First Step in Moving Abroad: Decluttering and Dejunking My Life
I never realized how much stuff I had until I decided to move to Nicaragua. I had moved before, but this was different. In the past, I just packed my stuff and loaded it into a truck and unloaded it across town. This was the perfect time to minimize, declutter, and dejunk my house and my life for the move abroad.
Most of my things would be useless, or least very uncomfortable in a tropical climate. My flannel bed sheets, my corduroy couch and sofa, and all of my winter clothing – unneeded. My car was more than ten years old and couldn’t be imported. My collection of First Edition books would mold. Who in Nicaragua would want a complete set of MAD Magazines spanning 1954 through 2000?
I decided to declutter and minimize my life, like any other fellow American – on eBay and Craigslist. I sold anything and everything that someone else would buy. I sold four-hundred pounds of wine corks (don’t ask, but don’t laugh, I got $3/lb.), child car seats (I don’t have kids), books, furniture, clothing, appliances, glassware, and my car. Whatever I couldn’t sell, I donated to charity. I figured someone else would be able to find value in what was now useless to me. This was just stuff that I had accumulated and surrounded myself with. Making this move abroad, allowed me to declutter my house, my wardrobe, my used books, and my life. I had things in my life that I was just hanging onto for that just-in-case moment. I realized that, only the idea of those objects brought me joy or any value, but the actual objects just took up space. I realized that it was cheaper to buy what I needed once I arrived, rather than pay to move it.
At first, it was difficult. I started with winter clothing, that was a no-brainer. Then I went onto old textbooks books. Then shabby paperbacks. Then plates and glassware I haven’t touched in a decade. I opened filing cabinets and storage bins that I haven’t looked at in years. I had tax returns going back seventeen years – the United States government only requires seven. I began shredding documents with my Social Security number and anything else that had personal information, like pay stubs dating back to the early 1990s.
The whole experience was liberating. I had been storing all this “important” stuff for nothing. It had gotten locked away and never heard from again. When I got rid of it, instantly, I felt lighter and freer. Besides, why would I pay a moving company to pack and load my stuff, a cross-Atlantic freight company to ship my belongings, and a customs agent on the value of my personal items if they were no longer needed. I realized that so many of my possessions that were so dear to me in the United States would all be useless in Nicaragua. In fact, they were all useless at home, as well.
I began the ordeal of packing the things that were going with me. Everything had to be organized, properly packed, labeled, and valued for customs and the insurance I planned on purchasing through the shipping company. The storage boxes were ready for shipment months before I made my journey. I realized then, that I hadn’t needed these things for weeks or months, why would I need to ship them?
So I started purging what was left. Some of it I sold, some of it I gave away to friends and family, and the rest I donated. The shipping company charges not only by weight in the States, but also by how much container space you need. Everything I got rid of saved me money. In fact, it was cheaper to buy it new once I got there, rather keep it and ship it.
I scanned photos and uploaded music and movies to my computer and then stored them on an external hard drive. This way I still had proof of my memories. Any book I had the urge to reread, I could download and read on one of my devices. All my music was now available on iTunes and YouTube. Any movie I wanted to watch again, I could find on Netflix or a similar site.
In the end, I realized what was truly important to me. What I really needed in my life was my fiancé, my family, my friends, and my dog – Marley Marie. All the rest would work itself out.