, should you store your belongings, sell them – or are there other options? Read on to find out!
Storage Has a Sweet Spot
The perks of storage are readily apparent. You can avoid the emotional process of parting with your belongings. If you’ve spent some time carefully curating the objects that fill your home, you may indeed have a strong argument that what you own cannot be easily replaced. The idea of coming home and quickly setting your new home makes a strong argument for storage. Imagine curling up with your favorite mug, snug in your most comfortable chair, with your old copy of An American In Paris, just days after landing stateside. Or imagine picking up just where you left off with cooking lessons, your cookbook collection and knives waiting to whip up a new concoction. Storage offers comfort and practicality.
Declutter for Sanity’s Sake
But heed the warnings of virtually every other traveler who has gone down this route. Returning expats report that they are astonished by what they decided to save. Instead of being warmly reunited with beloved treasures, they’re drowning in items they should have discarded long ago. Packing your bags is easier said than done.
A focused session of decluttering is essential for any expat-to-be. Indulge in some mental exercises to help you along the way. Challenge yourself to fit all your belongings into just six boxes. Ask yourself, if you could only keep 100 items, which ones would they be. Or consider keeping just one of everything – one beautiful serving platter, one set of sheets, one television. A savvy pre-trip purge will make your return all the smoother.
Storage Has Sneaky Costs
The cost of a small storage unit may seem reasonable before you hit the road. However, even modest costs can add up over the course of a long trip. $100 or $200 a month means a lot of missed travel opportunities when you’re overseas. And the price of a quality storage unit, with insurance, climate control, and a 24-hour team of staff, costs even more.
But frugal travelers should think hard before scattering belongings among friends in a bid to save money. Kind-hearted friends may be happy to store your boxes in their basement, but everyone has their limits. This is an act of generosity you can’t abuse and is hard to repay. Think carefully before you unexpectedly unload a sofa in someone else’s garage.
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Moving overseas and embarking on a major life change is fraught with unexpected expenses, from extra pricey take-out coffees to accidentally forgetting to budget for travel insurance (say it ain’t so!) Selling your belongings can simultaneously solve your storage problems and boost your travel budget. But selling your items online is easier said than done.
We have a tendency to value our own belongings more highly than the general public might. You could unconsciously set your price points to reflect personal pride more than fair market value. To make sure you aren’t over (or under) pricing your prized possessions, invite some sensible friends over for pizza. They’ll provide impartial advice on how much your armchairs are really worth.
Dealing with Tricky Items
Smaller items, like kitchen odds and ends, are a challenge. Are you really going to sell a spatula on Kijiji? Try a bundling approach. For one low, reasonable price, the recipient will get an entire bag’s worth of kitchen accessories. Put the most attractive ones at the front of the photo and don’t be afraid to brag about what a generous collection it is! Or, if the timing works out, take your sales to the local university newspaper. Students will be keen on picking up second-hand housewares at the beginning of the school year as well as the end (when the prospect of moving out of the dorms is looming).
Why Store or Sell When You Can Swap?
There’s an alternative to selling that might bring more value (and less hassle) for the prospective expat. Facebook-based trade and swap groups bypass cash in favor of exchanging goods. If you’re starting the decluttering process early, this is an ideal way to pass along your belongings. And in return, you can receive just about anything. Coffee beans, wine, laundry detergent, and small gift cards are common and are just as useful as cash for a soon to be a traveler. Creative minded folks and zero-waste proponents flock to these groups so items you generally assume have no value (like old magazines or plant clippings), could very well be snapped up in return for homemade banana bread.
Regardless of if you pursue cash or coffee swaps, organize exchanges in a neutral, safe location. To minimize aggravation, try to stack several exchanges at the same time. That way, your time isn’t wasted if there is a no-show or two. And have a plan in place for all those items that don’t find a new home so you don’t end up packing your bags with items you’re ambivalent about.
Research local charitable causes that accept donations to help you lighten your load. Expats often speak of using their local charity thrift store as a creative alternative to storage. They donate their housewares before a big trip and, when they return, they inexpensively purchase near-identical items that were recently donated by someone else in a similar situation. Thinking in these terms might make packing your bags and preparing to move a little easier.
Mix and Match
Should expats sell or store? In the end, most choose a mix of both methods. They declutter many items, sell some to help fund their trip, and tuck aside a box of treasures and sentimental items to await their return. With a little luck, you’ll pick up some extra special items during your travels to help you remember your trip for years -and homes – to come.