Category Archives for "Before You Go"

what-type-of-visa do i need to live in france

How To Move To France Video #2: Do I Need A Visa?

If you want to live in France, the first thing you need to do is figure out whether or not you need a visa. In this video I talk about who needs a visa and which one to get if you plan to live in France.  Not visit but actually “LIVE” in France.  it will demystify a lot of things for you.

Even if you don’t ever plan to move abroad and are just a curious armchair traveler, you can and should watch this video series. I’ve tried to make this equal parts entertaining and educational so that anyone can watch it.    I share all my personal experience with you and will leave no stone un-turned.

Mentioned in this video

Short Stay 90 days or less –

Citizens of the following countries DO NOT need a visa to visit France for 90 days or less.

USA, Canada, Member states of the European Union
Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Bermuda, Brazil, Brunei, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Holy See, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Uruguay, Venezuela.

Citizens of all other countries will need to apply for a visa just to step foot in France for one day. Sorry China, Thailand, Vietnam and more. I know, it’s not fair.

Long Stay: 90 days or more-

If you plan to stay in France for 90 days or more, you will need to apply for a “LONG STAY VISA”. This applies to EVERYONE unless………… you are a citizen of a country which is a member State of the European Union and the European Economic Area (EEA), Switzerland, Monaco and Andorra.

What Does The Long Stay Visa Allow You To Do?

My family has a long stay visa to live in France for one year. We have the option to renew if we like for another year which we plan to do.  A long stay visa does not allow you to work or study legally in France. You will have to apply for a different visa to do that. In the video I discus the reasons.

How To Apply For A Long Stay Visa To Stay in France. ( Called  “Carte de Séjour”  in French).

Step one: Find the website of the French consulate nearest your place of residency.

I’ve listed out how to find the one nearest you below after this set of directions.

Step two: Navigate to the Visa section of the consulates website.

Step three: If you don’t speak French, you can translate the entire website to your home countries language. In some cases the home country language is not available. Instead, English is available.

Step three: Look for a download link that says Long stay visa for non professional purpose “visitor visa” or something similar. ( this is the one located on the Washington D.C. French embassies site.


* The application will be in French. There is usually a translated application in English or your home country for you to download. You CANNOT use the non French version to apply. It is only there for you so you can understand the requirements.

* You must apply apply for a long stay visa by applying at the nearest French Embassy / Consulate in your home country. You cannot apply while in France or abroad. This information is stated directly on the French Embassies website.

Next Week I will go over each section of the visa application and show you how to fill it out even if you don’t speak french. I’ll also start diving into the requirements. Eventually we’ll get to the all important “MONEY” part. So stay tuned. 

Below: List of French Embassies and Consulates In the World

Follow the directions in video to learn where to get the application.

All French Embassies In The World

Here are the French Embassies in Canada

Below are the US Embassies and Consulates

Click on the one that is nearest you.


Service area: Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee.
Location: Prominence in Buckhead, Suite 1840, 3475 Piedmont Rd., NE
Atlanta, GA 30305, USA
Phone: (404) 495-1660 ; Fax: (404) 495-1661


Service area: Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont.
Location: Park Square Building, Suite 750
31 Saint James Avenue
Boston, MA 02116, USA
Phone: (617) 542-7374 ; Fax: (617) 542-8054


Service area: North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Wisconsin.
Location: Olympia Center, 737 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 2020
Chicago, Illinois 60611, USA
Phone: (312) 787-5359 /60 /61 and 787-5385
Fax: (312) 664-4196

Honolulu- No website listed you will need to call

Service area: Hawaii and the Pacific Islands under U.S. jurisdiction.
Location: 2 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 300
500 Ala Moana Boulevard
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813, USA
Phone: (808) 599-4458 /59 /60 ; Fax: (808) 599-4751 ;


Service area: Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas.
Location: 777 Post Oak Boulevard, Suite 600
Houston, TX 77056, USA
Phone: (713) 572-2799 and 572-0654
Fax: (713) 572-2904

Los Angeles

Service area: Arizona, California (Mono, Inyo, Kings, San Luis Obispo, Kern, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside, Imperial and San Diego Counties), Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada (Clark, Lincoln, Nye, Esmeralda and Mineral Counties).
Location: 10990 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 300
Los Angeles, CA 90024, USA
Phone: (310) 235-3250 ; Fax: (310) 479-4813


Service area: Florida, Bahamas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Cayman Islands.
Location: Biscayne Tower, 2 South Biscayne Boulevard, Suite 1710
Miami, FL 33131, USA
Phone: (305) 372-9798 /99 ; Fax: (305) 372-9549

New Orleans

Service area: Louisiana.
Location: Amoco Building 1340 Poydras Street, Suite 1710
New Orleans, ÊLA 70112, USA
Phone: (504) 523-5772 ; Fax: (504) 523-5725

New York

Service area: Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Bermuda.
Location: 934 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA
Visa section: 10 East 74th Street, New York , NY 10021, USA
Phone: (212) 606-3644 ; Recorded information: (212) 606-3688
Fax: (212) 606-3670

San Francisco

Service area: Alaska, California (except for Mono, Inyo, Kings, San Luis Obispo, Kern, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside, Imperial and San Diego Counties), Idaho, Montana, Nevada (except for Clark, Lincoln, Nye, Esmeralda and Mineral Counties), Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming.
Location: 540 Bush Street
San Francisco, CA 94108, USA
Phone: (415) 397-4330 ; Fax: (415) 433-8357
Visas only: (415) 616-4910 ; Fax: 397-7843

San Juan, P.R.- No website found you will have to call

Service area: Puerto Rico & Vieques, U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Turks & Cayman Islands, Anguilla, Caicos Islands, Montserrat.
Location: Mercantile Plaza, Suite 720, Ponce de Leon Avenue
Stop 27-1/2, Hato Rey, Puerto Rico
Phone: (809) 753-1700 /01

Washington, D.C.

Service area: Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia.
Offices are open to the public from 8:45am to 12:45pm on weekdays.
Location: 4101 Reservoir Road N.W.
Washington, DC 20007, USA
Phone: Embassy: (202) 944-6000 ; Consulate: (202) 944-6200 ;
Fax: Embassy: (202) 944-6072 ; Consulate: (202) 944-6212

If you have any questions about this process feel free to ask by leaving a comment below. 

one of two penske trucks we used to move to the east coast

Adventures In Moving: How To Decide Where To Relocate Your Family

Before we decided to take a family sabbatical to live in France, we thought we would settle somewhere on the east coast. We went through the whole moving process from start to finish from west coast to east coast. This is a very high level look of how to decide Where To Relocate Your Family. Things you should consider whether  you are relocating your family across the country or to the other side of the world.

First some background:

We rented 2 huge Penske trucks, left our home in the the San Francisco Bay area and planned on settling clear across the U.S. in the Boston area.

We never ended up settling in Boston. Instead, we left our stuff in storage, and lived semi- nomadically with friends and family up and down the east coast while we home-schooled the kids and waited for the French Embassy to approve our visas.

It worked out great because when the embassy finally approved our visas in September of 2011, we packed what few clothes we had and left in less than 2 weeks.

Want to move some place different? It’s easy! Just do this…..

  1. Figure out where you want to move to
  2. Pack up all your stuff
  3. Transport all your stuff
  4. Unpack all your stuff

Easy, yes? No, not at all. Annie already covered some related move topic in her recent post about downsizing your book collection, but I’ll be coming at it from a slightly different point of view. In this post I will address how we decided to move to the Boston area.

Where To Relocate Your FamilyDeciding where to live

Ask twenty people the best place to live and you’ll get forty different answers. There are any number of factors that go in to deciding where your next home could be.

Do you want to be near family? Are there jobs that align with your current or future career? What is the cost of living? Are you looking for something urban, suburban, or rural?

Coastal or inland (sometimes described as saltwater or freshwater)? Love the cold? Hate humidity? If you have kids and aren’t rich, how are the public schools? What about the junior colleges and state universities? Our research, thinking, analysis, and tea leaf reading lead us to the Boston area.


Annie has close relatives in Montreal, western Quebec, Ontario, and New Brunswick. I grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, and went to the University of Vermont.

My siblings live with their families in Maryland and Virginia, and I have good friends up and down the East coast. Boston was not super close to any one of these, but it was a lot easier getting to see everyone. And at least we’d all been in the same time zone (except for those outliers in New Brunswick!).


Jobs are another big factor in determining where to relocate your family.

Although Annie and I wanted to strike out on our own, we thought it prudent to be near a source of jobs in case things didn’t work out. We both worked in high tech. Outside Silicon Valley the main tech hubs in the United States are Seattle, Austin, North Carolina, and Boston.

These are all fine places to live, but after you’ve lived in the Bay Area for a while, you might be more inclined to Seattle or Boston rather than Austin or North Carolina. Boston was the home of early microcomputer software hits such as VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3, and although not the powerhouse that Silicon Valley had become, clearly still had much to offer.

Cost of living, housing, and schools

A key metric on how to decide where to relocate y our family is figuring out the cost of living.

There are several cost of living calculators and comparison tools out there. We used this cost one at Sperling’s web site, and found it generally useful.

An important cost difference between San Francisco and Boston was the cost of home ownership. As a percentage of one’s salary, home ownership was significantly less in Boston (significant means 30-50% less). Of course, you must also figure in what your new salary might be (about 15% less in Boston over San Francisco for my field), and what additional expenses your new home might require (Sorel snow boots, snow blower, snow tires, snow shovels, a lot of Advil, followed by contracting with a snow removal service). Depending on the city you decide to live in you may be prone to more home improvements from Summit Point Roofing and that is something to take into consideration as well.

While the advent of the internet has not yet meant the complete demise of real estate agents, there are some great sites you can you use to help better understand homes costs. Trulia, Zillow, Movoto, and Redfin are all useful real estate web site; you can spend hours surfing the web for homes to buy.

The rental market was a little harder to get a feel for (at least remotely), but you can start with everybody’s favorite, Craigslist. For schooling, most states would be an improvement over California. If you want to start with the big kahuna of school testing score, start with the NAEP . Since we already knew we were interested in Boston, I used a few commercial sources to help narrow down the neighborhoods.

In our case I started with an article from Boston magazine which no longer exists but it listed out schools by best and worst, then used Great Schools to winnow out more information. Most big cities have some sort of lifestyle magazine, and these will have annual school rankings, which can help you with your search.

Sports, public transportation, city life, etc.

Family, jobs, and cost of living were the main drivers in making Boston our choice, but there were a number of secondary criteria that were also important.

  • Our oldest son Kieran is an accomplished dinghy sailor (Optis, moving up to FJs and 420s), and we wanted to be in an area that fostered sailing. It would be hard to do much better than the Boston area. More broadly, we enjoy water sports and being near the ocean, so again, the Boston area was a logical choice. Skiing, although not as good as Lake Tahoe, was a few hours away.
  • Between the commuter rail and the T, Boston’s public transportation is excellent compared to that of San Francisco. No, it’s not perfect, but coming from the Bay Area it feel like we’re in a European city.
  • Museums, restaurants, bars, all that history, the French Cultural Center, were other draws. We like to enjoy ourselves and try new things, and Boston offered no shortage of these.

How To Decide Where To Relocate Your Family

Yes you can

Moving is hard, just ask any survivor.

I grew up in an Army family, and we moved a lot. It was worse for my older sister, who tells about moving fourteen times in her first fourteen years.

Fortunately, our father’s moved frequency dropped as his career advanced, and all of us kids were able to attend the same high school.

But the point here is you must also weigh the disruption to your children against the future benefit of your new home.

I have no calculator to offer you for that one, but if you find one, let me know and I will post it here. Still, under the right circumstances a move can be a great thing. Good luck! I hope you enjoyed this article.

chasing the impossible dream we moved to France

We Moved To France: Mistakes To Avoid When Chasing Your Dream

chasing the impossible dream we moved to France

If you’ve decided it’s time to chase that elusive dream of moving abroad congratulations, and good luck. It won’t be easy going against the grain. Here are 5 mistakes you should try to avoid when chasing that dream you once thought impossible to achieve.


Achieving a dream means not listening to that voice in your head telling you it’s impossible. If we all listened to that voice than nothing great would ever be achieved. The four minute mile was impossible at one point and so was a flying airplane.

My dream although not as grand has been to live in France. That dream fizzled after college when my career started to take off and when my children were born. It just seemed so impractical, unrealistic and foolhardy. There were always reasons why it could never happen until finally one day my husband and I decided to go for it. It wasn’t the most optimal time almost like having kids. You’re never really ready but you make do and make it work.

Along the way we learned a lot and made heaps of mistakes which you can benefit from. Here are some tips I learned while chasing the impossible dream.

Update: we have been living in France now for 5 years

View Larger Map  << For Now We Live In Marseille France>> 

Since  October 5th 2011, me and my three children have been living in the south of France in a city called Marseille. Blake my husband, stayed behind to tie up some loose ends for a month but he is with us now.

1) Be prepared to work hard

You’re probably wondering how we did it. To that I say a lot of hard work, planning, preparation, sacrifice and time. We wanted to give up a few times and other times it just didn’t seem possible. Immigration and visa laws can be complicated and the bureaucracy is tiresome.

  • We didn’t have cushy jobs lined up.
  • We didn’t know anyone who could help us in France
  • We did it after being unemployed for several years living on our savings and cutting back on all our luxuries.

Despite all the hurdles and obstacles we continued forward with our goals. It was risky but it was worth it. I feel alive, I feel inspired, I feel like I can do more. Best of all I feel happy. Everyday is like one big adventure.

2) Don’t procrastinate

Don’t fall into that trap of believing you have to wait until retirement to live in the momentWhat I find annoying and interesting about our journey over the last few years is that when my husband and I had great jobs in silicon valley with a comfortable lifestyle. We just trotted along through our life in a ho hum manner.

Don’t get me wrong, life was good but it was somewhat ordinary. Back then, I measured myself based off of career success and money. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I find myself wondering why I just drifted through life day after day without trying to achieve more dreams and accomplishing more outside of my career? Why did it take something big ( 2 job losses and long term unemployment) to shake us awake from our life which we seemed to be sleepwalking through?

“No risk no reward”

I’m not sure why I (we) waited. Maybe living comfortably doesn’t inspire greatness. We’ve accomplished more during our time of hardship than we ever did when we were living a safe and comfortable life with great jobs.

3) Safety is an illusion

Don’t put off your hopes or dreams because you are afraid of losing your safe comfortable life. It’s riskier to NOT go after your dreams because you risk your happiness.

I lived the life I thought I was supposed to live. College, career track, marriage, kids, 2 car garage and the burbs. I made all the safe and practical decisions I was supposed to make. We thought we were safe but we still ended up unemployed and in a very dicey situation.

4) Don’t try to get approval from others

I once knew someone who wanted to join the circus with his wife. I thought they were crazy for wanting such a frivolous thing. What annoyed me the most was  they were not moved or swayed by any of the negativity or disapproval. They  pursued their dream despite it.

Be prepared to deal with naysayers and don’t let them get you down or sway you. It’s your life and your dream. You have to do what makes you happy.

See also- How to deal with naysayers and tell you friends and family you want to move or live abroad

5) Don’t give up

Your dream is counting on you so don’t give up. It feels better to have tried and failed than to have not tried at all. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it. Just remember “Winners never quit and quitters never win”


The year prior to moving to France we lived like semi nomadic vagabonds and stayed with family and friends, some old and a few new. I want to thank them. Thank you for opening your home to us. Thank you for your hospitality. Thank you for your generosity and kindness.

Thank you Chambers, Elders, my aunt Huguette Andre, Rolfe / Levac, Elders / Shupp, Dickinson’s and couchsurfing hosts.

It made for an interesting year and we loved staying with each and everyone of you. Now pack your bags and get over here and stay with us. We have Brie and red wine waiting for you. And there is a great Bistro around the corner from us.

How we ended up living in France with our three kids

How We Ended Up Living In France with Our 3 Children

How we ended up living in France with our three kids

The path you take when you finally decide to move to France will be unique to you and your circumstances. Our decision to move was set in motion by the great recession and unemployment followed by a series of circumstances. Here is a brief look at the events leading up to the final decision that made our move to France possible.

Move to France: We never thought we would or could until…

Although living in France has always been a dream of ours, we never actually believed it was something we could achieve any time soon. Our lives, our mindset and the golden handcuffs of our jobs kept us chained to our perpetual lives. Lives that were good by most people’s standards maybe even great. But for two people like Blake and I who had itchy travel feet, life seemed a little mundane. Each day melted into the next and each day looked like the previous day.

We worked, played, ate, slept and took the kids to school. Rinse and repeat with the yearly 2 week to 4 weeks off for vacations.

We lost our jobs-The Catalyst!

laid_off gave us the balls and courage to take the next stepIn 2007 my husband and I both lost our jobs during the Great recession– the worst to hit since the great depression of 1929.

We didn’t know it at the time but everything changed that day and
getting laid off would be the catalyst that set us in motion towards moving to France. It would just take a while to get there.

Between 2008 and 2010, we bounced between unemployment and working at a couple of company’s which laid us off as well- something that was not all that uncommon in Silicon Valley. Only now, it was harder to find a new job and some of our friends couldn’t find work at all or took on whatever job they could find.

Being unemployed does something to you. Yes it scares you financially but it can also force you into a situation to do things you would never do if you had a full time job or do things you never knew you were capable of doing. At least, that is how it was for us.


“We started to worry”. It’s not cheap living in the San Francisco bay area and the life we created required 2 high paying jobs to maintain that lifestyle. We knew we had to do something. Rather than stick around and deplete our savings, we decided this was our chance to make our exit, cut our losses and get a fresh start on the east coast. Something we always wanted to do to be closer to our families. The east coast also was appealing because the cost of living was much lower than the San Francisco Bay area. We thought in the least, our money would last longer in a less expensive area.

We left our home and our friends behind in California

In 2010, we had had enough and left California for good but by that time we had not planned on moving to France YET!

Instead we planned on bouncing between my family in Montreal and Blake’s sister in Maryland while we looked for work around the Boston area. Once we found work, we would rent a house and settle down.

Strategically speaking, Boston was in the perfect location. Not only was it in New England near the water, but it was also directly located between my family in Montreal and Blake’s family in the states. It seemed like the perfect place for two ex silicon valley workers like us to look for jobs, settle down and start new lives.

Or so we thought!

We changed our mind-set: lived like vagabonds outside of social norms and it changed us

For a year we carried on this way, living somewhat unconventionally as a semi nomadic family of five. We carried only what we needed with a few extra things for each of our three kids: small toys for Catherine, a skateboard, guitar, etc. We shuttled between our two homes family homes in Montreal and Maryland every few months in a big green Toyota Tundra Pick up truck.  The rest of our things or what was left of them were in a storage unit somewhere in Massachusetts. 

We were breaking the mould big time and It felt strange. Even though we were doing what we thought was right, I felt a little guilty living the way we were thanks to a North American upbringing where it’s implied that there are certain lifestyle conventions that we should all try to achieve. (Some people call it the American Dream). If you break from that mould then you are doing it wrong or hurting your children and family.  At least that’s the sense I got.

To make matters worse, it we were spinning our wheels looking for jobs that didn’t pan out, didn’t exist or didn’t pay enough.  Both Blake and I became disheartened, stressed out and in some ways a little desperate.

Something strange or interesting happens, depending on how you look at it, when you are backed into a corner , hit rock bottom or run out of choices.

We decided to do move to France or at least try

Our situation made us get creative and we started looking at options outside of our comfort zone. That’s when we entertained the idea of moving to France for a year. Both Blake and I had lived abroad before meeting one another however neither of us had any experience living abroad as a married couple let alone with three children in tow.

We had discussed it before however there were always road blocks. We had jobs, a house, lives and friends. But now, all those barriers were gone. Our stuff was conveniently in storage. We could go anytime now so why not? Money! That’s why. 

We worried about money and how we could afford it

We had already overcome the idea of living unconventionally but like any normal family, we had concerns about money and how to pay for our trip.  After brainstorming, we came up with some possible scenarios.   We knew that if we could somehow manage the money part than we would be one step closer to making our move to France a reality.

  1. Use what we have: Make our current rental income and savings go as far as possible.
  2. Freelance: Earn money by leveraging our skills and strengths by freelancing or consulting. This would give us the ability to earn money anywhere we land. 
  3. Find jobs in France. (almost impossible, we tried this and it never panned out because we are not EU citizens).
  4. Upgrade our skills: Believe it or not this blog is a way for me to keep my skills updated should I ever decide to return to the workforce. I write, I promote, I troubleshoot, I create all my own graphics. I do it all. You can hire me to help you if you like.

Obviously we overcame all our obstacles because as I write this we are living in France.

What’s my point in sharing this with you?

We all have our own set of circumstances, road blocks or whatever it is that is stopping us from making our dreams come true.  Sometimes it takes an unfortunate event to make us break from the mould.

Why wait? 

If you really want to do something don’t let your fears stop you. Don’t let other people tell you how you are supposed to live. If you think it is a good idea or the right thing to do than do it. It may take you a while but eventually you will get there and you will not regret it because anything worth doing takes work which makes the victories of your success so much sweeter.

So there you have it. What issues are you struggling with? What’s stopping you? 

how to Minimize your book collection before you pack them and move

How To Minimize Your book Collection When You Need To Move Or Travel

how to Minimize your book collection before you pack them and move

Whether you are moving to the next city or across the ocean to another country, you are going to have to downsize your book collection or get rid of all your books all together. Here are the steps I took that helped us tackle our monstrous book collection.

My First Minimalist Baby steps

It broke my heart but we had to do it. We had to sell, donate and throw away our books or pay hefty storage fees to keep them in some storage unit. We opted to get rid of most of our books and just keep the ones which had sentimental value which we thought would be easy but we were wrong!

Why we had to get rid of our books and many of our belongings.

We were leaving our life behind in California to start fresh on the east coast or so we thought.

See also: Why we decided to leave California before: Before we moved to France.

See also: How we downsized our stuff

We had no jobs so the plan was to store our things in a storage unit near Boston until we found jobs and then find a place to live near that job. We had no idea how long it would take to find jobs so we wanted to minimize our belongings as much as possible and get the smallest unit possible.

  • First we sold, donated or threw away the things we knew we didn’t need. That was easy. Clothes, old toys, furniture that was stored, cheap furniture and plants. Lots of big potted plants like a maple tree, bamboo plants and my beloved Kafir tree that I used for Thai cooking.
  • Then we got rid of the books we knew we didn’t need or would never read. We kept the rest. You’ll soon learn why.
  • Once we thought we were done minimizing our belongings, we rented the biggest truck we could legally drive- a 26 foot long Penske truck.

Unfortunately, even after we reduced our belonging by half, we discovered we didn’t have enough space in the truck. OUCH. This also meant that our stuff would not fit into the storage unit we rented on the east coast. Double ouch!

We had to learn how to become semi-minimalist within a couple of days.

We decided to take care of the elephant in the room. The books.

Collectively, my husband and our three kids had enough books to open up a small used book store or two so the obvious place to reduce even more was our book collection. We ended up giving up over 85 percent of our books but we should have gotten rid of more. For now what books we have are sitting in a storage unit waiting for us to return to pick them up one day, someday.

I wonder If I will be glad we paid to have them stored or feel like an idiot that we stored them for so long.

Below are my tips to help you minimize and pack your book collection. 

My advice to anyone is never store any books if you think you will store them for more than a year. It’s just not worth the extra storage cost. You can easily replace the books you get rid of or sell with the money you save on storage fees. But if you have to store them, here is my advice on how to go about doing it. They may seem like common sense but if you have tons of books like we did, you’ll need to pack them in an orderly fashion otherwise you’re going to have boxes over filled, too heavy or unorganized.

STEP 1: . Start early In The Morning.

You are the freshest and most clear headed in the morning. Unless you have some ultra human stamina, you will be exhausted by the evening. Save the evenings to relax and if you have to, continue the following morning.

STEP 2: Have sustenance on hand

The last thing I wanted to do was cook. We ordered some take out and had plenty of drink and snacks on hand. Food will help keep you stable and avoid low blood sugar which can make you grouchy and cloudy headed. This turned out to be a brilliant idea.

STEP 3: Clear a large area on the floor:

We used the living room as our staging area because it was big and wide enough so we could spread out all our books on the floor to clearly see them all in one place.

Step 4: Start making small book piles:

Start making small piles of books based on whatever organization method that makes the most sense. I broke up books by genre. For instance, Art books, French books, math books, sci fi books, historical fiction books etc. I also had books broken out by person. For instance, our youngest daughter had boxes just with her box and so did my sons.

Then I had “keep” and “don’t keep” piles followed by a “maybe keep” pile. If you have kids, you can ask them to do the same for their books but in my experience they will just keep everything like ours wanted to do.

STEP 5: Get your boxes ready (IMPORTANT!!! THEY MUST BE SMALL)

Books are heavy. We made the mistake of choosing boxes that were too big and when it came time to move them, we almost broke our backs lifting them.

We decided to re-pack the boxes only half way which posed another problem. The books shifted and moved around in the boxes and when we stacked them up they collapsed on each other. DOH! Plus half filled boxes just was a waste of limited truck space.

In the end, we took a box cutter and trimmed down our boxes to make them smaller. The boxes were lighter, we filled them to the top making them easier to stack and carry but they were not cut evenly and some were lopsided. Again not good for stacking in our moving truck.

STEP 6: Start Packing your piles of books

Remember those piles of books you made? Take all the books you are sure you want to get rid of and put them aside, drive them to goodwill or whatever.

Now is the time to step back and look at all the books you have left. Can your get rid of more?

Then put all the books you have tagged as “MUST KEEP” in the boxes. Label the boxes with a sharpie on at least two sides. This will help you when loading them onto the truck to see that it’s a book box and what’s in them when you eventually unload them.

Remember, you have limited space in your moving truck. Do you really want to keep them all. If you have to, let a day pass instead of making hasty decisions.

Now go through all the book piles tagged “MAYBE KEEP” and decide whether you really, really, really want to keep any of them. We thought we did but then when we saw the books which we already had decided to keep, we thought it best to just get rid of the “maybe keep” pile. We just didn’t have the space to keep them all.

STEP 7: Tape up all the boxes

Once you have all the books you want to keep in the boxes, tape them up. If you can, do a dry run and load them on the truck. Otherwise, you are done. One last thing, try to be strategic with regards to where you load the books in your truck or car. We found that it was best to load them first so that they were against the deepest part of the truck against the wall. This way there was no shifting and they would get unloaded last.


Getting rid of books is hard.  It will be painful at first but time will heal your wounds.

If you are brave, you will get it down to one box. We couldn’t but now that we’ve been away from our books, I don’t miss them at all. I’ve gone totally digital. My husband Blake who is old school who said he would never read eBooks now does reads e-books from time to time. He still buys used books from time to time but he promptly donates them or discards them.

ps..Don’t forget to pick up plenty of packing tape along with a tape dispenser. Having plenty on hand will come in handy if there are multiple people packing. Plus, we kept misplacing our tape so it was nice to have extra rolls lying around just in case.

Why we left California

Why We Decided To Leave California: Before we moved to France

Why we left California: before we decided to move to France

Why would anyone leave life as they know it behind in order to start over somewhere else?  We all have our reasons for the things we do. Here are some of ours that eventually lead up to our decision to move to France.

Back story

The decision to leave California was slow in the making and quick in the coming. What does that mean? Annie and I, both with East Coast roots, had been talking about moving East for several years. Recent vacations had been to Montreal, Quebec City, Washington D.C, and Annapolis.

Meanwhile, every now and then we’d read in Outside Magazine or some similar publication write an annual article about “The Ten Best Places to Live.” Here are a few recent examples:

As I noted in my previous post about lifestyle design, California no longer appealed to us. So the seeds for change were there, but they had not yet started to grow.

The Catalyst To Leave California

Then, in the Fall of 2007, the company where Annie and I were working had a lay-off.

The lay-off package was very generous. With a bit of frugal living, we had about a year’s cushion of money. Using COBRA we continued our family health insurance through Blue Shield.  We used the time to travel, including an extended vacation to Paris and Edinburgh.

The Decision

We worked on projects that we never had time to before.  Annie began to prototype some ideas for her business, and she was now able to formally launch it. The result was Le Neko Noir ( – Cute life inspired handmade sleeping masks.).

With this, Annie decided she never wanted to go back to working for someone else. She wanted to run her own home based craft business, and also be at home for our three kids. I fully supported Annie’s decision, but it meant the loss of a six figure income.

So what happened?

Time Off Gives You A Chance At New Perspectives

The year off clarified a few things for us. We liked having our time for us, and not for some other company. If possible, we did not want to work for someone else. We liked to travel. We liked hanging out together. We wanted to continue to live this way. This meant moving. But,

we had to decided where we wanted to move.


We were opening Pandora’s Box, and it was going to be fun, hard, crazy, and rewarding.

Store coming soon Dismiss