Expat Story: “Less is More”
Eight times – that’s the number of moves expat Linda Rinn had made in the past six years! If there’s one big life lesson she has learned through this process, it’s this…
“Like many expats, it sometimes feels like my life consists of moving… right now I’m on eight moves and counting! I don’t enjoy the process of moving, even if the end result is living in a great new country. Just the thought of putting every single thing I own, one by one into boxes, and then having to unpack each item again is daunting.
Right before my most recent move, however, I discovered something that might seem scary at first, but that helped me through the packing process and even saved me money: essentialism – the little helper that makes the expat’s life easier.
As opposed to minimalism, essentialism is all about owning the essentials, not owning as little as humanly possible. So please do not picture an empty white room! In this mindset, owning only the things that are essential to you means less clutter, less stress, less discontent, and fewer distractions. While I don’t consider myself an essentialist (not even close!), the idea is tremendously helpful to my expat life.
When you move a lot, owning less helps
No matter whether I am travelling for a weekend, or a few weeks, or relocating my whole life, packing only the essentials helps – physically, financially and mentally. If an item doesn’t serve a purpose or bring me joy, I don’t actually need it. And packing up and moving only the essentials will save me effort, time and money.
When we travel, we can go weeks with a lot less than we have at home. For me, it’s just one (big!) suitcase, and when I unpack it after a long trip, I am always amazed by the huge wardrobe full of all the extra clothes that I have just lived perfectly well without. Having some distance from my possessions makes me realize I really don’t need all the things I own. This always makes a big clear-out a lot easier! I just have to make sure I get to it immediately, before I become re-accustomed to having so many clothes.
As an expat, essentialism is both really easy and really hard
Because I move a lot, I automatically have many opportunities to purge the house. On the other hand, because I can’t see my friends and family very often, I tend to hold on to less useful material things that remind me of home.
Selling or donating non-essential possessions works really well for me before a big move, because (a) with a set deadline, I am motivated to get it all done on time, (b) it is easier to give a “mediocre” item away when I suddenly have to put a lot of time and effort into bringing it with me, and (c) I know for a fact that a major declutter after the move is never going to happen! I won’t find the time between adjusting to the new job and creating a new network. It’s now or never.
I still have a long way to go until I own only the essentials. But I’ve noticed that every little purge helps – even if I’m just going through one drawer. The process has been made a bit easier with books like Greg Mckeown’s Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, which remind me that letting go of excess things will benefit my mental and physical health… and leave me with more time for the important things in life.”
Have you embraced a “lighter” life, with fewer possessions? Please share your thoughts about owning just the right amount of stuff below. If you’re keen to get regular tips like this on expat life, subscribe to our fortnightly newsletter.
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For a number of reasons I’ve been living with relatively little for a decade now. I still do not miss my pretty extensive library. In fact all I miss are a few wall decorations I parted with a few years ago (complicated story). A few of them were true works of art. But all in all I’m doing pretty fine. I would say all my worldly possessions take up together less than 2m3 (20ft3). And that it includes a pretty bulky printer ;-).
What I do miss though is a spacious house or apartment. Perhaps because I grew up in pretty spacious free standing house.
I’m actually looking forward to my next move! Been living here for nearly 2 years. Time for a change it feels. Even though I am pretty happy camper not only in the moderately sized apartment where I live but also the city & country. Must be the wanderer in me (it would be the 20th+ time I move in just over half a century).
More than 20 moves in half a century! Well, if YOU have any tips for us on downsizing and essentialism, do share! It’s funny also how the things we think we’ll miss, we often don’t.
Thank you for your comment – I always enjoy your contributions.