Tuesday Topic: “Things” and Preparing to Move

From Heather whose family is preparing for the overseas mission field: In preparing for missions, I realize I will need to sell or give away many of our belongings.  How did you handle that?  When I initially thought about it, I thought it would not be a problem at all.  However, as I start looking through items, I find memorabilia or special items I find it hard to part with.  Did you literally sell everything?  store items?  if moving overseas can I realistically expect to only take items I can fit in my suitcase?  I never thought I was consumed by “things”, but I realize as I sort through our belongings I really have been hoarding my “things.”

(If you would like to pose a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to formissionarymoms@gmail.com . Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, and specify also if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

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12 Responses to “Tuesday Topic: “Things” and Preparing to Move”


  1. 1 Liz K September 7, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    oh my! That is a question that plagues me by the hour! We are in the process of sorting, packing, condensing and purging too! I can’t wait to hear others responses!

    We bought a storage trailer to keep at my parents house. For us, that made the most sense. That way, when we are home on furlough, we won’t have to spend tons of time trying to find things. But it’s just 20 feet long. So we still have to get rid of a lot. We are trying to think in terms of what is classic, what do we love, and what will be useful. But it’s hard!

    We realized that we are going to need more than what will fit in our suitcases, but we don’t need as much as a whole container. We were told by some people in our new host country that Rubbermaid tubs in a duffel bag is a good way to go with shipping extra stuff. A lot depends on where you are going and what you can get there, and how you personally feel about stuff. For me, there are certain kitchen things that I really want to take, and that would be hard to get in our host country. Also, we have been told kids clothes and toys are not as good as what we can get here, or they are very expensive. But we are trying to be selective for sure!

    Hope that helps some! Like I said, I can’t wait to hear the veterans speak to this! We have a room to tackle today! The playroom of all places!

  2. 2 Shilo September 7, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    May God give you wisdom, Heather! Don’t be hard on yourself! For me the reason it’s hard to get rid of things is not becasue I love stuff but because of the memories tied to the thing. Sometimes, it’s worth saving for that memory. Sometimes, I can have that memory without the stuff. But just give yourself lots of grace, this is a time of many emotions. I pray God will comfort and guide you!
    We do store some things because we have that option. Here’s what I have learned:
    1) Whatever you decide to store, keep a very specific list and number your containers. This will be major helpful moving back in when you are exhausted from a term on the field, international travel, goodbyes, etc.
    2)Store in rubbermaids or action packers if at all possible. Cardboard just doesn’t cut it for that length of time, unless maybe you had a climate controlled storage unit or something.
    3)I don’t bother saving many decorations (unless they are very nuetral) because my tastes evolve a lot over the course of one term overseas.
    4)I don’t get rid of my pictures/memorabalia. I always enjoy looking through them when we are back in the US. I do continue to pare down each time and am scanning more and more pictures though.
    5)I do save my winter coat, gloves, etc because they are classic style and color and too expensive to replace for just 3 months of winter. But
    6)I save very few non maternity clothes. My size, style, etc usually change and thrift stores/sales abound for restocking my wardrobe.
    7)No matter how much you got rid of, you will still say copiously, “what in the world did we save that for?” when you are unpacking. 🙂

  3. 3 Kelly September 7, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Oh we’re in this boat too! We’re about to head to MTI in Colorado Thursday, and then it’s prepping for the field! I don’t have any suggestions- but am looking forward to this discussion!

  4. 4 Megan September 7, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    We made our move to Nepal a little over a year ago and it was crazy. Yes, you can expect to take only items you can fit in your suitcase, but there will often be local alternatives to things you like to have around. Ask questions of the M;s that have been around a while as well as new arrivals (if there are any) because you will get two very different answers. OR you learn to live with out or get creative. I took two of my good measuring cups and a set of measuring spoons b/c I knew the culture I was entering was not a culture that used such things on a regular basis and I have NEVER regretted the decision! We also brought a lot of books (especially kids books) and that was also a good choice. However I bought extra mascara and razors/blades only to find them here (the same brands even!) for much cheaper. oh well. Also, where we are is a fairly conservative culture so I left any shorts or sleeveless tops only to find that those things are really not that big of a deal here in the city (within reason). Not to mention we have a yearly conference in steamy Thailand and I have no shorts! So think about where else you might be besides your host country if that is an option for you.
    We do have some things stored at my in-laws house because it seems like missions is changing and it doesn’t mean leaving your home country and never looking back for the rest of your life. You will be back at some point (long or short) and there are things that will make the transition back a little easier. We gave away all our dishes but still have our bed and mattress. Dishes are easy to replace, beds and mattresses are a little more difficult/expensive.
    It takes time and discernment. My husband and I used the five year rule: for each item we asked ourselves if we would need or even like it in five years. This also helps cut down on clothes because in five years I probably won’t be wearing that super cool but oh-so trendy shirt from 2008. But those simple v-necks, those will stand the fashion test of time (if not the clothes washing/drying method in your host country ;-))

  5. 5 Leigh September 7, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    It is very hard. I definitely struggled with packing up and giving away so many of my things- wedding gifts, baby shower presents, memories. For us, we were provided the opportunity to store most of our belongings as a supporter covered the cost of a storage unit so generously. However, now we will have to decide at some point if we will stay on the field past our now 2 yr committment and then will have to decide what to do with all that stuff! It seemed good at the time as we didnt know how long we were coming, we had that provision, and with a newborn and my husband working fulltime as a worship pastor and fundraising, we quite frankly didnt have time to sort thru everything! But it was incredible how much we had accumulated in only 2 1/2 yrs of marriage!
    So I cant recommend either storage or selling at this point. My sister and her family sold everything and now they are returning to the States. Thankfully my parents Bible study is throwing a little returning shower, but they do have to replace a lot of stufff. We are hoping to stay longer but then need to decide so we dont own whole households worth in two
    countries.
    Look at your commitment length, pray and talk to your husband, and talk to supporters too. Maybe some would be willing to help you with your stuff.
    It is hard but it is freeing in some ways. Over all its hard parting with things that have been part of your and your family’s life. But you will be amazed how He provides and you will see Him do so much in you through this decision to follow Him. God bless you as you choose to do His will.

  6. 6 Sarah W September 7, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    Hi Heather…..we made our move almost 7 years ago but I still remember how hard it was to go through our things. The other ladies have given great advice, but I just want to add one more thing. I found that as I gave things away seeing how happy it made others really helped me see how much I was blessing them! We gave a lot of things away and it was freeing but also fun! I think once you start to let go, the Lord really gives you grace. I also have found that in the last 7 years, I’ve been blessed with new items, some way nicer than what I gave away! The Lord will always honor your faithfulness and your service to Him. He will restore what you give away! 🙂

    I do have a few keepsake items in storage containers in my folks basement and then we also have some of our winter clothes stored for when we are home on furlough. Other than that, that’s it!

    May the Lord give you wisdom and grace as you go through your items!! 🙂 Hugs!

  7. 7 Heather September 8, 2010 at 2:43 am

    Thank you so much ladies and keep the suggestions coming….

    When I first submitted my question I thought we were leaving for the foreign mission field soon, but now we may be challenged to stay here in the US and minister.

    Either way, we are going to downsize our home and things. This info is great no matter which direction God leads us….foreign or domestic ministry.

    So glad I found this blog!

  8. 8 Phyllis September 8, 2010 at 7:09 am

    We had it easy; we left just a few months after getting married, so we didn’t have much time to have stuff gather around us. And it was still hard! We also left boxes at our parents’ homes, pretty much with no rhyme or reason as to what or why. They’re all the kinds of things that we couldn’t sell or give away (personal stuff), and I really wish we had taken the time to go through them and figure out what to do with them before leaving! Now every time we go back for a visit, we’re too busy to get to it. It bothers me to have them lying there. My husband’s parents don’t seem to care, but my mother periodically asks if I still want my notes from some certain class or something. And I can’t seem to decide things like that long-distance.

    So, I don’t know if I have any specific advice. Maybe just pray about it and do get rid of as much as you can. 🙂

    Heather, I enjoyed my quick peek at your blog, and I hope to get back to it soon to look around more.

  9. 9 Sarah September 8, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    I remember so clearly being in this situation of packing up and deciding what to keep, what to sell, what to give away, what to take with us… We could only take what we could take on the plance, and we had just had a baby. We ended up bringing more baby stuff than anything else!

    Our things went in many different directions. My parents actually furnished a bedroom in their house with our bedroom furniture, and a few other items are being used in their house as well. We sold our couch and bookcases. All the other furniture was given away. My best friend had just gotten married, so it was a blessing to her to be able to furnish her new little apartment with a lot of our stuff… and now when we go back to visit, it’s fun to see it all in her home! Another close friend has our piano now and I love knowing that their kids are able to learn how to play on it! I think a lot of our stuff went to the Salvation Army, too.

    To move here, we packed in large Rubbermaid bins instead of suitcases since they were much cheaper to buy, were lighter, and could hold more, and they are great to use for storage in our home here. In fact, they were our “dresser” for our whole first year here! We packed a few extra bins to keep in my parents’ basement with things that we would want to be brought down to us later when different people came to visit. I was happy that we brought a few small decorations and our quilt to help make our new place feel like home. But, most of what we brought was clothing and practical things.

    We still do have boxes of things in my parents’ basement that we just couldn’t part with – special Christmas ornaments, books, some wedding presents, etc. I feel like we probably kept more than we should have, but, like Phyllis said, we never have time to go through it while we’re visiting.

  10. 10 richelle September 9, 2010 at 8:17 am

    with a family of 10, downsizing is a continual process – i get rid of so much stuff each time before we return to the field, and then as we unpack once on the field and throughout that term. there are always people surrounding me who need and can use what i have more than i can.

    and then, as we’ve been unpacking this time around, we discovered that termites found and destroyed some of the home schooling curriculum and some of my favorite books… three metal footlockers and a hardside suitcase worth. that experience, in and of itself has helped me, because it all comes back to the fact that it is only stuff… and can’t compare with investments towards that which is of eternal value.

    i tend to use a 1 year rule (i.e. if i haven’t used it at all during my year of home assignment, or didn’t even remember that it existed, i get rid of it), and I tend to purge at least once a year. the only exceptions are the tub of things/mementos/herilooms that belongs specifically to each child + one for my husband and I, each (and if it threatens to go over the tub limit, then that person must choose what to keep and what to get rid of), and things that I specifically put back for a time because I knew I wouldn’t be using them, but know I will in the future (in the past, that has included baby clothes, seasonal items like winter coats and boots, my canning jars and supplies… just to name a few).

    i will add one caution, however. we are subletting a large house from other missionaries this year before moving – and will probably move into something significantly smaller than where we presently are. that means using their furniture, borrowed dishes until we dig ours out of storage, etc., and i’m finding it hard not to have my stuff around me, after already having lived a year in transition. so if there is something that doesn’t necessarily serve a practical purpose, but makes a place feel like your home, then make sure you keep it, or at least don’t dispense of it lightly. i’m finding that there are certain non -practical things that help me to feel more at home, and keeping them for that very reason is a valid one.

  11. 11 Linda Watt September 17, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    After 12 years on the field and living with a saver, this is always a challenge. We had stored our stuff initially in the attic of the youth pastor’s house. Each time we came home we crawled up in the attic and unpacked our stuff for furlough. Sometimes we had no idea what we had up there. Our last furlough we brought everything out of the attic and into the light. Our first response for lots of things were,”Why on earth did we keep that?” We got rid of a lot of stuff, the kids got to decide what they wanted to keep and we used plastic containers to store most everything in. I labelled each one. I made a container for each of us to store good winter clothes in for when we are home in the winter. I also made a memorabilia box for the kids and they keep school papers, year books, etc. in those. I figure when they are older these will be valuable to them. I also made one box that I called “Furlough” In it I put a road atlas, any maps we used (now we have a GPS but we still like the maps!), our thermos, travel mugs, our coffee maker and anything else I think we will need as soon as we get get home in the States.

    What to take overseas? It will depend on where you are going. I take a few things to make my home comfortable and for it to feel like home. I have a thimble collection and quilts my mom made me. This last time I brought back some old family pictures that I have hung up as well. I love gadgets and anything to cut down on my time in the kitchen. It just about killed me when I spent so much money on a Vita-Mix blender but it has saved me a lot of money in the long run! I use if for everything from grinding wheat and corn to making ice cream!

    I still find that I am pretty materialistic in spite of the simple life style we have adopted over the years. I do try to get rid of stuff I don’t use and on the field I clear out each furlough. I have seen some missionary families wait for 10-20 years on the field and it is an enormous task. I usually have less things I am taking home so I tend to try to figure out if there are things I no longer need out here and want at home. I try to think ahead to make sure that I take home memorabilia from the school year for my kids.

    My husband says that I have the gift of packing. Usually throughout the year I keep a list of things I need to purchase in the States. If someone writes and asks or if I have a trip coming up it is very handy to get someone to do the shopping and send it to me or to someone coming out here for a visit.

    Hope someone can profit from my ramblings.

  12. 12 Liz K September 17, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Linda! Love the idea of a list through out the time you are on the field! Brilliant!


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