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  • Writer's pictureJ. Mallais

Sell it, Donate it, Trash it or Ship It? The Four Steps to Moving

Having recently packed and moved my apartment's contents from Guadalajara to Querétaro, Mexico, I know the dilemma of deciding between these four options when moving houses. I have also moved professionally six times in 20+ years of living overseas, going from 10 boxes shipped by air to a whopping 54 boxes in a ship's container that took 6 months to arrive! So I am well-versed on these four different steps that I recommend: Sell it, donate it or trash it, before you consider moving it!




- Smaller shipment = bigger saving

- Getting some return on your investment, especially when it comes to expensive electronics

- Buying new stuff & maybe even updating what you had

​- The effort of coordinating buyers and pick-up times of your items

- The need to source and replace your items in a new and unfamiliar city

- Perhaps the unavailability or expense of replacing certain items


​- Reducing your shipment while doing good for local charities

- Giving back to the city you've called home; paying it forward

​- If these are items you won't miss or need to replace, there's no down-side to donating / downsizing


- An uplifting sense of peace & wonder at why and how long you've held onto some of this stuff

​- Assuming these items won't serve anyone, and that you can't recycle them, the only negative is landfill use

Once you've decided on the above three steps, you'll be ready to contact moving companies to enlist their shipping quotes. I recommend contacting every company available and soliciting their quotes - this is free and will give you options to choose from. Friends' and colleagues' recommendations will also go a long way in helping you choose. In many cases, the moving companies will likely want to visit your home in person to assess the size of your shipment.

Your shipping quote will be based on:

  1. the size / volume of your shipment,

  2. the insurance (some companies base it on a % of your overall content value), and

  3. if you'll be packing yourself or using their packing services.

Some moving companies cannot ship contents that you've packed yourself, so you may only have the option to use their packing services. The advantages of choosing their services are: saving time & your back, not needing to gather packing materials, and having professional packers' know-how.

If you do decide to pack yourself, start with what you need the least and work your way to the kitchen and last-minute items. Be sure to have a numbering and label system, not only for what is in each box, but also what room you want each box to go to once you're at your destination. During this last move, in addition to having a colored labeling system to help movers know which floor and room to place boxes in, I kept an electronic spreadsheet with each box number, its contents, and its room destination. This helped immensely when it came to unpacking the essentials right away. You will likely need a week to do the entire packing, living in and amongst boxes all the while. Keep in mind that a moving company can come in and pack an entire house in a few hours, something that may be worth the extra cost.

When choosing which company and quote to accept, know that the cheapest one isn't always the best choice - I try to choose the most knowledgeable and organized company. Which company responds quickly to emails and answers all your questions? Who shows up to your house when expected and on time? Who comes highly recommended? Sometimes the cheapest company will grossly underestimate your move to get your commitment, then won't stick with their original quote, adding last-minute charges, holding your stuff hostage until you pay. You should also understand that there will also likely be extra customs charges, that can add up to be hundreds of dollars extra, especially if there's a per-day storage charge at either end of the move - something that happens if you have a badly-organized company who doesn't calculate the timing of it all.

In the end, the smaller you can make your shipment ahead of moving, the less stress and lower cost you'll incur. That being said, I have prioritized having the same overall decor in each new apartment, allowing me to feel at home in any country. I feel I've lived in the same home more or less for over 20 years, thanks to the artwork, carpets, bedding, and cushions that I've collected throughout my travels. There's something to be said for shipping your memories and keepsakes, just maybe not 54 boxes' worth!

Wish you could get some support finding a teaching job abroad for this upcoming hiring season? I work with you and will redesign your CV and cover letter, and offer my experience and knowledge during your international job search, helping you avoid pitfalls. There are many services available to get your candidacy to stand out and help you get the job you have always wanted.

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