5 Easy Steps to Downsizing for a Move to Mexico
In a world of minimalists, how much is enough?
(This post was originally published on March 13, 2017 and updated on January 2, 2020.)
Have you made the decision to retire and decided Mexico is the place for you? But what are you going to do with the 30 years of “stuff” you have accumulated? Some call it clutter, others, treasures, but when it comes right down to it, what you really have is just “stuff”.
And then the questions begin…”What do I get rid of?” “What should I keep?” “How do I start???”
STOP. Take a breath. And start by asking yourself truthfully how much stuff do you really need? In 1986 in one of his more famous routines, George Carlin hit the nail on the head when he spoke about this topic. You may even recognize yourself here.
You could get rid of everything, thinking that you’ll simply buy what you need when you get down here. But think carefully before you make any final decisions. Not all the creature comforts that are important to you now may be readily available for replacement in your new country. Where you retire to, the size of the community you’re moving to and your budget will dictate what you have access to as well as the quality and cost of those items.
But first, let’s start at the beginning of the process, because yes, downsizing is a process. We are emotional creatures, so careful planning and consideration must be taken when embarking upon this task.
The first phase of downsizing takes place in your head. Your mindset needs to be “in the zone”. You need to actually be mentally ready to go forward with what can potentially be an enormous task ahead. A good plan of action is to start at least a year ahead of your retirement date. This will give you enough time to declutter, sell, giveaway and decide to whom the family heirlooms are going without the added pressure of a short deadline.
Step 1 – Take a look at the big picture. Look around your home and identify those pieces of furniture that you could do without or that someone else could use. Do you really need two sets of living room furniture, when you rarely get visitors any more? Or how about that second (or third) bedroom? A young person starting out would really appreciate receiving that newish bed.
How about kitchen items or tools? You may only really need one hammer or just one large pot not two! And since you’ll be more mobile than before, perhaps paring down to just a laptop computer and ridding yourself of the oversized CPU in your living room is an option. What about that old steam trunk that you inherited from Aunt Sadie. Perhaps one of your children or another family member would be honoured to take over its care?
Step 2 – Ask your family and friends. There is a good possibility that someone in your family or circle of friends has always had a particular fondness for something in your home. Contact them and see if there’s anything that they would be interested in before you get rid of it. A non-intrusive way of doing this is to send out an email (using the BCC option) or a Facebook message to your “family” group listing the items up for grabs. That way it goes out in a general sense and one person won’t feel pressured to have to take something they don’t actually want.
Step 3 – How to get rid of stuff AND make some money. Garage sales and online selling ROCK!! Here is where you can make a few bucks and maybe even have some fun along the way. During my family raising years we held a yard sale almost every summer. Not only did we make a few bucks, but it even helped nurture my children’s bartering skills as they negotiated on the prices of their old toys. Before I made the move to Mexico, the stuff I had the hardest time letting go of was my wonderful stash of fabric! I had been sewing for fun and relaxation for many years so I had acquired quite a collection of not just material but many, many sewing gadgets as well. I didn’t realise my emotional attachment to these things until it was time to part with them. But amazingly I found that as I started selling or giving away a little a time, a momentum began and I really got into it. By the end of my purge, I wasn’t even blinking an eye…out the door it went! I made just over a thousand dollars on stuff that in some cases I thought was “junk” but apparently became someone else’s treasure (it’s true what they say).
FREE WAYS to Advertise your Items for Sale or Giveaway:
Kijiji Canada (www.kijiji.ca)
Facebook “selling” groups in your area
Flea Markets – table rentals can be very cheap
Yard sale – the small cost of some flyers
In some communities, people randomly place items on their front lawn for giving away. I’ve seen it myself in Vancouver and other cities in Canada. When my daughter was a poor starving student just starting out, she managed to furnish her entire apartment (mostly for free) between CraigsList and scavenging her new neighbourhood. It was amazing what she found. In fact, a senior lady moving into a retirement home gave her a brand new Queen size bed. It had been in her “spare” room for guests that never came.
Charitable Organizations for Donations
My Sister’s Closet (USA)
Non-Profit animal shelter thrift stores
Homeless or Women’s Shelters
Community / Youth Centres
Step 4 – What should I keep? Some things you may want to consider keeping mainly because it is either hard to replace in Mexico or relatively expensive. When moving to Mexico, the general rule of thumb is that ANYTHING with an ELECTRICAL CORD is expensive to replace and should be kept. So…electronics, lamps, gadgets are usually more costly than the US or Canada. Even if you are able to find them at a reasonable cost, the quality may not be what you expect. I have noticed recently, however, that flat-screen televisions are very reasonably priced. But then again, it could be because most everything here is now being imported from China!
Another thing to keep in mind too is that if you plan to live close to the ocean, the SALT AIR and HUMIDITY wreaks havoc on items that contain corrosive materials. Desktop computers take a particular beating in this regard. So a laptop or tablet might be a better choice to bring with you.
Step 5 – Just in case I change my mind. Yes, we’ve all done it one time or another. Some of us even make lifelong habits out of it. I’m talking about making “rash” decisions. I suggest that you get rid of the “big” stuff first – real estate, big toys, vehicles, furniture doubles, etc. and then rent a storage locker (or part of a friend’s garage) and place your extras there. By “extras”, I mean the things you don’t really need at first to start your new life in Mexico. Things that eventually you think you will be able to part with but, for the moment, you’d like to hang on to. Maybe it’s that beautiful set of china dishes you got as a wedding present or your fascinating library of books. Whatever your “thing” is, if you’re just not 100% ready to purge it, then hang on to it for a year after you move by storing it and reassess the situation again later.
For me, it has been boxes of family photos (many taken before the digital age). I keep saying that one day I will take a week and scan them all, but for one reason or another, I never seem to get around to it.
So, in summary, start early and consider how much freer you will feel once you have released yourself of all that stuff! I can still remember very clearly when I began and how I felt so overwhelmed. But before too long I got a momentum going and each time I removed an item from my possession, I felt a sense of absolute freedom. Freedom to travel and no longer be tied to “stuff”. Material things that were just holding me back! Downsize and tell Mexico here you come!!
Have you downsized recently? What was the most difficult part? The easiest? Any tips? We’d love to hear your story!
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I am moving to Mexico now that my 30 year marriage is ending. Your article is helping me immensely! Gracias!
You’re very welcome! I’m glad I was helpful in your transition to a new life. Saludos, Ana
Great info Meg!
Read the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. It made downsizing easier for me