December 9, 2013

donate, save, toss.

Living abroad is never easy, from adjusting to the culture shock of a new land and trying to figure out the language to simple tasks like getting a bank account or finding bed sheets that fit, it is no small feat. Unless you decide to sell everything and just go (like I did back in 2009, just 2 suitcases and a smile!) it can be difficult to sort through your life in material goods and decide what to keep and what you can live without. With the help of pods you can keep everything important in your life when you move abroad but here is my way of sorting through the clutter that is life. When you are moving every few years, things add up and it is hard to let go but these are my tricks to prioritizing and keeping life simple.

Ask yourself these simple questions to get organized
1. Is is replaceable?
2. Will I actually miss this if I don't see it again?
3. Did I get my money's worth?
4. Could someone else benefit from it?
5. How much space do I actually have?

Donate - When I move to a new country, my friends in the old country always benefit the most. But this can be a tricky one as it is hard to give away things you still want but don't have room for. Be decisive and unattached. They are just things after all.

  • Clothes you haven't worn in 6 months. Others might appreciate your great sense of fashion even if you cannot. 
  • Decorations and household goods - Nothing like some throw pillows to make a house a home but all the stuff is cluttering up your life! Keep a few small favorites like photos or things with special memories to make your new digs feel a bit more comfortable but pass along those cute hanging lights that you bought 2 years ago. Your friends will all love you.
  • Books, DVDS, CD's (who has THOSE anymore). These things take up a lot of space and as much as I would love to have a big bookcase full of all the classics, it is not practical when living abroad. Put your favorites on your computer, kindle or Ipod and move along.
  • You will find you don't need a lot of the things people deem 'necessary' all the time when you have a new country to explore and culture to discover. As I travel and live abroad, I make my choices much more carefully and now don't end up buying a toaster because that is what a kitchen should have. Buy what you need, sell or donate it when your done, global karma!

Save - Sometimes it is okay to send stuff back to mom's.

  • Small mementos found in busy markets or gifts from friends. These things will mean the most when/if you return home. (I have a ton of drawings and letters from students I send to my moms.)
  • Pictures. Though most are saved digitially these days, I always have some printed for around my house. I also love collecting little art pieces from different places. These are starting to make a nice collection that I will forever cherish.
  • For me it is winter clothes but maybe for someone moving to Switzerland it would be bikinis but I always save a few nice items I have bought that I can no longer use in my current country, not everything but just enough to have something to start with if I ever move to a could country again. 
Toss - Whatever is left that you can live without on the road. 

  • Papers, old magazines, storage containers etc. All the stuff that you accumulate over the months that has no real purpose in your life. Basically anything no no one else can get use of from donating. I love a good purge and throwing this stuff out makes you feel lighter and free!

The older I get the harder it is for me to get rid of more stuff each time I move so by following these few guidelines, I keep my sanity and my favorite things! I am not planning on leaving Thailand just yet, but I do speak from experience ( I have done a big move 4 or 5 times now) and as I hone my moving abroad skills even more, the less junk I buy on a day to day basis, the better planner I become. When you are on the road, you realize its the experiences and memories that are the most valuable.

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