The emotional side of downsizing

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How to declutter for a move overseas

Our stuff has an interesting grip on us. My ‘blankie’ from childhood is probably my most prized possession and if you told me that I’d have to move into a space that couldn’t accommodate that item I’d probably refuse to relocate.

But it’s rarely just about one small, stuffable item.

What about the photo albums? The trinkets? Granny’s armoire and the pillows you got on your honeymoon in Thailand. The china set from your mother and the collection of coats you’ve been adding to for years.

What if – when the time comes to move – you simply can’t fit it all? It’s easy when we move into a larger space and can just keep spreading and growing and filling. But what about if you choose to downsize? Where does it all go then?

Rest assured, releasing our attachment to things, while emotionally challenging, is not impossible. With the right mindset it can be incredibly liberating, in fact. You might find downsizing to be the best thing to ever happen to you!

Consider the following:

When you release your attachment to one thing, you create space for another. Sometimes both the emotional and physical connection we have to something becomes more of an anchor than a buoy.

Your memories are not physically attached to an item. While the best meal of your life might have been consumed off of that lemon yellow plate, you don’t need the plate to remember the meal. Why not document the experience onto something of a smaller size (like a notebook?) to keep the taste alive?

Those items you’re keeping “just in case”? Keep in mind that you’re holding on to them in the name of lies. That’s right. Our brain likes to tell us all kinds of crazy stories about what the future might hold to keep us ‘safe’. It’s an evolutionary thing, yes, but it’s also carried over into our daily lives in a way that can feel repressive or constraining. Really get clear about the reason you’re holding on to things and ask yourself, “Is this true? What’s the best decision I can make for myself based on what I know now?”
Appreciate the liberation and mental beauty of creating space. For every item you’re pulling out of the boxes, ask yourself, “is keeping this here worth more than the free space it will consume?” The more deliberate you can be with your thinking the more truly you your new space will be.

By Allegra Stein

Allegra Stein, The Relocation Coach, helps takes relocations from regrettable to revelatory, teaching you how to use geographic change as a way of learning more about who you are, how you think, and what you want out of life. You can find her at and on twitter @allegrastein



Expatability Chat Podcast

If you’d prefer to listen to me talk about this topic, here is my podcast episode with tried and tested decluttering tips:

Clearing the Clutter

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