Stuff I wish I hadn’t brought to Singapore…

Ravi left Boston for Singapore to start work on March 27th, 2010.  Elanor and I left Boston on April 17th (Ravi came back around the 10th to help with last minute transition-y stuff).  Which means we are approaching our two year anniversary in Singapore.

It’s hard to miss this anniversary.  Employment and Dependent passes are being renewed.  Our apartment lease is ending.  Our cell phone contracts are ending.  Thus it is also a time where reflection is inevitable.

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the woman I was two years ago and what I was worried about.  What I was scouring the internet for…trying to figure out what to bring to Singapore.  What to purchase because I couldn’t get it here.  What I’d need for Ellie (and the baby we kind of wanted to have at some point in the future–aka Rhiannon).  I read list after list about what people thought I should bring, what they regretted not bringing, and so forth.

You know what I never saw?  A list of things people regretted bringing.  So in the spirit of being different, I bring you my top 10 things I shouldn’t have bothered hauling halfway around the world.  While this is meant to be tongue in cheek, I am planning on giving a few pieces of good advice to any incoming expats who might read this.

The Top 10 Things I Wish I Hadn’t Brought to Singapore

#10–Exercise Equipment I didn’t use in the US

Inflating the yoga ball is usually a good first step…

I think it probably bears saying that if you never used your (in my case) Yoga Ball, Tennis Racquets, or Ice Skates in the US (or only used them extremely rarely) that you’re not going to use them in your new home country.  Same you, different location.

Yes, it’s hotter here…and you wear fewer clothes, so being more in shape might be nice.  But really, what’s the likelihood?  If you *do* turn a new leaf, there are plenty of places to buy equipment you won’t use here (or in any country you move to, most likely).

#9-Books that MIGHT be useful should X/Y/Z happen

Because who wouldn’t love to read about Middle School Math?

To be fair, there was logic behind this mistake; books are heavy and they are expensive to ship, thus I should ship all my books over in the shipment that I am not paying for.  In 2010, Ravi and I had barely purchased our first Kindles, and e-books were not our habit at that point.  So we brought a LOT of books to Singapore, not fully understanding how little space we would have, especially once we had to convert our office/library into baby #2’s room.

I especially regret the library of history non-fiction books I’ve been dragging around since I quit my MA/PhD program in 2003 and haven’t opened since then either, and the library of math-related books that I haven’t touched since I last taught Math in early 2008.

I have begun the tedious process of weeding out books that have NO usefulness to us and donating them, and taking the books we would like a copy of, but just not in Singapore, back to the US (as my suitcases are mostly empty on my way to the US).  There are many trips worth of books left to go.  Having almost fully converted to Kindle by now I am frustrated that we brought books for anyone but Elanor (apart from favorites).

#8-The Nintendo Wii and its accompanying “stuff”

Alas, Guitar Hero guitar, I am NOT ready to rock…

I had not played my Wii very much since I had Elanor.  Moving to Singapore and having another baby didn’t actually help.

The logic was that Wii’s are region-encoded and the system is pricey here, so if I *did* want to play, it was best to bring it from home.  I played it exactly once or twice when we first moved, and that’s it.

I finally packed ours away recently and will need to get around to putting it on craigslist soon.

#7-My Gorgeous Vase

It’s soooooo pretty

I have young children.  Exactly when did I think I was going to be able to display this?

To be fair, when we moved, Ellie was walking and such, but I still had pretty things displayed in our home in the US.  But I just don’t have a child-proof space here for it.  So I keep it hidden in the office, fake lilies still taped together (something the movers did) feeling more rejected than Miss Havisham.

#6-My Crystal Bowl

Another pretty thing that serves no function

Young children, nowhere to put it, and the added bonus of being able to give a concussion.  It gets moved around from place to place in the house, but ultimately is another thing that is impractical to have and impractical to send back.

#5-Too many magnets

A small sampling of what I kept

Ravi and I have an unfortunate habit.  We each collected magnets prior to meeting, and then added magnets from every location traveled to, and every show seen.  After a while, the collection was ridiculous.

I finally thinned the collection out before the last trip home.  This is the super small fraction I kept, and luckily for me, magnets are at least easy to pack and take back to the US.

#4–My Cupcake Stand

Now I’m honor bound to make cupcakes…

Overall, I made smart choices about what kitchen stuff to leave behind and what to bring.  I think the issue was that I hadn’t yet used the cupcake stand in the US, and I just had to justify buying the damn thing (we’ll use it at parties! I’ll make Ellie cupcakes!) by bringing it here…where it has gathered dust for two years.

#3-My Maya Wrap and other baby crap I didn’t like the first time aroundUncomfortable and ugly…yeah, I’m totally using this again…

Yes, every baby is different.  However, I hated the fit and the design of the Maya Wrap the first time around…putting a different baby in it doesn’t mean it will feel more comfortable on my body.  Logic #FAIL  (this can also be applied to assorted other baby crap I didn’t use/didn’t like the first time…now TWO babies haven’t worn/used/sat in/played with X).

#2-My Wedding China

But I use it once a year!!!!

Yes, I am sentimental and like to serve dinner on our wedding china on our anniversary (we picked a pattern as close to the china used at our wedding as we could fine), and occasionally major holidays.  However…see previous remarks about small children.  Let us also discuss the logic #FAIL in dishes I’m going to use, at most, once a year.

See previous comments about too difficult to take back in a suitcase/too expensive to ship.  So they sit above my cabinets, not getting used.

#1-My Wedding Veil

Here comes the bride….6 1/2 years ago…

I only just stumbled across this.  I can only guess that the veil was a victim of the “oh, just fuck it all” attitude that came over me after sorting 95% of an apartment into Mom’s House/ In-law’s House/ Donate or Sell/ Toss/ Singapore.  At some point I decided I didn’t care anymore and let the packers just box it up and send it to Singapore.  Including this, apparently.  At least it will be easy to toss into a suitcase and take back next time.

Honorable mention-Various knicknacks from home

But I remind you of Chicago, or maybe Mystic…

This isn’t so much a regret as it is just my acquisitive nature creating a bit of a hoard (much like our magnet issue).  I brought a lot of our cute knick knacks and souvenirs from our travels to decorate the home here in Singapore.  The logic was sound–to make it feel more like home.  However, I did not take into account that I would be buying more stuff as I traveled in Asia.  So now my shelves are a bit crowded.


In the end, my mistakes generally fall into a few categories  (Do I say, kids, not as I do)

#1-Stuff I didn’t use/ use frequently back home–if it’s not something you use frequently, it’s not worth bringing

#2-Stuff with emotional, rather than practical value, and too much of it–it’s not that I don’t think you should bring sentimental items, but perhaps limit them, as you’ll be creating new memories here.  If it would break your heart if it broke…maybe it should stay “home.”  Limit it.

#3-My wedding veil–I have no idea, either.

In the end, it’s hard when you have a move like ours; it’s indefinite so it’s hard to say whether you’ll “need” something or not.  The fear is always that if you leave it behind, it’s behind forever.  Of course, this is NOT TRUE.  It just might cost you some money down the line to ship it to wherever you are.

Even when a company is generous enough to ship the stuff for you, free of charge, do yourself a favor and lose the excess “stuff.”

At least I had the common sense to leave the marble chess board with pietra dura work that we bought in India back in Boston…

This entry was posted in Before the Move, Expat to Expat Advice, headdesk moments. Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Stuff I wish I hadn’t brought to Singapore…

  1. Flora says:

    Haha, I liked this post. I can’t believe you brought your china and wedding veil, but I can totally see these being tossed in during those last few “fuck it” moments. I had those but in reverse and ended up giving away stuff I wish I had just stored. Like expensive sports gear I’m having to replace.

    This list is exactly why I just showed up with a few suitcases. Except we DID bring ice skates and used them quite a bit!

    I brought a few coats with me, thinking I’d use them when I traveled abroad, but ended up taking them back to the US on one of our trips. Even when I traveled to cooler climates (Hong Kong, China), I was fine with a scarf and a sweater.

    • Crystal says:

      I think we’re all doomed to go one way or the other during the inevitable “fuck it” phase.

      I was super impressed by how little you guys moved with! I need to be able to let go of “stuff” more.

      Like you I never have once worn a coat (even while vacationing). I may regret it in Australia in May, but at this point, I think being cold is just such a cool and unique thing that I don’t really want to layer up against it too much!

  2. KJ says:

    We shipped an exercise bike. The same exercise bike that had sat in a corner of our office area in Australia and been used once since we purchased it off Ebay. It now sits in the corner of our bedroom where we use it’s handles to hang clothes.

    That’s really only the thing I regret bringing, so far!

    • Crystal says:

      I grinned. I think my yoga ball may have been inflated at one point, but I got so irritated at having to move it from place to place (note, not using it, moving it) that I deflated it.

  3. katrijn says:

    During the “fuck it”-stage I managed to pack every single fluffy toy found in our house for E. and several pieces of her winter clothing on the pretext of “maybe we need it if we go travelling”. Obviously, after two months she didn’t fit any of it anymore, so it just sits there taking up space. I think this alone accounted for a whole suit case of stuff!

    We didn’t get anything shipped, so apart from those two categories, we erred on the side of bringing to little. Fortunately, having both lived abroad before, we did know what was important to us (S. brought his piano, his road bike, and both his Xboxes, I brought a suitcase full of books and photographs and our pillows).

    We ended up travelling with 11 suit cases – this turned out to be cheaper than having it shipped either by sea or air. (Take note, future expats!)

    On another note: I loved meeting you and look forward to the next time!

    • Crystal says:

      Yeah, I have a full winter wardrobe for both girls, too. I felt mildly better about E’s when she first started pre-k, because her school was so cold that I sent her in jeans and long sleeved shirts (or hoodies) every day. But now that she’s uniformed, she says she doesn’t want a jacket to cover her shirt and that she isn’t cold. So, so much for that.

      I really enjoyed meeting you too, and I loved the blog post about visiting the home you lived in here in Singapore as a child now that you’re an adult!

  4. Laura says:

    Haha love this post and it is so true of all the things you think you’ll need or miss if you don’t bring them but honestly you could happily do without. It was only when we moved condos that I realised just how much stuff we had actually shipped over and probably how much of it really could have been stored, at least for now (and in turn what a nightmare it will be when it comes to moving on from here). The scary thing is when I go back to the UK and stay in my old room at my parents you’d think I still lived there as I left so much stuff behind too, pretty much all my winter clothes for a start apart from a couple of things for travelling back to the UK at inclement times of the year and a whole load of other stuff. I’ve tried to clear it out a bit when I’ve been back but with only limited success so far. Though the fact I don’t miss any of it when I’m here perhaps should tell me that I could get rid of it very easily.

    I love that your wedding veil got shipped, all my wedding stuff stayed at my parents and there it will remain until I really have to do something about it. Luckily my cousin is getting married next year so all the helpful wedding planning books etc that people gave me have already been passed on. So that is one less thing for this hoarder to wory about!

    • Crystal says:

      My in-laws home (and my moms to a much smaller extent as she has a smaller home) is crammed full of our stuff. It’s ridiculous. For the most part our winter weather stuff is there (E on the other hand has a full wardrobe in SG and only outgrown clothes at my in-laws) as well as books on the bedstand, toys for E (and Rhi), and all manner of nonsense.

      I’m not sure why my veil isn’t with my dress, but apparently it’s been floating around my home uselessly for years now.

  5. Dawn says:

    Your wedding was 6 1/2 years ago??? It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long!

    I had my veil and dress preserved in a distinctive large cardboard box which I intend to keep “somewhere safe” until my daughter is old enough to tell me I’m crazy for keeping it because there’s no way in all get out she’s wearing it. You, at least, have two daughters to possibly sick your wedding stuff on.

    So, here’s the thing, if you have sentimental stuff like that, which you don’t have the heart to get rid of, and you move halfway across the world, what ARE you to do with it? Get a storage locker? Con some relative or friend into keeping it for you? Also, if you think your move is going to be permanent or even semi-permanent, doesn’t it make sense to bring everything with you that you don’t actually want to get rid of (and sell the rest, like exercise equipment you never use?)

    • Crystal says:

      Crap, 5 1/2 years ago! Still, yes, forever ago, and it doesn’t seem like it should be that long!

      In our case, Suchita and Amit’s basement has been taken over by our “stuff” and we use their mailing address for our US credit cards and such. I think some people do the storage locker thing (heck, Ravi’s cousin who lives in DC has a locker in Acton from when his parents sold their home and moved to SF).

      The wedding dress conundrum…I really think the fact that I have a daughter is what’s keeping me from donating it. I keep thinking about donating it, and then just can’t. The stupid thing is that if my mom had ever gotten married I would never have worn (or been able to fit into) her dress. I hope that my daughters dont’ inherit my weight issues and are nowhere near my size, making sizing it down impossible even if they *do* like it. The veil, though, maybe they’ll want to use or at least play dress up with? I don’t know. Which circles us back to the kind of indecision that brought my veil to Singapore.

      • Dawn says:

        Well, actually, sizing it down might be possible – sizing up is the thing that’s not easy because you have to add extra fabric, and if you can’t find matching fabric, or if there’s no good way to inject it, it doesn’t work very well. Sizing down just involves removing width – though maybe that doesn’t work either with your dress, because if I recall it had some ornament designs on it and they’d end up being removed or ending up in the wrong places?

        I didn’t really want to buy my own wedding dress; they’re so expensive, but I didn’t have any close relatives who had gotten married and saved their dresses and didn’t have their own daughters to give it to, so there were no used ones to pick from (unless I wanted to buy one online, and that just seemed sketchy). I probably would have preferred a 30-year-old dress, though, if one were available, because as it was, it was very hard to find a dress that covered up my birthmarks. (30 year-old dresses were probably more conservative.)

      • Crystal says:

        I have a lot of embroidery, so I was told 2 sizes either direction. I’ll probably still have it then because I just can’t bring myself to donate it, even though I really think I should.

  6. Amelia says:

    I was nodding along while reading this post.. wii, check. Fitness stuff, check. We brought over all our King sized sheets and duvet/doona covers over with us – with the idea that we would just purchase a new, lightweight duvet over here. It was only once we arrived that we found out that bed sizes are different over here…. and we would need to purchase new sheets to go with our new doona and bed! Doh. And lightweight jackets – have never, ever felt the need to cover my arms in Singapore yet – when it cools down even slightly, I am too busy enjoying to want to put a jacket on!

    • Crystal says:

      The bedding was a shocker, but I had been warned/I think I looked at bedding and didn’t like the thread counts I found over here (both with regards to bedding–I like a high thread count, and bath towels–I like a thick cotton towel) so I did bring those, thankfully.

      But yeah, jackets. Never use them. I might have worn a sweater a few times (at a movie or something) but for the most part, it’s just more stuff taking up plastic tubs that we don’t use.

  7. Claire says:

    Hehe I loved this post. I don’t think we’ve been here long enough yet to have a long list of regret stuff yet (I think we’re slightly in the ‘but we might need it one day’ phase to be honest…) but I do definitely regret bringing so many ‘colder weather’ clothes, as I haven’t actually put on even a pair of jeans since I got off the plane in November. I also brought a big fluffy dressing gown and furry slippers …. they have not even been out of the suitcase. We mostly stored the sentimental stuff, and I left all my books (except cook books) back in the UK as well, which I think was a good move. It still stunned me how much stuff we managed to bring, but how it seems a lot less when it is all ‘housed’ somewhere in the flat 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      I think the jacket is one of the more common mistakes (Amelia, Flora and I all are guilty of that too!) if you even want to call it that!

      One of my favorite things to do when we go home to the US is to slip into my fuzzy fleece bathrobe that would suffocate me here!

      I’d be curious if you’ll have a list in a year or two. Future blog post!

      • Dawn says:

        Don’t you need a certain amount of cold-weather clothes (including coats) in case you travel directly from Singapore to a cold-weather destination?

  8. I wish I had brought a coat, a recent trip to Hong Kong and I was freezing…I left everything at home, but did bring my rollerblades. So glad I did, i originally used them all the time in Boston and New York, but in London they gathered dust….I use them weekly here…

  9. bookjunkie says:

    Loved this post Crystal…

    Reminded me that I haven’t used the wii in ages….and I am embarrassed to say I have one of those blow up balls too ;-p It was all blown up and getting in the way and then I decided to deflate it and chuck it aside…no idea where it is now 😉

    When I moved just within Singapore to a smaller place I realized there was so much stuff I never even knew I had or touched or needed. Yikes…felt like such a hoarder. But I’m a neat hoarder 😉 Especially with books…love ’em. But I was giggling at the photo of the Math text book.

    • Crystal says:

      I have a feeling that when the time comes to leave, we’ll do a major purge. I’m looking forward to getting rid of the baby stuff as Rhiannon outgrows it!

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