We’re coming up on our 5-year anniversary of our Foreign Service life. The crazy thing is – in some ways I don’t know where the 5 years have gone and in others I realize that our old life, the pre-Foreign Service life seems like a distant memory.

Every step of this journey has been a learning experience. Perhaps more than anyone, expats learn to say, “Never say ‘never.”” The truth is, no one knows what’s just around the bend, but our lifestyle adds a whole additional set of layers.

With so much unpredictability, we benefit from putting ourselves in full-simplify-mode. If you don’t need it, give it away. If it’s broken, throw it out. If you haven’t used it in a year (or more), someone else surely will. If you live in a developing country – one woman’s trash is almost surely another woman’s treasure. Play Santa. Play giver-of-things. When you unload, you unlock so much space (literally and figuratively).

Need motivation?

A key to finding your motivation (especially for things that can be challenging) is taking the time to examine the values you hold most dear and use those as your source of inspiration.

Are you naturally altruistic? Focus on who could benefit from the stuff you give away.

Do you value environmental responsibility? Think about lowering your carbon footprint by not shipping so many things to your next home. Or, if you’re staying put, think about the power of reuse and recycle – someone can put your un-wanted (or un-needed) things to use!

Do your values center on financial responsibility? Have a yard sale. The money you make can go into savings or help you purchase something you really need.

Is a sense of freedom your most important value? Then take time to remind yourself how it will feel to not be bogged down by all that extra weight.

What about family? Do you value family above all else? Then get the kids involved! Plan a family celebration – a pizza night or a trip to get ice cream – once you’ve unloaded all those extra things. Sound like bribery? So what – perhaps your kids’ primary motivation is a special treat.

Put that motivation to work!

Once you have a sense of what values most motivate you, give yourself frequent reminders to stay on task. Put up sticky notes around the house. Email your spouse or partner and update him or her on how things are going. Ask them to reply so you get an easy in-box reminder. Treat yourself to something special at different stages of simplification – a chocolate sundae today (you may notice a theme with the ice cream…primary motivator anyone?), a massage next week. Be kind to yourself! Say, “Well done!”

So, what are you really waiting for? If you start now, you’ll be halfway there in no time! Before you know it, you’ll be done…and enjoying that chocolate shake.


Visual motivation courtesy of Blue Bell – the best ice cream in the country

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