Minimalism and the expat life

Minimalism may be the latest trend to hit lifestyle magazines and self-help books. But there is something to said for the process. Especially for an expat. The expat life is one that consists of well… moving.. .obviously. Now there’s not one person that I’ve met that actually enjoys the process of moving despite the excitement that accompanies the end result. If you’re like me, then the thought of packing up your belongings into boxes can be quite daunting, almost tear-inducing.

In the last two years I had to do this twice. And since then I have discovered something quite trendy, and a bit scary. Something that has stopped me from shedding tears at the thought of packing and has ultimately saved me money. What is it? Well it’s called minimalism and I’d like to share with you why it is an expat’s best friend. 

Minimalism for beginners

So when most of my friends here the word minimalism, they probably picture an cold, empty room, scathingly furnished for an occupant of one. Looking around my flat, I can assure that this is not the case. So what it exactly is it?

There are many definitions and takes on it, but here’s my definition of it.

To ensure that I am living and surrounding myself only with what I need and enjoy as simply as possible. 

The minimalists define it as:

If you desire to live with fewer material possessions, or not own a car or a television, or travel all over the world, then minimalism can lend a hand. But that’s not the point…Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom.

                                                                                                                                      (The minimalists, 2017)

Now this doesn’t mean you can’t buy things and that you should get rid of things that are important to you. But it allows you look at your surrounds to see if you actually ‘need’ them all. 

How did I arrive at this point?

The first time I had to pack up my belongings was during our move from London to Qatar. This was a painstaking exercise. And one that I knew would be both emotionally and physically daunting. I had to pack  up and reduce my life of 10 years into boxes. As I hadn’t been the best on keeping a minimalistic life I started the process of discarding things I no longer needed about 6 months before the move.

Six months later we had reduced our life into about 36 boxes that took up a small corner of our living room. It’s always a strange feeling when you see your life packed up into a said number of boxes. While we were pleased with the small amount of space these boxes took up, my husband and I both looked at each other thinking “what on earth are in those boxes”.

Needless to say we didn’t use all the things we had packed up into boxes thinking it was our most valuable and life would be empty without it. Half the stuff lived in boxes in Qatar with no use or purpose or perhaps more importantly… no room.

Moving again…

The second time we had to discard and pack was on our way to Singapore. We knew that the space available to us would be less than in the Middle East so a purging was a must. While we sold as much of a kitchen items and furniture that we didn’t want to ship over, there was still the task of chucking a whole lot away. I hate throwing things away. Absolutely hate it. But I also hated the thought of paying for useless stuff to be packed into boxes to sail the seas over to Singapore. 

So I got the bin bags ready and I was ruthless. Luckily I was mentally prepared as I had recently been reading the Marie Kondo’s book on tidying up. My husband likes things neat and tidy and well, as much as I do, I’m the opposite of him. So after being sick of him getting on my case about all my stuff, I started reading the book (at his recommendation of course!). And surprisingly I liked the ideas behind it. Who wouldn’t want to spend less time cleaning. Or know that everything in their closet were items they loved and actually wore. 


The first thing I got rid of were my clothes. This was also partly motivated by wanting to move towards a capsule wardrobe (there’ll a post soon on this as well). I got rid of the clothes that sat in the suitcase that I thought I would someday wear. The dresses I wore once every two years that I probably couldn’t fit into anymore. The tatty clothes I had relegated to bumming around the house. Note- I did not sit there asking myself if each and every item sparked joy in me, but I was honest about if I needed it.  There must have been 3-4 bags full of clothes and I felt happy. Well initially sad that I had spent the money on these clothes that I barely wore. But ultimately happy knowing I wasn’t going to do that anymore. 

I also did the same with lotions and potions, reducing what I was going to take with us. 

Why minimalism can work for expats

We still have stuff. Or should I say, I still have stuff. But I feel better knowing that what I have with me are the things that are truly important to me. Things that I use and things that I would struggle to replace. As an expat it is important to have certain sentimental objects with you to make a new place feel like home. Those are important.

However, when you are moving around a lot, having less helps. It helps during the packing up stages. It obviously helps during the moving and shipping stages as you are carrying less which ultimately costs less. Moving around a place with less clutter does feel less stressful. Strangely. the best bit about having less, is that when it is time to get rid of it, you don’t feel so bad because you’ve given it a good life so to speak. 

There is definitely more to say on this topic and my goal is to try and share more on how I am trying to live a minimal lifestyle with you lot. Remember it is a lifestyle that is defined by yourself. You set the restrictions. 

But for now, if you are slightly intrigued by having less to clean and spending less, I would challenge you to try and declutter. With Spring in full swing, it is a great time to get rid of the old to make room for the new. 

You don’t want your new home to be overrun by boxes!


For tips on how to declutter check out Marie Kondo’s tidying up tips. I know it’s a bit of a fad but it does help. 

Happy Spring Cleaning!

Like it? Pin it!

minimalism, expat life

No Comments

Share your thoughts or stories here!

%d bloggers like this: