Thursday 3 July 2014

Soon to be an ex-expat? Shift your stuff without losing your mind!

The following post is from a guest blogger from Val Hamer. You can find her on Faraway Hammer and @farawayhammer on Twitter.

Making the decision to go 'home' invariably sparks practical and emotional challenges that can turn the leaving process into a stressful, and sometimes unpleasant, experience.

This is the time when you should be making final farewells, scheduling quick visits to those places you somehow overlooked, and indulging in feeding frenzies on favourite foods. Instead, for many folk the weeks before departure turn into a headache as they face the task of shedding unwanted possessions.

The good news is it's easy to find online resources that cover the generalities, such as a checklist of practical things to accomplish before you finally get on the plane. The bad news is they tend to reduce everything to a handy one liner.

Cancel your phone contract – an easy check.
Sell your belongings – not so much.

Fifteen years of living abroad in various places has opened my eyes to the living nightmare shifting your stuff can become. It can drain your time, emotional health and faith in people faster than you can say Craigslist, leading to wild fantasies where you seriously consider simply burning the lot if it.

But it doesn't have to be like that. I promise.

And to prove it I've thrown together all the tips and tricks gleaned from the blood, sweat and many, many tears of those who have gone before you. This unique and specific guide details how preparing yourself for the task as early as possible may just save your sanity, as well as your precious time.

Tip 1: Prepare to meet or interact with a variety of 'interesting' people. 

If I was into labelling people I'd probably note them as crazies, timewasters, ditherers, hagglers, cheapskates and vultures, and break it down further like this:

Crazies – online contact may mention an item you have available, but the main focus of their correspondence is to be your friend. Why? Just why? Best ignored from the start.

Timewasters – set your own limits on how many times you are prepared to rearrange meeting to handover stuff. Unless you want to still be trying to 'make it work' while on the bus to the airport.

Ditherers – easily identified by the cautious, curious or questioning comments they make on your Facebook sales album. They always have to check something out first, but rarely follow through. Be aware that they may deter serious buyers, who mistakenly believe an item is spoken for. Don't be afraid to delete any pointless or off-topic comments if it is possible to do so.

Hagglers – while there's nothing wrong with chancing your hand true hagglers never even consider paying full price for second hand stuff. If you are not comfortable with this process establish a (mental) firm 'reserve price' on all items, and stick to your guns.

Cheapskates – different from the hagglers as they're not into shopping as sport, they just don't want to spend. The solution is the same – know what your bottom line is.

Vultures – they love nothing more than to note your departure date then sit back and wait. Expect an insultingly lowball offer at the very last moment. (If you choose to add comments such as 'buy it now or I will throw it into the garbage' doesn't help, so avoid that!)

Tip 2: Start the stuff shifting process early, like REALLY early. 

Early means as soon as you get any inkling that maybe signing up again doesn't appeal, even if that date is still many months away. In fact, that would be perfect timing. If you do decide to stay longer you will have gotten through the initial sort out process, and rid yourself of some surplus items you never use anymore.

Take a notebook, pen and a stern eye to your apartment, (plus office/storage areas if applicable.) Make a note of everything you don't plan to send home or throw away: categorising each item as first, second, third or fourth tier.

How you label them may differ, but for me 1st tier stuff is pretty much essential, (bed, computer chair, hoover), 2nd tier things add value to your life (oven, TV), 3rd tier covers rarely used items, (bread maker, mini-vac) and 4th tier encompasses stuff you never use/wear or don't like, as well as books you've read, jigsaws you've done, DVDs you've watched etc.

Fourth tier items are pretty easy to part with, and this gets you into the swing of de-cluttering at the very least. However, depending on your individual situation, there's often no real need to hold on to much outside of the 1st tier. Plenty of 'want' perhaps, but that's different. Be ruthless!

Tip 3: Spread the word 

There are loads of options available to let the world know you are offloading your goodies. Not all will suit your personality or circumstances, but using as many as possible will obviously help to make those sales happen. Pick and choose from the following:
  • Craigslist:* - make sure you use the correct categories where possible. Also, check out the site rules to avoid being flagged for posting too often. (*I strongly recommend you create a brand new Gmail account solely for websites like this. Otherwise, you risk attracting spammy emails months later from NSFW ad. clones.) 
  • Dave's ESLCafe (Buy and sell) – not as active as it once was, but worth a try. 
  • Colleagues - (by email or a poster at work). If your replacement has been chosen/is a domestic hire, they may be interested in taking some of the bigger items. 
  • Your apartment building – bigger complexes require you have notices stamped before they are posted to bulletin boards. Check with the 'security guards'. 
  • There are lots of Korean language Internet sites dedicated to buying/selling used goods. Get help to access them if your language skills are not up to it. 
  • Facebook – ever popular and easy to manage. Use the search option to find specific buy/sell boards (kids stuff/tech items and so on), as well as local groups – some of which probably have a buy/sell offshoot. 
Bonus tips
  • - Wherever or however you advertise make sure you clearly state your location, delivery options, and prices (inc. terms like 'firm' or o.b.o). - Decide on prices before you advertise. Be clear and be realistic. Do some research to see what others are charging and what the item would cost new. The old adage that something is only worth hat someone will pay for it remains true. Sell in job lots, give discounts for larger spends, etc. 
  • - Avoid time wasters by asking for a good faith deposit on large ticket items. 
  • - Measure things carefully so you can present all the info at one time. Saves people having to ask. 
  • - Get all your bottles in a row. Seeking out the costs of a call taxi or delivery man from point A to B gives buyers all the info they need for transportation costs. 
  • - Don't skimp n the truth. If the bread maker takes up a lot of space and only produces a small loaf over a period of 5 hours make it clear (along with the benefits of course.) People who travel to buy something that is disappointing … 
  • - Sell in good faith. If you know the hoover cuts out every second time you use it but can be fixed by a swift kick then reduce the price and make the quirk a unique selling point! 
  • - Keep a record of what has been posted, both where and when. This will prove invaluable when you want to update ads/lists as things sell. And you do want to do that, for reasons beyond common courtesy. Potential buyers of other things could easily be put off by see-ing others request items that appear to be still up for grabs, only to find out that they are actually long gone. 
Tip 4: Definite leaving date = plan to reduce waste 

It makes sense to use up the (non-exotic/sellable) food items you have, BEFORE you sell your utensils/pots and pans/oven. Ideally, the last few weeks you are around will be spent meeting people for meals/racing to fill in paperwork and grades/sight-seeing or revisiting special haunts. Plan to have nothing but the very basics for breakfast without a stove left for your last month.

If you generally bulk buy household items such as toilet paper it's worth remembering that local shops often sell such things in smaller quantities. A handy option for the last week or so in your apartment. Moving on is never easy, but by starting early and being prepared it really is possible to reduce the stress that selling things tends to bring. If you have some useful tips or funny experiences to share on this topic please do leave a comment.

My bio 
I'm a British born global nomad with a passion for words, good coffee and life.

I blog at
I Tweet @farawayhammer



  1. An excellent article. I will follow your advice to the letter!

    1. I would love to know how it works for you. One day I will follow my on advice too.:)


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