The 4 Best Tips for Moving Cheap and Easy (and 1 Joke to Remember Them)
Moving is way more stressful than it needs to be. And the most stressful part is managing all of that stuff. Never mind your thoughts and feelings… how you even begin packing up a kitchen, even just the cabinets?
We know the young-people-moving experience. We’ve done it three times in the last two years—and all three times, it was a low-budget, light-packing, cross-country affair. In less than three years, we've had three fresh starts.
It's this kind of fresh start we've been thinking about the past few weeks. In case you missed it, our latest series featured five American cities ripe for young and restless creatives looking to move. We've focused on the cities and their details — but we conveniently left out, you know, actually getting to any of these places.
Before we wrap this series and move on for good, we’ve got one more piece we couldn’t deny you: the essential tips for leaving (and arriving) smoothly, so you can actually enjoy it.
Quick asterisk: we’re still thinking about younger people here, mostly twenty- or thirty-somethings who haven’t set down roots. These tips should apply just as well if you’re partnered or married, but maybe not if you have kids. For many of the same reasons, we’re assuming you have relatively light possessions—what fills a 1- or 2-bedroom apartment, maybe, but not a house. If you’re bringing tons of stuff, you’re talking about a different kind of move than we are!
“A Place for My Stuff”
You may have noticed: we’re George fans in this office. But there’s a reason we put this bit here: he nails the biggest problem with moving right at the beginning. If you don’t want to watch, he says your house is a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff, and that we sometimes move because we need more room for our stuff.
Even if you don’t hoard, he’s right. Especially from the sky, houses really do look like “piles of stuff with covers on them.” And as he discusses traveling, he shows us what’s truly burdensome about that stuff—that we have to carry it, in our hands but also in our minds. The problem isn’t being able to feel at home; as he points out, we make that happen even in our travels. The problem is carrying "enough" stuff with us somewhere new.
As we talk about moving, just remember:
Your house might be a pile of stuff, but your home shouldn't be. He pokes light fun here because he’s talking about a tendency we all have—but elsewhere, Carlin was very critical of mindless consumerism. It's a good caution: don't buy things just to have them.
It’s never the amount of stuff that makes you feel better; it’s the assortment of stuff. When you’re traveling, you don’t fret about leaving behind your wardrobe because you still brought a good assortment of clothes. Why should it be any different in principle when you’re moving?
If it’s not “stuff,” it’s “shit.” That’s his term for, basically, other people’s stuff—all of which is useless and meaningless to you. Do you already see any parts of your stuff this way? Have you kept things that are useless and meaningless, even to you?
Tip No. 1—Get Rid of Little S#!t
This is old advice. Not only have other people said it forever, but we already wrote an entire post about this.
Basically, just consider that you’re about to carry every single possession you own. That’s not counting the effort spent packing, unpacking, and thinking about each thing. In other words: each thing you move isn’t just one effort—it’s three or four. Getting rid of junk makes you happier than keeping it.
Tip No. 2—Plan a Craigslist Month
Ah, good ol’ Craigslist. For the reputation that precedes it, have another laugh (this one is definitely NSFW):
Sure, Craigslist is unpolished and sketch AF on certain pages, but otherwise it’s an awesome solution to a problem that’s otherwise hard to solve. (Just to indulge, we tell a couple of our memorable Craigslist stories at the end of this post. Nothing bad—we wouldn't recommend Craigslist if we didn't think it was a good idea.)
Do the math for yourself—but we found that it was smarter to buy new furniture at each move. (It was cheaper and easier to replace the furniture than move it.) Craigslist let us recoup a good amount of cash—and helped us get rid of things that would have been hard to even throw away.
The reason we say to plan a Craigslist month is that stuff can take a while to sell—especially if you’ve got a bunch of it, or want to get top dollar for it. Here’s how to Craigslist your stuff smartly:
- Make a list of everything you want to sell.
- Price everything. If it’s something valuable, start it at your highest reasonable price. If it’s not, or you want to be rid of it faster, start at your lowest reasonable price.
- Take pictures of everything. People won’t notice otherwise. (Relax, Craigslist standards are low.)
- Use their "My Account" feature. Relax—no strings, and this simplifies your work. On the homepage, click "My Account" in the upper-left; once your email/password is straight, you'll be able to see all your listings in one place and access options for each one. This makes life 1000% easier in the next steps.
- Post listings for everything. Be thorough but quick with descriptions—let the pictures talk as much as they can. Be forward about defects; it won’t stop many CL buyers if you’re up front, but it WILL stop a purchase if they get there and find something unexpected.
- Update your postings every 3 days. At a minimum, use the “Refresh” feature (on your "My Account" summary page) so each item jumps to the top of the listings. If you need to adjust/lower prices, do so incrementally. If you plan and use your time this way, you get the most money out—you give people a chance to bite at higher prices, and you give yourself a chance to lower them if no one bites quickly.
Tip No. 3—Sharpie Every Box You Pack
This isn’t nearly as tedious as it sounds—and it’ll help you tremendously. Even if you only write a single word on each box you pack—KITCHEN, for example, or DECORATIONS—it’ll provide way more help than you realize.
Just remember: you won't know where you put everything when you get there. By the end of packing, the boxes are more random, and you were more rushed throwing stuff in. If boxes aren’t labeled, you’ll need to unpack everything to find anything—and that’s a big nightmare, when you stop to think about it.
Suppose you’re moving in and want to make ice. You need your ice cube trays. Maybe you’ve written “ice cube trays" specifically on one box—but even if you just wrote KITCHEN, you’ve narrowed your search to 3 boxes out of 25. Much easier, right?
Also, label each box on more than one side. You’ll thank yourself later.
Tip No. 4—Pack Like You’re Traveling
This advice doesn’t apply to 90% of your stuff, but it’s crucial for the last 10%. Like Carlin implies, a certain amount of your stuff is more important. Some stuff you’ll want right away; some of it you could ignore for weeks. WHEN you pack, that’s exactly how you should separate things.
That’s also how you should plan WHERE you’re packing your things. It’s a trite analogy, but imagine an iceberg, the majority of which rests below the water. When you stack boxes or pack a car, you can’t access what’s at the bottom—like with an iceberg. Think carefully about what you’ll want first at the new place—and then pack it LAST, no matter how much you might be tempted to stow it away sooner.
If you try to imagine moving all in one day, it’ll be the hardest day of your life. But if you pretend you’re traveling for a week, pack the top 10% that way, then unpack the rest as you go, it won’t be such a tough week.
Moving is an exciting event in life, and it’s made all the more exciting by what’s uncertain about a new place. For the same reasons, moving’s not easy—and it’s not supposed to be. To point yourself in a happy direction, all that matters is that you moved because you were motivated for your own reasons. You can make a place for your stuff anywhere—but hopefully, when you tell the story later, it’s a fun story about your travels, and not a lament of feeling far from home with no place to put your stuff.
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Just For Fun—Craigslist Stories
We’ve never had a BAD experience on Craigslist—but still, you never know who's going to be interested in your ad (or when, or why), and that's just part of the fun.
Little Story No. 1
We’d listed a cheap spare set of wheels ($200). No one answered for 3 weeks and we forgot about it. Suddenly, one night at 10:30 p.m., we got a message about them—he could pay full price, but he needed them tonight, and he proposed meeting under a bridge (at a known public park, but still). He showed up on time, in a brand-new Honda Pilot, with someone in the passenger seat. Apparently he’d been working on a broken-down car in his driveway—which didn’t have wheels—and his wife told him it needed to be gone tomorrow.
Little Story No. 2
We’d listed two bar stools when moving out of San Francisco. Someone called us about them—clearly an older woman (who said she’d turned on the cell phone to call us). It was 8 or 9 at night, but she said she’d take the bus and be there soon. Sure enough, it was an older lady, and she talked a lot about her kids and how they were visiting and how she’d dipped into savings to spruce up her kitchen. She'd brought a little cart, so we used some rope and strapped the stools to it. Then she paid in cash, with one 50-dollar-bill and one 20-dollar-bill—but the bills were the old style of bills that have been out of print 15 years, and they were still mint-fresh like they’d been in a mattress for decades.
To top off the bewilderment and confusion, she said she’d be walking home the whole distance—what had been a 45-minute bus ride—since she couldn’t bring the stools back on the bus. We were like “whoa you sure?” but she was practically already out the door. Gotta respect the tenacity of people who make up their minds.