What to do With Your Stuff When Moving Abroad

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What to do With Your Stuff When Moving Abroad

Whether you’re moving abroad for an extended world tour or you’re relocating to pursue a career in ESL teaching like I did, the question of what to do with your stuff inevitably comes up.

I’ve moved abroad three times now: to Gwangju in 2007, to Busan in 2011, and to Nanjing in 2012. Each time I’ve been faced with the question of what happens to the things I’ve managed to amass over the time I’ve been home.

Chances are, you’ve been so busy filling out visa paperwork, figuring out your budget, deciding what to take, and practising a new language that your head is spinning. Even the third time around, I was still overwhelmed by just how much needed to be done before I bade farewell to my family and boarded that plane.

It’s sometime in the last few weeks before you leave that it hits you: what are you going to do with your belongings once you step on that plane? You can’t take that expensive fridge up in the air with you! Your DVD collection won’t fit into your checked luggage, and that gaming tower you’ve spent entirely too much time on can’t be carry on either.

(I’m sorry, am I projecting? I’m already dreading having to say goodbye to my PC at year’s end)

Oh God. What am I going to do with all of my crap? Photo by davidd.
Oh God. What am I going to do with all of my crap? Photo by davidd.

Luckily, you’ve got a few solutions to the problem of what to do with your belongings when you move abroad.

1. Store Them

Storing your belongings is probably the most commonly chosen option when looking to move overseas for a period of time. I’m lucky enough to have parents who own a big property with a few large storage sheds in which I can put my stuff, but not everybody is in such a fortuitous position.

The other option is to store your belongings with a professional company. It’s relatively inexpensive and means that you get to keep all of your property safe in the knowledge that your younger brother isn’t going to lose it.

Seriously, Izaak on the Road, you owe me a Nintendo DS and an iPod Classic.

Storage services like Fort Knox Storage here in Australia provide secure facilities for your belongings at a competitive rate. You can click here to have a look at their services. Best of all, you can reclaim your property as soon as you return!

A storage unit can save you a lot of headaches.
A storage unit can save you a lot of headaches.

2. Sell Them

This is perhaps the most drastic approach to the problem, but it’s a fantastic way to top up your travel coffers before hitting the road.

There are plenty of second-hand selling websites such as eBay or Gumtree out there for the enterprising seller to make some money out of their upcoming move. Most online classifieds are free to advertise on, making them a fairly easy option.

Who needs stuff? It just ties you down! Photo by Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose.
Who needs stuff? It just ties you down! Photo by Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose.

Alternatively, why not make a day out of it and hold a garage sale? Everything must go!

My sister and her husband recently did this when moving to Melbourne, and made some handy extra spending money by selling the things they didn’t need.

3. Take Them With You

If you’re lucky (or rich), there’s also the option to take your things with you when you’re moving abroad. Many larger companies will pay a relocation allowance to get you on board, and there are freight services that will gladly move your possessions both domestically and internationally.

It's humbling seeing your life reduced to a pile of boxes. Photo by Great Beyond.
It’s humbling seeing your life reduced to a pile of boxes. Photo by Great Beyond.

I contemplated taking this option when it came time to leave China midway through 2014. Over the course of two and a half years I’d amassed quite a bit of stuff, and taking it all with me on the plane wasn’t an option.

Ultimately, I went for a middle ground and made use of China Post’s criminally cheap international shipping rates – but I’d given strong consideration to a relocation specialist whose rates were surprisingly good.

4. Rent Them Out

This isn’t an option a perpetual rambler like myself will ever have, but if you own your house and it is currently fully furnished and you’re wondering what to do with it all, why not simply rent or sublet?

Property agencies will take over the day to day management of tenants and you as the owner will reap the majority of the rent. This is a good option if you plan on returning to the country and would like to live in the house or apartment later.

5. Give Them Away

If it’s good enough for Alexander Supertramp, it’s good enough for you. If you’re not using it and don’t have a planned return date, why not just give your stuff away to those who will use it?

Many charities are in constant need of furniture to provide to those less fortunate. If there are any pieces that don’t sell, you don’t want, or are otherwise superfluous; why not donate them to a charity? Those who are less fortunate would be grateful for your kindness.

You don't need that stuff! Give it away to help somebody who does! Photo by Mike Mozart.
You don’t need that stuff! Give it away to help somebody who does! Photo by Mike Mozart.

Or, if that’s a bit too Mother Teresa for you, why not give them to a friend or family member who could use them? I know my old PC found a new lease on life in the hands of a younger brother, and my DVD collection was certainly appreciated around the house.


Well there you have it! What tips will you take away from this article? Perhaps you’re interested in renting your property in order to return later? Maybe a storage space is up your alley, or maybe you want to sell or give away your belongings?

Perhaps you just can’t bear to be parted from your goods and will have them shipped to you.

Your Say

If you’ve made the move already, what are your tips for what to do with your belongings when you move abroad? Let us know in the comments below!


From Facebook


  1. Hello, I’m so glad i drop on this page, lot’s of useful tip i wrote to my note, actually I’m preparing for big moving too so that, I do a research for a better tip of how to get a comfortable move and so expensive when hiring a movers, this my second time to move to the other country, last time moving, I experience a bad mover and that was so traumatic and i don’t to happen again that’s why I’m getting little bit wise LOL..! And by the way, I really appreciate this post.

  2. You can donate furniture or materials which you don’t want but they are in usable condition. Many charities gladly accept used furniture because there are less fortunate individuals and families who cannot afford to fill their home with brand new furniture pieces. They will be able to pick up the item you donated at a reasonable price and then use it to make their living space more comfortable.

  3. Really good suggestions, indeed! I am planning to move abroad next year and I have to figure out what to do with all the stuff that I have. I am not really sure if I will never return to live here so I think that I will store most of my things. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I can across your post today and your honesty is so refreshing. As I get ready to embark on my first move abroad, I find I am hearing many of the same things as you. “You’re so lucky!” Or “the time of your life.
    But seriously, your packing advice was awesome. I am staring at what’s in my apartment and saying I don’t need any of this crap. Off to storage it goes. If after a year I decide not to come back. I’ll sell it all then.

  5. These are great suggestions. I believe that if you take a decision to move abroad, you have already more or less gave away your belongings. I think the most logical thing to do is to store them so someday if you come back you have furniture and appliances, but on the other hand the other options are also interesting. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • I’ve mostly used the storage option in the past, but I’ve got so many crates of junk at my parents’ place now that I’m contemplating doing some spring cleaning (in autumn) and maybe doing a garage sale. Extra cash won’t ever go astray.

  6. Last time my husband and I moved we sold half of the things at home and the rest we took with us. It’s very difficult to sell your belongings, but in this situation there aren’t many chances. Greetings

    • I’m tempted to do this the next time I head abroad. I’m a bit of a hoarder, and my folks can’t keep accepting more and more storage crates of stuff I’m too attached to give away.

      Maybe I just need to hold a huge yard sale?

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