Reader suggested clutter-busting game: I’m moving overseas!

Today, we present another installment in our month of sharing, but this time from a reader. Carole Fogarty, a freelance writer and blogger on holistic, simple and inspirational living, has created a game to help tackle clutter in your home. The idea is a lot of fun and inspiring, too. Our appreciation to Carole for sharing her game with us!

You are excited, thrilled, and can’t wait. You are about to move overseas indefinitely for the dream experience of a lifetime. You now need to detox and simplify every corner of your home and life like never before. Many things need to be eliminated, then eliminated some more. Your things need to be streamlined and re-organized. This time you’re not overwhelmed with the thought of clearing clutter and simplifying your life because you have the adventure of an overseas destination waiting for you.

It’s all a game, and I dare you to play along and act as if you are moving overseas.

For the past couple months, I have enthusiastically been playing this game each day. It is the most fun I have ever had clearing clutter and simplifying my life.

How can you start playing the game called “I’m moving overseas?”

First, you need to feel and get a sense that you are really moving overseas. I used post-it notes on my fridge and bathroom window saying hello in French and Italian. I grabbed a bunch of travel brochures for beside my bed. I downloaded free language classes onto my ipod, picked a couple of international schools for my children and generally did whatever I needed to remind myself each day that I am about to get an invitation to move overseas. Once I was in the place of really feeling like I was about to move overseas, I started on the house.

I started one cupboard, one room at a time. I didn’t rush — you need to be thorough and thoughtful in your choices, after all you are about to move overseas. The only question I needed to ask myself while sorting through all my stuff was, “Is it absolutely essential that I put this item into storage or should I give it away?”

To my surprise, there was very little that I was willing to put into storage. Practical items like a refrigerator, couch, and washing machine stayed, plus some personal things that I absolutely love.

Another question I would ask myself if I were really having trouble deciding was, “Does this item represent who I am today or is it who I was yesterday?” I wanted to align my home with who I am today and not the person I was 10 years ago. And, it worked.

I don’t know how your life will change by playing this game, but I know that I have witnessed small and significant changes both in and around me. The most obvious change was that my mind and home feel so much lighter, my visions are brighter and clearer, and there is a constant feeling that something great is about to happen.

54 Comments for “Reader suggested clutter-busting game: I’m moving overseas!”

  1. posted by Margaret on

    I really am planning on moving overseas, not indefinitely but for a year through the Youth Work Abroad Program. I definitely feel this. I have never been unable to completely declutter my life, however deciding what to store at my parents house and what to sell for money for my trip is forcing me too!

    What a great idea for a game! You really decide what you need and what you don’t need from this exercise.

  2. posted by Mme. Meow on

    This is a really great idea!!

    Of course, imagination is necessary –something that can be in short supply in some places, it would seem.

  3. posted by Andrew White on

    Speaking as someone who moved overseas just a week ago, it amazed my wife and I how little we actually wanted to hold on to. We’ve got maybe a dozen printer paper boxes, a couch, and some disassembled Neoset furniture at my inlaws, and moved with eight bags of varying sizes. Most of that was clothing. Even more amazing is how little we’re using. In truth, I’ve actually got rid of some stuff since we arrived. And the only thing I left behind that I really miss is my notebook riser and iPod dock. Like you, we feel great!

    Best of luck on your move!

  4. posted by Steph on

    Heck, I’m just moving to a different state and will be simplifying to the extreme. I don’t want to put a single thing in that U-Haul that I don’t absolutely need or really love.

  5. posted by melissa on

    I played this game for real when I moved overseas 6 years ago (still here!). The problem with throwing out everything that isn’t necessary or doesn’t represent you, is that in the moving process, you also have to throw out everything that’s too big (bye bye to ALL your furniture!), too heavy (by bye to ALL your books!) and stuff you’ll just buy when you get there (there goes ALL your consumables!). And who’s really going to throw out all their food just to rebuy it next week when reality hits and you realise you’re not actually moving anywhere exciting after all?

    It’s an interesting idea and I certainly did pare down my possessions to the bare minimum when I moved, but this is kinda taking it to a creepy extreme. Romantic comedy extreme.

  6. posted by Quezzie on

    That’s a great way of thinking about simplifying and decluttering! I’ve moved almost every year since I was in middle school, and some of those moves have included going overseas. Because of this, I’ve learned to keep my load light…but in the past couple years I’ve let things go a bit (I think friends have unintentionally assisted the erosion of my light-living habits…it’s kind of weird to them that I’ll only ever acquire things I absolutely need and intend to use). A chance that I might be moving overseas again has come up, and there was a small moment of panic – I’ve accumulate more stuff than ever. So for me personally, whether I actually end up moving or not, I’ll be using the idea as a tool to get my stuff into shape!

  7. posted by Looby on

    I moved overseas 2 years ago, between the 2 of us we had only 3 suitcases. However in the intervening time we have managed to mostly fill our apartment again, maybe it’s time to pretend we are moving on!

  8. posted by LivSimpl on

    This is a great concept that really gets you thinking about what’s important.

    I had a similar thought (although much less exciting than pretending I was moving to Europe). πŸ™‚ At the change of the seasons, filter out all the stuff you didn’t use before yo put it in storage. (I wrote about this originally here:

    For example, spring is fast approaching, but before you sock all your winter gear away (clothes, home decorations, etc.) ask yourself if you used it enough to justify keeping it around until next year. It’s a good exercise in that I’ve found a good chunk of the stuff can be donated or tossed.

  9. posted by Michele on

    What a great and fun idea!

  10. posted by Christina on

    Fun! I do the same thing, but I play a game that I am moving onto a boat. Usually a 35 or 40 foot Catamaran that will really only hold a quarter of my things and no furniture!

    I actually go shopping online for the boat to see how much closet space I have…not a lot.

  11. posted by Lori on

    All great ideas! I’ll be using LivSimpl’s seasonal filter if it ever stops snowing here.

  12. posted by Vaire on

    I actually did move to overseas. Thrice. It was fun for the first two times, the third, not so much.

    One really does not appreciate the amount of crap that one has acquired until one can only take a few suitcases on the plane and has to pay hideous amounts of overveight anyway.

    The third time I moved I got a bit over-zealous in getting rid of stuff and gave away things that I actually needed in the destination.

    If you don’t actually have to stress about moving, this is a very good way of getting rid of excess. πŸ™‚

  13. posted by Ellen Connolly on

    This is good stuff. Love it.

  14. posted by Daniel on

    When I was staying in a 200 square foot luxury hotel suite in China 9 years ago, I asked myself “what else do I really need?”. Other than a laptop, internet, maybe a small home stereo, and laundry, that was it.
    That was the beginning of my decluttering journey, and I’ve now duplicated that hotel feel in my home by getting rid of everything else that says “not-luxury”.
    Now every day at home feels like privilege.

  15. posted by Christine on

    Thank you for sharing this, and it couldn’t come at a better time. We’re looking to downsize our 4300+ sf home into a 1500 sf apartment. I wasn’t sure where to begin, so this visualization will help a lot.

  16. posted by Kristy on

    I’ve been doing this for the last month.
    However, I’m only planning to move a couple hours away.
    It really does work.
    Makes you re-evaluate everything you’re holding on to.

  17. posted by Marc on

    This site immediately reminded me of, did they mind you borrowing the layout?

  18. posted by Jacki Hollywood Brown on

    We actually live, “Will we be posted this year?” It is a game played by many military families. Just in case you are told you are not posted then at the last minute they send a posting message telling you you have one week to move across the country.

  19. posted by M.R. on

    This is why I give my goddaughters (whose parents are in the U.S. Navy) only jewelry and pefume as gifts. They use up the perfume and jewelry is tiny. Just a thought for those of you whose loved ones frequently move.

  20. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Marc — Our website was designed on the bogart theme through wordpress. I don’t know which theme uses. They may be on the same theme.

  21. posted by Carole Fogarty - on

    Gosh, it seems like everyone is moving overseas. How exciting.

    Thrilled you all loved the post and my game.

    Particularly like Christina’s idea of the boat. Wow!

    I only wish I’d thought of this game when I was still teaching Feng Shui.

    In case anyone is interested I wrote a post a few days ago called – The Emotional Cost of Clutter: It may also help you in your quest for simpler and lighter living and identifying exactly where you are stuck.


    Peace, love and travel,

    Carole Fogarty

  22. posted by jon on

    I see my original comment was deleted. Oh well. There’s something to be said for taking criticism well, but I guess this is your blog and if you want all the comments to be praising you, so be it.

  23. posted by Stephane on

    I did this last year, I felt like I was becoming dependent on all my stuff, and I also had an urge to move. I realized I didn’t need more than half of my things, I sold them all. Now I can move overseas in a second… All my stuff would fit in a few boxes. I also sold my more expensive items (including my brand new car) and bought used ones that I wouldn’t mind leaving behind. Not having a car payment feels liberations.

  24. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Jon — Our policy is to remove any comment that calls a guest columnist a name. We feel it’s not nice to invite someone into our home (guest columnist) and then have our readership make personal attacks on them. I would not have deleted criticism. I did, however, delete your personal attack.

    If you would like to personally attack myself, Matt, or Teri we probably will not remove those comments as long as you do not curse … and depending on my mood.

  25. posted by Marelisa on

    I think this “game” is a great idea. I lived in Italy for a year between college and law school and all I took with me was one suitcase and a carry-along with a laptop computer and a small portable printer. I was fine. Judging by the current state of my apartment as I write this, I think I definitely need to pretend that I’m moving and start giving stuff away.

    I also agree with the comments that uncluttering unplugs stagnated energy in your home.

  26. posted by Jen on

    This is a really good idea. I hope you don’t mind that I liked to this on my blog.

  27. posted by Shannon on

    I love this idea, especially the part about walking around feeling like something good is about to happen. Thanks for a new way to prioritize my possessions!

  28. posted by Pat on

    Erin, just to speak up about deleting rude comments: a big thank you!

    One (of the many) things I like about your blog is that the comment section has never degraded into a name-calling flame-fest like so many other communities. Probably the content doesn’t draw the juvenile types as much as some other blogs, but a respectful yet firm hand doesn’t hurt either.

    Thing is, in my real life, I cuss like a soldier (dad was a master sergeant) but I really just don’t like the casual personal attacks that the internet engenders.

  29. posted by Pat on

    Oh, and I by the way – I try to play “what if I won the lottery?”

    I was fantasizing about it one day and realized that more that acquiring ANYTHING the most attractive part of the fantasy was GETTING RID OF EVERYTHING! So I try to imagine I’m rich and don’t need to keep the “might need someday” stuff.

    When I was young I traveled a whole year and only had what I could carry in a backpack. Then for a few years after that I could still move house in a taxi. But now. Sheesh. Packed to the rafters.

    Freecycle is my friend.

  30. posted by Brent on

    We ARE moving overseas! Ha! How funny that I stumble across this just two weeks before we head to New Zealand (from California).

  31. posted by Thom on

    Clearly this game will stop short of actually disposing of essentials such as furniture, books and consumables, even though – as you say – a real overseas move might require those things to go. (Not to mention appliances that won’t work overseas anyway!)

    Regarding real international moves, however: I’ve done this twice (away and then back home) and I did a very careful analysis which revealed that it was *less expensive* to get a moving company to move my books (which despite being heavy can be packed quite compactly) and at least some of my furniture along with clothing, kitchen goods, etc. To rebuild my large library of books and recordings – many of which I need for my work – would have cost me a fortune, if indeed I’d been able to find the older/rare items. Ditto replacing the furniture, which I would have had to store for three years if I hadn’t taken it with me (another cost in itself).

    Yes, you do have to pare things right down to what is most important, valuable and useful to you. But my advice to prospective movers: don’t rule out getting your stuff shipped if you know you’re just going to have to acquire it all over again when you reach your destination.

  32. posted by Kathy @ Brazoscowgirl on

    Great game and idea. My brother did move overseas, he had a storage container to ship his stuff. He pared down so he could take his motorcycle in it.

    It will make you definately get away from emotional attachment. suddenly not everything was perfect to take.

  33. posted by Patricia on

    It is interesting to see how many people have commented here that actually live overseas! I do!

    I highly encourage fellow readers who are motivated by this great game to take a circumspect leap and actually move overseas – if this is what inspires you, why not find a way to do it?

    Some of you already know of Timothy Ferriss and ‘The Four Hour Workweek” and blog of the same name – check it out.
    I found your site through another favorite, Zen Habits.

    FYI, we had only six weeks to prepare to move overseas – this was four years ago – sold cars, and left behind new dinnerware and appliances that we’d received as wedding presents only several months prior. Each of us checked a suitcase, and had a carry-on. We shipped heavy coats and favorite books in two boxes.

    Today we have accumulated the basics for an attractive but minimal home – we paid a fraction of what things would cost in the States for household goods, and have accumulated a minimal amount of towels, bedding and kitchenware that furnish a three bedroom flat.

    It did hurt to re-acquire a kitchen full of “basics”; if I/we had known we would be in the same city for several years, we’d have shipped more of those items, only because we have better quality in storage.

  34. posted by Edge Gordon on

    We are moving BACK to the US after six beautiful years in Germany. The ever impending “move back” has given me a jaundiced eye in terms of new purchases.

    Two questions govern our choices:
    Do I want to clean/dust it?
    Do I want to move it?

    Though we should have done it before the dollar tanked, we are only going to buy actual furniture (we’ve been using the Army loaners) next week.

    I did manage to completely furnish the kitchen, across the voltage barrier! from the thrift shop on post.

    I’m perusing Unclutterer for ideas about organizing our new home, which is much smaller (this is OK! it’s just us and the cat!) thanks for all the great ideas!


  35. posted by Courtney on

    A resounding applause to all of those that posted positive comments. I too despise negativity and am so glad that unclutterer is dealing with this. I love this blog – my top favourite. I have always been an unclutterer even before it was known as widely as it is today. I love reading everyones comments and they are all so true. I have not had the pleasure to move overseas yet (still hoping) but have moved interstate too many times to count and I put all these into practise.

  36. posted by amy on

    @Daniel – Love that idea! I must say I do spoil myself rotton when it comes to posh bedding, why not hte rest of my room? πŸ™‚

    Ahh the over seas move, you know I read this this morning and it’s only now, a few hours later that it dawned on me that I moved over seas and back again a few years ago, how could I forget that?! πŸ™‚

    Tip – living in another country is an amazing experience, if you get hte chance to do it, do it!

    When you’re there you’ll be home sick (even if it’s jsut a little), take something homely with you how ever much you downside – I took the crocheted bed blanket my grandmother made. It’ll remind you of home and in my case, that blanket instantly made any room I was in look homely without loads of ‘decorations’.

    When you move home, you are acsepting that you will again be home sick for your almost-home for the rest of your life, bring something home with you to remind you of it all, even if it is the really quite hidiouse cookcoo clock you bought in the black forest but still love πŸ™‚

    I miss snitzle… >sniff<

  37. posted by Anne on

    aaaaaaaaaargh! I thought I had gotten rid of enough…we moved 3 states, and as I unpack (sitting now in a room of boxes) I am embarrased the stuff I brought! It cost us money and time and back labor to get it here, and I am throwing and giving away all over again….I so recommend you do this game….before moving even across the street!

  38. posted by George on

    I have moved overseas for a year – even the husband, who loves his possesions decluttered. A friend, fortunately, or unfortunately, depending upon your clutter point of view gave us a spare room tostore things in. But still, many things were freecycled, things taken away to charity, things given away or sold and some even to the tip. And we still probably have too much but ran out of time to sort effectively. But we could only take 30kgs each

  39. posted by Cheryl on

    My husband and I moved 2 years ago and downsized from a 4 bedroom house to a much-smaller 3 bedroom condo. We moved WAY too much stuff to our new place and are still in decluttering mode. Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity have reaped the benefits of our previous inability to part with our “stuff” — we have definitely changed our ways! It feels much more liberating to have just what you need and nothing more.

  40. posted by Roger on

    Wow, this really helped me finally change the way i think of my clutter/trash/posessions. I have been playing the “Im moving out of my parents house and into my first apartment variation. For years I have been trying to declutter my room (and the house), but never managed to really get rid of anything. This article finally helped me realize, “hey, why am i holding onto these things?”. It has been like an awakening for me. I just think, “why am i keeping this?”. Before when i used to try to declutter and clean, my mindset was always “How am I going to organize everything?”. Purging never really crossed my mind, but since i started purging instead of just shuffling stuff around, It only takes half an hour to declutter a space that would have taken me all day before, and before this the clutter would have just ended up moving somewhere else. Heres to a clean and organized bedroom!

  41. posted by Rick on

    For me it was not a game on a website. I quit my job, divorced my wife, sold my house, and moved to an Asian country in the Pacific ocean. Really. My productivity, physical and mental health, and finances are all dramatically improved; and I have maybe 1% of the junk I used to own. Every piece of junk you own requires other junk to maintain it, clean it, re-charge it, etc.. its a never ending spiral. Minimize.

  42. posted by Emma on

    What a great idea. I don’t think I’d go as far as the post notes and travel brochures but this is a great way to think about things when de-cluttering. If it’s paying for it to be put into storage or getting rid I think the choice becomes easier.

    This is similar to what I do when clearing out my wardrobe I say “would I buy it now if it cost …” if the answer is no it’s out.

  43. posted by Marie on

    I’m working on the real version of this right now — I am working on the goal of moving to another country.

    Currently I’m in the planning stage, so part of what I’m doing is taking time to go systematically through all my possessions and asking the hard questions:

    — Do I really, really love it/need it?
    — Given the above answer is yes, is it a big enough yes to justify shlepping it to another country? (from which I don’t intend to return)

    It’s my goal to move as little as possible — there is a big part of me that would like to go with only what I can check onto a plane with me. Then there’s that other part of me that wants to keep family heirlooms and such.

    This also has interesting ramifications for shopping for anything beyond food. Why buy it if I’m not willing to move it?

  44. posted by jonathan on

    I came across your blog and have to say, it’s helped a lot. But this game is actually quite handy! I just had a new opportunity to work overseas in Europe and i’m going through this exact process. I think it’s great that you’ve made it a game.

    A funny thing about this game is that you can also make money. How you may ask? Well, there is a lot of stuff that many people don’t realize is actually cluttering up their life that is a goldmine! I made about 4K in about 2 weeks getting rid of things I didn’t need to keep around. Things like Ebay, Craiglist, Myspace, and Facebook have been incredible marketing tools to get rid of my things.

    The hard part about this game is that when you are doing it for real, there are many tough decisions you have to make about value and what an item represents to you. It was easy to make the decision to sell my dirtbike, trailer, and gear because I knew I couldn’t relocate that and I had a bad back to boast from riding it. But, the trophies I won as a child and even some of my knick-nacks were hard to get rid of because of the value they had in my heart. So I’d say that’s the single hardest thing.

    Another difficult position is when people find out that you are getting rid of things that they may have given you which have sentimental value to them. Your parents may have passed down to you some things which meant something to them but not to you. The funny thing is, if it meant so much to them then why did they get rid of it in the first place. I think many people have a hard time letting go of things and this pseudo way of passing it on is their justification for it.

    Anyways… a bunch of rambling, but I like this post!

  45. posted by judu on


    I think there was another blog post here or at another website about things with sentimental value.

    What I do is if it is borderline sentimental, I take pictures of it with my digital camera and upload/backup to my flickr account so that I can remember fond memories of that item whenever!

    Ofcourse if there is something that is really priceless than that is one of the few things I would hold onto πŸ™‚

  46. posted by Barry on

    Did you not feel crappy after doing this and realizing you weren’t really moving?

  47. posted by Rejuvenation Lounge » Clutter busting game: Act as if you are moving overseas: on

    […] You can read all about the things I personally needed to do, to get this game working effectively for me by heading over to my guest post over at Unclutterer. […]

  48. posted by Rejuvenation Lounge » 4 Effective Clutter Busting Games: on

    […] You are welcome to read my guest post over at unclutter from July 2008. […]

  49. posted by vijayan on

    very good article and vey easy to practice.

  50. posted by trillie on

    This is a great game. It makes you think about several things at once, like “Would I willingly pay storage for this or that item?” and “How is this item helping me in my adventure overseas?” and also, “Does this item represent myself in a few years (when I get it back from storage)?”

    I sometimes play a little decluttering game that I call “Moving in with the boyfriend”, with different parameters like square footage or number of rooms, or fifth floor and no elevator πŸ˜‰ I’m surprised at what things I don’t love enough to want to carry them during my next move, what things I would readily sacrifice if he didn’t like them, and I’m also surprised at how little furniture I would LOVE to keep when merging two households together to a “best of” in a small apartment. This usually gets me to declutter stuff, but of course I’m realistic and don’t throw out anything necessary like my washing machine. (Yet.) πŸ˜‰

  51. posted by Rachel on

    I think the time-energy combo is what causes so many of us to hang onto all the junk… it takes so much time to sort through the stuff and emotional energy to decide what is replaceable if needed, and what makes sense to keep / ship… we end up waiting until the last minute to pack and let the stress of the actual move steal our joy.

    That’s the reason I love the concept behind Carole’s ideas – take the time when you’re in the dreaming stages to start to make that reality your own, and when it actually comes to logistics and moving you’ve already psychologically prepared yourself for the transition.

    My husband and I are just about to relocate, and I found this post and the comments helpful. Thanks to all!

  52. posted by I’m moving overseas! | Little Black Guidebook on

    […] actually I’m not moving overseas, but what if I were? Unclutterer posted this game as a way to evaluate what really belongs in your life and home. I am playing along. But first, […]

  53. posted by Amanda on

    If I moved overseas, I would sell EVERYTHING (furniture-wise) and just take clothes, toiletries, laptops and hard-drives. And tech-gadgets.

    I live in South Africa, so it would be way too expensive to move with stuff. Especially with Ikea everywhere but here, where I could buy replacements (and Ikea-hack them).

    Maybe our wine collection (but that would be better drunk at multiple intimate goodbye parties with close friends).

  54. posted by Moving Overseas – Au Revoir | Little Black Guidebook on

    […] you unclutterer for posting the original inspiration for this series. Share and […]

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