What to Do With Your Stuff If You’re Moving Abroad

Photo: Shutterstock, Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock, Shutterstock

Last week I asked Lifehacker readers to share their most pressing questions about about moving abroad. More than a few of you wondered: What the heck are you supposed to do with your stuff if you want to move abroad?

Reader Fiberman asks:

“How do you deal with the goods and chattels you’ve acquired in your home country? Sell it all/give it all away and buy/rent what you need at your destination? Store it? Identify a core set of essential items (I’m thinking mostly clothing) that goes wherever you do and ditch the rest?”

The quick answer is, you can do all of the above. But let’s break down what that might look like.

Furniture

A personal recommendation is that unless you’re headed to a country that is landlocked with the Unites States (such as Mexico and Canada), you should probably get rid of your furniture. Shipping bulky items can be extremely expensive and is certainly impractical.

Depending on the condition of your furniture, you can choose to sell it through various avenues including Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree. Ask around within your social networks to see who is looking to purchase.

Donating your furniture is also a great option.

Mementos and family heirlooms

Many people have special heirlooms, photos or knick-knacks that symbolise something or someone special in their lives. These precious items can be taken with you — unless you have an abundance of them. If you have more than seems practical to transport, it’s best to leave them and get a safe deposit box — provided they will fit. These boxes are to be waterproof, fireproof, people proof, and just about everything proof, and you can get a safe deposit box at a bank branch or a post office in your current city of residence.

Safe deposit boxes come in a variety of sizes, from 3″x 5″x 12″ to 10″ x 10′ x 24″, with annual fees ranging from $30 to $300 or more, depending on your location and bank branch.

Paperwork and important documents

Here’s a list of documents you should have with you when you move abroad:

  • Birth certificate
  • Original university degree (if you’re working for a local company in your new country of residence)
  • Marriage licence
  • Medical records and prescriptions, especially if you have a medical condition.

All other documents can be copied and taken with you, with the originals stored in a safe deposit box or converted to a digital format through scanning or photographing. You can upload them to the cloud or securely save them on a password-protected flash drive.

Utilise a storage facility

What about stuff that’s too big for a safe deposit box? The reality is that not everyone is going to be prepared to jump into moving abroad with both feet and might not be comfortable saying goodbye to absolutely everything. That’s ok. I would make the suggestion that if you have an interest but aren’t fully committed, you can put your belongings in a storage facility and just travel for a bit.

Storage facilities are temperature-controlled and secured. You can rent space in them based on the amount of storage you need, and pay for it on a monthly basis.

This is a great way to keep all of your non-travelling belongings safe and in one place until you decide if your move is temporary or permanent — at which point you’ll have to take stock and determine what to sell, what to donate and what to ditch.

Log in to comment on this story!