Moving Advice From Someone Who Moves Too Much

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

05.04.17
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I’ve moved so, so many times. I moved to New York City in 2003. The city-wide blackout happened my very first week. While climbing 16 floors to the apartment I was crashing in with a friend, it hit me: This city could really grind you up and spit you out. But that’s another story entirely.

I eventually signed a lease with a roommate, but found myself on the hunt not a year later, after realizing he was the absolute worst and that, despite New York being “the city that never sleeps,” the Upper East Side actually did sleep. It went to bed super early, matter of fact. So I moved downtown, to a 200-square-foot, sixth-floor studio in a walkup building that I left after another year when I couldn’t deal with the cockroach/rat situation any longer. I moved again, and again, and again — a string of rent hikes, boyfriend breakups and, once, to flee from a building-wide bedbug infestation.

I’ve lived in 10 apartments in New York City — subdivided Bushwick lofts and Boerum Hill basements and LES cubbyholes and one horrifyingly blah Battery Park City unit — and have moved across the United States THREE TIMES; a triangle whose points are NYC, Los Angeles and Miami. In all of this moving, I have learned a great deal. Here, I will impart my hard-earned wisdom. Share your own in the comments please.

1. Stop relying on your friends and/or parents to help you move.

I spent so many of my formative NYC years extremely broke. Instead of hiring movers, friends and sometimes even family members would physically help me load and unload my U-Haul. This sort of thing might fly when you’re fresh out of college, but unless you always return the favor, it starts to take a toll on your relationships. Spare the people close to you and pony up some money for either professionals (ideal scenario) or a few strong people off Craigslist or Taskrabbit or whatever the kids are using these days

2. PURGE. But don’t wait ‘til you’re packing or moving to do so.

I don’t associate a lot of silver linings with moving, but Kondo-like purging is one of them. That is, if you do it correctly. Purging is a step in and of itself. Do not — DO NOT — attempt to organize and purge whilst moving. You need to be completely packed up and ready to go by moving day, soldier. All paper shredding and Beacon’s Closet donating needs to be done well in advance.

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3. Assume you have more stuff than you think you do.

I’ll pack up the kitchen morning-of. We don’t have a lot of kitchen stuff. Untrue. You have so much kitchen stuff. It’s multiplying in your drawers and oven (where I store pots) as I type this. Also, and this speaks to both this point and the above purge point, if you feel the need to put some of your excess stuff in storage, know that by virtue of that very decision, you’re deeming it unnecessary. Purge it.

4. Make sure your utilities (hot water, electricity, etc.) are set up before you arrive.

This one bit me in the rear when I moved to LA. Who knew that in LA, hot water wasn’t just available, that you had to make sure it was set up beforehand? After a long, hot cross-country moving-truck drive, dog mostly on my lap stress-shedding and panting, there was nothing I wanted more than a hot shower. Instead, I took a bracingly cold one and slept on a mattress on the floor. Don’t end up like me; do your utilities homework beforehand.

5. Unpack and decorate immediately or live among boxes forever.

Admittedly, this is not something I’ve excelled at in the past. I have been in my current apartment for over seven months now and I still have a few bags of random things squirreled away in closets and drawers. It is, however, a truism of life. This is a time to be aggressive. Push yourself like you’re on American Ninja Warrior. It’ll suck and then it’ll be over and you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labor for a year — maybe even longer, if you are lucky and completely unlike me.

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6. Moving does not wipe away your problems.

New destinations can seem so romantic. Your current situation can seem so tragic. And though a move can improve some aspects of your life — career, access to natural light, few-to-zero termites (the scourge of Miami) — it does not, in my experience, fix the hard stuff. That boyfriend will not be less annoying just because you now have an eat-in kitchen, for example. Sunset views cannot cure your anxiety.

Some other odds and ends I’ve learned the hard way: Don’t bring plants into California. Get insurance on the U-Haul in case someone sideswipes you. Don’t cart trash bags or boxes full of old papers and pens from one city to another — you’ll hate yourself for it. Lift with your legs. Mark the contents of each box on three sides or so with Sharpie. Know that if you live above a restaurant, you will smell that restaurant morning and night. The person who was the life of the party in college is likely a terrible choice of roommate. If you can avoid it, don’t drive your belongings cross-country, especially with a romantic partner. It’s probably equally affordable or even cheaper to have someone move them for you, and much less terrible for your relationship.

And finally — most importantly — if you see one bug, there are many, many other bugs.

What are your moving commandments? Believe it or not, I’m on the brink of another move and could use all the additional help I can get.

Illustration by Juliana Vido; follow her on Instagram @julianavido.

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