OPERATION SPEED-CLEANING: Downsizing to Make Money for a Family Gap Year Abroad

One of the many benefits of moving your family to another country on your own dime (you know, when your work is not paying for it?) is that you get to downsize, declutter, donate, and sell as much as you can to make a little cash for a family fun gap year abroad… with kids. It’s one step closer to an elusive minimalist lifestyle.

This post is a cleaned-up/revised Google-translated version of the original post in Polish.

Two young kids on a bottomless couch enjoying T.V. time on a television without a stand in an almost empty living room.
Chillin’ at home during “Operation Speedcleaning” where that bottomless couch was the very last thing to go.

What??  We are moving to Europe!!!???!!! Sure!  Well, now…!

You … [bleep-bleep]… And just exactly how do we do it?…  How to organize it??  After all, we have a house, cars, rented lockers full of things (typical American storage), clothes, books, bicycles, well …  thousands of items with more or less sentimental or utility value, but ultimately like many things you can live WITHOUT!

Wait, wait … can you?  Yes, you can live without them!  Yes, we can!  As our good old American president said!  

Because what are those junk boxes in the garage that I haven’t looked into for months? … Or even years!  There is furniture that you bought occasionally somewhere, and for which there was never any use, anywhere … cluttered storage, for which we pay!  Poodle with duperels [yeah, this is Google translation, I don’t know how to fix it, but it sounds funny!], piles of clothes, bags, shoes, old blankets, toys, children’s clothes (because maybe there will be another child), decorations, pots, all bullshit!!!!!!!

What are all those for?  The more, the better? Hmm … Really ??  The belief that you can live without all this did not come to me right away.  It was hard.  There were doubts.  As with any major change in life, there are moments of weakness.  For example, they caught me when I was sorting my children’s clothes that brought back so many memories; or I was proud to remember the first purchases in the good ol’ US of A, for which I spent a substantial part of my first salary. . . in the United States.

However, I always had a strong goal in mind—to live happily in Europe.  The awareness that my family’s life will be better, because we will all be a lot happier there, gave me a kick in the backside.  And then, for the first time in my life I was so sure—yes, we’re leaving (… “on the jetplane, not sure when I’ll be back again”, as the song goes)!  

A child with its back turned playing with toys on the brick-covered ground in front of a lawn and with things up for sale on the yard.

Text on photo reads:  Raise money for your family move. . .  Sell Stuff!  www.FreeElectrons.Family
Where to get money for a family gap year abroad (with kids)? Sell as much as you can; make a little cash and downsize, declutter and donate in the process.

All the other elements were to help me reach this goal.  In this way, getting rid of things was supposed to allow me to rent a house, and ultimately to give me the MONEY to travel and live abroad.  So everything is fine.  He (my husband) gets what he wants… and so do I. 

I approached the matter systemically.  Storage first.  Later the garage.  At the end of the house.

It was possible.

Inside a full storage unit with boxes and furniture.

Text:  www.FreeElectrons.Family
Clearing out one of our storage units every weekend for a month, 3 months before D-day!

step 1: Clearing out the storage units

You could write a book about it!  Storage in the States is a sacred thing! Almost everyone rents a storage space for things that cannot fit in the house.  At least for people living in cities, where homes are often as wide as only an arm’s length, space is very limited.  Very normal.  I do not judge, because I use this solution myself.  The problem was that we had not one, but three different lockers, for which we paid monthly fees.  Terrible!  I may have an explanation for that, but it doesn’t matter.  It was just like that.

Now a revolution.  All the valuable things in our possession that we do not sell, donate or throw out (including those in the garage and at home) must now fit into one storage.  

Selection follows.  The beginnings are difficult, because every time you open a bag or poodle [there it is again, the Google translation!], I find books that I love; toys that brought such joy to my children; favorite clothes (now too small!), etc.  

My advice?  Drink good coffee.  Take a break and think that nothing has to be written off.  In the end, you win, because the things that served you will be useful to others, and in return you will get either a bit of $$$ or satisfaction that you can help.

I tried to dispose of everything we had.  All toys and children clothes, my better clothes, shoes, bags, games, dishes, literally everything that was in good condition went to the parcels we sent to the Philippines, where my husband’s family lives. I know that someone will use it all there. [Later, my husband found out that some of the boxes did not make it to their respective destination due to some kind of widespread seizure of shipments].  Oh well!

If you do not know personally who can benefit, just announce on your local internet platform (for example olx) that you will give away your items for free and the phone will ring right away.

A bedroom with clothes on the floor, on the bed. . . everywhere.

Text:  www.FreeElectrons.Family
20 pairs of suit!!! What??? Clearing out the house every weekend took another month.


The process was similar as above.  The difference was that things in the garage, because it’s close to the house, were more important to us.  But nothing is what it seemed.  The good ones I did put in the next boxes in the Philippines, the rest was nicely put on the streets.  In the US, it’s very normal for people to put unused items on the street. There is no shame in using it.  In this way I did accumulate many of the treasures that I am now putting back in the street.

For example, two prams, children’s clothes, a coffee maker, suitcases—just some of my finds.  Clothes, furniture and household items are quite cheap in the US and people tend to buy a lot and often.  In this way, there is no resistance to getting rid of “old” things and just buy new ones.  This is how the culture of so-called yard/garage sales, or simply displaying things on the streets.


House.  It’s an uphill battle here.  Literally and figuratively.  Everything seemed important and could not be sold.  It was necessary to act radically.  In my case, hire a husband to co-decide.  “Quick ball”—decide quickly!  We put the furniture and appliances on the internet market and gave ourselves three weeks to sell them.  If there are no takers, we sentenced it to …

Poooszło! Voila!  Done!  There are 3 suitcases left, 23kg each, and 4 hand luggages, a guitar and the full Uppababy stroller with all the bling-blings!  These are all the things that we could check into the plane.

Then, there was nothing else left to do but … to start, ready, fruuuuuuuuuuuuuu! 

We’re leaving on a jetplane. . .  not sure when we’ll be back again!

A father with 2 young kids sleeping in a stroller, picking up luggage at an airport.

Text:  www.FreeElectrons.Family
First day of Spring in Lisbon with 3 suitcases, 4 hand luggages, a guitar and the full Uppababy stroller set with 2 sleepy kids.

Downsizing/Decluttering for a family move abroad in a nutshell …

We sold 50% of the items via a local, online neighbor’s platform called #MomsOnTheHill, through the municipal craigslist (Polish olx) ad platform, and simply by doing yard sales (or jebs) in front of the house for pennies on the dollar, for cheaps.  Another 25% of the items we gave to people we knew or not, who could have some use for them.  About 10% we kept in storage (mainly things marked by fairly strong sentimental values).  Another 10% we packed into a car that we sent to Europe.  And 5% we packed into the 3 suitcases and hand luggages that we brought with us to Europe.

The whole operation lasted less than 3 months—from December to March. The day before departure on March 20, we cleaned the garage and took out the last rubbish.  The house was left in good hands of a real estate company.  It was so shiny that I imagined that someone would enlighten and immediately rent our hut!

It didn’t happen right away, but it happened.  And then. . . before we knew it, we were walking to the rhythm of the Bulerias (a flamenco rhythm/style that was born of the gypsies in this town) while sipping finos and olorosos (some of the local sherry wine) in Jerez de la Frontera … with great smiles on our faces, light hearts telling each other with our happy eyes. . .  we did it.  Yes we did!

Operation Speedcleaning for a family gap year abroad (with kids) was a success!

Thanks for stopping by.

Like. Comment. Share! Big Smile!

A hazel-eyed cat next to an empty plant pot on gravel yard, outdoor.

Text:  www.FreeElectrons.Family
Saying bye-bye to our feral cat, Masha, who hung around in our backyard.

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