Downsizing Part 2: Simplifying Closets and Kitchen

Reading Time: 5 minutes


Go. Serve. Love is loving this new series on simplifying 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? First, and overall–

Make a conscious decision to NOT JUST SIMPLIFY, BUT live simply.

Use what you have on hand. Embrace living life with fewer options.

And right now, start giving items away that you no longer need or use.

Don’t get hung up on where to donate as you simplify. Even if you don’t know the ideal person to give something to or the organization that specifically needs an item, trust that God will bless the right person through a general donation to your local thrift store.

And (Jesus) said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15

Keep your donation options simple. Choose a charity that accepts most items and is on your normal weekly travel route.

Return items you’Ve borrowed.

For possessions that have value or meaning to individuals or groups, such as work or school branded items, you can donate those back to that organization.

Part now with items you only use occasionally.

Plan to borrow those items from friends or family if needed before your departure.

Start making use of your trash company’s free bulk pick-up days to get rid of larger items.

Pay attention to free community shred days as you purge your files.


If you aren’t already 100% digital media, moving overseas is going to push you that way completely. Now is the time to shift all books, movies, and music to digital format.

Donate or give away your book collection.

Those physical books may carry some nostalgia and coziness, but books get heavy quickly in luggage.

Research your best option for audio or digital books, as well as great free library resources to access using your passport country’s permanent address or a generous friend’s library card.

Between now and departure you can make use of your local library for a bag of books your kids will enjoy each week.

Now’s a great time to start asking relatives and friends to record themselves reading a favorite picture book to your kids.

Use the videos for a storytime your kids will enjoy now and overseas with the familiar voices of those they love.

Digitize any physical photo albums that you want to access overseas.

Purge photos on your phone and establish an ongoing photo storage system, as well as a secondary backup photo system accessible from anywhere in the case of a quick country departure.

Back up your computer.

This includes all files and photos to an external hard drive. Between power, crime, and other unexpected events overseas, storing this drive in a separate spot from your computer is wise. As is updating that backup regularly: Consider setting a reminder on your phone.

Explore whether you will need a VPN

…so you can continue to make use of streaming subscriptions in your new nation–provided unlimited, high-speed internet is affordable and accessible.

Get cookin’ on kitchen cleanin.’

Simplifying right now forces you to LIVE closer to what life will be like overseas.

Learn to do things with your basic kitchen tools. Lose the extraneous gadgets.

Ask teammates and other expats in the region what kitchen items will be poor quality or unavailable for purchase.

Use up what you have in the pantry. Throw out expired items and donate items you won’t use to your local food pantry.

As you use up processed and prepackaged foods and seasoning envelopes, embrace making things from scratch. (Check out our post on 21 Recipes for Food You Used to Buy.)

And while you’re there–bag up expired medicine, both prescription and over-the-counter, and take it to your local police station or pharmacy for safe disposal.

Cut back to only your most-used pans and baking dishes (though when it comes to packing, know that baking dishes may be readily available, and heavy and/or fragile to lug with you).

Place settings for everyday dishes will be available overseas (they eat there, too!), and easier to buy than gobbling up precious luggage weight with what may break.


On that note, some items are simply cheaper to repurchase in-country, supporting your new nation’s economy.

Just because you already own a comforter doesn’t mean “simplifying” looks like hauling that beast overseas–particularly because your climate or washing/drying options may look so different.

Similarly, any heat-bearing appliances–from the kitchen, bathroom, or otherwise–will likely only be fried by another form of electrical current, so consider purchasing them in your host nation.

Look into the proper converter/adapter and plug for other electronics, especially your computer, realizing power surges may shorten their life span considerably. Always use a surge protector (purchased in your host nation) when using sensitive electronics.

START SIMPLIFYING clothes like a pro.

Quickly go through your closet and remove anything you have not worn in the past year, anything that has damage (holes, frayed portions, stains) or anything you don’t feel good in.

Bag it up and get it out of the house the same day by dropping it at your favorite charity.

You really can get by with fewer clothes. Start simplifying by focusing on basics that you can easily mix and match. Research shows that people wear 20% of the items in their closet 80% of the time.

I love this printable graph to determine how much clothing you actually need.

How could your wardrobe changE?

Find out about the climate where you are going–and how the culture dresses or finds acceptable: Some may dress more formally, or never wear shorts or leggings, or expect women to wear skirts of a certain length, or even undergarments, like a slip.

You may be interested in chatting with existing missionaries there about clothing they’ve found helpful–perhaps high-quality shoes that stand up to unpaved roads, or wicking clothing to beat the heat, or clothes that won’t wear out terribly with handwashing.

How do veteran missionaries from your area replenish their clothes when they’re back on home assignment?

A heads up on personal style

Sometimes factors like these lead to certain styles around global workers (like that classic “missionary chic” of Tevas or Chacos, cargo pants, long skirts, hiking wear). Not that your goal is primarily to fit in with other missionaries! (Think of Hudson Taylor styling his hair in the Chinese queue, and wearing Chinese-style dress.)

Just know your personal style may adapt to your new culture and to what’s practical.

So that fave hoodie or pair of power heels you wish you could be buried in? They may not get as much love as they used to–and years later, may not hold the same charm as when you slid them into storage.

Because you, and not just your style, are going to change.

Get rid of seasonal clothes that you won’t need (too cold! Too hot!) or pair down to the basics if you don’t yet know your departure date.

If your host climate won’t require, say, a winter coat but you live in, oh, Toronto or Witchita, consider storing your coat and a few warm outfits at the place you’re most likely to stay during a home assignment.

What will your new culturally appropriate wardrobe look like? Which clothes items are readily available where you will be living, and which items do you need to bring with you?

Purge and adjust your wardrobe accordingly.


Once you’ve done these, dust off your hands and enjoy that expansive feeling that comes with so much less stuff weighing you down.

You might never want it all back.

Join us next week for part 3.

And tell us: What strategies help you in simplifying?

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