Making a Move Abroad: 5 Tips for Downsizing and Packing
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Choosing what to bring and what to leave behind might be the most stressful part of moving abroad. You want to take as much as possible. But you also must be mindful of where you’re moving to, transportation options, and other key considerations.

Downsizing and packing to move abroad don’t come without challenges. However, these five tips can help make the process as seamless as possible.

Consider Where You’re Moving To

Where you’re moving to is one of the first things to consider when deciding what to take with you. The climate, weather, and environment will probably differ from where you currently reside. Housing and city structures will vary as well.

Not only that, the culture, people, and day-to-day activities will be different too. You want to ensure you’re bringing the items that will help you acclimate to your new external environment abroad. What you bring should also help you immerse yourself in the culture and your new day-to-day.

Prioritize What You’ll Use

We tend to bring as many things as possible when we move. But taking everything you own to your new home abroad just isn’t realistic. In addition, you’re probably moving to a smaller space abroad, so downsizing is a must.

Prioritizing what you use now and what you’ll need to use wherever you plan to live can move the downsizing process along. First, start setting aside items you know you’ll use in your new home and country. Then, as you get closer to the move, you can pack what you’re using now.

Use a decision tree if you’re struggling with whether or not to bring a specific item. A decision tree can help you break down a complex decision by weighing the possible outcomes of various choices.

In this case, you can ask yourself, “What will I do with [this item] if I bring it?” Then, you can list out potential answers to that question and detail how the scenario could play out with each answer.

For example, if you bring it, it might end up in your storage and never see the light of day, which ultimately adds to clutter in your new home. Or you could bring it, display it, and it could be a conversation starter that prompts new friendships.

Just remember that when you’re getting rid of things, you want to do so in an environmentally friendly way. When possible, donate things to local thrift stores or nonprofit organizations. If you have old technology you aren’t using anymore, be sure to recycle or donate it appropriately. Not only will these tips help you downsize for your move abroad, but you’ll be helping the planet as well.

Think About Sentimentality

Mexico, the U.K., Canada, and Australia are Americans’ top destinations for moving abroad. If you currently live somewhere like New York, you’re talking over a thousand miles from home if you move to Mexico.

Feeling homesick when you’re that far away from loved ones and what’s familiar to you is natural. However, things that remind you of your hometown are critical to curbing homesickness and settling into your new location.

As beneficial as it is to downsize as much as possible and pack as least as possible, don’t feel like you have to throw away things that have sentimental value. You can’t take everything you’re emotionally connected to, but you can take the items with the most sentimental value.

Consider Whether You’ll Eventually Return

Getting rid of things you don’t want or need is easier when you know you won’t return home after moving abroad. But it’s different if you think you’ll eventually come back to your home. In that case, it may not be the best idea or necessary to get rid of most of your items.

If you think you’ll eventually return, consider the feasibility of storing the things you don’t want to give away in a long-term storage unit. Calculate how much it will cost to store your items for however long you plan to be gone.

Also, consider how you’ll be able to ensure your things are secure while you’re so far away. If storage is doable, move forward with it so that you don’t have to stress too much about moving, downsizing, and packing.

How Will You Transport Your Belongings?

How you’ll move abroad the belongings you do want to take with you is a crucial decision. The two major parts of this decision are shipping options and costs.

First, you need to choose how you’ll ship your belongings overseas. For example, will you use a sea container or an airfreight service? Once you pick your shipping option, get an estimate of how much it will cost. Be sure to factor in shipping, insurance, and storage fees.

It’s a good idea to put aside a little more than the estimate to account for any surprise or emergency fees that could arise.

Thoroughly research how you’ll transport your belongings and stay on top of this process until it’s complete to ensure what you want to make it to your new home actually does.


Moving is one of the most stressful life events we face. Relocating somewhere abroad can make moving even more stressful and challenging. But as taxing as the process can be, being strategic about how you downsize and pack can help make it more manageable.

Use the tips above to lessen the burden of moving abroad and ensure you take what matters and leave behind what doesn’t.

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