Lessons from a Serial Mover
In the past four years, I have moved five times. The first time, I was twenty and moving out of my parents’ house. The second time was to a tiny one-bedroom apartment with my then-boyfriend. The third time was back to my parents’ house because, surprise, that didn’t work out. The fourth time was only a semester later, the day after I graduated college. I moved into a new apartment with my new boyfriend, and managed to stay for my entire lease this time. And the fifth time, a month ago at 24, my boyfriend and I and our two cats moved from Pennsylvania to Ohio so I can pursue my Master’s degree in Creative Writing.
For someone who has moved so many times, you might think I would be bursting at the seams with moving advice. And you would be right; I do have a few tricks up my sleeve, for example:
- Don’t wait until the day before your move to start packing.
- Don’t forget to label your boxes.
- Don’t hold onto piles of piles of junk.
- Don’t neglect to budget.
- Don’t underestimate the value of your security deposit.
How do I know to avoid these things? I have made many, many mistakes. I have waited to pack until the last minute, which was stressful and exhausting. I have forgotten to label my boxes, and it took days to unpack. I have held onto years’ worth of clothing and items and knickknacks that weren’t doing me any good and took up space in my closet. I have definitely neglected to budget, and felt the financial repercussions that followed. And I have underestimated the value of my security deposit when I sorely needed the extra cash.
But I have learned from my many, many mistakes. I have learned that it’s okay to take risks, like moving in with your boyfriend on a whim, or relocating to a city where you have no job or friends and “winging it” to get by. Just as I have learned from my mistakes, I have learned from the risks I’ve taken when I moved. I’ve learned how to let go, and how to make decisions. And I have learned a few practical things as well, like the importance of budgeting and planning.
I plan on living in Ohio for the next two years while I work on my Master’s; this will be the longest I’ve stayed in one place since before I left my parents’ house. Like most of my moves, I didn’t have a lot of time to plan this one. I got accepted to the program of my dreams in early April, and I moved at the end of May. Although I’ll be receiving a small stipend in the fall, I have no solid income in the meantime, and I have no connections in the area. I am six hours from my closest friends and family. Regardless, I never thought twice about what I knew I needed to do.
I immediately started purging our home of everything we no longer needed: clothing, tacky decorations, vases, excess furniture. I cleaned out our two large closets so I could finally see the floor. We started packing a week before we moved, which was just enough time to get ready comfortably. We hired movers. We didn’t clean. I buckled my two (rather grumpy) cats into my overstuffed car and we embarked on a slow motion nine hour drive with a U-Haul packed to the max with furniture. We did not get our security deposit back. But we’re here.
I have no idea what the future will bring, but I’m not worried. I’ve moved more frequently than anyone ever should in the past few years, but I don’t regret any of it. I don’t consider all of those “mistakes” I made failures. Every time I moved was an adventure; every time I have learned something new about myself. If I could offer any advice to someone getting ready to move, I would say:
- Take the leap—if it scares you, good. You’re doing it right.
- Hire movers. It’s worth the money. Especially if you have stairs.
- Clean your old apartment. Don’t be lazy like me and miss out on that payback.
- Plan, but don’t overthink it.
- Make sure you have enough money, but don’t be afraid to scrape by if you’re doing what feels right.
I’m looking forward to being stationary for the next two years. Moving is stressful—but would I do it all over again? Absolutely.