One of the biggest issues to tackle when deciding to move abroad is what to do with one’s house or apartment and all of its contents.  The internet is full of people sharing their stories about how they liquidated their entire life to move abroad in order to set out on a life of adventure and permanent travel.  That said, there are also people who want to move abroad but would prefer to hang onto their homes and possessions.

How to Pack a Messy House to Move

After living internationally and traveling for several decades we have done both models.  When our kids were younger we would rent out our home while living abroad, but recently when we planned to stay gone indefinitely we liquidated most of our possessions and moved out of our house. There are pros and cons to both options, and you have to make the decision that feels right for you and your family. Either way, you choose to move forward, this post will help you streamline and pack before an international move.

Preparing to Move

Preparing to Move

Preparing to move abroad and dealing with your home and possessions can be a daunting task.  If you will be renting your house, this is a guide to help you streamline and simplify so that your home is ready to be leased.  If you are liquidating all your belongings it will provide a valuable resource for how to go about it in the best way possible.

One added benefit of moving abroad is often simplifying your life by liquidating your belongings, or in some cases at least downsizing and streamlining your possessions.  Most people who move overseas determine that an uncomplicated and efficient overhead considerably improves their well-being.  They learn to exchange things and stuff for experiences and memories.

Regardless of the model you intend to follow there are huge benefits to getting rid of possessions and learning to live a more minimalistic existence.  Less stuff has been proven to have incredible benefits for so many reasons, but it becomes especially helpful if you are going to be traveling and moving abroad. 

Here are a few of the benefits of minimalist living and having fewer possessions…

Better Mental Health

Having less has a positive impact on your mental health.  By removing excess clutter from your life, you can feel more organized, focused, and at peace.  

Reduced Stress

Minimalism can help reduce stress by eliminating the excess clutter in your life. When you have less to worry about and take care of you can focus on the things that truly matter.

More time and money

By simplifying your life you can spend less time on things like cleaning and organizing, and more time doing things you love.  It also means you can save money by only buying things you truly love or need.  You can reduce your spending on things that truly matter to you.  

Environmental Benefits

Living a minimalist lifestyle can also have a positive impact on the environment.  By reducing consumption and reducing waste you can help protect the planet and its resources.

Being Nimble

As a family of five who travels all over the world one of the biggest advantages of having fewer possessions is when we decide to move or go someplace on a whim we are agile and unencumbered by our overhead and belongings. 

Pack smart for your 4-day summer getaway! Discover essential tips on what to pack for a short trip: clothing, accessories, and travel must-haves for a stylish and comfortable vacation.

Room by Room Packing

Room by Room Packing

Many people are daunted by the prospect of packing up a cluttered and messy house. I happen to love helping people pack and move and it feels freeing and can actually be fun! I am the first one to volunteer if a friend wants to sort and pack up their home. The process may feel intimidating at first but once you get started you will see how easy and efficient things unfold.  

Here are a few tips…

The process of liquidating was something we engaged in using a room-by-room method, and every day we would pick away a little at a time. 

Develop a Plan

The best thing to do is to strategize at the outset and create a good working plan. Don’t be intimidated by the enormity of the process and bite off a little at a time.  The saying “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” is important to remember during this process.

Room by Room

Going room by room is a very effective way to pack and move.  Work through each room and go through things a closet and drawer at a time.  Continue downsizing. 

Start Early

You want to start early and not rush the process.  This can lead to burnout and not efficiently and effectively packing or handling your possessions in the best possible way.  I suggest starting 2-3 months ahead of  a move to begin decluttering and creating a plan 

Sorting, Decluttering, and Packing…

Once the process begins I suggest seperating your possessions into the following groups. Recently, we cleared out and emptied two decades worth of possessions by sorting and moving them through the five different channels below… 

Store it…

We rented a very small storage space that would house a handful of sentimental items. I gave each kiddo a large box to store any nostalgic and precious items they wanted to hold on to. They kept a few knickknacks, shells from the beach by our house, letters from friends, and cards. 

I kept a small box of kid’s artwork, love letters, and a few baby items. We took digital pictures of things we wanted to remember and refer to but didn’t need to physically keep, such as photographs, kids’ memorable schoolwork, and letters. We took photographs of all business items that we might need to reference but didn’t need physical copies of. It felt cathartic and freeing to simplify years’ worth of accumulated paperwork and bits and pieces of things.

Take it…

A month before the move, we gave each kiddo one large suitcase, one carry-on, and a backpack. This was all the space they would have to bring anything they wanted with them to start their new adventure.  In addition to clothes, they packed a few special items that felt meaningful such as framed pictures of friends and journals.

My husband and I both packed only clothes and one filing folder full of physical copies of important paperwork we were required to have, such as birth certificates and visa documentation. 

I personally left with a small capsule wardrobe and four books which felt amazing. I was looking forward to doing any shopping I needed once we arrived in our new home.

Sell it…

We were lucky because the people who moved into our house wanted to keep a lot of our furniture and artwork, but we still had a lot left to get rid of and sell!  In our town, there are many online channels to sell things such as Craigslist and Next Door. You can snap a picture, post an item, and within a handful of days several people are ready to buy your item.  There is also the option of consignment stores and garage sales, neither of which we pursued but were available. 

Donate it…

We donated or gave away a lot of our belongings, and I was visiting our donation center almost daily.  We gave away hundreds of items such as vases, dishes, small kitchen appliances, books, and clothes. Our goldfish, which defied all odds of living over two years went to a close friend.

Ship it…

The only belongings left to sort out were our skiing and camping gear.  There was a lot of value with all our outdoor equipment. Not only would it be costly to replace, but the equipment worked well for our family’s active lifestyle.

We didn’t want to bring it with us on this first part of our journey, but we knew when we were settled, we would like to have it.

I was reluctant to ship it because not only was it very expensive to transport due to the weight and size, but I also heard multiple stories from frustrated people who had shipped their belongings only to learn that they were lost, never arrived, or showed up broken and damaged.

We ended up sending a few boxes which took a little longer than expected to arrive but we were glad to have our skiing and camping gear once we moved.  

Moving Abroad on a Budget: Expert Tips on Relocating with Minimal Funds. Navigate the Challenges, Find Accommodations, Jobs & Support for a Successful No-Money Move.

Tips for Efficient Packing

Tips for Efficient Packing

A few tips on how to pack specific items….


Start by sorting your clothes into categories (e.g., dresses, shirts, pants, etc.). Then, use packing boxes or suitcases to pack your clothes, making sure to use dividers to keep them organized. You can also use vacuum-sealed bags to compress clothes and save space.

Kitchen Items

Wrap fragile kitchen items such as dishes, glasses, and stemware individually with packing paper or bubble wrap, and then pack them tightly in a box. Use packing peanuts or crumpled paper to fill any empty spaces in the box and prevent items from shifting during transit. For bulky kitchen items like pots and pans, nest them inside each other to save space.


Before packing electronics like TVs, computers, or game consoles, unplug all cords and cables and label them so you know where they go when you unpack. Wrap the electronics in bubble wrap or packing blankets and secure them with packing tape. If possible, pack them in their original boxes with the original packaging materials.


Pack books in smaller boxes so they are easier to carry. Make sure to pack them spine down to avoid damage to the covers. You can also use packing paper or bubble wrap to fill any empty spaces in the box.


Disassemble large furniture items as much as possible before moving. Wrap pieces in packing blankets or bubble wrap to prevent scratches and dents. If you have the original boxes, use them to pack smaller furniture items like lamps and side tables.

Fragile Items

For fragile items like artwork or mirrors, use packing paper or bubble wrap to protect them. You can also use cardboard corners or foam to protect the edges. Place the items in a box with packing peanuts or crumpled paper to prevent shifting.


If you are moving plants, make sure to pack them in a way that allows them to breathe. Wrap the base of the plant in plastic to prevent soil from spilling and then wrap the plant in a damp towel to keep it hydrated. Place the plant in a sturdy box and mark it as fragile.

By following these tips, you can pack your household items efficiently and safely for your move. Don’t forget to label each box with its contents and the room it belongs in, to make unpacking easier.


Moving can be daunting, but it can also result in incredible life changes and increased well-being.  Take your time, have a plan, and really be deliberate about what you need to keep and why.  

The reason you hear about so many people moving abroad and releasing all their possessions is that it is therapeutic and liberating in most cases.  

Our personal process of liquidating to move abroad was a lot of work, but I also loved watching the kids willingly let go of their belongings in preparation for the journey ahead.  I believe it helped them understand that possessions are here to help us achieve dreams and not hold us back. Additionally, I think it helped them see that being deliberate and conscious about what you use and consume both mentally and environmentally is important. 

Wishing you the best as you embark on the process!

Share the Post: