Too Much Stuff!
November 8, 2008 4:03 PM   Subscribe

Less than six months before moving internationally - how do I manage all my stuff?

I just completed my degree and am waiting for graduation in March. I'm doing some uni research work over the holidays - I don't know yet how long the work will go for, but it typically lasts till Dec/Jan. I might then go home for a short while and return for graduation, or just stay in Australia until graduation day, when my visa stops being valid.

What do I do with all the stuff I acquired? Specifically, what's the best plan of action I can take that won't add extra stress (with this research work and all) but also won't leave me with too much to do before I have to leave the country?

The complicating factor here is that I've suddenly been evicted from my earlier room rental and have to find somewhere else to stay in a week. (I'm currently at my boyfriend's place.) This makes it harder to go through my stuff thoroughly, as I'm only back at the ex-house for a few hours a day (I don't trust the houseowner much anymore and feel unsafe there). So I have about a week to pack everything up, including things I likely won't need, and chuck it somewhere. There is a possibility of me moving back to college till February, or else there's private rental.

I have tons of books, some clothes, some electrical goods (fan, iron, kettle), accessories, toiletries, and other miscellania. Also LOTS of paper.

* What do I absolutely need to keep? Certificates, bank statements, anything else?
* I've been trying to get rid of some of my books through BookMooch, but they're not all going and I end up getting more. I've tried selling them to a second-hand bookstore and got measly returns. What else can I do?
* My friend might organise a garage sale soon, and I was thinking of selling off some things. I know the electric goods would go OK, and perhaps some of the books/clothes/media, but how about half-used toiletries (shampoos, creams, etc)? Magazines? Shoes?
* How do I get rid of any leftover dry food?
* I'm thinking of sea-frieghting some of my things back to Malaysia. However, I'm worried that Malaysia Post will lose them (it has happened), and I'm not sure if registered & insuring them will be worth the cost. What are some good strategies to ensure my things get home?

If you've had to move back home after international (or just outstation) work/study/travel, how did you deal with your things? What was your goal with your things? Did you get any return? Is it worth trying to get money, or am I better off just giving things away (and to who?)?
posted by divabat to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Books - Anything that doesn't sell give away

Clothes - Take with you, ebay, charity shop

Toiletries - Run down any stocks and be sure to only buy the smaller bottles as you get towards the end of your stay. I'd actually be inclined to take the rest (which should now not be very much) with you as you'll only have to replace it and this will add to the considerable cost of that first shopping trip in your new location.

Food - Use up and make sure you've got very little/nothing left. Give anything you cannot use away.

Not sure what you mean with a lot of paper - any non essential documents get rid off. Consider scanning anything you think you will still need as it is a lot more portable in digital format.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:20 PM on November 8, 2008

Getting rid of stuff
Uni notice boards

Giving stuff away doesn't get you any money, but it's quick and easy and cheap. Freecycle is great for that, because the people even come and get it.
posted by b33j at 4:25 PM on November 8, 2008

Set yourself a mental rule for what's worth it to you in terms of time to spend selling something. Maybe you'll decide anything that's going to net you less than $50 isn't worth the effort. Or anything that's going to net you less than $10 isn't worth the effort. Where your level is at will depend on how much you need the money and how much you value your time. Give all of the things that aren't going to get you that money away for free on freecycle, Craigslist, to a charity shop or wherever else you can get rid of them. Try not to think too hard about what you spent on those things in the first place -- books especially offer a ridiculously non-existent rate of return, and if you just think 'I was only going to get $1 for this, so I may as well give it away', you'll be a lot less sad than if you think 'By god, this text book was $87 when I bought it! How can I give it away?'
posted by jacquilynne at 5:01 PM on November 8, 2008

I have tons of books, some clothes, some electrical goods (fan, iron, kettle), accessories, toiletries, and other miscellania. Also LOTS of paper.

I would suggest getting rid of EVERYTHING except the most necessary of necessary papers, and possibly the books. Be very selective about clothes (if you move internationally, you will probably find yourself wanting clothes more specific to the new place, and to your new stage in life) rather than sentimental. Toiletries, use up and discard; if you have extras see if a local women's shelter can use them.

For food, do you have a Food Not Bombs or similar group locally -- grassroots/anarchist soup kitchen people? They may be willing to accept and put to good use food that a more formalized charity could not.

Electrics -- sell at a garage sale, give them away, donate to charity. New stuff is so cheap now that used kettles and the like will have very little value, so don't agonize over selling this.

The only thing I would ship (because shipping is expensive and, as you know, risky) is the books. In many countries, shipping crates of books (and only books) is really cheap -- there are special rates for printed matter. The reason to do this would simply be that academic and English-language books can be really expensive and hard to find in non-English-dominant countries. If there is any chance of you wanting these books for your work, or for when you go back to school, shipping them probably makes sense. (Assuming, of course, that we are talking about books that are meaningful to you -- your five shelves of romance novels that you bought at a garage sale are probably not so worth shipping.)

Papers, you probably don't need a tenth of what you think you do. Keep documents relating to visa and immigration status; tax records; etc. But toss class notes (unless you are going to go to grad school in that subject in the next year, and even then you don't need your undergraduate notes), all those piles of photocopied articles, etc. If you have important journals or magazines relating to your work, those might be worth shipping with your books, but only you can judge that. Everything else, put in the recycle bins and don't look back.
posted by Forktine at 5:07 PM on November 8, 2008

Response by poster: How about marked assignments? Keep or toss? I'm inclined to toss, but I keep worrying that I'll need them someday to prove a grade or something.
posted by divabat at 5:48 PM on November 8, 2008

Marked Assignments - I scanned in the syllabus and and any major term papers/essays for each class, then saved it all on an external hard drive. There's only been a couple of times, actually, when someone wanted to see anything from that stuff - usually for transfer credit or confirming prereq requirements.
posted by HopperFan at 6:43 PM on November 8, 2008

How about marked assignments? Keep or toss?

Toss, toss, a thousand times toss. Sure, keep electronic copies of essays, but for the vast, vast majority of people (all of us who are not prodigies, basically), the chance of ever needing an undergraduate paper is less than zero. Keep the things with value to your work or future school (which might be books, journals, etc) and toss the things that you will never look at again -- class notes, assignments, random handouts, photocopies of book sections, etc.

(Keep your diploma, though, as well as a hard copy or three of your transcript or whatever paperwork you will need for applying to grad school down the road -- those are a real pain in the neck to get hold of from another country: "Sure, we can mail that right out, after you drop off a local check and sign the form in front of the registrar.")
posted by Forktine at 6:45 PM on November 8, 2008

Oh, HopperFan makes a really good point -- keep or scan syllabi. They are how you prove what a class covered, which helps when you are trying to get out of pre-reqs down the road, and they are a great resource if you end up teaching, or even working in a field connected to your classes.
posted by Forktine at 6:46 PM on November 8, 2008

Response by poster: Ah bugger! our syllabi are all digital, and I hardly ever printed them. Two classes that I took aren't offered anymore. Hmm.

good to know that I can toss a lot of my assignments out though. They are on my computer somewhere anyway so if I need them again I can get to them.
posted by divabat at 6:50 PM on November 8, 2008

Toss your assignments. If you want your course guides, contact the administration (ie clerks, not Head of Department) for your school and ask for them. They can look up your studies report to see you are who you say you are, and it will be much easier now than in 4 years time (for them - because the courses might be dropped) or whenever you might need to ask for them. I use to have those kind of requests at UQ not infrequently (3 or 4 times a year). If your administration is less than helpful, contact your lecturers for those courses and they should send you the most recent version. However, the course profile, rather than the study guide should be sufficient for everything you need, and most often, the course description online will do.

Anything you can scan into a PDF (ie notes), do so. It's not worth shipping, and you'll probably never look at them again. I've been to uni three times and NEVER referred to any past assignments ever. I have occasionally used the same reference, but I save journal articles electronically with keywords, so, not a problem. Unless assignments are portfolio material, dump 'em.
posted by b33j at 10:21 PM on November 8, 2008

nth toss your assignments, but I'd strongly suggest getting more stamped and sealed copies of your transcript than you think you'll ever need. Getting more from a university abroad can be a royal pain. Also, definitely get scanned course listings - your library might keep old course catalogues.

I love my books and journal articles. I ended up binding the articles and shipping them with my books. The US post office had a ridiculously cheap ground shipping deal (M-Bags) for printed material. Australia might have something similar. I didn't think I'd ever use any of this material. As it happened I was wrong: I referred to them for work, and students from under-stocked universities here in Pakistan still come by and borrow books and papers that aren't available here.
posted by tavegyl at 10:36 PM on November 8, 2008

You're in the best possible position for moving overseas: you do not have furniture or large electrical goods.

I keep worrying that I'll need them someday to prove a grade or something.

I'm getting the feeling you're more of a hoarder than a dumper from that, and that when in doublt, you're going to be more inclined to keep than toss.

Get over that inclination.

When I did a similar move, I moved with one duffle bag of books I wanted to keep, and a suitcase of clothing. Not once in the 15 years since have I thought "Damn, I really wish I'd kept that X." Life is long and you accumulate a lot of shit along the way. Take every God-given opportunity to purge that comes along.

Give away your few small electricals the day before you move, pack the clothes and toiletries you really want to keep, make one folder of essential paperwork (recent bank statements, transcripts, etc) and recycle, donate or throw out everything else.

If you can't get over the "waste" than plant a tree or something.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:38 AM on November 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Been there. If you have six months, and want to save all that paper, consider having it scanned in bulk and put in a digital format. Or buy a scanner with a sheet feeder, tear out all the staples, and do a batch every night until it is done. Bank statements? Same. Magazines? Run through them and tear out the best articles. Maybe scan them, toss the rest.

For your immediate situation, rent a storage unit for a few months. It's $50 per month or so, but it gives you the freedom to sort through everything at your own pace without crowding your friends with all your stuff, or needlessly tossing things just to pare down.

For all the last minute stuff you'll inevitably have on that last week but still need to get rid of, here's what we did: host a going-away party and raffle everything off to your guests. Then it is their problem!

Books? Well, we shipped ours (a metric boatload) over the ocean, and will do it again soon. Bad idea. But we love our books. Solicit a bunch of quotes from shippers. It might be much cheaper in this economic environment to ship overseas, because the supply of ships is so high while the demand for shipment is so low.

btw, the implications of that link are terrifying, but I don't want to derail...
posted by fatllama at 2:49 AM on November 9, 2008

Donate to a women's shelter (clothes) or library (non-textbooks in decent condition, not outdated) or to a homeless/halfway house (small kitchen appliances? call ahead and ask) or just give stuff away, set it outside your house in a box marked "FREE."

To minimize the stress, look at the situation this way: by giving away items, you're ensuring that whoever receives the items will be happy to have them. (nota bene: obviously don't bother donating complete junk!) You know how great you feel when you find something awesome and cheap? -- a valuable/favorite book for $1, a beautiful dress at a resale shop, an old bookcase for free when you needed any kind of bookcase, etc. . . . (It's weird but I remember the origins of all my possessions, especially when it was some sort of miracle or incredible deal.)

So to give this stuff in the right direction, think of who might be thrilled to receive it -- or, barring that, who would at least be able to use it. You'll be creating that same "Wow, is this really FREE?" experience for a ton of other people.

Last note: don't feel bad if you don't get through everything in time -- if you don't sort through all of your papers, just put them in boxes and have them stored somewhere. No fuss. (If you really did take care of 100% of EVERYTHING, you would be in an incredibly small minority of people.)
posted by oldtimey at 8:22 AM on November 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I moved from the US to Seoul about 7 1/2 months ago, and was allowed all of 2 suitcases and a carry-on for the flight. Needless to say, your priorities become a little clearer when you realize how little that is for a year (or more).

Wherever you go, you'll almost certainly have the ability to procure what you need to live in the new place. Be thinking about what clothes you'll need while working or are out on the town. That might mean your nicer clothes for work and some casual clothes for the weekend or relaxing times. Also remember the climate change, if there is one.

I donated a LOT of stuff to Goodwill - 3 very large grocery bags of clothes in one last-minute trip, along with a few other smaller trips. Most of the furniture was left with the old roommate, who would've had nothing had I parted with it.

Documents: birth certificate, drivers license, other identification papers, college diplomas, transcripts, and so on kept in a water-tight and sealed envelope. For those things important to your life in your home country (bank statements, credit card statements) - consider whether that bank statement from 8 (or even ONE) year ago really needs to be kept. Ask yourself if you'll need it where you're going, or what you would need it for going forward from this day on. Buy a shredder and don't look back.

Craigslist was THE way for getting rid of things cheaply. Put a price tag with the 'must go by' date, offer a phone number (I've had few problems with spam since it's so laughably obvious) and a price that you'd buy it for even if you didn't need it. When in doubt (or if it's not worth the money and time for craigslist), set it out by the dumpster and see how long it takes someone to claim it. One man's trash....

Books: Don't worry about them UNLESS you KNOW you'll be teaching from them or referring from them. Find a friend to keep them for you and ship them to you as you request (this, of course, might be in exchange for something or simply the prestige of adding to their own book collection). I brought zero books with me, bought one at the airport on a whim to have something to read during the flight, and haven't missed the ones I left / donated.

Toiletries: once again, you'll find the country you're going to usually has shampoo and hair gel / wax. Take this as an opportunity to give up a couple of your old habits / brands as you prepare to move forward. Anything special, expensive, or important to get right (contact lens solution) should be brought in whatever quantity you can manage. Other stuff: bring enough for a week.

One final note: BACKUP YOUR COMPUTER. Two different sources. Two different types of sources. DVD-R and USB flash drive. Setup a remote server if you like. More and more of our lives - and important data - is online / digital, and this stuff can be accumulated without much consequence to you. As a result of my forgetting to backup, I have lost about 4 years of photos prior to my current trip. Put the DVD-R / USB flash drive in the folder with your irreplaceable documents - they're just as valuable.
posted by chrisinseoul at 8:38 AM on November 9, 2008

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