How We Downsized Before Becoming Expats


In preparation for our new life as expats, my wife and I got rid of 99% of our belongings and moved to Mexico with only four suitcases. I wrote about this in an earlier post, and since then, several readers have contacted me to ask for more details about our downsizing process.

Until now, I have avoided writing about this topic in detail because I was afraid the post would be too long and boring. I tend to keep my posts short — like my attention span. What I am saying is — if you are not prepared to spend a few more minutes than usual reading our blog, you may want to move on now.

The Journey Begins

We had a 2,200 square foot house and two cars that were less than 5 years old. The house was chock full of the stuff that we had accumulated over the years.

We knew that our first priority was selling the house because we still had a significant monthly mortgage payment. About 9 months from my retirement date, I started dedicating my free time to painting the house, cleaning up the yard, and making minor repairs.

At about the same time, Linda and I both started going through our stuff one closet at a time. I quickly realized that a lot of our stuff would have little value to someone else: 15 year old computer equipment, old magazines, cassette tapes, VHS tapes, and a lot of broken items that I had vowed to fix before tucking them away in the closet. I filled over a dozen garbage bags with these items and stacked them inside our closed garage. I later rented a 40 yard dumpster and filled it up.

We donated countless bags of clothing to charity, gave some furniture to family, and moved the rest to a storage shed — temporarily. We knew that we did not want the added expense of paying a monthly storage fee once we lived in Mexico. We later gave the remaining furniture and household items to my 22 year old son and his girlfriend.


Although the housing market was getting better at that time, we still had concerns that we would have trouble selling it. Some of our friends told us that it took almost a year for their houses to sell. For that reason, we decided to list it six months from my retirement date.

From the moment we listed the house, people started making appointments with our realtor to see it. After about three weeks of people viewing it, a couple offered to buy it. They told us that they loved the house and immediately agreed to pay the asking price. They were so easy to work with that we even ended up leaving them several pieces of furniture.

The house sold much faster than we had anticipated but a friend was nice enough to let us move into the tiny mother-in-law’s apartment attached to his house.


We decided to sell my car and keep Linda’s as the family vehicle until it was time to leave the country. We took my car to Carmax in Orlando to see what they would offer. In case you are unfamiliar with Carmax, it is a large company that buys and sells used cars.

When we pulled in, they asked for the keys and we went to sit with a customer service representative at her desk. We waited until their “experts” test drove the car and determined its value. Within 15 minutes, the report flashed onto the screen along with their offer. We accepted the offer, signed some papers, took our tag off the car, and left with a check. It was a very painless experience — except for severing the emotional ties that I had with my car.

So, what about Linda’s car? Well, that’s an interesting story.

About five weeks before my scheduled retirement date, we were contacted by the Dodge dealership that sold us the car three years before. They asked if we still owned it and told us that they were interested in buying it back.

Of course, the skeptical cop in me suspected that they just wanted to sell us another new car. When Linda told them there was zero chance of that happening because we were leaving the country, they still wanted to see the car. I told her there was no harm in it, and she took the car to the dealership while I was at work.

Before she went, we had done a little Internet research and determined our “ideal price” for the vehicle. I told her that if they offered at least that amount — which was unlikely — then she should immediately take it before they could change their minds. Their offer was actually $500 more than that number. Far more than we would have received from Carmax.

We sold the car on the spot and walked across the street to a rental car company to find a temporary ride.

Workplace Stuff

After a 25 year career in law enforcement, I had accumulated a lot of stuff: awards, commendations, plaques, books, coffee mugs, challenge coins, and equipment that I personally purchased– well, you get the point.

I started downsizing my office several months before leaving. Anything that I didn’t have to turn in to the agency, I gave away to coworkers. This only left me with three heavy file boxes full of plaques, awards, and commendations that summed up my career as a deputy sheriff. Those items meant a lot to me when I received them, but now they were just “stuff” that I had to either store or dispose of.

I have never been one to live in the past or wallow in past glories. I carried the boxes behind our substation and threw them all in the dumpster.

What Remained

After this 9 month process, we were left with the following:

1. Four suitcases — all under 50 pounds — containing clothing, makeup, personal hygiene items, and important papers. This is all we brought to Mexico to begin a new life.

2. Two boxes containing photos, college degrees, and some miscellaneous items that we did not want to part with — just yet. These boxes are stored in a relative’s closet in the U.S.

Let’s Wrap This Up

Just in case you’re wondering, neither of us ever regret getting rid of all that stuff. We now dedicate our lives to collecting experiences instead of things — and it is awesome.

Author: Qroo Paul

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20 Comments on "How We Downsized Before Becoming Expats"

  1. Joana Pintassilgo | July 25, 2016 at 9:16 am | Reply

    house sold, and also faster than we were expecting 🙂
    then the visa .. let’s see how it goes 🙂

  2. We are in process now, yep going thru a 2700 square foot house and getting rid of stuff, house actually goes on market next week, hubby can’t leave job till April 7, 2017, but market is good listing house for 130,000more than we bought it for 14 years ago, we will go to studio until then, it’s hard downsizing at the same time as trying to sell house, whew I’m tired, thankful we had paid for 2 week vacation for October 22 thru November 5, we should be in studio by October 1, we so need vacation after all this work

    • Yes, it was a lot of work when we went through it but looking back, it was all worth it. Just keep looking forward to that upcoming vacation.

  3. Almost done doing the same. Family possessions and books can’t let go of yet are being stored by my son. Going down with 3 suit cases in one month.

  4. Came down to Ajijic Mexico with only what fit in the Jeep Grand Cherokee eight years ago. We no longer value things so much. We would rather help others get the necessities of life. Very cleansing. You really did well on your Dodge sale. That had to be a sign that your new life was meant to be. Enjoy!

  5. Debra K Noll | July 26, 2016 at 12:20 pm | Reply

    Um, being a crazy cat lady…. you mentioned your two kitties. Did you take them with you?

  6. Katherine hutchison | July 26, 2016 at 12:54 pm | Reply

    What did you drive to Mexico? Rental cars not allowed???

    • We flew here on Jetblue and rented a car until we got our resident cards. Once we had them, we bought a new car from Chevy.

  7. Thanks its a beautiful example of how to live life to fullest and to not be attached to things.
    Thanks for sharing that.

  8. We did the same, except I couldn’t part with some things. We each brought a large and small suitcase, 4 boxes and our small dog. She’d been a part of the family for close to 10 years, so she’s here too. We sold a mobile home, an old car and one of our kids got a nice apartment full of furniture and supplies. We’ve been here about 6 weeks. We landed in the Centro area of Playa. I’m enjoying the info you’ve been providing. Thank you!

  9. christopher mckay | September 20, 2016 at 9:02 pm | Reply

    Can you put me in touch with someone to conract on living expenses?….Thanks so much in advance…..It is a few years before I can make the leap, so it gives me plenty of time to sell everything……woohoo…..I hope there are singles there

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