Preparing for a move the eco way: Downsizing (Part 1)

It doesn’t really matter who you are or where you are going: moving is stressful.  There is so much to be done and not enough hands, time, or boxes to do it all with.  On top of all of the things to do to leave your old place, there are all the things that need to be done to move into your new place.  It probably seems like your ‘to-do’ list is a mile long and being environmentally-friendly while you do all these things is probably the last thing on your mind.  

Believe me, I totally understand all of your stress and frustration and your lack of desire to be environmentally friendly.  I get it. You don’t have time or brain power to worry about that stuff. But that’s where I step in to help with a few things to stay environmentally friendly I have learned from my international moves.   Hopefully, this will help you and keep the planet from shedding a tear from all of the things you throw away.

In case you have no plans to move anytime in the near future, this post is still relevant to you!  There are lots of benefits to be had from owning less stuff. I am partial to having less stuff in my home because it means there is less for me to clean–this has the added benefit of me having more time (from less time cleaning) to do the things I love and also being more productive (again from having more time).  If you need more reasons for why you should work on downsizing if you aren’t planning on moving, check out this list.

Note: this post ended up being much longer than I expected, so I broke it up into two posts.  Keep a lookout for Part 2 next week!  Because it is so long, I have added bullet points at the end of each section to help you get the main ideas!

If possible, start downsizing early!

I know that this is much easier said than done, however, the earlier you can get started with downsizing, the better chance you have of finding a home for your things that isn’t the trash bin. In fact, you could start downsizing even before you make the decision to move because, honestly, why not?   Starting early also allows you the option of lowering prices if needed if your sales don’t go through. When I decided to leave Japan, I knew over a year in advance that I would be leaving. I started selling, recycling, and donating things a year before I left. I was able to set timetables and deadlines for what things needed to be sold by when.  This meant that the final few weeks I spent in Japan were filled more with hanging out with friends than with stressing out over the move.


Conversely, when I left Korea, I only had about three months notice.  So in addition to figuring out what my plan was for after Korea, I also had to deal with getting rid of stuff as quickly as possible.  Even though I had significantly less stuff than when I left Japan, I still had to get rid of it all very quickly–which was loads more stressful than my move from Japan.  And as an unfortunate side effect, I was unable to find new homes for a lot of my stuff. If there is any thought that you might be leaving within the year, start downsizing and buying less.  If you end up moving with short notice, you will feel less stress than if you had waited to get rid of stuff and if you don’t end up moving, you have less stuff and more open space in your house!  There really is no downside!

To summarize this part,

  • Start early
  • Make a list of what you want to get rid of
  • Make a schedule with deadlines for each item

Sell, Sell, Sell!

Of course, most people will try to sell part-if not all- of their stuff before their move.  This seems like a no-brainer. The easiest places to sell things would be in the Facebook groups, but consider also selling online on Ebay, Etsy (if the item is handmade, vintage, or could be used as supplies for making other things), or on a host of other sites like these.  If your local area has a flea market, it may be worth your while to set up a table there and sell your stuff to the market-goers. 

Additionally, I think there are things that people will buy that you wouldn’t normally consider selling.  Things you may not think would sell could end up being just the thing that someone is looking for.  Old electronics, games, clothing and accessories all can be sold online.  Even things that some people think of as trash could make you money instead of being recycled.  This is especially nice because you get money and an item gets reused or upcycled. 

As I was prepping to leave, I sold a bunch of things online that I didn’t think would sell (the most surprising being a guidebook that included all of the cards in the Amonket MTG collection…which I got for free when I bought some card packs).  If selling online isn’t your thing, try to arrange a time and date for all of your friends to come over and buy what they want (idea courtesy of my awesome neighbors Ros & Dave!).  Again, start selling as early as possible so you have the time to adjust prices for things that don’t sell the first time around. 

To summarize this part:

  • Choose what you want to sell.
  • Choose the best platform for each item.  Not all things sell well on every platform.
  • Don’t assume items won’t sell.  Check online if there is a market before throwing it away.
  •  Start as early as possible and stick to your schedule (from part 1)

Find a charity to donate to.

If you just can’t be bothered with trying to sell off all of your stuff or would rather it goes to people who are less fortunate than you are, you can go the charity route and just donate the load of it.  That seems easy enough, right? Well, unless you read and speak the local language, it can be very difficult to find places to donate items to. You may have to search around online or ask your local friends where you can donate stuff too.  

In my research for leaving Korea, I was able to find this place: Beautiful Store.  This place has donation stations, where you can donate stuff any time, or you can arrange a pick-up of your donation items, or you can take your items to the location nearest to you.  If you are located in a metropolitan area, you may be able to donate to The Salvation Army. (click on the link to find out if the The Salvation Army is present in your host country.)  In Japan, it was a bit more difficult to find charities to donate items to; this post gives a run-down of some common places to donate in Japan.

To summarize this part:

  • Choose what you want to donate.
  • Find the correct places to take the donations to (it varies based on country and city so check with local friends)
  • See if your city has neighborhood donation boxes (many Korean cities have these)
  • Arrange pickups/dropoffs in accordance with your schedule (from part 1).

So these are my first three tips for helping you to downsize in preparation for a move–or really for any reason at all.  Do you have additional advice or things to add regarding these tips? Post in the comments below. And don’t forget to check back for Part 2 next week!

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