Expats Selling and Storing: Getting Ready to Move.
Ready to pack your bags and move to the other side of the world? Who isn’t?! But packing your bags for an adventure is easy. Packing your bags, and boxes, and books for long term storage is less exciting. But the alternative, expats selling everything they own and saying goodbye to all their possessions, isn’t much better. So before you head out, should you store your belongings, sell them – or are there other options?
Also Read: Packing for Your Move Abroad
Storage Seems Simple
The perks of storage are readily apparent. You can avoid the emotional process of parting with your belongings and, 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 from an extended term abroad and being able to set up your new home with your most cherished belongings makes a strong argument for storage. Imagine curling up with your favourite mug, snug in your most comfortable chair and warm under your duvet, with your age old copy of An American In Paris, just days after landing stateside. Or picking up just where your left off with your favourite cooking lessons, your cookbook collection and swank knives just waiting for to whip up a new concoction based on international travels.
Beware Storage Regrets
The pull of comfort and pragmatism here is strong. But heed the warnings of virtually every other traveler who has gone down this route. Returning expats report, again and again, that they are astonished by what they considered important enough to store and save. Instead of being warmly reunited with beloved treasures or high quality items, they’re drowning in items they’d rather have discarded.
Decide and Declutter
A stringent session of decluttering pre-trip 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.
Store Dollars or Store Belongings?
The cost of a small storage unit seems reasonable before you hit the road. But even modest costs can add up over the course of a long trip. $100 or $200 a month is a lot of missed travel opportunities when you’re overseas. And the cost of a quality storage unit, with insurance and climate control is even more.
But frugal travelers should think hard before scattering boxes among friends in a bid to save money. Kind folks may be happy to store your boxes in their basement -until they have to move your items along with their own when they buy a new home. This is an act of generosity you can’t abuse and is hard to repay, so think carefully before you unexpectedly unload a sofa in someone else’s garage.
Advice for Expats: Selling 101
Moving overseas and embarking on a major life change is fraught with unexpected expenses. From a sudden influx in pricey take out coffees to accidentally forgetting to budget for travel insurance (say it ain’t so!) – travel costs add up. Selling your belongings can simultaneously solve your storage problems while giving your travel budget a much needed boost. 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 and unconsciously set our 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 and gain some impartial advice on how much your arm chairs are really worth. After all, you want items to SELL!
Smaller items, like kitchen odds and ends, are a challenge. Are you really going to try to sell a $5 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 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 Sell When You Can Swap?
Expats selling everything has a nice ring to it, but the constant hassle of haggling is stressful and time consuming. 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 several months before your trip, this is an ideal way to pass along your belongings to someone who is eager to give them a good home. In return you can receive just about anything.
Obviously you won’t be looking for household goods but coffee beans, wine, laundry detergent, and small gift cards are common and are as useful as cash for a soon to be traveler. Creative minded folks and zero-waste proponents flocks to these groups so items you generally assume have little value (like old magazines or plant clippings), could very well be snapped up in return for homemade banana bread.
Making the Most of Your Time
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’s a no show or two. And have a plan in place for all those items that don’t find a new home. 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 house wares 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.
A Blend May be Best
In the end, most expats choose a mix of both methods, decluttering many items, selling some to help fund their trip, and tucking aside a special box of treasures and sentimental items to await their return. With a little luck, you’ll have picked up some extra special items during your travels to help make your new house feel more like a home.