Cleaning House: Preparing for a Life Abroad

We've only been in Seoul for two weeks but it already feels as though we've lived here all this time! After a move cross-country and then cross-world, I'm happy to be settled for a while. Now that we've about wrapped up the odds and ends of what seemed an impossible endeavor, I thought I'd share some of our thoughts and tips on cleaning house and preparing for a move abroad.

Think ahead and start early. There will be to-dos up the wazoo; as many steps as you can stay ahead, the better. I kept running lists on the Notes app on my phone and updated tasks by priority (especially as many were time-sensitive and/or had multiple steps). Preparing for a move abroad is not something you can do in one sitting. Try to chip away at it each day.

Save up. Even if you're moving abroad for this reason, you're bound to incur costs in the beginning. Having a savings buffer to pay off our credit card bill, put down deposits, and withdraw cash as needed saved us in a pinch. 

Let go. Deciding to sell, donate, and toss most of our belongings was a (literal) weight off our shoulders. Even two individuals who live minimally can acquire and accumulate quite a bit, but nothing material is irreplaceable. We were able to sell larger items (our couch and beds) on Craigslist--the keys are quality photos, timing, and pricing items to sell--and some clothing and beauty items on Depop. We passed other items on to my good friend and coworker who had just moved into a new home, and donated smaller goods to local charities. Whatever was left, we tossed. We were lucky to have my parents drive a car full of items we wanted to hold onto home to store.

All you need is less. Pack what you think would be the bare minimum, then reassess and repack. Seriously. We brought only clothes, shoes, and technology, and were still the poor souls at baggage, shifting and rearranging to meet the weight requirement (and broke even on every suitcase. If that isn't a talent...). You change into indoor slippers at work and can't fit the rest in your small Seoul officetel, anyway.

But bring the essentials. Some items are not as readily available (if at all) in other countries as they are in the States. I felt ridiculous stocking up on tampons at a Costco in the midwest, but, in retrospect, I thank the heavens I did. 

Do your research. I don't take it for granted that I understand the language and am familiar with the culture and customs, making for a relatively easy day-to-day. It's such a humbling experience to be in an environment where next to nothing about you is predominant, and I can only imagine how much more difficult circumstances would be with those variables thrown into the mix. The more you research and prepare yourself, for even the shift in mindset, the better and more enriching this expat life will be.

There will be bumps and hiccups along the way; try to enjoy the ride! Every day we've been here, I've thought to myself, I can't believe I live here, and that's made all the lists, planning, preparing, the long days, and even longer nights, worth it.

ui