Preparing for a move the eco way: Downsizing (Part 2)

So last week, I shared with you information on the benefits of starting move preparation early, various places to sell your items, and finding local charities.  If you haven’t read that post yet, check it out here!

Ask around to see what incoming expats need.

I am not sure if this is true for a majority of countries, but for Korea and Japan, there are seasons for incoming and leaving expats.  Usually (but not always), they are tied with the semesters for public schools and universities–which in Korea is towards the end of February and in Japan is towards the end of March.  These incoming expats will probably be needing all of the household items that you are getting rid of and if you are lucky, they are coming to your host country just as you are leaving your host country…perfect timing!

The hardest part is finding these incoming expats.  If you are working in a public school, with a teaching company hat employs many teachers nation-wide, or with a program like EPIK or JET, you can get in touch with your regional contact in the company.  Explain that you would like to offer your household items to your replacement or to any of the new incoming teachers. From there, the person in charge of helping newbies settle should be able to get the message out.  

If that isn’t an option, you can do as I did: Facebook stalk all of the expat groups in my area [not ashamed!].  Often times, incoming expats are really excited about coming to a new country but also nervous. They post in local expat groups asking questions that are difficult to find the answers to online.  Usually, their post goes something along these lines:

SUNNY SUNSHINE:  Hi all! I am moving to *insert your city name* in a couple of months and I was wondering if anyone could tell me if they have Ziploc bags/bath towels/deodorant there?

That is the perfect time to STRIKE! By which I mean, send them a direct message mentioning that you are leaving *insert your city name* around the time they are coming in and then ask them politely if they need any household items.  If they do, yay! You’ve found a home for your items that isn’t the dump. If not, don’t be a jerk and pester the person; wish them good luck in *insert your city name* and go on about your day.

To summarize this part:

  • Check from your workplace if your incoming replacement could use stuff
  • Follow the local expat groups to message people anticipating a move to your city/region

Try out the ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ test

When taking the first step towards downsizing, it is often really hard to let go of things.  This could be for various reasons; personally for me, the difficulty was mainly because I have lost everything I owned multiple times in my life, so every time I move, I always want to keep as much stuff as possible.  This poses an especially big problem for international moves as shipping things overseas really adds up–in both currency costs and and environmental costs.

So to help me get over my reluctance for downsizing before my move, I do what I call the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ test.  This test was inspired by my friend Jackie.  She did a study abroad in Japan as a uni student and when she returned home, she shipped a lot of stuff back via surface mail.  She told me that when she got home and received the boxes, she questioned why she had kept a lot of the stuff in the boxes–yet those items seemed so important at the time she was packing up and leaving Japan.

This made think….what if my difficulty in getting rid of stuff is just because I am both emotional from getting ready for the move and conditioned to want all my things?  So, as soon as I started preparing for my moves, I put things in a box in the closet and left it there for a month or two.  When I reopened the box, I could look at things more objectively and add things to the ‘get-rid-of-it’ pile much more readily.

To summarize this section, 

  • Pack up stuff for a few months before making the final decision
  • After a few months, open it up and see if you can get rid of stuff more easily

Buy less.  Make do with what you have.

This is something that can be done even before deciding to leave.  Just make do with less. There are so many things in the world that I ‘want’ but the thought of having to find a place for it when I have to move again deters me from buying it.  And even if you aren’t a career expat, think about everything you buy. Do you really NEED that thing or is this a passing want? If it is not a necessity, wait a day or two before buying it.  There is a big chance that you will actually forget you even wanted it in the first place.

Online shopping makes this more difficult, but there are ways you can avoid buying things impulsively.  To stop myself from buying all the things, I usually put it in my cart or on my wish list for at least a week.  If I still want it after a week, then I go ahead and purchase it, but usually, I decide I don’t really need the item (at least not at that moment).  Get yourself into the habit of recognizing your impulse buying habits and build up the discipline to say ‘no’ to things that are unnecessary.

Have something that you use often break?  See if you can get it repaired locally instead of buying a new one (which you will then have to sell at a later date)!  Make sure to familiarize yourself with things like cobblers, tailors, bike shops, mechanics, and the location of the nearest appliances shop.  Often times if you aren’t able to repair the item, these places will be able to either direct you to some place that can or offer a recycling option for your items to get disposed of properly.  Additionally, this supports the community by keeping all of the work local-which keeps emissions down as well.

If you are unfortunate enough to have an item break that can’t be fixed, consider if it is possible to do without; borrow from friends or neighbors until your move, buy another one second-hand, or buy one with the plugs that match your home country and plan to take it with you.  (And before you say that the plugs in your home country don’t match those in your host country… are an expat, don’t even try to lie to me and tell me you don’t have a single adapter in your place!)

Please understand that I am not saying ‘don’t spend money ever!’  Rather, I am encouraging you to spend money on experiences and memories instead of items that ultimately break or you have to find a new home for or you don’t even need.  The memories and time spent with friends or trying something new will be far more rewarding in the end because you save the environment and hassle of getting rid of it or moving it later. These could be things like cultural events, going to movies, getting a massage, or even adventure tours.  Also…the fewer things you own, the less cleaning you have to do. Sounds like a WIN-WIN!

To summarize this section,

  • Take time to think about each purchase you make
  • Repair it instead of replacing it
  • Spend money on experiences and memory-making

So that everything!  This post and Part 1 show all of the things I do when preparing for a move to make sure that I move as environmentally conscious as possible.  Do you do any of these things? What other tips can you offer me?


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