How We Downsized, Sold And Got Rid Of Our Stuff Before We Moved To France For A Year

How to downsize your stuff before you move to france for a year

Unless you have no belongings whatsoever, you’re going to have to decide what to do with all your stuff. Do you sell it all and give the rest away? Do you get rid of  some stuff and keep the rest in storage? Do you keep it all and rent your home fully furnished?  Whatever you decide, you’re in for a painful experience because there is no “one size fits all” answer. You will have to decide based on your circumstances and situation. Sometimes it helps to know what someone else went through and learn from their successes and failures. Here is an inside look at how we downsized our belongings and life. I hope it helps and gives you a little perspective.

You have more stuff than you think

We were your typical silicon valley family of five living in a house with a lifetime worth of possessions that we had accumulated. Every inch of our 1,800 sq ft home AND our two car garage was filled with our things.

A funny thing happens when you move. Things that seemed necessary before now seem silly or unnecessary like those knick-knacks sitting on your bookshelf. That dress you never wore. Those toys you bought for your kids but they never played with.

You will ultimately come to the realization that you have a lot more things than you ever really needed.

Give yourself enough time

QUICK! You have 5 days left to pack when you realize the truck you rented won’t fit all your belongings. What do you do?

Packing started a month before our move date. When our things were spread out throughout the house it didn’t look like much.  Even boxed up it didn’t look like that much. Oh how wrong we were. We quickly began to panic because it became clear that we grossly underestimated how much we had.

  • we did not give ourselves enough time to pack.
  • We didn’t realize until the very end that the truck we rented was too small even though it was the largest one we could legally rent.

After 5 trips to the dump and several trips to Goodwill to get rid of broken bikes, a small dining room table, an old safe, bike racks, tons of toys, books, clothes and more.  Things we had in our house for years but never bothered to get rid of were now just weighing us down. Even after all that, we still had to rent a second 16 footer to put in the last minute stuff.

Let me tell you something: you have more stuff than you think and you don’t need it all.

Really! Do you need that dress that’s been hanging in your closet for 3 years untouched? Do you need those books you read 10 years ago and haven’t touched in years?  What about all those kitchen gadgets that you use once a year or the shoes you never wear anymore?  These things, although very important at one time, seem less important when you are trying to pack them into boxes on a truck and have 5 days left to do it.

The 3,000 mile drive to our storage unit

After we filled up our two trucks, my husband Blake drove one truck and his brother Keith, who thankfully flew down 3 days earlier to help with the packing, drove the other truck. Our eldest son Kieran went along for the ride. They drove 8 to 10 hours a day for five days only stopping to eat, sleep and use the restroom.  They arrived at the storage unit just outside of Boston and discovered the storage unit we had reserved was too small so we had to rent a second one.

UGH…  How did this happen? 

We greatly underestimated the quantity of things we owned and now we were paying with time and the cost of an extra storage unit and extra truck.

We swallowed our pride, and convinced ourselves that it was temporary. We needed all that stuff for our next house, wherever and whenever that would be.

At the time we did not know we were going to live in France for a couple of years. We planned on hanging out in Montreal with my family while we waited for Blake to find a job then rent a house near his work. Well the job never came.

We survived 11 months in Montreal at my aunts house with only our clothes and a few essentials. I was surprised that I did not miss our stuff. How could this be?

what do you get rid of when you downsize? tiara we bought in Scotland. do we keep it or get rid of it?

Some things are harder to let go of than other things

Rethinking what is essential and normal

When you are away from your possessions for any amount of time, they tend to become less and less important.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a minimalist in any way, but I really took a hard look at my life.  Blake and I re-examined our goals and we started coming up with alternative ideas to the 9 to 5 rat race we were once a part of.  We couldn’t live at my aunts house forever.  Our choices were to move somewhere and hope we get a job there?  Or stick it out by living with family until something happens.

That’s when we thought about taking a sabbatical for a few months, maybe even a year in France.  We were already living pretty lean, why not do it someplace that we want to be and enjoy ourselves instead of stressing out over not having full time jobs. It meant giving up some things and putting off our job search.  It meant thinking more mobile, cutting costs, and only keeping the essentials.   The choice was easy.  We decided to go for it.

Round 2 of Downsizing for France.

If we were going to live in France for a year we had to pare down our belongings even more and fit everything into one storage unit.

We drove about 5 hours  (from Montreal to Boston)  to our storage unit and stayed at a comfort in for 2 days. Re-packed some boxes that were inefficiently packed, took all our clothes out of storage and got rid of at least 200 hundred pounds of books.  We were left with  2 dressers and 3 beds. Some Persian rugs, kitchen stuff like dishes, pots and pans, and some coffee tables and furniture from Blake’s Mom that we kept for sentimental reasons.  We sold our couch, one of my industrial sewing machines and went through our shoes and clothes to get rid of anything we wouldn’t wear anymore.

We did it. We fit everything into one storage unit saving a couple hundred dollars per month.

The whole family got involved with the move

The whole family got involved with the move

Fear is in your head

I am not going to lie. I was scared at the thought of downsizing and yes it was very painful but the pain stops once you’re done.It’s actually been really nice to have the freedom to come and go as we please.

Once your downsized, you can move on to the fun stuff like planning your long trip to France or wherever it is you want to go.  Your belongings are no longer anchoring you down anymore.

we wore mittens too and sang the blues

we wore mittens and sang the blues

Catherine was excited

Catherine was excited

Update: 2014

I wrote this article 1 year after our move. Now after almost four years without our belongings I can still look back and honestly say I don’t miss MOST of our stuff but.

Yes there is a but there. One year without your belongings is not the same thing as four years without your belongings.

I am now starting to miss certain creature comforts. Silly things like my dishware and my teak furniture. We could buy those things while we are here in France but we don’t because we want to avoid that whole downsizing process when we return to North America. Instead we rent fully furnished homes which has worked out pretty well so far except like I said, I am starting to miss certain things.

I’ll get over it. Life isn’t perfect but it’s pretty damn good!

We ate and drank while we filled our storage unit

We ate and drank while we filled our storage unit

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