Are you planning to move abroad, but feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of downsizing?

It’s a common challenge for many travelers, but with some creative thinking and strategic planning, you can make the process much more manageable.

Let’s explore some tried-and-true strategies for downsizing before your big move—whether you’re looking to simplify your life or if you need to save space in your new destination, these tips will help you make the most of your journey!

11 Tips for Downsizing When You Move Abroad

11 Ways to Downsize when Moving Abroad: Tips & Checklist - Frayed Passport

Photo by HiveBoxx on Unsplash

1. Start early

Starting the downsizing process early will help you figure out definitively what you want to bring with you and what you should leave behind. You don’t want to get rid of something important in a rush—or alternatively, spend too much effort and money bringing things with you that you really don’t need!

2. Create lists

Create however many lists you need to make the process smoother—a few ideas:

  • What to keep and what to get rid of
  • How exactly to get rid of what you don’t need
  • How to pack or ship what you want to bring to your new home

Use the checklist in the next section below as a starting point.

3. Digitize your documents

Rather than packing up boxes of paper records and files, consider scanning all of your important documents. This can save a lot of space and make it easier to access your records from anywhere in the world.

Of course, there are documents you don’t want to get rid of entirely—like birth certificates, marriage certificates, and other very important papers. But do you really need a year’s worth of bank and credit card statements? Plus, if you’re able to access your accounts online, chances are you can download PDFs of your statements without needing to take the time to scan them in before you move.

4. Don’t be tempted to buy extras

Depending on where you’re moving to, you may be able to find much similar and cheaper versions of products you already use and don’t need to stock up on and take with you.

Take shampoo for example—if you have a huge bottle that’s only half-full…

  • Don’t take that whole bottle with you! Transfer the remaining shampoo into a smaller container so it’s easier to pack.
  • Don’t be tempted to buy extras, fearing you won’t be able to find what you like after your move—do a bit of research into the brands you prefer, and see whether similar products can be found locally in your new destination.

5. Upcycle or repurpose items

Before you donate or throw away some of your things, consider whether they can be upcycled or repurposed in some way, at least for a short while. Old t-shirts can be used as cleaning rags, and mason jars can be used for storage, for example.

6. Donate to charities and shelters

This can be a great way to make a positive impact in your community before you move abroad—donating any unwanted and unused items is a fantastic way to downsize quickly.

Make sure to research and speak with different charities and shelters to make sure they can accept the items you want to donate—showing up with bags of unsorted goods that they may not even be able to take in can be wasteful, both for your time and theirs.

7. Host a yard sale or pop-up shop

In addition to donating your unnecessary or unwanted items, consider hosting a yard sale or pop-up shop to sell some of them. It’ll let you make a bit of extra cash to put toward your move!

8. Use online marketplaces

Consider selling or giving away your unwanted items online through platforms like Facebook Marketplace. Consider Ebay or Etsy for more niche audiences, especially if you have handmade items or collectibles.

9. Swap or trade items with others

Consider organizing a community swap or trade event to exchange unwanted items with others. This can be a fun and eco-friendly way to reduce waste and acquire new-to-you items that you might need for your move.

10. Use storage units

If you’re not ready to part with all of your belongings but don’t want to bring everything with you abroad, consider getting a storage unit. This can give you the flexibility to access your items when you return, without cluttering up your living space in the meantime.

11. Work with a professional organizer

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the downsizing process, a professional organizer can really help you declutter and organize your belongings. They can provide guidance and support to make the process more manageable.

A Downsizing Checklist

Feeling overwhelmed with just getting started?

Not to worry—use this five-step checklist to organize your downsizing process. You’ll want to build in a fair amount of time to work through this list before your move so that nothing gets lost (literally) in the craziness.

  • Assess your current living space
    • Identify the items that you use regularly
    • Make note of the things you haven’t used in a while
    • Consider whether you own anything that’s totally unnecessary, or that you have duplicates of
  • Categorize your belongings
    • Divide your belongings into categories that make the most sense to you—like clothing, furniture, kitchenware, electronics, and sentimental items
    • Consider which items are essential and which are non-essential, and if there’s anything non-essential, set it aside as soon as you can, and make note of how you get along without it
  • Decide which items to keep, sell, donate, or discard
    • Make a priority list of what absolutely must come with you to your new home abroad
    • From there, decide which items you can sell, donate, or discard (especially if it makes more financial sense to pick up a similar item in your new destination, rather than bringing something you already own with you…such as bulky furniture)
  • Practice packing your belongings
    • Determine which items you’ll need to pack and bring with you on your person
    • Research and experiment with different packing techniques to maximize space
    • Determine whether you’ll need to ship anything, put anything into storage, or downsize further
  • Prepare for your move
    • Outline the final logistics of your move, such as how you’ll transport your belongings and whether you’ll need to store any items temporarily
    • Make arrangements for any necessary paperwork or documentation
    • Get rid of any final, remaining unwanted items that don’t need to come with you, like that last bit of dish soap that isn’t worth bringing along

Wrapping Up

There are tons of ways that you can downsize before moving abroad—if you have more ideas and tips, share them with the Frayed Passport community!

About the Author

As the editor-in-chief of Frayed Passport, my goal is to help you build a lifestyle that lets you travel the world whenever you want and however long you want, and not worry about where your next paycheck will come from. I've been to 20+ countries and five continents, lived for years as a full-time digital nomad, and have worked completely remotely since 2015. If you would like to share your story with our community, or partner with Frayed Passport, get in touch with me at!

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