another tip for moving

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I mentioned in last week’s DIY post that it’s a good idea not to save all of those crafty projects for the last month or so leading up to a big move. That was just one of many moving tips I’ve been collecting over the summer, and I’m thinking I’m going to start sharing them as a part of a series. There are just so many little details that many of us never think of until it’s too late, and I’d like to bring a little more thoughtfulness and awareness to the process, for myself and for you.

We’re currently doing a daily online search of real estate listings in Hawaii and it’s thrilling. Seeing all of the condos, the cottages, the houses in suburbia that could actually be ours, just a few minutes from the beach and all the busy city-glory that is Honolulu. Our goals is to rent something big enough to stretch out a little in, big enough to host friends and family, but not so big that we get lost in it. I saw an affordable four-bedroom property last week and dreamed for a minute about furnishing two whole guestrooms before I realized how ridiculous that would actually be. Two small people in a four-bedroom house? We’d jangle around in it like so much loose change in a pocket.

I’ve also seen the most amazing condo in a high-rise in downtown Honolulu, with an entire wall of sliding glass doors leading out onto the lanai — a Hawaiian term for an outdoor living space, like a porch or a deck — and a travertine shower and a bright kitchen with maple cupboards and granite countertops. Wowza. It was also small — with two bedrooms and less square footage than we have in our little home now. I got a little distracted from that important fact of space, and can you blame me for letting the glitter of cosmopolitan living get in my eyes?

This brings me to my point: don’t overestimate the square footage of your new home, and don’t underestimate the sheer volume of stuff that you have.

When we first moved into our current home there was stuff everywhere and hardly any space to move. The movers kept unloading cardboard box after cardboard box until I felt like I was going to be swallowed up by cardboard and never found again. I had made the mistake of overestimating the size of our place — which is plenty large enough for us and our furniture, a little under 1,000 square feet — and the bigger mistake of not getting rid of enough superflous stuff before shipping it all across the country.

So I went to work, purging and making piles to give away and piles to throw away and piles of recycling…it was liberating but it was hard, and a project I wished I had undertaken while we were still at our first apartment.

This time around I’m being a little more ruthless with our things. All of the objects that made the cut in the last round, but still haven’t been touched in the eight months that we’ve been here, are going to the charity shop. Someone else will get plenty of use out of my spare yoga mat (who has a spare yoga mat??), all of those t-shirts from college, the junky Christmas decor I scrounged for secondhand.

Ideologically I prefer minimalism. It’s frustrating when my actual needs don’t match up with what I believe to be the best; i.e., when I want to live with less but in reality need to keep those winter parkas and gloves for our next move. (Or, more truthfully, when I want to live with less but just can’t bear to give away any more books or shoes.) I’m coming to peace with the fact that I won’t be like those people who pare their belongings down to the bare minimum of 100 things. And that’s a good thing, because for me and my life that would not be a truthful existence but rather a weird, self-imposed challenge for sake of the challenge. Instead I’ll take each move as an opportunity to gladly and gradually shave down our load, to pursue a simpler, less wasteful life, one full of beautiful, useful things.

All this to say: be realistic. Be ruthless. Live with less and carry a tape measure, always.

Image via Lisa Congdon.

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8 thoughts on “another tip for moving

  1. Great post! We’ve made 7 moves in 13 years…I am learning little by little 🙂 And now that we haved stayed settled for 4.5 years I notice that it is important to “pretend” to move every once in a while!

    • Wow! Seven moves is an immense amount! Do you have any tips? And you’re so right — sometimes it’s good to get the cleaning fever even if there isn’t a pressing deadline to move your belongings across town or the country. Probably a more relaxing state, too!

      • My Mom would always say that one should “pretend to move” once a year and that way there is not a huge build-up of stuff….And when I clean out the closet…if it hasn’t been used in three years it goes…unless it has some true sentimental value.

  2. Erin, this is wonderful advice! We are of like minds (since we’ve moved over 20 times in 20 years). As you say, “Wowza.” I like your tip about paring down – knowing that someone else will enjoy the items you pass along. My husband and I just call ourselves “Simplifiers” and create simple homes with our favorite stuff. Good luck on your home search in Hawaii – what fun! 🙂 All the best, Terri

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