Go. Serve. Love is loving this new series on downsizing to live overseas by Rebecca Skinner, who grew up as a missionary kid in Latin America, where she moved five times in seven years.
As an adult TCK, Rebecca has worked as a professional organizer with Simplified Living Solutions, helping people downsize, pack their belongings, and set up their homes after a move. She has the ability to step into a kitchen for the first time and tell you which drawer the silverware are in.
Rebecca loves casting vision for God’s global mission and enjoys seeing people answer the call to go to the nations. Her hope is for you to be ready to go wherever and whenever God beckons you.
Ready to jump back in to your move overseas?
What about the BIG STUFF–MY house, car, pets, furniture?
House: If you’re a homeowner, Decide if you will sell or rent out your house.
Thoughtful articles like this one from HomeLight.com and this one from BankRate.com can begin to walk you through the extensive pros and cons. Rent-or-sell calculators like this one can help you sort through the strictly financial aspects of your decision.
Invite the counsel of others wise in this field, as well as those knowledgable about the housing market in your area.
If you rent out your property, perhaps someone you trust and who has experience would be willing to manage your property, handling renters and repairs, in lieu of/in addition to their financial support of your work.
Explore the possibility of staying with others or renting to cut back on expenses as well as freeing you up to go when the time is right. For singles, this might mean living with parents or housemates, eliminating those broken lease agreements once your financial support pledges are complete.
Decide if you will sell your car or keep it for when you are back in your home country on home assignment.
If you sell before you move overseas:
- Consider borrowing a vehicle after you sell, until you leave.
- Or, arrange to have someone else sell your car for you once you leave.
- Organizations like Righteous Rides provide missionaries with reliable vehicles while on home assignment, as well as making arrangements for temporary insurance for both your planned and unplanned trips back to the US.
- Consider where you’ll store your vehicle, and who will start it occasionally to keep it running.
- Check on your state’s regulations on insuring a stored vehicle. Remember to reinstate your non-storage-level insurance when you return.
- Is there someone who could use your vehicle while you’re away, who would maintain it well? How would it affect your relationship if the vehicle were damaged or wrecked?
- Saying goodbye to pets now and getting them settled into good homes frees up time and money– and spreads out those difficult goodbyes often piling up at the last minute. Your kids can also have the chance to see their pets in happy homes.
- Go ahead and sell any unnecessary furniture. Only hold on to what you use on a daily basis until you can move into temporary housing right before your departure.
- You’ll find that as you purge you’ll have furniture that was used for storage that you are now able to get rid of.
Pointers for WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE IN STORAGE
- Reality is that most things that we keep in storage are not part of our daily lives. The rule of proximity often dictates what we use on a regular basis. So chances are, most of what’s currently have stored in your basement or garage or even that hall closet will not be going with you overseas.
- Keepsakes can be purged and then put in long-term storage.
- Seasonal clothes can be purged using the clothes guidelines in part 2 of this series.
- Holiday decor can be reduced to a shoebox. Ask others overseas what is available in-country for purchase, what they brought, or what theywish they had brought. This will vary for each country. Give yourself permission to bring a few seasonal items that will remind you of holidays at home or that you associate with the season. It’s amazing how something as simple as a favorite Christmas mug will bring a cozy holiday feeling to an otherwise absent holiday in your new home country, particularly where your favorite holidays aren’t celebrated..
- Outdoor decor, yard tools and most power tools are not going to make the cut to go overseas. Sometimes these can be the easiest areas to start getting rid of (or perhaps storing, in the event of expensive tools). Only hold onto what you need to continue maintaining your home while you’re still living in it, particularly for real-estate walk-throughs.
- For outside activities, lawn chairs and bikes, only hold on to what you use regularly and will need in the coming year before you move overseas.
And don’t forget–
Stop buying! SAY NO to bringing more into the house.
- Put in effect a 24- or 48-hour wait time for buying anything other than your weekly essentials. At this point, the only things you should be buying are things that you plan to take within your luggage limits.
- Ask friends and family to not give you or your kids any gifts unless it is something you can eat, drink, experience, take with you, or add to your digital media collection.
- Going forward, if you have a small appliance break, try life without it.
You’d be surprised how your habits adjust if you live without a microwave. Instead of your Keurig, learn to brew your morning joe with a French press or pour-over.
- Pro Tip: Not having a specialty item between now and your departure creates the perfect opportunity to borrow the desired item from a neighbor. This allows them to meet a need and it opens the door for a conversation about your family’s journey.
As for self-care and cleaning supplies:
- Even if it’s not your favorite cleaner, laundry detergent or shampoo, stop buying more and instead use what you already have on hand. You’ll be surprised how long it might take for you to go through that stash of hotel shampoos or the trial-size toothpaste you get from your dentist.
- This is a great time to research DIY cleaning supplies and simplify your personal care routine.
Here’s a secret: You don’t really need all that stuff you have been told you need to accomplish cleaning. For years now, I have used a hydrogen peroxide and water mixture with a couple of drops of essential oils as my all-purpose cleaner through the whole house.
I’ve also found that an antimicrobial face cloth with water works just as well as those expensive face cleaners that aren’t available for purchase overseas anyway.
just bought our PLANE TICKETS! this move overseas is happening.
How do we juggle what we need without leaving too much to the end?
- Consider moving out of the space you have been living in and shifting to a furnished space the last month before you leave. This could be with friends, family, or at an extended stay hotel.
Doing this allows you to sell remaining furniture, kids’ toys, pots and pans, etc. you won’t be taking. It also forces you to have your bags packed and wrap up as many loose ends as possible, so that, you can enjoy the final goodbyes and interactions with friends and family.
- As your departure to move overseas gets closer, sell or give away everything you don’t plan to take with you. Borrow essential items you still need to use up until departure.
About those suitcases.
- Pack, weigh, and don’t touch those household suitcases until departure day. (Or even better, use heavy-duty bins whose dimensions fit airline guidelines. Zip-tie them closed through holes drilled in the lid and the bin’s upper rim. Tape extras inside the lid for security personnel to use if your bins are searched.)
- Consider making a spreadsheet or list of what’s in each suitcase or bin. You’ll know where to find items when you’ve arrived but can’t completely unpack yet.
- The last few weeks, live out of a different suitcase or two, as if you were on vacation. (Which, in the rest of your reality, will not feel one ounce like vacation.)
- Remember that some airlines do not weigh carry-ons (Google your specific airline). Consider packing a few heavy items (homeschooling books?) in there.
- In a separate carry-on, pack fragile electronics inside. (Unless you want to trust them to be thrown by strangers into a pile?) This way, you’ll also know immediately which carryon to pull electronics out of in airport security, and be able to quickly(-er) repack.
- Make sure you think about and pack a carry-on that will get your family through your travel day as well as an unexpected overnight stay somewhere.
Include all items your family will use the first few days in-country in that carry-on or one suitcase (toiletries, a few outfits for each person, the stuffie your son can’t live without)–as if you were spending a few nights in a hotel. Trust me. It will be wonderful to not unearth tightly-wedged clothing and toothpaste from six different bags.
Relationships before you move overseas
We know that as you move overseas, you’re cutting ties with a lot of things when you say yes to God’s invitation to go overseas.
One very important area to strengthen ties instead is in your relationships with family and friends.
Make it a priority to implement stay-in-touch strategies as you go–and maybe even shoehorn in a few memory-making moments. (One writer from Go. Serve. Love spent their final day in the U.S. at Great Wolf Lodge, the hotel/indoor waterpark, with family.)
Your plans may need to flex with new schedules, internet or electricity availability, etc. when you move overseas. But having a plan in place means you have pieces to shift around rather than starting from scratch when you’re already a hemisphere apart.
- Decide on various technology and programs/apps you plan to use to communicate with friends and family back home (WhatsApp, Blue Jeans, Zoom etc.).
Help people connect with you on these platforms. Make sure everyone is comfortable and familiar with how to use the technology.
- Discuss how you hope to handle communication with time zone differences. For instance, let people know if you will have your notifications turned off at night. They won’t need to worry about sending a message or picture when they think of you in the middle of their day.
- Consider how you can build in regular ways to share life with loved ones back home. This could be enjoying a weekly meal via zoom together, catching up with a friend for a standing “coffee” date or while you go on a walk. Kids might enjoy sharing school work or story time with grandparents.
I know one grandpa and grandson who enjoyed playing games through Board Game Arena every Friday night/Saturday morning. Think: How did you stay connected with others during the pandemic?
- If you will be living in a closed country or sensitive country, you will want to make sure supporters know guidelines for communication and what they can say or share with others. Your sending agency may have suggestions or established guidelines for you to send. Start getting in the habit of using safe terminology and communication methods now.
It’s not just about the stuff
As you sort through your physical belongings to move overseas, you will find that there is an emotional and spiritual work that God does in your heart through this process as well. Scripture reminds us our stuff affects us. Much of our treasure is attached to our hearts, right?
You’re not just letting go of items that hold memories and use. You’re saying goodbye to your mom, who bought that perfect sweater you just can’t wear in Indonesia. Your lifestyle of riding bikes as a family, which may or may not work in Tokyo. The Barbies your daughter loved playing with–but won’t need, since she’s 11 (goodbye, childhood).
All of a sudden, decisions you have been praying and thinking about for years are becoming reality. And the implications of those decisions begin to hit your everyday life. Your emotions are going to feel very raw at times in this process.
So load yourself up with grace even larger amounts of grace. Rest as you need and can; our souls are connected to our bodies. (Opportunities to rest may dwindle significantly until you buckle those airplane seatbelts.)
Never (ever) Alone
Invite the Holy Spirit into the process. Allow Him to guide your decisions. And invite and permit Him to minister to your heart as hurt arises and goodbyes become more frequent.
He’s not standing with arms crossed, suddenly glad you got rid of all that stuff. He might be crying, too, as someone wheels off your son’s favorite ride-on toy at a garage sale for pennies on the dollar–the one your son was steering just the day before. He’s mourning, too, as you sell the tools you loved to use in the garage on a peaceful Saturday.
Invite Him along this road. Tell him your story–not unlike Jesus’ followers walking on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).
He will walk with you through the loss, and walk with you to the unblushing reward.
And everyone who has left houses
or brothers or sisters or father
or mother or children or lands,
for my name’s sake,
will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
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