How to Make Your Home Feel Like Home if You Move a Lot
For young, transient vagabonds out to grab the world by the cahones like yourself, moving can be complicated. For our purposes, there are three kinds of moving:
Options 1 and 3 are easy to plan for. Option 1 means you take your underpants, toothbrush and jar of peanut butter. Option 3 means you just pack up everything you own and shove it onto the back of a moving truck and your biggest task is figuring out where the box of shower curtain hangers went. When it comes to option 2, however, there’s a bit of a snag. Now you have to make CHOICES. Shit just got real.
I recently moved across country for an indeterminate length of time (such is the life of a writer) with nothing more than a 2011 Honda Fit at my disposal. I admit here that my car and its inherent Japanese utility made packing much easier – back seats really just get in the way and I generally have no use for them.
There’s nothing worse than arriving in a new place and feeling like you’re living in a generic motel room or worse, a plain white box, for the first few weeks while you recoup moving expenses and wait for that first shiny, new check. It’s even worse when you know you’ll only be in your new spot for a short time and have to debate how many things you really need. I had no intention of living in a white box, even for just a few months. It does have hardwood floors, but that vintage charm only takes you so far.
It took some forethought, but I was ultimately able to bring all of my clothes and items with which to otherwise accessorize myself, i.e., my entire closet, every electronic item I need for work, plus stuff to sleep on, bathroom essentials, a TV with DVD player and Roku box, a small grill and – here’s the kicker – enough decorations and mementos to make my new place actually feel like MINE. Oh, and my dog. He came, too.
I move constantly, so I’ve got this down to a science:
Home is where you rest your head. Having your own pillow, fluffy comforter and teddy bear cannot be undervalued. The bed itself obviously cannot come, but the items on it can and should. They compact down to a decently small size, too, especially given one of those sweet vacuum seal bags. If given extra small space requirements, scrap the comforter and pillows and stick with the duvet, sheets and pillowcases. You’ll be grateful when you’re resting peacefully in your favorite Spiderman sheets.
You will, of course, want to dress yourself in your new abode. Having all of this stuff at your disposal, instead of just a two week selection, will go a long way to making you feel as if you aren’t living out of a suitcase. Sure, you just moved, but that doesn’t mean you suddenly only need 3 pairs of pants. There are boundaries, mind you, but I brought enough clothing to hang on a 5 foot closet bar and a dresser drawer’s worth of jammies, underpants and jeans in one plastic, 4 foot comforter bag.
Guy or girl, I don’t care which; you’ll want some stuff to put up in your new place. The key here, as with purchasing and packing in general, is to choose things that are FLAT and not breakable. Wall hangings/calendars/flags/posters/curtains = flat. Antique bookcase = not flat. Framed pictures also don’t take up much space in the car, but Pinterest has enough cool (and cheap!) DIY framing tips that you don’t even need to bring the frames, thus saving you even more space.
Tons of family/vacation/incriminating photos? Don’t bother with the whole album. Remember technology? It’s great. Buy a digital picture frame that will cycle through all your snapshots in a lovely, memory-inducing montage for you whilst you dress for your job in the morning and sip your coffee/tea/bloody mary. All of this stuff fit into 2 small case-of-beer sized boxes and my bedroom looks like I’ve lived here for years. If your space still lacks pizzazz, though, go back to Pinterest for super-low-cost décor ideas to add to your collection of “Pretty Things That Are Also Flat.”
Do not bring furniture. This is needless. Furnished sublets or rentals are growing more and more in popularity and why take your own stuff if you can use someone else’s? My room came furnished with a full-sized bed, an only slightly wonky dresser that doubles as House of Underpants and TV stand, and two end tables. I found a used Ikea desk on Craigslist for $20 (already assembled!) and, on a trip to the actual Ikea, got a small bookshelf (disassembles to flat) and an area rug (also flat) for $40 total. I also got meatballs. They were delicious, as usual. This same principle applies to kitchen items. You don’t need to bring your own whisk. How much whisking do you do in a week anyway?
A note on Ikea – if you move a lot, Ikea and its paramour, Ikea-items-on-Craigslist, are your new best friend. If you don’t have an Ikea near you, stick with Craigslist or garage sales to fill in whatever larger, homey items you couldn’t bring with you. One of the many great things about Ikea is that if you happen to develop a strong relationship with whatever item you purchase, you can always take it apart and shove it in the car with you on the next move. Remember not to spend any more on furniture in a new spot than you’re willing to throw away or re-sell on Craigslist when you get ready to leave. You can sell anything on Craigslist. Anything. Remember this.
To maximize your packing space, use things that are flat or can become flat. (Are you seeing a theme here? FLAT is the way to go.) Old steamer trunks, or even the only slightly newer hard-side suitcases are bulky and use up space. Instead, go for duffel bags, trash bags, comforter bags, vacuum bags or, if needed, cardboard boxes. All of these will smash flat when you unpack and are reusable when you need to head to the next destination. Do not underestimate the value of using your bedding to pack the more fragile items…just wash your sheets before you outfit the new bed.
Bring the dog. (Or cat, or gerbil, or whatever.) Nothing says’ home’ like your furry friend trying to sit on your face in the morning.
And there you have it. All of this is to say, really, that there are only 3 simple rules: 1. Bring things that are flat. 2. Bring things that are not easily replaceable (the dog) or cost-prohibitive to replace (the laptop), and 3. Get everything else from Craigslist, Ikea, and garage sales. Now your wandering heart can be free from the gut-wrenching anxiety of Tolstoy’s eternal question: how much crap does a man need?
The illustrious author of this article, Stephanie Huey, is an itinerant writer, sub-letter of apartments and lover of craft beers. Her favorite sentences are those containing syllepsis or ones that mention Vietnamese food, of which is she is inordinately fond.