Moving doesn’t have to be difficult, unless you make it that way.
We’re living in a society that’s more mobile than it’s ever been. It’s becoming incredibly easy to separate your location from your income by creating a minimalist business.
And yet so many people continue make a big deal out of moving. They have every intention of renting an expensive U-Haul truck, they hold on to all of their stuff, they procrastinate and make excuses not to make the jump to a new city. Eventually they give up and never strike out to experience a new place for the first time.
Why? Because it’s costly to move when you have tons of junk.
You don’t need the U-Haul filled with excuses to move anywhere.
The reality is that you can relocate to a new locale for the cost of a plane ticket, plus new housing setup costs, if you design yourself a minimalist life.
On May 15th I’ll be getting on a place bound for San Francisco air, and the ticket will be my only moving cost. My ticket from New York to San Francisco was only $125. (Obviously prices will vary on airfare depending on where you’re going.)
If I was a Frequent Flier Master like Chris Guillebeau, I’d probably be able to relocate to a new city for free — I’ll be working on this if I ever move again. But I’m not an expert at gaming the airport system yet, so $125 will do just fine.
How to move for the cost of a plane ticket.
1. Reduce your possessions to a more meaningful amount.Minimalism is a running theme on this blog for a reason, because it works.
Moving your stuff is the single largest cost involved in any relocation. Reduce your possessions to less than 100 things and you’ll be able to move easily. I have 50 things now, which means I can move with a carry-on bag.
The truth is that most of the things you need for your apartment can be obtained for a small amount of money, or shared with new roomies, in any new location. One of the biggest factors tying people to their location is accumulating hundreds of thousands of inexpensive little gizmos that they never actually use. As I said in The Art of Being Minimalist, simply abandoning this junk will free you to pursue a location independent lifestyle.
The stuff is enslaving you, it’s keeping you trapped in one place, when you could be free.
2. Resolve your housing situation in your old location. Talk to the landlord and say that you’d like to move out. Offer to help find a new person, if necessary. Breaking leases is bad, but if required isn’t the end of the world. Be sure to give at least 30 days notice on a rental.
If you’re in the unfortunate situation of owning a house, find a management company to maintain the property while you’re gone. Or sell it, if that’s an option. Many people I talk to who own houses in the current climate are simply waiting until the value improves enough for them to leave with a profit. But what if the value never improves? Don’t delay your aspirations because your home value took a nose-dive. Sell the house now, cut your losses, and become a renter in your new city.
3. Find a temporary home base in your chosen city. It’s important to have a place to crash for a few days while you get a more permanent living situation. In some cities there are inexpensive hostels where you can stay for a few days, or hotel rooms that won’t cost much. Some people enjoy Couch Surfing in new locations. Personally, I booked a room for 15 days through the remarkable Airbnb.
4. Land the apartment after you get into town. People make a big deal out of getting apartments, it doesn’t need to be. Most landlords, outside of the East Village in Manhattan, are more than happy to have you give them your money — if you’ve got decent credit and don’t have a criminal history. Be sure to have at least first and last month’s rent + security ready to go the moment to find an apartment that fits your criteria.
Don’t try to find an apartment beforehand. It’s just too hard to coordinate money, avoid scammers, and guarantee that your apartment is livable when you can’t see it first. Never wire large sums of money over the Internet to people you haven’t met, it’s just a bad idea.
Act confident. Wear nice clothes and a smile on your face when you’re visiting new apartments. Even if you don’t have minimalist business income coming in at the moment, tell the owner that money will not be a problem. You’re leaving a security deposit for a reason, you don’t have to give a full financial picture to the landlord unless absolutely required — if required and you don’t have money coming in at the moment, move on to a landlord who won’t ask questions. There are plenty of landlords out there who only care about the security deposit, you don’t have to deal with ones who ask too many questions.
5. Be open to different living situations. Our society has wired us to think the only way to live is alone, but understand that it can be much easier to find a room with other people in a larger apartment. When I was in Portland I lived with two fine girls from the town. They helped me meet new people, and we even worked on a few projects together. The other benefit of entering into a shared space is that furniture and kitchen supplies will often already be present.
I’m not going to be looking for a shared space this time around, but I’ve had amazing experiences in them in the past (I used to live in a schoolhouse with 10 roomies, it was the best years of my life.) This can also save you a lot of money, and you’ll have more flexible move-out dates should decide that you want to head to Thailand in a few months.
Being in a shared space can also be a great way to open your mind to new things. When we live alone we tend to focus on the same-old, but roommates will have different stuff going on that can open your mind and help you learn new skills.
6. Live in cheaper neighborhoods bordering gentrified ones. One of the biggest mistakes that people make when they move to new cities is to try and live where the city was coolest in the 1970s. It isn’t the 1970s anymore, rent in Soho is $3000 a month. You can’t afford that unless you’re rich.
It’s not in your best interest to spend the majority of your income on your living situation. Rent an inexpensive, yet livable apartment, and you’ll have loads more cash to spend on experiences outside the apartment.
Here’s what I do: go to the hip place where you thought you were supposed to live, and walk 15 blocks in any direction (if you thought you were going to live in Manhattan, get on any train and take it 5 stops into Brooklyn.) This is where you look for an apartment. Art exists on the fringes of society, a neighborhood that’s a little rougher will always be cooler and also much cheaper than a gentrified neighborhood that had a reputation of being cool thirty years ago.
7. Don’t worry so much. So many people I know like to spend days or weeks making contingency plans for simple moves like this — this often leads to not moving at all. 99% of the time nothing will go wrong, so don’t spend 80% of your time making sure that 1% doesn’t happen. The world is pretty much the same everywhere (as long as you don’t move to a war zone,) you won’t have trouble finding an apartment if you’re a decent person. Spend the time you were going to spend worrying on setting up passive income sources so you can pay your rent.
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