Let me tell you a secret. I have always loved watching YouTube videos about families who have downsized and live in a van, tiny home, or just a smaller house. I don’t know why, but it’s always been appealing to me to watch those videos! Maybe this was the Lord’s way of preparing me to get rid of 90% of our belongings for our move to England.
In this post I’m sharing my total process for getting rid of our stuff: exactly how we decided to get rid of our items, how we decided to get rid of things, where we donated items (where you can donate your stuff too!), and what God was teaching me in this big process. It was a lot of work, but I’m so thankful to have less stuff to worry about and it was definitely the cheapest option for this across-the-pond move!
The first step in moving, and the one that I worked on the longest, was downsizing all of our belongings.
When we found out that we were moving overseas, I quickly looked up how much it costs to ship items and furniture… it’s expensive. Then I looked around our house and realized that most of our furniture and decorations were either given to us from friends, bought at Goodwill/thrift stores, or received for free from members of our church (they have a special page for giving items to seminary families, which we were for 5+ years). So, with those two pieces of knowledge, we decided that downsizing was the best option for us. And when I say downsize, I mean get rid of 90% of our belongings. We decided to only bring what we could take in suitcases… and to not bring too many suitcases.
In the end, we were able to move with everything we “needed” fitting into 6 large suitcases and 2 carry-ons!
You might be thinking, how is that possible??? Well, let me tell you, it wasn’t easy! Here’s my step-by-step process of how I cleared out 90% of our belongings to prepare for our move and how my heart handled it along the way.
Start with One Room at a Time
I knew I had to just start somewhere and get rid of things, so I picked the smallest “room” in our apartment: my daughter’s closet. I know, this is not technically a room, but I thought that it was small, mostly contained storage items we weren’t using, and would be a great starting point to get rid of things. So that’s where I began!
Looking through her closet and getting rid of things was the easiest intro into decluttering our house. There were lots of baby items and clothes that were too small that I easily donated and gave to friends.
The idea with starting with one room is that you don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you simply look around your house and think, “I have to get rid of 90% of our things!” You’ll get overwhelmed. So, start with one room and get rid of any item that you haven’t used in a long time and that you don’t think you’d be using for a while.
I realized that as I finished up that closet and cleared it out, I was much more motivated to go through the kitchen and then move on to the rest of the house.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
There were SO many decisions to be made when getting rid of items. I will say that there’s only so much space in 6 suitcases and it fills up fast, so that helped me in my decision making. And, we also decided to just purchase things like dishes, cookware, and anything else small for our house once we got here. So, that also helped a lot with knowing that I could always find something that would work for while we were living in England.
But there were still lots of decisions! I asked myself a few questions when I had to decide whether to keep something or not. Some of these questions were specific to moving overseas and to England. But you could ask yourself similar questions to help figure out what to do with your things. Here’s what I asked myself:
Is it a family heirloom that is not replaceable?
This question could go both ways, there were some family heirloom items that I used a lot and were no longer in good condition anyway, so I got rid of them. There were some that are beautiful but too big for a suitcase, so I mailed them to my sister to keep for me. And there were some that were highly breakable which some sweet friends of ours are storing for us while we are out of the country.
I did pick out a few small family heirlooms that are useful to bring with me here to England. Some advice from an expat community was to bring along a few things that feel like home. So I did do that. A small mug and a teacup that was my grandma’s are sitting in my Oxford kitchen shelf as I type this and it makes me smile.
Is it something you can buy in England?
Because England is not a third-world country, there are lots of things that we decided to just purchase once we arrived. It would cost about the same, if not more, to ship our already old and used items (like from the kitchen) than to just purchase new ones here. So, I got rid of almost everything from my kitchen (except for my granny’s breakable dishes mentioned above). This question also helped me get rid of blankets, decorations, vases, pillows, notebooks, papers, craft supplies, and much more.
Will it fit in the suitcase?
At one point I was considering bringing my Vitamix blender. Not only is it an amazing machine, but it’s also not that big. But, in the end, I decided that it just would not fit in the suitcase, and so it hasn’t come along (it went to my sister as well). This question was also helpful for my daughter’s toys. She had several really nice toys like this Zany Zoo, which she really loved, but was definitely too big for a suitcase, so it had to go. This question also helped with some décor items that I really loved, but in the end just would not fit in the suitcase.
The biggest item I did fit in the suitcase was our Berkey water filter. It is lightweight and I filled it with other items (clothes), so it did fit in the end, and that made me one happy mama!
Will you wear it in England?
Probably the biggest category of items packed was clothes. We had SO many clothes. I thought that my wardrobe was minimal, but I had a lot of clothes that I got rid of. All my thrift store tips really work and that’s why I had so many cute things in my close when it came time to pack.
Thankfully, the weather in England is a lot different than the weather in Los Angeles, so it was a pretty easy decision for most of my clothing items. If I wasn’t going to wear it in England, then it had to go. So, I did not bring any shorts, tank tops, summery dresses (which I had so many!), sandals, or swimsuits. I do realize that I may want to wear some of those things in the summertime, but that’s a ways away, and I’m generally on the cold side anyway, so I figured that if I reaaalllly need a pair of shorts come July, I can find them here.
I used this same question for my daughter’s and husband’s clothes as well and we were able to get rid of quite a bit this way. We did replace a few things before the move so that we had warm clothes upon arrival.
Can you live without it?
This question was often the kicker. After all the other questions were asked, I had to ask myself, “Can I live without this? Do I really want to tote it around the world? Is it worth the trouble?” And, I have to say, most of the items that got to this point were not kept. Not because they weren’t great items, most of them were! They were just things that I decided I could live without and so they didn’t come.
Set It Aside and Ask Again
After asking all these questions about different things in my house, I would sometimes still not be sure what to do. So, I simply left that item aside for a couple of days and came back to it.
This turned out to be a great method. Not only did it give me less decision-making stress because I didn’t have to decide right that second, but it also helped me to think through the questions in those few days. If you’re getting rid of things and have time to think about an item like this, I recommend it! Oftentimes, I would go back to that item later and realize that I really didn’t need it or I wasn’t as attached to it as I thought, so I got rid of it.
Where to Donate Items
As I said at the beginning, many of our belongings were thrifted, given to us, or received as gifts. That made it very easy to give them away as well because we hadn’t invested loads of money in the things that we owned. We did sell a few bigger items (like my electronic piano), but everything else we gave away.
Where did we give it away? Mostly to the Salvation Army simply because they take almost everything (even during lockdown) and they help you unload your car when you drive up (which is SO helpful for a mama with a two-year-old!). We also donated some things to a local charity and to Goodwill. A few of our friends needed furniture, so we gave them some of our pieces. The renters who were moving in after us needed a few things, so we also left some for them. Our church also has a Facebook page for listing items for free and I listed and gave away some things there as well.
We made countless trips to donate items and whenever we had friends over before our move I was always asking them if they needed/wanted anything they saw, that part was kind of fun.
Don’t Think I’m Heartless!
Now, as I said, getting rid of stuff was not easy! I love having nice things and all the deals I’ve found at yard sales and thrift stores. Don’t think I’m heartless as I was going through all the things in our house, I’m not! Some of the items were really hard to let go. And, that’s okay. Having nice things is nice and there’s nothing wrong with that. And getting rid of those nice things can be hard. But I want you to know that having abundance in stuff, whether it’s beautiful art or a cabinet full of mason jars, should only point you to the abundance that is found in our Savior, Jesus Christ.
As I was downsizing and my heart was breaking at seeing all our stuff go out the door, I was reminded deeply of the abundance that is found in Christ. He said it Himself, “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” So, even though we got rid of 90% of our belongings, I know that we have all we need in Christ. He is the surety of our salvation, the rock on which we stand, and the mighty fortress to protect us.
And, I don’t mean for that to sound “super spiritual,” but it’s true. As I was getting rid of things like dishes, I took comfort in knowing that God would provide everything I need out of the abundance of His care for me, even if that meant new dishes when we arrived in England. Or clothes! I got rid of lots of pieces that I really liked and enjoyed wearing… but does that mean that I won’t find something else that I like and enjoy wearing? No! It means that I get the opportunity to trust the Lord and His abundance even in this small area of what I wear. Jesus even addressed this in Matthew 6:28-30 when He said, “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more cloth you? You of little faith!”
See? God cares about these small areas of our life and He wants us to trust in His abundance.
And, I’m sure that trusting the Lord in this small area of stuff and getting rid of stuff was the perfect training ground for trusting Him with bigger, harder things up ahead. There are so many unknowns when you move overseas and so many experiences yet to have, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I can trust in God’s abundant care and grace for me no matter what comes my way.
Didn’t think I’d get a Bible lesson in this post, didya? 🙂
In summary, I think that getting rid of our stuff was hard, but helpful. Hard in that you get connected to your things, at least I do, and getting rid of them was not super easy. Helpful in that we were moving and couldn’t take much (practical, right?) and you got to really take stock and see what you can live without.
I am already loving having less stuff to take care of and keep clean. And, our apartment here in England is MUCH smaller than our LA place, so we wouldn’t have had the room here for much more anyway.
If you’re looking to downsize, then I’m your biggest cheerleader! Even if you are not moving across the world like I did, you can still downsize quite a bit. It will make your life easier and have less stress. And, I pray it will make you rest in the abundance of your Savior, like it did for me.
Have you already downsized? I’d love to read your story in the comments!