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16 Boxes: How We Move Overseas

November 29, 2017

To speak the truth, I’ve been postponing this post again and again. I wanted to find a fun and exciting way to talk about our minimalist move abroad. Well, in the end, I don’t think there’s a fun way to tell about moving. Moving is dull, stressing and tiring. It’s now been three months since we moved back to Canada. This is the right time: here is how we managed to move with only 16 boxes in a container, 8 medium suitcases and 4 cabin suitcases for the four of us. So this is my simple testimony about our simple way of moving across the Atlantic, twice.

A sum up of this English escape idea

A little through back a few months earlier, in January 2016 to be precise, for various reasons we decided to move to Europe in the beautiful and exciting London. At that time we were already living in a small apartment so that we couldn’t own that much in the first place.

I can’t lie and tell that we knew this move would be a one year kind of getaway in the end. We thought that it was wise for our family and ourselves to move back closer to them. We thought of a more permanent move. So when we arrived in London, we rented an apartment and organized it with more furniture than we used to have. By more, I mean real beds instead of futon mattresses, and proper desks for each member of the family, one small kitchen table and four chairs, plus a single rocking chair. Oh yes, and a dryer, because I gave up trying to dry my laundry in humid England end of September, and English apartments are not coming with a washer and a dryer for granted.

Our settle in

We bought all that when we moved in 2 weeks after setting feet on the big British island. Then we waited. We waited again and again for our move to come from Canada. We chose, at the time, to keep some few clothes with us, and what we needed for going back to school. But the container was delayed, and we waited far longer than expected. So we had to buy some missing clothes and school supplies.

Plus I put in the container our towels and other home and kitchen stuff. I couldn’t think of taking them with us in the suitcases. The problem was, you can’t do with all these during two entire months. So all these were repurchased too! At the time we moved 8 trunks and 8 small books boxes. When they finally arrived, we had two of more than I could accept. This because of being a minimalist, or even because it couldn’t fit in our apartment.

Lesson learned, I thought! I will never put in a container things that are very much needed. Either I take them in the suitcases, or I give them away and rebuy them. No way I end up again with two of everything! But then I thought: anyway this doesn’t matter because I don’t think I will have to use a container anytime soon… Well, who can tell what the future will be? Que sera, sera!



Going back to Canada: moving again

We eventually decided that Canada was the happy place for us to be and we were missing the land of the red maple leaf enough to abandon our glorious wanders in beautiful England and Europe.

After only a year, it was a lot of freshly acquired possessions that we had, once again to give, sell or even trash. But in the end, we managed to fit everything we need in everyday life in 8 medium suitcases. These will stay in a locker in London during our summer trip around Europe. We took with us 4 cabin suitcases for the summer.

Then it was a 16 boxes-move we ordered for four people from London in the UK to Toronto in Canada. I’m cheating a little bit here because If we have reduced our possessions to the minimum, we still keep some few things at my parents’ home. A box of dearly loved toys that have already gone through two generations of children and are ready for more. Also few books, we don’t need them on a daily basis, but they are essential memories or good reads when we are visiting the grandparents (comics series).

Our 16 boxes

4 boxes of precious memories, (2 for each child, 1 for each adult)

2 boxes of winter clothes that wouldn’t be needed before November (hopefully the container won’t take that long to go to Canada) or extra suits and fancy dresses

2 boxes of precious kitchen stuff (grandmas or great grandmas souvenirs)

4 boxes of books

2 boxes of electronic and various photography equipment with could do without for several months

1 guitar

1 box of board games


We didn’t manage a minimal move and living in one day

It’s not much, and it still is a lot. Believe me, once you’ve realized that things aren’t necessary, but living is, every useless object is becoming a burden. I don’t like the brand new famous use of some sparkling expression, not that I don’t like Mary Kondo’s book. It indeed is fantastically useful. But I started my minimalist journey with a French writer, living in Japan who was teaching minimalism long before her and was already telling the same ideas. So I’m staying faithful to Dominique Loreau. But both books are beneficial and valuable.

So to come back to our possessions, there’s one rule only: “Don’t keep anything that is not useful, or doesn’t make you happy.” This is the only rule that anybody who is tired of being weighted down by his/her things should apply to sort out his/her life and things.

Minimalism is a slow process

It takes time because at first, you believe everything makes you happy. Then you realize that this shirt is kept as a souvenir, and has some awful yellowish stain because of being stored for too long, you certainly don’t love it that much eventually. These plates are old and broken, and after all, they are less important than the food you put in them. You could as well do with some Ikea plates when you move in. These sheets are fitting a European bed, and won’t fit an American bed. This bed is far too big, or too small for your new apartment, you better not take it from the beginning, and so on! Once you start questioning your stuff, you’ll find out soon enough that it’s a snowball effect.



Don’t be afraid of catching a “throw-away” virus here. I can pretty much say that you stay in control of everything. For example, I’m the one in the family who started the whole minimalist thing. As my children and husband are less drastic than me, we find the right balance to accommodate everyone’s comfort. You wouldn’t want to create a future hoarder because you traumatized your kid when you threw away his favourite soft toy when she was 5! What matters is being clear about the purpose of this process, that is clearing the path to freedom of movement. You don’t want to lose something precious in the battle. And if you ever make this mistake then remember life matters, not things!

The weight of your belongings

If you’ve come so far in this post, there is a reason. I want to remind each one of you that the stuff you are carrying along your life is much more massive than its weight. You have to pay for them when you move (not to mention the insurance you have to pay for your move!). When you rent or buy a home, you have to choose bigger and spend more. You have to look for them amongst too many other things, wasting some precious time in your life, you have to repair them or pay again when they break.

You also have to wash these things, you have to clean around them, and lift them each time you are running your chores. Are they so important that you spend so much time and energy for them? Shouldn’t you be outside with your kids or your friends enjoying nature and exercising? Having some fun in a restaurant, or just cooking a good meal at home as a couple?

What remains matters

I won’t make this post last much longer because I believe many minimalist experts are telling about all these useless attempts to manage too many possessions. I merely want to share my (our) view and experience. But in the end what remains matters. I mean by this that you pay more attention to the few remaining belongings. They are important. You’ve already learned that they are not that important. To be honest, I came to think that the ship transporting our few very precious belongings could sink in the middle of the Atlantic. Then I realized that in the end, it didn’t matter anymore to me. I would be sad and disappointed for sure, but after all, these are just things, not lives!

More about minimalism:

3 Golden Rules: Spring Diet For My Minimalist Wardrobe

4 inspiring minimalists for spring cleaning

or even:

How To Move Very Simply to London


16 boxes, how we simply moved overseas | tips, travel, packing, military, simple, minimalism, families, for moms, moving overseas, check list

comments +

  1. Ben Zabulis

    December 4th, 2017 at 6:09 am

    Great article,it reminded me so much of what we did for our move to Hong Kong three years ago. In UK we discarded so much stuff, some we sold and some went to charity, determined to be minimalist like you. We had a few boxes of personal effects only in a shared container and the rest we took with us, we went by ship so could take 90kg each. Have to say that the removal company was great, no breakages and no missing items, quite punctual too.

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