To Yard Sale or Not?

“Dear ISR, I’m getting ready to move overseas for the first time. I’ve got an apartment full of furniture, bicycles, kids’ toys, clothes, kitchen stuff and well, the usual things people tend to collect. I’m trying to figure out what I should do with all this stuff! Our school offers a moderate shipping allowance but not enough to ship the big pieces.

I’m definitely in a quandary at this point: If I sell everything I’ll for sure have a wad of cash. If I keep it all, I’ll have to pay storage for at least 2 years and that’s about $1800. I’d really like to know what international teachers already overseas have done with their belongs and if they later wished they had done something different. Thanks for your help with this question, any advice is appreciated.”

60 thoughts on “To Yard Sale or Not?

  1. 8 years and 3 countries ago I moved abroad with my partner and two suitcases. We sunk our savings into paying off a mortgage and now rent out the house. It brings in some money and provides funds for maintenance and repairs. All our furniture and belongings were sold or given away with the exception of a very few “precious” items which were stored in a friend’s unused garage. I truly can’t remember what these items are now. The savings sunk into the mortgage repayment have long since been replaced,
    Recent schools have had more generous shipping allowances and so we’ve moved with more things but never to the extend of entirely fillling the space allocated. Towels and sheets and a seldom used potato masher as well as paintings and other bits of art are the necessities, fancy shoes take up a few corners as do favoured wine glasses and cushion covers and some musical instrumets. These are the things that jointly make us comfortable quickly.
    When/if we return to our home country we’ll restock the house with the stuff other international teachers sell dirt cheap at their yard sales and the mystery “precious things” in the garage of forgotten treasures.


  2. I’ll be in the same boat. I have stuff I want to keep and put inot storage. I will try to get family to take them but I’m torn as what to sell because eventually I will go back to North America and I want to keep some things. It’s a hard decision to make, but I agree with try to travel light and get rid of what you don’t use.


  3. Will be new to this international teaching scene come Aug., and am trying to sell my house before I go. Not much time in a lousy market. Do I take whatever I can get for my 4+ bdrm home in a resort town, or rent? All ready to divest but what a quandry. Rent… and I wouldn’t have to worry much about ins. & taxes as rent should cover that… sell and I am debt free…….. even after reading all of these comments… still can’t make up my mind. Let things fall into place soon!!!


    1. we’re in the same boat!

      we have a great four bedroom house in a quaint shore line town, but can’t squeeze out the difference between the monthly mortgage and renting it out. we have no desire to take the risk of deadbeat tenants, renters losing their jobs or having to refurbish the place between new tenants.

      after many months of sleepless nights and debating, we’ve decided we’re to going sell in this lousy market, fully divest, leave here “debt-free” and plant roots when we’re ready to come back.

      we’ll consign, donate and sell. we’ll suffer the financial consequences of this market and store our antiques and family heirlooms that are irreplaceable until we get home.

      some folks on this topic have expressed the ability to hire property managers, cover their housing costs the rent doesn’t guarantee, and leave absolutely nothing in storage. lucky for them; it’s just not a reality for us.

      we “international teachers” cannot compare lives; some of us are younger and just starting out with few belongings, and some of us are older and have established households, kids and viable possessions that are not so easy to dump by the wayside. it’s a huge dilemma for us all and believe you me, we lay awake at night mulling it over.

      as for the storage cost vs. exceeding-the-value-of-our-belongings-cost-debacle…we old farts are not keen on replacing our furniture with IKEA or “particle board products” upon re-entry; we’ll have to endure the financial sacrifice of storing certain irreplaceable items. i guess that means fewer dinners out and weekends away!


  4. We rented our house out fully furnished for 15 years. First we had to make up the difference between the mortgage and the rent. We made enough money to pay off the house and then the rent was great. We paid a property manager 10% and never had a bad renter. Some years teachers rented it who moved out in the summer and we moved in and enjoyed our home!
    Overseas we twice bought a “package” from other teachers online that included all basics (and then some) and twice sold our entire overseas household without taking a loss. (Don’t teachers do that anymore?)
    We saved a lot of things we should have gotten rid of early on that are now going to a consignment shop or the church thrift shop.


  5. This is a fascinating thread. I do not know if I can help. I left my last school with 71 boxes and 80% of them are still in my classroom behind a curtian because there are so many things I do not know. What to throw. What to save. Where will I go next year? I am creeping very close to retirement.
    There are so many variables. As a single person my possessions perhaps mean more to me. 100s of books may go untouched but there is a beautiful comfort to gaze up and see them filling an entire wall. Nonetheless, I agree with the writer who felt such relief at ridding herself of the stuff. Look at me?! I have had 80% hidden for over a year. A sure sign that I do not need them practically.
    And yet and yet. What of paintings? They are of no practical use. You cannot do anything with them. But the walls looks bare when and I feel lost when they are gone.


  6. it’s great to keep a house stateside if you can afford to hire a friend or property manager on top of paying local taxes or supplementing the mortgage if renters aren’t covering the entire amount…try living in the overpriced NYC/NJ/CT area!

    having luck with renters is key, too. i envy your situation. we’ve discussed renting vs. selling (ad nauseum) and despite the mediocre market, the risk of not getting what we want as far as covering the entire expense is too great.

    we have no financial or familial reason to return to this particular area, so why prolong the agony of returning to a house that may need rehabilitation after renting it out for a few years and then trying to sell it? i say cut the rope and put whatever earnings we make into the bank and move on from there. we can return when we’re ready and research a place before buying again.

    we’ll be empty nesters by then…


  7. In Saudi Arabia, women teachers can be accompanied by male spouse, but male spouse cannot work locally; whereas the inverse is quite acceptable — most international schools employ dozens of local expat wives.
    Note about keeping a house ‘back home’: for most of us, our house is the biggest investment, intended as retirement or backup in case of emergency need for housing. Keeping a house means that investment will always be worth as much as a house — if you later want to move elsewhere. When we moved overseas in 2005, people advised us to sell the house and put the money into the stock market. We decided to keep the house and rent it out, using the attic as storage, with friends acting as paid managers. Keeping a real address has helped with mail, with our kids able to truthfully and easily answer the “where are you from” question, and keeping in-state residency for university. We have been fortunate to find a succession of good renters. Though now we only “visit” the house annually, we still have kept one root there…and the attic boxes still await our return.
    We do regret not having shipped a small container overseas, as we spent a lot on furniture and household items — but earlier contacts with the school had discouraged shipping.
    Advice: be sure to Converse at Length beforehand with a few similar families already at the school.


  8. I tried to make the same decision before I came here. My situation might be different from yours. I own an apartment and I didn’t know if I’d like where I was going or not. I didn’t rent out the apartment, but kept it with my stuff in it. I also decided to keep my car parked in the parking lot. My thought was, after one year working overseas I will know whether I want to pull the plug on home or not. I thought I could then dismantle, sell etc. I definitely do not want to stay where I am and am fed up with the overseas thing. I am glad to have it to go home to.
    Good policy to get rid of as much as you can anyway. I got rid of old books I had read and clothes I would never wear again, for example.
    I am older, at the end of my career anyway so it is different for me. But, when I was younger “comforts of home” weren’t as important.
    Good luck with your situation.
    I am in the Middle East and want to get out as soon as I can get a plane out of here. Most of the teachers feel the same way and we are already discussing how soon can we leave and are counting the days.


    1. sounds like you’re miserable. maybe being at the end of your teaching career attributes to less patience and tolerance for inconveniences and BS that you must be experiencing at this particular school in a tumultuous area…or in a culturally difficult section of this world.

      hang in there…

      p.s.) as a female teacher bringing a non-teaching spouse with me, i was not eligible to apply for my husband’s visa in any country in the middle east according to islamic law, so that section of the globe was off limits to me for jobs…and that’s where the biggest growth is in international schools!


  9. We rented out the house and packed our belongings into plastic crates in our well built dry shed…
    When we went to check on it 3 years later-rats had got in and nested.
    Sell it!


    1. My stored belongings, carefully packed into sealed Rubbermaid crates in my parents’ climate controlled garage, became infested with roaches and mildew. Sell it now or burn it later!


    2. the “space bags” with vacuum suction capability are great for anti-mildew and preventing moth infestation, but no guarantees against critters who chew through the plastic.

      rubbermaid bins are not air-tight, so they’re pretty useless as far as true “sealing” from mold, mildew and bugs. none of the bins are made air-tight anymore…


  10. what if you like it and stay more than 2 years? what if something prevents you from staying for your full legal obligation? Keep the most precious things with you. Sell what is replaceable. Get the smallest storage unit available and make the rest fit in.


  11. The original entry claimes that they would make “a wad of cash” if they sold everything. I had a yard sale for two days and did not sell near as much as I would have liked to and I was also really surprised at how low I did sell some things for. I had expected a completely different experience. I walked away with some money but much less than I had planned on and I was also really surprised at how much effort I had to put into the whole process.

    That being said, I looked at what was still there and put it into three categories…that which was destined to go to the dump, that which I could donate to the local “Goodwill ~ Salvation Army” type charitable organization and that which I could not part with at this time which, luckily, I could store in a basement of a relative. Those items have been in that basement now for 5 years.

    Carrying all you stuff all over the world is not a great idea, although I know a ton of teachers who ship like 25 boxes everytime they make a change of venue. My personal opinion is that you need to learn to let go of a lot of material things when you become an expat teacher. I pretty much have scanned all my paper onto the computer and carry a lot of USB sticks with me. I have managed to learn to let go of most textbooks, they weigh a ton. I am a science teacher and the hardest thing for me is not having all my resources that I used to use in labs and the classroom with me. I only bring the basics now… the rock collection etc. is gathering dust in that basement. When i am stateside, I try and find other teachers who may want these things. I have also had to leave my “biologicals” behind because you cannot carry those types of things over international borders in most cases. My first time out I was going to bring owl pellets along and then at the last minute, I pulled them out realizing that they looked like drugs, I mean they are wrapped in foil like hash and I knew that was going to cause me problems at customs.

    Living overseas, like any new experience, takes some time to get used to what to expect and how it will best work for you. I think less is more in most cases. Almost everything that you will need to live comfortably is available just about anywhere in the world these days, for a price. Don’t overpack! Make a list while you are at your new post of what you are really missing and cannot find there and get in when you are back. Find someone who will let you store things with them…the storage idea never pays off. I have done it myself when I still lived stateside and it was a negative drain after which I ended up selling furniture dirt cheap anyway…resale values, unless you have valuable antiques are horrible.

    I wish you the best… you are embarking on an exciting life!
    Good luck!


  12. Sell what you can and give the rest to charity.. You’re not going to be able to ever take it all with you. Storage is a waste and give thieves a chance to steel, so the storage owner says.. Relatives and friends don’t have room.. Ask yourself if you really need it, having everything can’t always be used in other places.. Get ready to experience a new job and new things.


  13. In the recreational lake area where we maintain a home, filled with our “treasures” and a garage with vehicles which cost us virtually nothing to store and work every summer and many a Christmas, we have run into at least a dozen other expat families who live the same way. Owning a lake home provides children with a place to call home AND something to do in the summers as their friends are all over the world, a place for family to come and visit you making less travel in the summer, and a way to both build equity and store those things which can’t be replaced. Some of the international families we’ve met in the area rent out their lake homes when they’re not there through management companies to help foot the costs, others don’t – depending on personal wants, needs, and financial situations. We like being able to travel “home” with only a small bag – the dressers there have lots of old, comfortable clothes and warm clothes we don’t need anywhere else. As our children grew and went to college, this property provided a place they could go home to by themselves or with friends if they wanted. While keeping vehicles idle isn’t the best for them, and in fact can’t be done with many newer models as it messes with their technology, we have older vehicles and have saved much more in car rental than we ever could have sold them for. With belongings, homes, and cars, people can benefit from others’ experiences but nothing will match your own circumstances exactly. Weigh it all, figure out what will work for you.


    1. you’re lucky to be able to own a home and pay your mortgage or own it out right without worrying about scrounging up money from your teacher’s salary to pay these bills and taxes.

      my salary is quite low and we have no choice but to sell since the rent we can charge won’t cover the mortgage/taxes and we can’t afford to pony up the rest.

      i also fear that renters might not care for our house very well, or lose their jobs and be unable to pay the bills and then we’re in real trouble. i’d rather not have that over my head while working 6000 miles away.


  14. After deciding what you can afford to take with you, I suggest you go through it all and start sorting into three piles (TAKE, KEEP, SELL/DONATE):

    TAKE – Small items that may not be available or are very expensive where you are going, but will come in handy (backup computer supplies, kitchen tools, bedding, whatever) OR things to help make your adjustment smoother (pictures of your family, favorite spices for cooking, etc.)

    KEEP – Anything of sentimental value (photos, baby shoes, etc.) or anything you will use when you are home in the summer (bikes, pool toys, a few summer clothes). If you are going to a hot climate, you may want to keep a few winter items like heavy coats and sweaters, too, in case you end up coming back for a visit in winter or eventually move to a winter weather location. (It can be very difficult to find winter clothing when home in the summer!)

    SELL/DONATE – Items that will be outdated the next time you are home (clothes, toys, etc.) or that can be easily replaced if you move back to the states. You may find that you want to buy some really nice big stuff like furniture or chinaware in your new country to take back to your home country anyway!

    Depending on the size of each pile, you can then decide whether you need to pay for storage, or if you can borrow someone’s basement for awhile. For the first two years I stored my stuff at my parents’ house, then when I decided to stay overseas, I sold it (except those in my KEEP pile) or took it overseas with me. After 20 years overseas, I now keep a storage locker near my parents’ place with my keepsakes, a few winter clothes, and my car (which I bought with my savings from teaching internationally). Most of my possessions I keep with me overseas and take my “home” with me from country to country.


  15. Sell, sell, sell. I wasn’t sure, as most of us are, that I would remain overseas but I figured out within the first 6 months I would and was glad that when I got rid of everything. Before I left, I figured, why not get rid of it because who really wants to come back to furniture that’s been sitting around for 2 years or more, but I held onto some things. Then I finally decided to purge everything! If you stay overseas it’s one more thing not to deal with. With all of the money you’d spend on storage, you could at least get started on new stuff!

    The stress of also thinking about your stuff back home is overwhelming. Once I finally got rid of everything, car, furniture and now I sold my house, I feel like a giant weight has been lifted. When I had everything back home, I still felt like something was really holding me back from truly “living” in my new place. I’ve since moved to where I am now and couldn’t feel more “at home”!

    If someone can drive your car to keep it going, keep it if you can, it is tough not having one when you are home. It’s not good to leave it sit for months at a time, though, so only if you can afford to keep it. I got $5000 for mine so I got rid of it!

    The nook, in reference to the person above, does in fact work overseas now. I bought one at Christmas and I can download here in Europe. I couldn’t with my old one, but they do work internationally now!


  16. Buy an Amazon Kindle but not a Nook. You can’t download books onto a Nook, but Amazon works everywhere….both ordering paperbacks and my Kindle.

    I was only going overseas for a few years, so I locked up everything, had a neighbor watch out for thieves, and left. Now, when I return for the summer, everything is there waiting for me.


    1. I have moved between countries 7 times now. I no longer use storage in my home country- the times I have moved home I have found that I end up throwing out what is in storage- it is either out of date or fashion, or cheaply replaced.
      I do though travel with some home essentials that always make my home feel like home. Good quality towel and linen- sometimes difficult to find or expensive in other countries. My favorite pillows.
      Also I like to cook. It takes a long time to set up a kitchen- there can those frustrating first few months when you are setting up house, go to cook something and find you don’t have say, a vegetable peeler. All these little things add up in regards to time and money.
      Other things I take are small items of furniture or artwork that I have collected in other countries. (not your basic IKEA furniture, only special pieces.)
      Hope this helps!


    2. I am also a cook and one of the things I shipped which would have been very hard to replace cheaply and I missed while I waited for my stuff (it took 3 months for my stuff to arrive) were my good cast iron enamel coated pots. I’ve had them since I was in college (a long time ago). Such a small thing. We all have the thing we can’t live without and sometimes it’s surprising.


    3. Agreed on the cast iron! Mine has come with me through six countries now. Just like those who can’t travel without their books! Most people will think you’re mad to bring on so much weight, but the right ones will understand.


  17. I literally did the exact same thing as Anonymous in California. I sold everything on Craigslist, sold my car, and rented my house. I am also on year three, and am heading to a new international school next year. My house is in a great area, and it’s nice to have tenants take care of the mortgage and property management fees. I now look at it as an investment, for me and/or my teenage children, but I love having a back up, just in case.

    As there are varying experiences, trust your gut…you will know what to do, when to do it, and how it should be done.

    Good luck on your journey, and let us know what you decide.


  18. One of the key parts of this decision is when you try to imagine how long you will stay overseas. There are many, many stories of people who thought they would be gone for just a few years, but ended up loving it and staying overseas for 20 years or more. There are very few of the opposite — people who went expat, hated it and came back quickly.

    So, err on the side of being gone a long time vs. a short time. Sell everything you can, bring basic necessities and a few sentimental items. In this digital age, most of your books, teaching materials, entertainment etc. should fit on a few digital devices. Your US appliances and cell phones probably won’t work overseas, but your computers will. Plan on getting by with less for a time at your new location, and gradually acquiring new stuff as you learn the local environment. Remember that you will be making trips back home once or twice a year, it’s not as if you were cut off forever.

    Teachers often imagine they will be lost in the classroom without all their teaching stuff, but it seldom works like that. Unless you somehow got hooked up with a substandard school, the school will probably have all the library and classroom resources you need to keep your show going. Your students are going to have different backgrounds and different needs anyway. So, bring just a few teaching essentials, make everything digital if you can, and it will all work out.


  19. As my school did not pay for shipping, I only kept the bare minimum. I let my kids pick a few things that were most important to them. Everything else we sold or gave away. We brought clothes and shoes with us, as it’s not easy to get things in our sizes where I am. There has not been one thing that I got rid of that I wish I’d kept. The kids haven’t mentioned anything either. I’ve found that starting over in a new country has been more expensive than I anticipated. Every dollar helped. I did keep my car, parked it at my parent’s house and downgraded to basic insurance. That way I’ll have something to drive over the summer and I can still rent a car.


  20. I would say ship the stuff you need to make a home. We left a lot of stuff behind when we first moved abroad and are ending up buying most of it again. it may cost a lot to ship but less than replacing stuff. Don’t take a car as someone here has but house and recreation stuff I would.


  21. If you can afford it, keep your car! I wish that I had kept my car, because now when we return home for the summer, we have to rent one and that costs an arm and a leg.

    In my opinion, books are not worth paying to ship, but my husband disagrees withe me! So I have a Kindle and ship no books, while my husband holds onto everything that he’s ever read and adds about 10 boxes to each shipment.

    We have moved with our kids several times, and I can say that my kids don’t really care about taking thing like their furniture- they care about their books and their toys, though we go through them and get rid of a lot of things before each move. In fact, they love arriving in a new place and getting all new rooms! They are young, though, so older kids might be more attached.

    We moved overseas with very little, sold all of our furniture in the US, and have accumulated so much furniture overseas that we now need a 20-foot container every time we move. Trust me, you really won’t miss the stuff in the US. I left a lot of other things in my parents’ basement, and after our second year overseas, my mother had a yard sale and sold it all. I could barely even remember what I had at that point!

    However, if you are planning to buy a house or condo in the US in the near future, the storage fees will cost much less than buying all new furniture, so keep that idea in mind.


  22. Sell everything you can bring yourself to part with and store only the irreplaceables, if you have any. Don’t store items, like a car, that depreciate. Decisions about real estate are the hardest; you will need to examine your individual circumstances, – and the tax laws of your home country. In order to avoid paying tax on income we earned abroad, we (Canadians) declared ourselves non-resident and were therefore obliged to rent our apartment out on a minimum year lease; so, no home for the summer break. We had an apartment we loved and meant to return to, -and a great renter. Baring those circumstances, we’d likely have sold our home, purchased a piece of undeveloped property and put the rest of the proceeds in safe investments.


  23. What do you do with all that sentimental stuff? Photo albums, scrapbooks, etc. That stuff gets heavy to take or needs climate control storage.


    1. i’m storing the precious albums and “memory boxes” at a relative’s house. they can’t take much more than those boxes, but there is no way i’m can chuck life memories like that; kids, vacations, etc.

      now that we’re in the digital age, i’m sure most young teachers (without a spouse or kids) store their images on external hard drives and memory sticks. sad, but we rarely print anything out any more—including myself!


  24. I sold most of my things through Craigslist and yard sales and it was so freeing! As things left, I felt a weight being lifted off my shoulders. Sold the car, rented the house. Found out that I need a lot less “things” in my life. Glad to still own a home in California just in case, but it’s been 3 years now (only planned to be gone for two)and I don’t see myself returning to the States anytime soon.


  25. Consider the following before selling ‘stuff’:

    -How much of the original purchase price will you get if you sell the item?

    -How much will the item degrade over time? (For example, engines rust and tires develop flat spots when a car sits without being used. Computers become antiquated, batteries go flat, etc.)

    -How difficult is it to find the item in your new home?

    I also like to think of “value density” when I am considering these things too. For example, I have some sets of electronics parts that I have slowly assembled over the years. The value comes from having all the parts, in one place, and they’re not very large or heavy. So it will come with me to my next post.

    Personally, I think cars should probably be sold, unless you are sure you’ll return in 2 years. Even then (and especially if you’re staying away for >2 years), you should be pro-active in storing the car. Put it up on blocks, drain the fuel, spray lubricant into the cylinders. Just walking away from a car and expecting the corrosion process to also stop is a bad idea!

    Also, I have found that checking as much luggage as possible is wise. It’s a pain the neck, and can be expensive, but its much easier, cheaper and more reliable than relying on international shipping companies–at least in my limited experience and from what I’ve heard.


    1. I used to have an auto shop before I taught and I would recommend having someone start the car to keep it from seizing up. I do not concur with the above entree’s opinion of how to keep a car for a long period.
      Also, Cars in the U.S. are so inexpensive and readily available. buy one when you need one but otherwise, let it go!!


  26. When I left to head overseas last year, I honestly thought It would be forever. Now, I see that financially, I need to return to the states. (Central America is eating through my savings) Now I realize that I have almost nothing to set up a new apartment with. I would leave it in storage for the first year and then when you get home for the summer reevaluate the situation. Boy, I WISH i had heeded my own advice.

    One of my coworkers sold her home and cars in the states to move abroad and then had to leave after only a few months, and ended up without transportation or pace to live. kinda frightening.


  27. This is my first year teaching overseas, we have a big house filled with rooms of stuff. We decided to keep our house and everything in it for the first year in case we did not want to continue with the international scene. We have house sitters in it right now to watch over things. We have decided that we love teaching overseas and will be going home this summer to have a big yard sale and to store the things we really want to keep. We will be renting out our house (can’t sell it in this economy).


  28. i also grew up overseas and have a different perspective as a “TCK” vs. a “mono-cultural” adult heading overseas to teach. however, i’m now that adult going overseas to teach after 20 years teaching in the US, which means leaving a more established household and rooms of belongings.

    no long distance land lords for us; we’re selling the house; we have no family or professional reasons to anchor ourselves in our current area, and we find it downright difficult to decide what to let go off and what to keep for returning in the future since we have accumulated quite a bit over the years, and not all junk. (a 1925 chickory piano, anyone?)…who knows when our return will be since we want to make the best of our experience, get kids through international school and establish a halfway decent career overseas before returning to the US.

    (any ideas on what to do for a “permanent address” for voting, tax returns, driver’s license, and insurance without a homestead to call an actual residence?)

    the dilemma we all seem to be facing seems to be either spend a fortune on storage, which will exceed the value of our possessions in the long run, or just decide to “travel light” and sell or lend or give it away and not look back.


    1. What insights do you have from being a TCK that are influencing how you handle your children’s stuff? Any advice to share? How did you feel about being a TCK? Would you agree with anonymous above to rent out the house and return for summers?

      We are trying to get rid of as much as possible. We have no family where we presently live, and when we return to the states (ideally not in the near future) this is not where we want to live. In addition to our own home, we have rental properties. I can only hope they sell, otherwise we will turn them over to a management company.

      We haven’t told our kids yet – I’m not under contract this year, so we don’t want to burden them with a secret they can’t keep until I give notice. I know they will be excited at first – they have been asking to do this, yet not believing we ever would. What happens after the initial excitement wears off?

      We have already started to eliminate things, under the pretense of moving to a smaller home – something we have talked about doing for the past two or three years. I hope my children can separate their overseas experience from their decluttered, simplified lives.


    2. truthfully, another aspect of keeping a permanent option in the states came from finding ourselves at least 2 times in political situations where evacuations were a possibility/reality. We did end up selling our house in our first years back overseas, but to have a smaller “home-base” was invaluable. So much depends on your TCKs’ ages. Our kids were all born overseas, so they craved a place in the states for consistency and identity. When kids have been raised in a monocultural environment, sometimes they are more excited about the “unknown.”

      As for permanent address…interesting question..also depending on the age of your kids. Establishing residency is as simple as a driver’s license. My husband and I have different state residencies- and a recreational abode in a completely different state. With teens it might come down to establishing college residencies, or lower state taxes, or voting in a state where your vote actually counts.


  29. I think travelling light is good. I sold my cars and house and gave a lot of things away. The remaining items are in storage which is free because I am fortunate to have friends who have a warehouse. I am about to get rid of those items, too. On hindsight, I wish I had done so before leaving my home country. Having been in China 2 years, I don’t plan to return to my home country any time soon.

    That being said, do whatever will make you most comfortable. Please remember to factor in how uncomfortable it can be to worry about (and pay for) your cars, furniture, etc. back at what may no longer be your home.

    No. I am not independently wealthy. Far from it. But stuff is just that. Stuff. Don’t let it weigh you down.


  30. I’ll offer a different perspective. As a kid growing up overseas and now as a parent, there are certain considerations that others might not see. Renting your house might not be ideal from overseas, but if you can offer a 9 month lease it allows you to return in the summertime. (or sell and purchase a smaller place) The kids maintain some consistency in their lives and it allows you to relax instead of traveling around trying to see all of the relatives. Let folks come to you…we always had one room locked for storage allowing us to step off the plane and into a familiar place. For those who are not planning on making a life of overseas teaching, perhaps you will choose to travel on your breaks. For those who have created lives away from family–the option to maintain a place of ones own is priceless. It gave our kids an easier answer to the dreaded question, “Where are you from?” Every year we went through old things/clothes and the kids did their own sorting and held a yearly garage sale for things they had grown out of etc..Their ability to see and touch things from the past made letting go much less traumatic. Getting rid of everything in one fell swoop is a move that may sound refreshing for many adults(or teens), but for a younger child it can be a loss that is grieved for years.


  31. I would certainly find a balance–sell what you think you won’t need later and store the rest. Before my first overseas teaching job I gave tons of things away, only to find that the silly, everyday things cost a great deal to replace. Having to replace iems like towels and kitchen utensils, linens and other basics ended up taking a good bit of my savings upon my return.


  32. Do everything you can to sell your car, boat, etc before you leave, else leave it with a kind family member who’s willing to sell it for you. Yard sell everything else. For those items you especially treasure, but can’t justify packing, but hate to sell to strangers or just give away to a thrift store, try this: Give My Stuff Away Bingo.

    Print out a stack of Bingo cards (most teachers will have these on hand, given our profession, but if not you can create a random card generator on Excel or maybe find templates on the net), invite over a small crowd of good friends, open a few bottles of wine, and start calling out numbers. Every winner gets to pick something from your pile of stuff to take home.


  33. Whatever you do, don’t put it in storage! In 2007, I needed to get out of an awful apartment situation and keep working until the last minute before going overseas. So having neither the time, nor the opportunity (or so I thought) to sell things, I shoved everything in storage thinking it would only be for a little while. Well, it’s now 2012. I’ve worked overseas for about 3 of those five years, staying with relatives in between, but guess what? Every month, my storage facility deducts $108. If you multiply $108 x 12 x 5….I don’t even like to think about it! As my attempts to settle into something in the US have come to nothing, I’m reluctant to get rid of it all and can’t sell it from a packed storage facility anyway.

    One friend who owned her own apartment in Israel, where storage is also very expensive, came up with the solution of using one room in her apartment as a storage facility and renting the rest out.

    I suggest selling all large items, such as furniture, unless it’s heirloom quality and getting rid of as much small stuff as possible.

    On the other hand, a car is another story. I discovered that in my state and with my insurance company, I can get low cost “storage insurance” for $16.00/mo. This allows me to keep my insurance policy current (if you take the insurance off altogether, then put it back on they consider you a new customer and jack the rates up), and protects my car against storm damage, etc. while it sits in a relative’s driveway. A car is very expensive to replace, so that is definitely worth keeping if you have a free place to store it.

    As to baggage allowances and what to take…after flying from China to Istanbul to change jobs and paying $300 in excess baggage, as well as another $100 for the flight from Istanbul to my school in another city because the international 2 suitcase, 100 lb. allowance changed to one suitcase, 50 lbs., I learned my lesson.

    Research the baggage allowances and countries. You will need different things for different cultures. For example, when I first went over, deodorant was non-existent in China and cosmetics, as well as hair dye (even black) hard to find. On my second trip, these items, even in a backwater city were easy to find. Cosmetics are generally very expensive in every country (even Europe) other than US/UK. If you are blond and color your hair, bring that, unless your going to Scandinavia. Also, I thought I could pick up a heavy jacket easily, but found that anything over a size 2 (US) required a great deal of searching in men’s clothing stores. My US standard size 7 shoes are considered huge by Asian standards. If you are going to the Middle East, you won’t have these problems, etc.

    Basically, I would suggest packing as light as possible unless it’s something you absolutely can’t get in your destined country. Don’t take valuable clothes, etc. I had a suitcase lost, then pilfered before I got it back and a memo recorder stolen. I also had clothes ruined by cleaners in Istanbul and Riyadh. Medicine is also something to consider. Very difficult to get in some parts of China.

    One thing I absolutely won’t sacrifice are books. I go to the library book sales and stock up on paperbacks. You can get around this with an e-reader, but I like the real thing,and books are expensive.

    So to sum up: Ditch the furniture, keep the car. Research the country you are going to and baggage rates/allowances keeping in mind that they can change within a trip. Take as little as possible and you will be surprised at what you can find overseas if you know where to look.


    1. Anyone on here who’s married with kids? everyone seems to be single or just starting out. what about established households?


    2. Ceegee,

      I had an established household and thought hard about taking it apart for this adventure. I spent a year planning this move so had lots of time to think about what I could get rid of and what I would keep. I viewed it as a way of setting priorities and taking control of all of the things that tend to rule our lives. I am halfway through a two year contract and am unsure of where I will go next but I do not regret getting rid of all of the junk we had.

      I have a son (who is 12) and I allowed him, after a long discussion about making decisions) to bring the toys he wanted. I felt since I was dragging him across the world he should feel comfortable. He packed two medium size boxes of toys he doesn’t touch but I think it was worth it for his peace of mind. I focused on bringing things that would make our house (school provided villa) feel like home – so no furniture but family pictures, wall hangings, etc. I brought a few things (candle holders, odds and end we have collected through the years) that define home for us and a bike for him (one large enough he won’t grow out of it for a couple years because I kept reading about people here searching for where to buy one. In another country I would have simply bought the bike there.) One odd child related issue – the legos here are VERY expensive (we’re in the UAE) so depending on where you are going if you child loves them then stock up.

      We brought our laptops and kindles. E-readers are worth the price. especially if you read a lot or have children you want to encourage to read. With no effort you can have a new book to read without having to search to buy it. This is very important when encouraging kids to read. My son’s school has a good library but doesn’t always have the series he is reading or all of the books in the series (like the Pendragon series.) My school also has a self of books teachers share. But they tend to be very low level beach reading books. So if that is what you like then you’re good. I have strange reading tastes so I would be sunk (I read a lot of non fiction.)

      I sold all of my furniture that I didn’t love and stored the rest (so I sold our beds, I liked mine but wouldn’t feel sad about replacing it.) I sold the car to my sister. I am very glad I did as the payments would have been hard to make. I rent my house – i would have sold it if the market had been better as the rent does not cover the payments. I digitized my CDs aand sold them. I only brought books that I need to teach and my art books (that won;t work as digital books.)

      I am happy to pay for my storage unit since as an older adult with a family there are things that I couldn’t bring and couldn’t part with, furniture and paintings. If it had only been small things like tax records I would have parked it in someone’s attic. Since I had a little room after the furniture I was also able to keep some things that it would not have made sense to keep otherwise.

      My advice, sell everything you don’t love, bring your children’s toys within reason (get them involved in this decision as much as possible given their age), bring digital copies of things if you can, bring the things that say home to you. For children i think this is very important.


    3. I’m curious about the number of different blogs and posts that say to take books. I’m a librarian headed to my first overseas post. Can’t/won’t your libraries provide you with books? I have always purchased teacher requests, including recreational reading when budget permitted.


    4. What do you mean by “…your libraries provide you with books”? I take it you mean the libraries at your overseas school? They might not have libraries or books in English. And I don’t think libraries as we know them in the States exist in many countries-certainly not in my last country-Saudi Arabia. I’ve never heard of a book allowance. Paperbacks bought at library book sales are cheap enough (.50 or so) and can be traded with other teachers. At one school we had a whole shelf of books left behind and they were treasured.

      It’s interesting that you say you are a librarian and going overseas. I am considering getting an MS in library sciences and was wondering if I could work overseas. If you could tell me a little about it, I would really appreciate it.


    5. I had to laugh at myself. Of course every school I considered has a library… That doesn’t mean ALL schools do, it just seemed like it. Thanks for the insight to regions that may not. .

      Yes, there are librarian positions available… More than I ever expected. I had four offers at the job fair I attended. At the same time my district (and state) are cutting librarians. I am excited to be back in an IB school that is inquiry-driven, rather than standardized test driven.

      What else would ou like to know?


    6. Thanks for the reply. I want to do a concentration in archiving (digital) or rare books (collections), so I probably won’t be working in a school in the future. I hope those positions, which can be found outside of state funding are more available.

      Enjoy your overseas experience.


  34. Here’s the rule I use…if you haven’t used a particular item or worn an item of clothing for a year, get rid of it. You don’t need it. I took my car over with me to Austria and loved every minute of it, but it cost a fortune. The gas, the insurance, the two sets of tires required in Austria, getting the car up to their regulations….Don’t know about your country, but in Austria, you couldn’t sell a car unless it had been in the country for two years. I would have been better off selling my car in the states and buying a dependable used car in Austria. If you are going to an area that has an American military base, you can buy anything dirt cheap because soldiers are always being shipped out and need to sell quickly.A friend of mine bought a used, in good condition VW van from a soldier for $500.00. It was in great shape, too. There’s a lot to storing a car. Use a search engine and check it out. Once you get overseas, you will not want to have to pinch pennies to make car and house payments in the states. The less responsibilities and ties you have back in the U.S. the better.


  35. I would say sell it! My initial two years turned into three years and now I signed another two-year contract in a different country. If I didn’t bring it with me, I don’t miss it and I don’t really need it. When I go back, I fill up my suitcase with whatever I can’t get where I am or the little things I do miss.

    You’ll appreciate the cash when you need to buy a car, a phone, make a deposit on an apartment or house and possibly furnish it, etc. So many things come up that you can’t anticipate.

    I do worry about coming back to the states one day because I will have to start ALL over again. It’s honestly easier for me to just keep going from one international school to another since they help with housing and transportation.

    As I prepare to leave this country and head to another, I am working on sorting those things that I will sell and that which I will bring along. I plan on taking very little.

    Good luck to you!


  36. Depends on if you plan to go for two years and return home, or if you plan on being overseas for years. In my case, I left ‘home’ almost 17 years ago. The items that I did keep at my parents house I soon realised I didnt need.

    I sold or give away practically everything.


  37. I am also in that same boat…..wondering about the car as well. Sell it, keep it and store….what have others done? Also, what were the things that teachers packed in order to stay within the shipping allowance given?


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