10 Years of Blog Archive

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Giving up ALL Your Possessions to Move to Ecuador - UPDATE 2016

We have more updates to share with our readers. This article was first published in December 2011.  Updates are in red text. 

Readers who will be moving to Cuenca want to know? Should we buy everything new when we get there and how much will that cost? Or should we ship our stuff in a shipping container? 
Shipping Containers
This is a popular question so we went ahead and covered the cost of buying everything new from high-end furniture and appliances to budget in this video. Watch the video and then come back to this article and we'll update our answer we gave five years ago about what to do about all of your stuff.  

See video on the costs of setting up a house in Cuenca. This is assuming you are buying NEW furniture and details the cost for high-end furniture and budget for a 3/3 bedroom home.

Most (some) people that move to another country give up all of their worldly possessions before they can make such a move. Giving up your stuff can be difficult to do, especially if there is special meaning to a item and you cherish it for personal reasons. 

Update 2016 -  We gave up all of our stuff before moving to Ecuador and came with two suitcases and one carry-on a piece. It takes sacrifice and lots of organization to know what it is you actually want to bring with you in your two little suitcases. 
Travel Abroad
Note: We do go into detail in this post about what you can do with special items you cherish but can't or do not want to bring with you. 

Each person/family is different about what they treasure and how much they can’t let go of something; it doesn’t matter whether those things are expensive paintings, famous figurines, Grandmothers fine china, furniture, vehicles, or simple things such as your favorite chair, or a homemade quilt. 

It can be difficult to give up your stuff because over the years you have grown accustomed or attached to having them and some of your things may have a personal significance to them such as antiques or hand-me-downs from close friends and family. The best way to deal with giving up such items is to give them to family members  rather than selling them—in a way this keeps the significance of something alive because it is still within the extended family.

For those things that have special meaning give them away to brothers, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces or nephews before you leave. Whoever you give your cherished items to in the family they will truly appreciate you thinking of them and giving them your favorite household items.  

Photos and Albums 

We literally had boxes and boxes of pictures and about 15 photo albums of the boys growing up, family trips and outings.  I had tears in my eyes thinking of not having my photos. The solution was to put them on disks, and that is what we did. We spent one whole day at Wal-Mart with all of our photos and I put them on several disks. It is wonderful to have services like this. And all of our photos are here with us in Ecuador. When we feel like reminiscing, all we have to do is put the disk into our computer and there are all of our photos! 

Knick-knacks, China, Figurines 

Personal items that have been given to you are the most difficult to give up. We had a Norman Rockwell set that my mom gave to us and we didn’t want to sell, so we gave the set to a family member who we know will also enjoy them; Our thinking was this way at least they will stay in the family. Some things you’ll just want to keep within the family. You’ll know what those things are as you begin the packing and organizing process.  We prepared several boxes of  our most precious keepsakes and shipped those things to our family before we left the country.


We had a lot of books. We stuffed a few in our ten suitcases and the rest we gave to friends and family or gave to the Good Will. Frank had a really difficult time thinking of giving up some of his very favorite books (about 30 books) so he spent weeks, maybe even months, I don't remember, it was 4-1/2 years ago, scanning his books into the cloud. A lot of time it took, but he opens them and reads them whenever he wants. 

Vehicles, Boats, and Houses 

Of course you can't bring some things with you. Big things should be sold before you leave.  You cannot ship used vehicles into Ecuador so they must be sold before you leave.  Should you rent out your property and then leave?  Although some folks may do just that, most experienced property folks are against long distance land lording. 

Good Will, Thrift Stores, Charities, ETC 

As you start going through all of your things you’ll come to see that a lot of it simply just needs to be donated because some things are just more difficult to sell. And some things take longer to sell and if you don’t give yourselves enough time before your departure date, you’ll have to donate it somewhere! As you begin to get more organized you’ll fill box after box that will end up at your favorite Good Will, thrift store or Charity.  

Update 2016 - If we had to do it all again we would start the selling process of our stuff about three months sooner than we did because near the end, when we had to leave, we ended up giving away about ten trailer loads of really great stuff to the Good Will. At the sixth trailer load and thereafter, they were really happy to see us. 

Small Items, Jewelry, watches, etc 

Small items like jewelry you can just bring with you in your suitcase or carry on.  Although we say that with trepidation, because there have been some high profile cases of airport employees stealing out of suitcases.  Traveler beware.  FYI, laptops, game consoles, etc, need to be in your carry on, not in your suitcase. 

Furniture and Household Items 

Let us give you a little suggestion. We started selling our stuff on Craigs List and the local paper about two months before we were to leave for Ecuador, but this was not enough time. We ended up giving most of our crystal and rare items that were taking longer to sell to friends. We were able to sell a lot of our things, but some things are harder to sell and it takes time because people want to come over and look at the item and negotiate prices with you, and they still may not buy it, and so you’ll have to wait for another buyer.

We lived out in the country so having a 'garage sale' was out of the question. And all of our family lived thousands of miles away from us so we had no one to give the items to that were taking longer to sell. We ended up donating good items like brand new Cannon printers, wool area rugs, art work, televisions, sporting goods, books etc to the Good will. Two days before we were to leave we still had a house full of stuff and we made about a dozen trips to the Good Will!!

We recommend that you start getting rid of your things and or selling them at least six months in advance of your departure, if possible. Believe us, everything takes more time than you think it will, and snags do happen, so be prepared for anything and everything to happen.

Update 2016- Some expats we met said they tried to sell their home before they left but it wouldn't sell so they have kept their home and everything in it and they rent it out. This is actually a great idea if you can do that. This would work best if you have a family member or friend you can trust that lives in the same city and they can collect the rents for you and make sure the tenants are taking care of the house. 

Should you ship your stuff to Ecuador or wherever you're moving abroad?  

It’s Just Stuff 

Remember, that it is only stuff. If we give our cherished items to someone we love before we leave, the rest of it is just stuff. It has no meaning! Oh, ok, maybe our mattress was really comfy, or we really loved our Kitchen Aid mixer or our custom kitchen counter tops, but if we sit and pout over the stuff we’re going to leave behind, we may never let go of it! We may never adventure further than the city we live in. Should we allow our stuff to control us like that?

Stuff can be replaced, after all. It’s not like we’ll never have a comfy mattress to sleep on ever again, or a Kitchen Aid mixer, or beautiful artwork to look at.  Many of us put way too much emotion into the things we own and we literally stress ourselves out over having to give up our possessions.  

We just have to set it in our mind that we will not allow our emotional attachments to our stuff control us to the point of stressing out over it. It’s not healthy, physically or emotionally. Remind yourself as you are getting rid of your stuff that it CAN be replaced. 

If we had to do it all over again, would we move abroad only with a suitcase? Yes, because we actually made a little profit selling the big stuff like furniture and appliances and the other things that sell easily, and that's even with donating a bunch of stuff to the Good Will! 

Update 2016 - Many folks uproot their lives, bringing all of their stuff to Ecuador and then for some reason or another (it doesn't matter why people leave) they have to go back to the states or they want to go back. 

Do they ship their stuff back home again? No because remember it will cost the same value all over again just to get it down here, and then, to take back once more means you would have three times the cost of the item into it.  So they finally reach that conclusion and then simply sell their stuff here in Cuenca to newcomers that need stuff. 

Shipping Your Stuff into Ecuador

There have been rumored horror stories circulating on forums about how some expats have had their worldly possessions shipped in only to have them stuck in customs in Guayaquil at a cost of $60 a day, for months. And they’re saying that daily rate is going up.

Why was the container stuck in customs to begin with? Problems happen because something did not match up correctly with the packing slip. Each item you bring into Ecuador must be tagged and match up to the packing slip. Bringing in forbidden items will surely get your container stuck in customs for some time. 

So, if you are sure you want to go through the hassle and risk of this happening to you and your stuff, than by all means go ahead and have your stuff shipped into Ecuador. We don’t believe it is necessary to have your stuff shipped into Ecuador because your stuff can be replaced with more stuff probably for the same amount it cost to have it shipped in. 

Update 2016 - Again, if we were to do it all over again, we would still only bring our suitcases. Now-a-days there is so much stuff for sale on the gringo portals that the issue is not as difficult as it was when we first arrived.

Until we write again you might like to read these related articles about moving to Ecuador.
We're an expat family of five living frugal, healthy and happy in Cuenca Ecuador. We vlog about what its really like to live abroad. We leave out the hype and tell it like it is through our experiences. So come and join us and you will soon come to know if moving to Cuenca Ecuador or any other Latin American country is for you.


  1. We are in the process of divesting ourselves of tons of stuff. We now live in a studio apt., but even that is too much for our move to Ecuador.

    We always refer to the "Ice Age 2" film where the dung beetle is rolling a ball of dung along the road and saying, "Why do we have to move all this crap? I'm sure there's crap where we're going." Helps us decide whether or not to put something in the "take" pile.

    Also, thanks for all the videos of stores and restaurants and buildings, etc. Helps us to visualize where we are going to be living come April.

    Thanks again for all that you are doing.


  2. Hi Geri,

    Yeah, we saw that cartoon....good analogy. It was kind of stressful trying to rid ourselves of all the stuff that we had accumulated over the years... but after it was all said and done, it actually felt good.

    We're glad that you are enjoying the videos.

  3. What do you think about mailing some of your things? For example, I am an artist and have artwork I would like to send. But it's small enough that I could mail it in a box. I also have other personal items that could be mailed. Does customs go through everything? Would it be safe to mail relatively small boxes? Thank you--I just found your site today and I've spent over an hour reading it already!

  4. Hello Frank, Angie and Familia ~ So very nice to meet you.

    This article and your site has helped me so much, and the timing is great. I have been strongly considering moving to Ecuador. After applying to dozens of low inc housing and resources here in America, I've been floating around for a couple of years as a strong and under grace cancer survivor. Sofas, car, tents and a couple cool house sits - Which I have great references. All I dream about is privacy and peace anymore. Overall solitude and quiet between errands/life, etc... Is what my soul.needs most. Saw you all had written about a place in Loja for under $200 and it sounds more mellow there by what I've read... Any safe/serene places under $200-$220 (including util and wifi) either in Vilcabamba, Loja, Cuenca, or other place you recommend? And would/could any short or long-term house siting be an option for me? I am selling and giving away all I can and Most High's will, will have enough for RT and 2-3 months stay to check it out, and maybe prolong stay. It would be a blessing and honor to hear from you... travelinghugs@live.com.

    Full of callings and life ~ Elizabeth. I am a calligrapher, poet, bilingual (Sp/Eng) and all about nature, ease, laughter, our Eternal source of breaths, minding own business and respect.

    *Once I sell a couple more things, might be able to get the "Cuenca Landing Guide" in couple weeks. Looking forward to start reading! Keep well until yours, and thank you for all the time, brainstorming and work you put in the site, books, videos and helping so many.


HMFamilyLife and Discover Cuenca Ecuador Comment Policy
We welcome applicable and respectful comments. Off-topic comments may be removed.