Anchors Aweigh!

We are preparing to set sail and that means downsizing and minimizing and otherwise cutting the ties we have here in Singapore.

Most people we speak to are very puzzled by our plan to sell everything. For the most part, expats change countries accompanied by container-loads of stuff. We plan to change countries with as little as possible for two main reasons — we’re paying for this relocation ourselves and we only intend to stay in Chiang Mai for six months, then move on again. It seems like a waste of money and effort to drag “stuff” around with us.

And so we have spent several evenings hunched over our laptops uploading photographs of our stuff.

I was the art director from hell. Darling Man took photographs of things while I was at work and I came home to tell him we couldn’t use the photo of our bamboo cabinet piled high with junk or the photo of our unmade bed with a pile of folding in the background.

I told him that we are selling an ideal, the concept of beautiful uncluttered living. As sellers we have to appear organised and unhurried, not messy and in a desperate hurry to leave the country. And so, to take uncluttered pictures, we have to move our clutter out of shot. Mounds of stuff have been moved to the table, the couch and the floor.

It’s this mounded stuff that is going to prove the most difficult to get rid of. It’s stuff that we’ve put up high, out of the baby’s reach. And once it’s within reach, she’s into it.

As Darling Man and I frown at furniture and discuss lighting and angles and backgrounds, the dreaded toddler dives into the forbidden. We find her drinking sunscreen, putting coins in her mouth, smearing body lotion into the couch, ripping bills in half, rubbing lip balm into her ear and marching around with a business card tucked under her arm, a ballpoint pen in her fist and a devilish gleam in her eye. Oh, and somehow we’ve acquired a small pile of jigsaw puzzle pieces in our fridge.

We are selling everything we bought 15 months ago to furnish our unfurnished house in Singapore, as well as the stuff we brought with us from Vietnam and the stuff we accumulated over the last 15 months. There’s quite a lot of it. 

I’m getting better at unloading. Much better than when I left Australia in 2007, unsure whether I was leaving for three months or a year. I have a container load of furniture, white goods and momentos mouldering back in Canberra and I have no idea when I’ll ever unload it. Darling Man tells me frequently that I should have sold it. And he’s right. But it was too hard to do at the time.

Now we are fielding queries about dimensions, prices, viewing times, collection times and directions to our house. We discuss what we could give away – baby stuff to my pregnant friend, pantry items to our neighbours, a bike seat to the lady down the road with a nine-month-old. But what to do with half-bottles of body lotion, much-loved books and the baby’s toys?

We’re planning to stay in a furnished place in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand for six months. After Chiang Mai we’re heading to France and Holland to take up our home exchange options and do a spot of bicycle touring. Then, the plan is to head back to Vietnam so the baby and I can learn some more of the language. We won’t need much stuff for a while. (And I am secretly hoping that after our Chiang Mai and European adventures, Darling Man might be tempted to just to keep going.)

So, the logistics of selling and moving are front-of-mind. Every so often it occurs to me that I’m a reformed hoarder and that there are memories attached to some of our Singapore stuff — the beautiful wooden TV consule the baby pushed off from to take her first steps and the couch she demands to sleep on when she wakes in the night. But the process of minimising is made easier by the fact that we always planned to do this. We told ourselves we’d living in Singapore for two years and then we’d move on. We bought everything aware that we’d be selling it later. We bought beautiful pieces that would survive family life and fetch good resale prices.

We are aiming to pare things down to a couple of suitcases, a couple of boxes of kitchen things and our paintings and canvas prints.

But still, people are perplexed. We are selling everything, shedding our security blanket. Neither of  has a job to go to, neither of us has been to Chiang Mai before. We are setting off on a big adventure, unencumbered by stuff.

Over the next year or so we will be busy collecting memories rather than stuff. We will live life without being anchored down. And I’m pretty sure we’ll have a fabulous time.

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This post is part of a group writing project by family bloggers. Check out what other “families on the move” have posted on living with less:

Getting Rid Of Stuff by Worldschool Adventures

Enjoying Life With Less by Family on Bikes 

Live With less – Lessons Learned From Downsizing by Break Out of Bushwick

Living With Less And 5 Kids?  Isn’t That An Oxymoron? by Family Travel Bucket List

1 Truck, 2 Continents, 7 People – How We Live With Only 321 Things by Discover Share Inspire

Living With Less by Around the World in Easy Ways 

Does Having All Our Gear Again Really Make Us Happier? by Our Travel Lifestyle

Living With Less by Carried on the Wind

Four Kids and Almost No Toys by Livin On The Road

Living With Less Stuff by New Life on the Road

11 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. My it sounds tiring to get rid of all the clutter, but I suppose it’s healthy to tidy up your life with regular intervals. Good luck.
    Italian Notes recently posted..Dickens and the Palazzo Tè in Mantova

  2. Lisa Wood says:

    Its funny how people that dont travel, dont get it! Our family cant underrstand how we can sell off everything, and our friends think that we have flipped out 🙂

    It so good to know that other travelling families are learning to Live with Less – that there is no more anchors weighing us down!

    How amazing that you have things in Canberra in a shipping container…..can a family member help you sort it out? Or will you have to get to it one day?

    We have a shipping container but all that is really important to me is my photos and our boys drawings!

    Lisa Wood recently posted..Living With Less Stuff

    • The Dropout says:

      My container-load of stuff is stranded far away from relatives and the few friends I have left in Canberra, well, it would be too much to ask them to pick through my stuff. Other people have suggested that I sell everything as a job lot but — I have photos and travel momentos packed away in there, as well as furniture. It will have to remain an expensive mistake.

  3. Amanda Jayne says:

    Haha. We are in the middle of moving now and your comment about the toddler getting into everything hit close to home! Mine is currently hiding in the corner with an old cell phone and a package of elastic.

    As for the half used lotion and such-I am planning on having a “get rid of my stuff” party. I’ve talked to my friends and I’m going to lay out all my things, like half used cleaning products and toiletries, and let everyone take what they want. Sort of like a yard sale without the yard or the prices. I won’t make any money off of it, but would I really anyway? I can get together with all my girlfriends for one last night, get rid of my extras, and they might go home with an opened package of swim diapers. Win win!
    Amanda Jayne recently posted..Monday Mix 8/8/2011

    • The Dropout says:

      The “getting rid of my stuff” party sounds like a fabulous idea, Amanda. I think we are going to take a less flamboyant approach and give all the half bottles of things to our neighbour. It will be much easier for them to throw things in the bin than it for us, who remember spending money acquiring these things. (We have such great neighbours, too. We’re really going to miss them.)

  4. Tracy says:

    I had a great giggle at the mental images of your little miss wandering around the house getting into all those piles of mischief. Oh dear …

    Good luck with selling everything and the move. I agree with Lisa – its very hard for other people to understand what you are doing if they haven’t done it themselves. You’ll have a fabulous time and if not, well it’s just stuff. You can accumulate it again … or head back to Canberra and break everything out of it’s moldy confines.
    Tracy recently posted..Living with less: Does having all our gear again really make us happier?

    • The Dropout says:

      Yes, little miss has been very busy (and she has such a funny business-like face, too.)
      People seem very worried for us. They are so attached to their stuff that they don’t know how we could live without ours. We’ve all been brainwashed by consumerism, I think..

  5. Yep, like Tracy, I love the image of your wee one getting into all the clutter. It sure is easy to accumulate ‘stuff’. I would expect that you’re getting much better at unloading now that you’ve done it before! I also have a storage unit- don’t remember half the stuff in it, but I’ll be slowly going through it to get rid of stuff. Besides a mess of photos and papers and art pieces, there’s not much I feel that attached to!
    Melissa Banigan recently posted..Live with less: lessons learned from downsizing

  6. Amy says:

    And that is what it is really all about, collecting memories instead of stuff. I am so excited that your big move is finally close at hand! Good luck at getting rid of all that stuff!
    Amy recently posted..Getting Rid of Stuff

  7. More memories, less stuff. You’ve got it. In the end, it’s the people you meet and the relationships you have with them in life that’s important.

  8. Rebeca says:

    “We will be busy collecting memories rather than stuff”… great line! And yes, you will have a fabulous time!

  9. Amy says:

    It is so hard getting rid of it all. But, we put most of our stuff in storage and now regret not having sold it. We would have been better served by selling it…particularly as it tends to deteriorate over time just sitting there. Now I can justify getting rid of things because it costs money to carry them with us!

  10. […] The Drop Out Diaries: Anchors Aweigh […]

  11. Shirlene from Idelish says:

    How exciting! It makes total sense that you are selling everything but to do that takes courage! To let go of everything and move to a whole different country takes a lot of courage. To that, we take our hats off to you. Kudos and best of luck!

  12. […] again really make us happier? Livin On The Road: Four Kids and Almost No Toys The Drop Out Diaries: Anchors Aweigh Discover Share Inspire: 1 Truck, 2 Continents, 7 People – How We Organize Our @321 Things New […]

  13. inka says:

    I am an extremely clutter free and streamlined person anyway. I have long since given up on possessions and ‘stuff’, they are a liabilty and encumbrance. I often buy and sell my homes and have never ever dragged a piece of furniture from one place to the other. Storage is a waste of money too. Memorabilau are easy to move around and a few favorite books I absolutely do not want to part with.
    inka recently posted..Biennale Istanbul – more art closer to home

  14. Susan says:

    Wouldn’t it be nice to find someone that will come and take all your unwanted stuff? That’s what I kept asking myself over and over as we tried to get rid of more and more. That person never came, but thankfully we did have quite a few people that bought our stuff in great quantities.

    Shedding the security blanket is just an illusion. Nothing is really ever secure, just something you’re used to. Security for us now lies in knowing we’re doing what we’re supposed to do for our family…and that’s an awesome feeling!
    Susan recently posted..Living with less and 5 Kids? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

    • The Dropout says:

      Well, we’re hoping a local charity will come and collect whatever we can’t sell. However, I’ve heard that Singaporean charities are quite picky and refuse to take anything that looks second-hand. So, even more incentive to sell!

      Yes, we’re looking forward to a different kind of “security” (and a less crabby mother).

  15. Jenjenk says:

    Ther’s something liberating and terrifying about parting with your stuff. I have a friend who pared down to just 15 things just to be more mobile. Not sure I could go that drastic but it sure would make mobility a breeze!!!
    Jenjenk recently posted..Visiting Japan: Gift Giving Customs

  16. We did the same when we left the UK. We got rid of all our furniture and most of my daughters toys and clothes.

    We didn’t have any help with shipping and decided storage was pointless and could work out expensive as we don’t know when we’ll be back.

    It felt strange as if we were erasing part of our life. The big items were sold on ebay for not very much considering everything was only a few years old or less. We didn’t have much time so a lot of things ended up going to charity, being given away or binned.

    it felt good to declutter and live a minimalist lifestyle for a couple of months, but already we accumulated so much stuff. We’ve had to start over and most of the things we’ve bought here in Singapore have been from ikea (sadly)!
    21st Century Mummy recently posted..A lightbulb moment

  17. Suzi says:

    Good luck getting rid of it all! We did the same exercise a couple of months ago – we ended up keeping hold of about 40 boxes of ‘stuff’ and our dining table and chairs. It was such a traumatic process, and at the time it seems terrible, but once it’s all sorted and you’re on your way you will probably barely look back. I’m certainly thinking now that we brought too much with us! Hope it all goes well over the next few weeks for you. I look forward to reading about it more.

  18. Renee says:

    When I read this: ” We find her drinking sunscreen, putting coins in her mouth, smearing body lotion into the couch, ripping bills in half, rubbing lip balm into her ear and marching around with a business card tucked under her arm, a ballpoint pen in her fist and a devilish gleam in her eye.”

    I thought you were describing the guys who did my last move. lol Yes, it’s a harrowing experience and you are right to get rid of the clutter before moving on. It’s liberating and ignore the folks who don’t ‘get it’, they don’t need to because it makes sense to you. Bon Voyage!!
    Renee recently posted..My Jackson Hole, WY Trip Report

  19. we’re doing this right now, shoveling out – it’s amazing how much JUNK we have. brava!! you can do it!
    wandering educators recently posted..The Black Sand Beaches of Arizona’s Upper Lake Mary

  20. Yes, I think you will have a fabulous time in your travels! Selling things/getting rid of stuff can be so hard. I know it is for me anyway. Good luck with the sales and the move. Hope your creative toddler doesn’t find too much more trouble to get into.
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted..From Humble to Hearst

  21. robin says:

    We went through something similar when we left Ireland – although we did end up taking 40 boxes with us! I’m pretty sure we could have sold most of that too. It’s good – it makes it real and exciting and, much like quitting your job, something you’re now committed to!!
    robin recently posted..Dos

  22. adventureswithben says:

    I’ve been meaning to try this for a long time – selling my stuff. But I’m turned off by all the work necessary to photograph and post it.

  23. I’ve never understood why expats choose to lug loads of stuff around. Good for you for downsizing! It’s much more practical 😀

    • The Dropout says:

      Oh, I’m more than happy to lug stuff around at someone else’s expense! But international relocations are so expensive and we won’t be needing much stuff for the next little while.

  24. Sophie says:

    It’s so freeing to be rid of unnecessary things – and resist the temptation to acquire new stuff… Now, if I could only convince my 10-year-old of that… 🙂
    Sophie recently posted..Images of Innsbruck

  25. Arti says:

    I am a pretty much clutter free girl and love to keep thing clean!!
    All the best for your move:)
    Have a wonderful day, Namaste from India:)
    Arti recently posted..Festive colors of Ganesh Chaturthi – Ganpati Pandals, Mumbai

  26. I love reading about people who are getting rid of all their stuff. I’ve been doing this slowly over the past few years. As soon as I can get rid of these CDs & VHS tapes I will almost be done!
    Scott – Quirky Travel Guy recently posted..The story of my travel van getting set on fire and blown up

  27. Ayngelina says:

    It can be difficult at first but once you start getting rid of things it is really liberating.
    Ayngelina recently posted..Why I want a Hindu wedding

  28. This is the best way to do it…. living simpler with less stuff. Good luck on the selling. That was where I didn’t do so well because I waited too long and ended up donating most of my stuff.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..5 Must Do Things in Columbus, Ohio

    • The Dropout says:

      I think we might end up donating quite a bit of stuff. Except we walked down to our local charity bin the other night — and it’s gone! I have no idea where to take our old clothes now!

  29. Randy says:

    To get the most money for your items, it really is so important to showcase them properly in photos. I use to just take quick photos (sometimes cluttered) too, but Beth showed me the light. I put up a fight at first, but then saw firsthand how beneficial it was. Good luck with the upcoming move!

  30. Sherry says:

    I’ve been sorting through my things and putting them into boxes in addition to moving the furniture I plan on selling to the side; all in preparation for my RTW. And while I do want to live clutter free for all its benefits, I don’t think I am going to be able to get rid of everything. But like you guys, I do plan on unloading as much as I can. Based on your itinerary, I think this is a good solution for your travel plans. And it also gives you an excuse to recreate yourselves with every new destination.

  31. Sheila says:

    I’m thinking of moving soon but I decided to postpone it. I have to get rid of my stuff first and I want to unlearn my hoarding habits before moving out. Enjoy your time in Chiang Mai!

  32. Laurel says:

    Yeah! So glad you guys are moving, it sounds like you’ve wanted to for a while. I sold all my stuff except for 10 boxes which I shipped to Germany. It was so much work so I can only imagine how hard it must be with a baby. I love Chiang Mai (lived in Lampang a town a couple of hours away for a year). Looking forward to reading about all your exciting adventures this year!
    Laurel recently posted..Solving Mysteries of the Starnberger See

    • The Dropout says:

      I can’t wait to check out Lampang!
      It is more difficult with a baby. She is into everything — picks stuff up and carries into the next room and drops it on the floor. Things get messy very quickly.

  33. When I moved to the other side of the world not too long ago, I tried to only take what could go in my checked luggage. There were still a few more things that couldn’t make it, but it was a good discipline (it helps that the electrical standards were different, so appliances, etc couldn’t be used anymore)
    Reena @ Wanderplex recently posted..Method to the madness: the fastest way to board a plane

  34. Nancy says:

    I have just really started the get-rid-of-everything process, and love it. My only wish is that it would happen faster (and with much less effort on my part, lol).

    All the money from my downsizing is going into what I call my Runaway Fund–keeping a running total on my blog.

    Much good luck to you. Stay happy.

    Nancy recently posted..What They Didn’t Want Us to See in Xi’an

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