10 Things I’ve Learned in 10 Moves

Yes, that’s right; I have packed my belongings and thrown them in a truck 10 times. You would think I would have it perfected by now, but something new always pops up each time. I have moved from small places into larger homes and from houses into small apartments. This last move into our motorhome was the most challenging. We downsized more than we ever had before and we really had to think about exactly where objects would fit. All 10 moves have produced a few things I have found to be true.

On the road again

1.  Most of us own more than we need.
There are those people who truly live minimally and with only what they need, but most of us live in consumer mode. We fill the space we have. When we exceed the space we have, we look for more space to fill like a garage. When you start packing you should always take a hard look at each item and decide if you really need it or if it’s just taking up space. Use every move as a time to de-clutter. I’d even suggest setting aside some time every year to do this anyway before it gets too overwhelming.

2.  I hold onto too many things on the “round tuit” list.
You know the list, the one with all the jobs that you’ll get around to when you the time. Do you ever get around to it? Once I actually got into my list, some of these jobs were faster than I expected. Some had changed by the time I had gotten around to them. Review, evaluate, and prioritize. Maybe something is no longer needed or is now a quick fix. Dedicate some days for turning in your “round tuit” tokens. How long do you want to carry this stuff around?
Unfortunately, I can’t even claim to have actually gotten rid of everything on my list. I have a box of photography prints from my college days that I’ve been meaning to go through since I graduated…over 10 years ago. I peeked at it and got a few things out, but this job didn’t get finished before I hit the road and is now taking up room in my mom’s extra closet.

Kona and Lucy finding the only soft places left during a move

3.  It’s best to make multiple passes when drastically downsizing.
When we moved from our house in Dallas to an apartment on the Hudson River, we had to downsize some, but not as much as you might think. The choices were easier, too. Get rid of my old bedroom set and keep the waterfall vintage set. Ditch the old futon in the extra room and only keep our newer couch. We even had a lot of closets in our apartment, so clothing was not an issue. Moving into the RV, though, was a different beast.

The motorhome is much smaller than any apartment we’ve lived in and our lifestyle would change. We started out on this journey when I was working full-time in Manhattan at a corporate job in the fashion industry. I needed clothes that reflected that. When we packed up to spend a year in Indiana freelancing from home, I kept a lot of my dress pants and other work clothes. I thought I may need them to meet clients or to dress up. I didn’t need them. Well, I didn’t need all of them or even most of them. I kept a few basics or pieces I really liked and got rid of the rest. The same goes for the rest of my wardrobe. Every so often, I would re-evaluate what I kept to see if I still thought I needed it. I was able to cull more every time. I still need to go through everything again, especially after being out on the road for a while.

The same theory goes for everything else, too; kitchen wares, tools, etc. If you have the time over a few months, weeks, or even days, make multiple passes over your inventory. It can be overwhelming to go through everything at once and you may be prone to hang onto things you don’t really need.

4.  Most storage items are never looked at again.
I’ve read about multiple RVers who put things in storage and then have to come back a year or two later to clean it out and get rid of everything. Even boxes that are put in closets or garages after a move can be ignored until the next move. What does that say about the contents?


5.  If you do move a lot, it’s worth keeping a few moving items.
With all this talk of paring things down, I did keep a few things I only used during moves. If I knew it was temporary, I kept some boxes in the garage. But even in our apartment in NJ, I used the extra closet space to hold the dishpak from moving. I knew us and wasn’t sure when our next move would be. After a few failed attempts at moving, it ended up being the home we lived in the longest, but the dishpak came in handy when we did move. I hate buying these specialized moving helpers, so I saved myself the trouble and money.

6.  Estate sales can help liquidate large amounts.
We usually hold a garage sale before a move to get rid of the things we don’t need to move with us. These can be great in some parts of the country (Dallas, I’m looking at you) or hard to do and hardly worth it in others. In NJ, we combined our sale with a friend living in a house (our highrise was not sale friendly) and still had multiple boxes to get rid of at the end.

By the time we were ready to make the move to being nomads, we had a lot of stuff we couldn’t take with us. Namely furniture, kitchen items, and a bunch of other odds and ends. We would look at the pile we were creating and think about having to sort through and price all of it. Could we do multiple garage sales? Sure, but did we want to do multiple garage sales? We decided to look into using a professional estate sale service. This allowed us to have one sale where we got rid of almost everything (there are always a few stragglers) and not have to deal with set up or buyers. Have you ever been woken up at 4 am by the early birds demanding to see items for sale? Not fun.

We should note that we did not make as much as expected by us or our estate sale professionals at the sale. Maybe the timing was off, maybe our goods didn’t mesh with the customers, who knows. It was still nice not having to do it ourselves.

The view outside The Thing in Arizona during our move to San Diego

7.  Get paid up front.
You know the old adage that family and money don’t mix? I think that can be applied to friends and neighbors, too. They can mix, but when it comes to selling your belongings, do yourself a favor and get your money before handing over the item. We held items out of our estate sale for a lower price for what we thought was a friend and neighbor. We have never seen the money and missed out on selling some big-ticket items.

8.  Something can and will usually go wrong.
Just know and accept that things will not go perfectly. Here’s a few of the problems that have arisen during our moves:
– Our belongings were held hostage for more money once they were loaded on the truck. Being an interstate company, the cops couldn’t help us, so we had to let them leave not knowing what would happen on the other side. Happily, the movers on the delivery end never received the memo to extort us and we handed over a check for the original estimate.
– The truck carrying our belongings had a large hole in the roof and it rained while it was on the road. Thankfully, we had put plastic bins of holiday decorations on top, so the water was mostly contained. It could have been so much worse.
– Superstorm Sandy hit the day before our move was scheduled. If we were in a house, we would have just left earlier, but in a highrise building, you must stick to your time. We were delayed for a week until the power was restored and we were rescheduled.
– We got a flat tire on the new U-haul we rented just an hour or so from our new home. We had to wait for someone to come out and change it.
– We were trying to move into the RV and leave when snowstorms and the polar vortex hit. Another delay and then it became just throwing things into the RV instead of actually putting them away.

One of our water-soaked boxes from the leaky roof incident

9.  Experiences are better than things.
There has been research that people remember experiences more than they do objects. Something to remember for your next gift giving occasion. For us, that’s why we are doing this. We want to see and experience all we can. For our milestone anniversaries, I choose travel over jewelry. We stopped collecting typical souvenirs a long time ago. We have our photos and we will pick up local delicacies that we can consume along the way. We do allow ourselves a smashed penny collection and stickers for the car. We figured out long ago these didn’t take much room and were fun reminders of our travels.

10.  Cats can hide anywhere.
Here are three examples of when I thought I lost Dylan, our cat.
– He crawled on top of the fridge then on top of the soffit and stared down at me while I frantically searched and called out to him.
– Before moving into our empty apartment, I let the cat out of his carrier (silly, I know) and went to pick up the truck. When we came back, we could not find him anywhere. It was an empty apartment! He had managed to crawl into the kitchen cabinets and into a drawer at waist height. He’s a big cat, too.
– When he first got into the RV, he did his normal exploring and found his spot in the closet that we had created for him. All good. Then one day before leaving, we went to find him to no avail. It’s a big RV, but not that big! Finally, we pulled out the drawer under the couch to find a curled up cat. Anywhere.


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