Moving Overseas is Making Me a Minimalist

Discovering Minimalism

I don’t remember exactly when I discovered minimalism. I remember growing more and more interested in the idea through books like The 100 Thing Challenge by Dave Bruno and blogs like Zen Habits by Leo Babauta, among others.

I also came across a number of blogs by “ultra minimalist” people. Many of these people took the 100 Thing Challenge to the next level, living only with the possessions that could fit in one backpack, or something like that. People who do extreme things (ultra minimalists, ultra endurance athletes, etc.) have always fascinated me. They demonstrate in various ways that we can do more than we think we can. On the minimalism front, I was always intrigued by the idea of living with less stuff and focusing on keeping only the things that mattered to me the most.

Moving is a Great Opportunity

As we’ve moved around the country, and now as we are preparing to move overseas, we keep paring down the things we own. We have always fill up the space we have. Moving creates a perfect opportunity to cut back.

In preparing to move across the country, we decided to fly the family home to avoid a week-long road trip with 3 small kids. My dad and I would fly back the next day and pick up a moving truck to load up with all our remaining stuff to bring back across the country again. That was exhausting just typing it.

We got all of our flights booked. Then, a few weeks ahead of our flights I went online to reserve a moving truck. I was shocked to find out that it was going to cost us between $7,000-10,000 just for the truck, for a one-way trip. Then we would need to factor in fuel, food for the trip, and hotel stays. All this for a bunch of stuff that we weren’t even planning on taking with us overseas. We researched every conceivable option. We ended up deciding just to get rid of everything that wouldn’t fit in duffel bags and we would just check the bags on the plane when we flew to NC.

Kelly did some research on duffel bags we could use and we settled on the Samsonite Tote-A-Ton 32.5” duffels. We settled on SEVENTEEN of them.

This is the first round of our 17 duffles we packed in California.

As we were buying and loading these duffels, we found out from a friend that UPS or FedEx may let us ship these for around $1/pound. It was going to cost us over $2,000 to check all the bags through the airline. We ended up shipping each of the bags (did I mention that there were 17 of them?) via FedEx. It ended up being a really simple process. Kelly found which let us put in measurements for each bag along with weight to calculate cost. Then we paid online and printed our shipping labels. I would load these monster bags in the car 2-4 at a time and drop them off at a local shipping store. A week or so later, the bags would show up at our destination.

The Hardest Things to Get Rid Of

It was amazing to see that we could realistically load our lives into bags like this. Obviously, it took a ton of work to actually get things loaded. Then it was really difficult to let go of some things. For me personally, I had a library of multiple thousands of books, 13 years worth of journals, and a cabinet full of fountain pen ink in small glass bottles. As. You can imagine, each of those things. Took up lots of space and were very heavy. It was clear those things weren’t coming with me. If we had be able to rent a truck, I would have loaded them all up and brought them back to NC. I would be in the same position now, though. No one here has the room for this stuff and I wouldn’t be taking it with me overseas.

Little by little I got rid of my books. I donated a ton of them. I kept one large shelf in the front room where I could load up my favorite books and offer any friends who visited a chance to look at them and take anything they wanted. Lots of my favorite books are now on the shelves of some of my favorite people. Over the last few years, I started buying more of my books on Kindle anyway. Many of those on that shelf were already on my Kindle.

I didn’t think much about my journals. I loaded them into a box and set them aside. Once the moving truck plan was out of the picture, I hauled out the box and started going through the journals. It was sweet to have all of those journals in one place. Occasionally I would open one up to look through it. I found some encouraging entries as I looked through them. The value of the journals was more in the process of writing them than in keeping them to look back at. I dumped the entire box in the trash. It was bittersweet, but it was the right choice for me.

The fountain pen ink was a little less sentimental but felt like a waste. I packed up my favorites to ship home (most of which arrived in one piece – a few others broke or leaked). I offered to give the remaining supplies to a local friend who enjoyed stationery but we couldn’t arrange a meetup in time for our move.

How it Feels Now

We are light and mobile and we are now living comfortably in a much smaller space with family while we prepare to make our big move. I miss having our own place and having a house full of books, but I know we made the right decisions. It is wonderful not having to keep up with so much stuff. And it will be all the sweeter when we finally get overseas into a new home of our own.

Now, we are back at it, packing up our bags. This time, we just have a lot less stuff to deal with. Those same duffel bags are piling up ready to be checked at the airport. The challenge now is seeing how many (or better, how few) bags we can pack for when we move, while not leaving out important things.

This was quite the process and quite the story. I hope pulling back the curtain a bit is helpful in some way to you, whether you are just interested in our story or moving or considering downsizing for yourself.

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