The C Family’s International Relocation | Keep, Store, Give Away, Sell: where’s our stuff?

Looking back at our timeline, the process went fairly smoothly.  Looking at it from April, when we accepted the job, was a whole different story.  I was not sure what we were getting into: our first move as a married couple to an international location with an infant child.  Fortunately, I found quite a few resources online for expats.  I was grateful to glean from those who had gone before us.  I particularly enjoyed some blogs I found with recommendations on how to go about preparing for an international move.

Let’s Play Categories

Most posts recommended that we start as soon as possible to prepare our home and belongings for the move and that we start categorizing all our goods into three main categories:

  1. Take with us
  2. Store
  3. Get rid of

We found that those categories needed to be broken down into more granular categories for our purposes.

  1. Take with us
    • 1a. Send to the Bahamas (Taken by the movers on May 31)
    • 1b. Keep for the summer (Packed in suitcases and kept in the car so movers wouldn’t inadvertently take it)
  2. Store
    • 2a. Store long-term at a parents’ home (Packed by movers into rental truck, destination: Hendersonville)
    • 2b. Lend to family until we return (Packed by movers into rental truck, destination: Atlanta)
  3. Get rid of
    • 3a. Donate to Goodwill (So grateful for the easy drop-off Goodwill donation site on Shepherd Rd in Houston)
    • 3b. Give away to friends/family (Many items to friends in Houston, other items sent by moving truck to family in Atlanta, Nashville)
    • 3c. Sell (Craigslist, A few things to family)

The Method to our Madness

Deciding on what to do with each thing we owned was madness.  It takes so much time!  But we forged ahead into the uncharted territory of sifting through our simple-but-complicated piles of belongings.  Our apartment in Houston was the only place we had lived as a married couple and where we brought home our first child from the hospital, so one big task was to tackle the associated piles and to-do lists.  Wedding cards, leftover wedding supplies, unwritten thank you notes from baby gifts, pregnancy books and guides, baby gift and card miscellany, and clothes.  This part felt empowering because I had struggled to come up with the motivation to tackle the hidden piles previously.  I created a “baby memories” box, a “newborn/pregnancy supplies” box, and a “wedding memories” box while parting with the majority of our cards from each event.

When the clutter started to clear, I started feeling anxious to pack things up.  The blessing of having movers, however, creates the issue that nothing ACTUALLY gets packed until moving day.  If you want to pack things on your own, moving companies often won’t carry them because they don’t want to insure something they haven’t packed.  So we used a few tactics that helped me feel like I was accomplishing something when nothing looked different.

  • T and I started “talking” through every room in the house.  We talked about what should go in each category.
  • I manually sorted through each cabinet and drawer in the kitchen, putting a sticky note on each one with notes about which category its belongings fell into.
  • I took pictures of all the furniture/items we wanted to lend/sell/give to family and posted them into an online album for our sisters to comment on.
  • We sorted through our winter clothes, which were earmarked in about 1/3’s: donate, store, and take to the Bahamas (for trips back to the states in the winter).

Where Did It All End Up?

Don’t worry, I won’t list the entire contents of our house, but I will mention in general what our decisions were.

1a. Take to the Bahamas

The blogs I read really helped me decide what to bring to the Bahamas, which I appreciated because T’s company’s recommendation was, “We have no rule of thumb, other than to be as helpful as possible to you and that you ship within reason…For example, we are happy to move personal affects for life’s comfort, but things like the family estate furniture should be left behind in safe storage.”  I don’t want to sound ungrateful to his company, only to emphasize that we didn’t have a great basis for what to bring or not bring and what was “within reason.”  I was very grateful for other bloggers who had made recommendations before us.

We moved into a furnished apartment, so we didn’t need to bring much with us.  The major items we brought were

  • All baby items and furniture: crib, glider, toys, books, pack-n-play, etc.
  • Most of our books (our collection isn’t very large)
  • Almost all small-to-medium framed photographs and artwork (a recommendation I read to help us feel more at home)
  • All summer clothes that weren’t deemed necessary for the summer in TN, a small selection of winter clothes, maternity clothes
  • All Christmas decorations (another recommendation I received, which I am quite grateful for, as we plan to spend the holiday here this year)
  • Assorted kitchen supplies (not necessarily my absolute favorite supplies but ones that I didn’t think would be supplied in the kitchen)
      • Kitchenaid mixer
      • 7 qt Le Creuset French Oven (my favorite favorite)
      • A few good knives
      • Cookbooks
      • Specialty pans: mini bread loaf pan, springform pan, tart pan
      • A few tools such as microplane, French rolling pin, and tongs
      • Ninja food processor/blender/T’s smoothie maker

1b. Take for the Summer

We mostly just toted around our clothes in three suitcases for the summer along with our electronics (laptops, phones, external hard drives, etc).  We relied heavily on our parents’ baby supplies, which was a real blessing.  T’s mom kept their crib in storage all these years, and KLC slept well there.  My parents invested in a pack-n-play, which we used at their house, in Wisconsin, and during a trip to Atlanta.  We did have one extra bag for KLC’s cloth diapers, which we used three-quarters of the time over the summer.  Continuing cloth diapering was probably worth the hassle, but in hind sight it was something I could have shipped ahead of us to simplify our lives a bit. On the other hand, it’s very nice to have diapers available without a trip to the store in the midst of a stressful day or week.

One other blessing was keeping T’s car through the summer so we had a way to tote our stuff without as much unloading and reloading and the inevitable misplacement of items.

Take it with us: Recap

As I reflect on what we brought with us, I find that we are happy with our choices.  I use some things here much more frequently than I used them in Texas, like our cookbooks, because I am at home and we are committed to eating in for most meals.  I love having our pictures on the walls including our sign that my sister A got us, “Welcome to the C Residence, established 2011” and the framed sketch of the Stanford chapel that my sister K got us.  I am especially glad for all of KLC’s things we brought along, and it has been fun watching her start to engage with many of the toys and books we’ve received.

I’ll continue this discussion next time with what we stored and what we got rid of.

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