Monday, January 20, 2014

The Moving Experience – Stuff 101

article from January 26, 2011 (all links current as of December 2013)
by Julie R Butler

It’s easy for us. We nomads never do acquire a lot of stuff. It has been during those times when we rented a house for a couple of years when we found out first-hand that the fish-bowel theory really is a thing. The fish will grow in proportion to the size of its container. And when it comes to stuff, it seems to have the capacity to fill a space to the maximum, all of its own accord. Even those of us who are not habitual packrats will keep stuff that we think we need, and the more space we have available, the more we collect.

From family heirlooms, gifts from loved ones, works of art, music collections, mementos, and photos, to books and magazines, to gadgets that we could not imagine surviving without, the things that we own after we have removed the clutter of things that we have held on to for lack of getting rid of them, or with intentions of revitalizing them, or for the possibility that one day we will need them, all seem relevant and important.

Expatriating means that there will be some major soul searching over what we value most in our lives. And if you are one of those people who find packing for vacations difficult, then you are going to want to take some serious time working these things out.

Susanna Perkins, Future Expat Extraordinaire, writes about this in terms of becoming “untethered,” and she offers some excellent advice about how to begin going about dealing with your stuff in this post titled, To Untether, First Take Inventory. In this article, she focuses on her beloved book collection. Books are indeed one of the hardest things to contemplate living without. Yet she seems to have found a way to come to terms with the need to part with them by systematically categorizing them into those to be passed along to her kids, those to be stored, and those to be sold or given away.

She also looked into the possibility of using a Kindle e-reader, and happily, discovered that the reading experience was fine. E-readers have been selling well for good reason, as they are not as repugnant as so many book lovers imagine and they are an amazing way to store literature and subscribe to magazines and news. E-books tend to be priced more economically than printed books, and they are “greener,” too. If the price tags of the e-readers are a deterrent, don’t despair – both Apple and Amazon have versions of their e-readers available for downloading to your computer FOR FREE. I have both on my laptop, and I am quite impressed with the quality.

Music is another issue. If you have a large collection of vinyl, then you are most likely the type of person who would go to all the trouble to pack everything you own up ever-so carefully and have it all shipped to your new location so that you can continue to live your life surrounded by eclectic things of the past that give you great comfort, even though they can be a big pain in the back side. There is little help for you. As for CDs, what we did was copy our entire collection onto a second hard-drive, then sold all the CDs. (Ah, the beauty of the “flea market economy.”) There are all kinds of music download options available online these days, which is also a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, services like Pandora don’t broadcast out of the United States. After having spent all that time setting up my ideal radio stations, I was sorely disappointed to find this out.

This is a start. Stay tuned for more advice on how to deal with your stuff to come.

[Photo by Jamie Douglas]

Julie R Butler is a writer, journalist, editor, and author of several books, including Nine Months in Uruguay and No Stranger To Strange Lands (click here for more info). She is a contributor to Speakout at, and her current blog is Connectively Speaking.
email: julierbutler [at] yahoo [dot] com, Twitter: @JulieRButler