Early this year, Netflix released the series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo“. I was very excited because I am a fan of Marie Kondo, a well-known Japanese organising consultant & responsible for the explosion of the minimalism & decluttering trend. She created the KonMari concept for decluttering your space. I have read her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and I am loving what she is preaching. She is all keeping stuff that only spark joy and discarding, giving away & throwing the stuff that doesn’t spark joy. It encourages minimalism to live a simple, uncomplicated lifestyle and bringing forth a peace of mind attributed lack of unnecessary accumulation.
The show has 8 episode of Marie Kondo going to 8 different households and helping them in their clutter, home mess or over-accumulation dilemma or trouble with hoarding & letting go. The show was a viral hit and everyone started to declutter their cabinets & homes, me included. I started folding my clothes in my cabinet in the KonMari way.
In the show, they have featured homes of couples with young children, a grieving wife, a couple about to have a baby but I also realised one type of family that need a little editing in the stuff they own: an expat family or a family living temporarily in a foreign land due to work opportunities. As an expat who is living in a place that is not permanently my home, I realised how much we need to learn and embody this KonMari way in our expat living.
Here are 5 reasons why expats should practice the KonMari method by Marie Kondo:
1. Expat living has no permanence
Most expats leave our home countries and live in a foreign land usually due to work opportunities, the need to new adventures or following a fellow expat lover or friend. The expat life are often a comma rather than a period (not unless the expat decided that he/she wants to apply for citizenship in that country & make his/her temporary sojourn a permanent one). So if that contract ends, the need for novelty of experiences has been quenched and the relationship with that lover ended or your expat friend is heading to a new country, don’t you think it is futile to be accumulating so much in a temporary home when there is always the possibility you will be heading back home or moving to a different country?
2. Expats must edit their belongings to fit a 30kg heavy suitcase
I have moved to 2 different foreign countries in my lifetime. First in Saudi Arabia with my mother & siblings when I was in secondary school to live with my father who is working and in Singapore in 2012 when I got a job offer to work as a doctor. In both instances, the companies (my father’s in Saudi Arabia and mine in Singapore) often would sponsor the travel ticket to the country with a 30kg baggage allowance per person. I have asked some of my other expat friends who are now living in other countries for work and they told me that they were sponsored with an airfare with 30 kg baggage limit. I don’t know if some companies offer more or other adventure-seekers splurges on 60kg baggage allowance in their transfer to a new country. But if I would want to move to another country or another tempting job offer in a different country is in the horizon, shouldn’t I make sure that I can edit my belongings & possessions to a 30 kg suitcase without any sweat when I decide to move?
3. Expensive Cargo Fees
Ok, so you can’t help it. You decided to accumulate stuff and shop nonstop in your new home country. It was just too tempting especially if you are living in countries that would allow you to indulge in shopping easily like in Singapore, Dubai, outlet stores in United States, etc. You decided the things that couldn’t fit in your 30 kg luggage when you decided to move back home or to another country, you decided to ship back to your home country. Most often than not, boxes of belongings you have tidy up to keep are sent in your home country and never to your new home country. Some generous companies offer their employees you have finished their contract allowance for cargo shipment. But you still have to be practical. It is way to expensive to ship your Lamborghini car abroad or that large and heavy detailed wooden cabinet. We had a car in Saudi Arabia and my parents sold it when they retired. I know of friends who sold their tv, washing machines, elaborate chandelier, pianos, bikes because buying a new one is cheaper than shipping it.
4. Possible Limited Space
If you are preparing yourself to live away from your home country, never expect the conditions to be identical to your life back home. Expect the unexpected. Some countries have high cost rent. There is a possibility you will be sharing an unit with some housemate. Some companies provide their expat employees accommodations but some units provided may not be spacious enough for your 20 shoe boxes of Jimmy Choos or your collection of StarBucks tumblers from all the countries you travelled to. It reminded me Episode 3 in Tidying Up with Marie Kondo of this family who had to downsize their belongings because they moved to a smaller apartment. Don’t you think it is useless you accumulate too much or bring along excessive items in a possible space that would be too cramp for comfort?
5. Keeping & creating memories by careful curation
One reason why I enjoy expat living is the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and experience a different kind of life from the one that I grew up into. It builds character, it creates wonderful memories and I gain friendships & insights that I wouldn’t have if I stayed in a place that I am accustomed to. And I am happy I get to bring along my family for the ride. But hoarding & accumulating stuff from the current country you are living at to create and keep these fond memories derails its purpose. Hoarding and amassing too many stuff creates instead anxiety, irritation and fatigue. To preserve and celebrate the memories of experiencing a life in another country, be selective instead in what to keep and bring forth in the next chapters of your life. This is a perfect time to assess what spark joy. Keep momentos that make you smile and warms your heart. Practice the art of feeling the item if it truly sparks joy. It may be hard at first but as time goes by, it will be second-nature. Thank the items that had served its purpose but are not needed anymore and let go.
When you are living in another country, learn to live a minimalistic life. You are there to collect experiences, knowledge, friendships, insights and memories, not to mindlessly hoard material goods to be placed in any space of your temporary home and worry how to bring all of them along in the next journey of your life.