Becoming an Expat: Got Stuff? (Part-1)

by | Feb 15, 2022 | Global | 1 comment

I am newly settled in Cuenca, Ecuador with open-ended plans to stay, but my expat journey really began the day I experienced a dawning intention of clearing out the basement. I came up the stairs with a box full of headless Barbie dolls laying in a nest of ragged Barbie clothes. That day my adult daughter, temporarily entrenched on the sofa watching TV, surfing the internet and recovering from shoulder surgery, said to me,

“I am never going to have as much stuff as you do.  I am going to keep my life simple.”

That comment made my decision what to do with her Barbie dolls an easy one—much easier than the hundreds, maybe thousands, of other decisions I had yet to make.

The day I took this time in my life to see the world, I had lived in the same house for 20 years. I  raised two children, buried two dogs and I had, in the American post-Depression tradition, collected a lot of stuff.

A Full Garage

I had a garage with a riding lawn mower, two snow shovels, two ladders, three garden hoses, miscellaneous garden tools, and a fertilizer spreader.

Time for Barbie to go Etienne Assenheimer
Time for Barbie to go by Etienne Assenheimer

We also had two cars we could not fit into our garage.

Back then, I had an attic above the garage with boxes of Christmas decorations, including tangled strings of lights and a six-foot tree.

I had Easter decorations and Halloween decorations–all lovingly crafted by my once small and adorable children. And, of course, boxes of baby clothes.

Under the house, I had a full unfinished basement headed for a starring role on Buried Alive.

My basement contained a flour grinder from my husband’s days “back to the hippie land,” and a meat grinder from my mother’s days as a 1950s housewife.

Even canning equipment from my own days as a Wanna-be Earth Mother.  We had a collection of 400 LP record albums, 20 years worth of used paint, tools, skis, tennis rackets, and an impressive collection of unused furniture.

Down to One Container

What lurks within? Vivint Solar
What lurks within? by Vivint Solar

When we finally moved all of our possessions to Ecuador, we didn’t have enough stuff to fill a small container.

I won’t lie to you. It was a long and emotional process.

Downsizing is a necessary project that stops many pre-pats in their tracks.

It can be done! There are ways to manage the emotions and physical toll.

In my next post, we will look at some strategies for tackling the job.

If you enjoyed this article, head over to Got Stuff? Part-2.


In the meantime, if you’re serious about moving overseas, why don’t you look around your home,  take a mental inventory of your stuff and then share your thoughts. It helps.

by: Dana Dwyer