How to Fit your Life in Two Suitcases | Moving to Italy

We all know it, moving is stressful. If you’ve been doing a lot of it, it’s probably downright dreadful by now. So when you add on foreign languages, strange customs and limiting weight restrictions, it’s no wonder that things can turn into a bit of a nightmare.

Since I’ve done an international “pack your bags and go” move once in my life already, I thought I would take all the things I learned, improved upon from last time and strategies that served me well, both when I moved from the USA to Germany and now from Germany to Italy.

First Things First

The first step in your move will be buying your tickets which means first figuring out what is the smartest way to get to your destination. Here in Europe, while I had many options, I really only needed to compare the costs and benefits of moving with a train vs a budget airline.

Of course flying is much faster but budget airlines have crazy package requirements that are not so idea for someone trying to take every possession with them. On the other hand, trains don’t weigh your bags so you can take as much as you can realistically carry but are very slow. Depending on where you currently live and are moving to, you’re options for travel may be very different or you may not have much in the way of options at all.

Once I knew that I wanted to take my chances with a budget airline, I started searching for tickets. I ended up getting a great deal on already super cheep tickets on Black Friday from Ryanair (not affiliated). Using the sale, I was able to get an additional checked bag with the savings from my personal ticket and first checked bag!

That meant that I had two 20 kg checked bags, one 10 kg carry on bag, and a backpack as a personal item (44 and 22 lbs respectively) to move my entire life. (And when I say my entire life, I mean it… I really don’t have much left at my parents house this point aside from mementos and awards.) Once I got looking around at my flat I realized that I clearly had more than 50 kg (110 lbs) of stuff in my life and that I needed to downsize once again for the move.

So now we come to my tips for decluttering and downscaling. If you would rather listen to them, I’ll link to you my YouTube video where I go through most of the same points.

6 Tips for Downscaling

1. My first tip is to reevaluate things like skincare and cosmetics and plan to use up anything you can. Alternatively, if you have any bigger bottles of things you don’t want to get rid of, try to use enough of the product to downsize it into travel sized bottles.

For example, I had a choice between attempting to get through a giant bottle of perfume (which was really unrealistic for the timeframe) or using up one of my travel sized perfumes before moving. I opted to use up the travel sized bottle because in the end, the amount of perfume that would be used up would be (theoretically) the same but I would be able to throw away one bottle’s worth of weight.

2. My next tip is to get rid of any unnecessary packaging. While many items are a lot easier to move the traditional way in boxes, when flying, the boxes just take up precious space. Things that are breakable you might want to keep in their boxes but you could also wrap them with scarves and sweaters and it could very well be fine that way too (that’s how I did it and I had zero casualties).

I think we are particularly prone to keeping the boxes to electronics and so my suggestions would be to evaluate why you would do so. For example, I bought an Apple watch off of Facebook and they sent the box which at the time I decided to keep. When it came time to move, I realized that the box was only housing the extra watch band which could go with my jewelry and that I would never need the box for resale considering the watch already had no value (which is why I was able to afford it in the first place).

3. When we are out exploring the world, it is very easy to accumulated mementos even if we really wen’t trying to. My tip is to reevaluate those and determine exactly why you have held on to them. For example, I had gotten a wine bottle in Portugal that had a beautiful tile design but when I thought about it, I really wasn’t attached to the bottle but the label. So I cut the label away, stuck it in my book of memories and was able to get rid of the bottle without any regret.

4. Get rid of paper! Seriously. Maybe this isn’t such a big issue elsewhere in the world but I accumulated more paper living in Germany than I did the entire 4 years I was living on my own before that. They mail everything and nothing is legal unless it’s printed. Aside from just sorting through the documents you acquire, if you know that you will be moving, try hard to not get it in the first place. Don’t buy paper books, take notes on the computer, opt out of mailing from your bank, etc. It helps the environment and your bags.

5. So once you have gone through everything, it’s pretty easy to see what you are and aren’t using anymore. This is the part where I think others struggle but for me, it’s very easy to be ruthless when I know there’s limited space. Anything extra that had some sort of resale value, I attempted to sell on Facebook. Of course there are a lot of things that I couldn’t really sell (like makeup and food) and so for those things I gave them away to friends and coworkers and everything left after that I donated.

6. The final tip I have is probably not possible for everyone. But after all the steps above, I still has some things that I didn’t want to get rid of but also didn’t have room for. Mostly these items were sentimental and so I packed them up in my suitcase for my trip home and left them at my parents house. I would still recommend to be ruthless even if this option is possible for you because shipping is not cheep and the last thing you want to do when you finally make it home is sort through a pile of boxes.

So after all of the decluttering, I still had just a few, heavy things that were worrying me which brings me to my last (bonus) tip. Compare the cost (and hassle) of paying for overweight baggage vs shipping the extra items to your destination. I packed a box  of all of my extra things and weighted it. When I discovered it was almost 8 kg (18 lbs) I knew that it would be cheeper to mail it than pay the 10€ per kg overages Ryanair was charging at the time. In the end, for me, it worked out to be about €30 cheeper to mail it.

So those are my tips for decluttering and using a budget airline to move internationally. I know a lot of these are pretty straight forward but I think that the execution is a lot more nuanced than one might expect which is why I tried to give relevant examples from my last move. If you’re curious to how I am settling in here in Italy, I’ll link you to my first impressions of my new uni. Otherwise, I guess you will just have to stay tuned to see my adventures here in Italy and my trips around Europe.

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