How do I live with no current address? What do I ship and what do I donate?
March 31, 2009 12:45 AM   Subscribe

How do I live with no current address? What do I ship and what do I donate?

I was recently laid off, and I'm about to change my life entirely, by making it so that I don't have a permanent place to live. I'm 32 years old (single, no kids) and about to give up most of my material possessions and travel the country to visit friends and relatives until I find work; I think this will be cheaper than the rent on my apartment in Newport Beach, CA (that's Orange County, SoCal) and I haven't yet moved on to a "post-college" lifestyle of owning my own things and not being mobile. Everything I own needs to be sold, given away or shipped back to my parent's or brother's house. Help me with this. What is the cheapest way to ship things with no time limit, what should I get rid of (to buy new for cheaper at my final destination) what's the most effective way to sell things (I'm using Craigslist, so far (3 days)). Furthermore, despite the bad economy I think I can get a job (I work as a chemist) even now, that would be a backward career move, anytime I need it. I think I should wait for a good job in a good location, and take my severance, my tax return, and my ongoing unemployment money to travel the country and not pay rent until a better job comes along. Does this make sense?

And how do do I live responsibly with no current address?

I'm living in an apartment in a beach house on the Balboa Peninsula in CA. I got a one way ticket for my younger brother to fly out here from CO on 4-14-09, I've given notice that I'm vacating the apartment on or before 4-21-09. We'll drive up the Pacific coast to Seattle, possibly taking 2 days or so to stop by crater lake (reference the great answers to my previous question )

I've sold or don't mind giving away the big things (the surfboard has found a place, the TV has options, the futon I've been using for a bed can isn't worth much, the couch my old boss gave me can be left on the curb). The questions I have are with the other things: everything I own is either ship, toss, or fit into my small 2-door Saturn.

The camping / backpacking gear clearly makes the cut to take. The keep and ship side of things clearly includes family pictures, momentos, etc. The take in the limited space of the car load can include about two large totes in the trunk that will minimally contain my clothes, shoes, shaving bag, etc. We'll take enough water. I'm thinking that I'll take my DVD's and CD's out of their cases and put them into books and either take them with me or ship them like that. But I like to cook, what about my favorite skillet? My best knives of course come along. In the end the question is what to take with me, what to sell and what to ditch. Help?

I have some cookbooks that I use rarely, should I ship them or donate? I have multiple extension cords and plug/electrical stuff, I'm thinking curb it. I have some coffee table books, some of which were gifts, do I ship or donate?

Overall, the time it would take for me to fully calculate the cost analysis answer to the questions of what to ship and what to ditch among multiple items, of unknown weight, with unknown shipping costs (among multiple shippers) overwhelms me because it's too much to simply calculate. Should I lean towards ship or ditch?

Also, does my plan make sense? And how do I deal with mail? I plan to have it all forwarded to my parents address back in MI (they always check the mail) but what do I put on my resume? I'm thinking I'll leave it as my Newport Beach Address. I get Health Insurance until the end of April, then I'll COBRA, and I'm worried about the mail forwarding of the COBRA documents (I've moved a lot and the Postal Service mail forwarding works about as well as Ed McMahon's clearing house making me win, in my experience).

If I make my parents address be my permanent address and have them notify me, will that work? Can I make it so that I don't have an address at all, and only have a cell phone number? Even before now when I move I always wind up with crap on my credit report from people that never tried to "could't" find me for some stupid medical bill.

I'm rambling, question part 2 is how do you live responsibly with no current address?
posted by ender6574 to Work & Money (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Definately keep posting on Craigslist. I was getting rid of all my junk I was planning on donating or tossing.. so far I made over 900.. people will buy the stuff. You gotta just keep reposting--each time lowering by $50.. eventually it hits the sweet spot.
posted by 0217174 at 12:57 AM on March 31, 2009

well, as for shipping your best bet is going to be USPS Parcel Post, with perhaps their Media Mail option for qualifying boxes of items (books, CDs, etc).

Instead of COBRA you might want to look at just self-insuring. I'm paying $200/mo for a Blue Shield PPO plan with an annual $1700 cap on the copays. I've had a couple of medical bills this year already and I'm only getting billed half the cash price, too, so I'm very happy so far with this plan.

You may not be paying rent on travels but I think you'll find the mobile lifestyle to be not free. If I were you (and I am, more or less) I'd focus on developing job skills and not galavanting all over the place.

But whatever you choose, good luck and enjoy.
posted by mrt at 1:06 AM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think I should wait for a good job in a good location, and take my severance, my tax return, and my ongoing unemployment money to travel the country and not pay rent until a better job comes along. Does this make sense? And how do do I live responsibly with no current address?

I do not think this makes sense. Or rather, I understand the draw of using your down time to reconnect with friends and family by traveling, but I don't think that paying for this with unemployment is compatible with living responsibly (severance, sure; unemployment, no).

I also think that it's going to be much easier for you to find work if you're not traveling, as the travel time will cut into a full-time search for work, but if you're looking at contract work that you can do 100% remotely, then it might work out.
posted by zippy at 1:09 AM on March 31, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you, but I haven't gotten much yet, and I have cell phone connect that will always be active. What would I gain by paying $1150.00/ month to live in a tiny apartment on the beach? What am I buying with that money. I have 2 bags of freeze dried food (to camp with) and houses to stay at in Seattle (1st), Denver, Kansas, MN, GA, FL, Boston, New Orleans, Raleigh NC, and most especially Detroit and the rest of Michigan. With the money I have from severance and tax return, and unemployment trickling into that, what value do I gain by paying to live in this small apartment? $1150.00 a month to either sit here by myself or travel and visit people (that want me to visit). Really, will the gas, the campsites and the food costs (which should be even, given that the $1150.00 is ONLY rent and high speed internet), are you suggesting I should pay a crap load more money in order to sit in this small apartment by myself because that will in some undefined way help me to get a job faster?
posted by ender6574 at 1:23 AM on March 31, 2009

I am trying to answer your original question, which asks 'does this make sense' and 'how do I live responsibly.'

I think that traveling will make it harder for you to find work, as travel a: takes time, and b: makes it harder for you to meet employers, meet with friends in your city who might know of work, and in general be in circulation for a job. While you can do some of a job search by phone, online, and with email, there's a lot that also requires your physical presence.

And if you're doing things that make it harder to find work, while taking unemployment, then it's hard for me to reconcile this with 'is this responsible?'

But I may be misinterpreting your question, or overestimating the importance of in-person connections in your field for finding work. If so, my apologies.

Does it make sense to keep a beach-front apartment? Not if you can live more cheaply, but the simper solution would be to find more affordable housing that would allow you to search for a job without the disruption of travel.

One travel strategy that might work, however, is to travel between points where you both know people and think you have a decent chance of finding work (areas you wouldn't mind living). For instance, if you were an academic, traveling between SF and Cambridge to maximize your contact with friends and employers in two academically oriented cities might work out well.
posted by zippy at 1:59 AM on March 31, 2009

Response by poster: Zippy, Thanks for your post. You have the right point of view here, I in fact am looking at job contacts in Seattle now, 2 weeks before I travel there. From there I will look at Denver, etc.

I guess the "does that make sense" part of the question is foregone. The question is what do I shed, what do I keep? Like I have coffee table books, do I ship them, or buy new when I get to where I wind up?

As far as work goes, I already have a contact with a company in Seattle, hope to get an interview there. After that, the idea remains that I'm mobile enough that I can seriously drive to an interview anywhere in the continental country within 2 days, probably have a place to stay nearby, get the suit dry-cleaned and make the interview. But I still have the issue of the permanent address.
posted by ender6574 at 2:18 AM on March 31, 2009

When you start interviewing for jobs again, be prepared to answer questions about the gap in your employment history. It might not be a deal breaker, but say something other than "I was traveling around." Lie if you have to.

As for your CD collection, why? Rip them all onto a hard-drive. Then sell them. Before I moved abroad, it felt great to get rid of all that dead weight.

Have fun and good luck!
posted by bardic at 2:19 AM on March 31, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks bardic, ripping the CD's the the computer is something I'll being doing in the next two weeks. I figure the gap in employment can be covered by the simple truth: "got laid off and didn't want to pay OC rent, so went to visit people" true, the gap will last as long as I want it to; but I feel that a quality chronicle of my adventures should justify any gap in employment that may result. I will lie, but only if I really have to. And you're right, even now I'm shedding my friggin CD's, weight I've been carrying around for too long (musics been free for a while lol).
posted by ender6574 at 2:36 AM on March 31, 2009

Will you be able to collect unemployment if you're not in California? Or if you don't have a California address?

I know that when I was filing for partial unemployment (hours were cut at work), we technically had to be available to work.
posted by polexa at 2:38 AM on March 31, 2009

Related but not exactly on topic... mathematician Paul Erdos lived this lifestyle for his entire adult life. I have a close friend who is the daughter of a math professor who routinely hosted Erdos and whose childhood featured her being baby-sat by this world-class math mind. You are in good company. Stability is overrated. Take notes and write a book!
posted by FauxScot at 2:55 AM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you have a travel itch, scratch it. As long as your not choosing to make yourself a burden on your folk and friends, you can feel responsible.
During boom years we rarely take time out to travel, so you may as well do it now.

Regarding work, just put it on hold until your done traveling.
Use your money wisely, and don't leave it to your last dollar to start looking.

posted by matholio at 3:00 AM on March 31, 2009

Response by poster: I'll be available to work, in fact as I travel I'll be interviewing for jobs, but how do I adequately convey this to the unemployment agency (only dealt with them once before, briefly, and read posts on here, there's no way to deal with 'them'" I thought I'd just leave my address here in NB, CA, so it looks like I'm looking for work, since I'll actually be traveling the country and (hopefully, only set up for sure) interviewing for jobs, but I know the bureaucracy system won't understand that I'm really doing what it wants, so I'll leave my address at a stable place so that it looks like I'm sitting at home doing nothing, wishing I had a job. Because the system can't handle the lack of address that comes from someone actually looking for a job, really. It's a lot of work keeping the recruiters posted as to the status of my job search. The trouble comes in that the unemployment question is whether I can find work at all. Like anyone, I can find work tomorrow most likely, it will just be crap work, and the unemployment I payed into at my last many jobs can go ahead and cover me until I either find the job that fits my skills or run out of money and need work (money) so bad that I take whatever is available, wherever it is.

I'm not worried about the unemployment system. What do I ship and what do I toss, of the items that I own? And my solution to the address thing is to leave my address as it is but tell the post office to forward it to my parents house (which yes, from experience, is about as effective as farting in the bathtub) and also have the property managers of my bldg notify me if important mail comes. I don't know, in my experience, there is in fact no way to make my mail come to me, no matter what I do or send to anyone. The only way is to never move, but I can't do that. Anyone know anything different?
posted by ender6574 at 3:05 AM on March 31, 2009

When you start interviewing for jobs again, be prepared to answer questions about the gap in your employment history. It might not be a deal breaker, but say something other than "I was traveling around." Lie if you have to.

I know people who have taken 3 months off work to travel the world, and it hasn't caused them problems. Of course, if you say "travelled the world" HR people can think "Wow, I wish I could do that" while if you say "I collected unemployment, and bummed around on friends couches because I couldn't afford rent on a place of my own" they would think something rather different.

If I were you I would decide whether what you are doing is a career break/holiday until the economy improves; or whether you want to find a job ASAP and you're looking to live cheaply while you find one. Also, if you frame the question as "I'm taking a career break to visit friends around the country" commenters will be less inclined to point out that it might not be the best job-finding plan.

In the end the question is what to take with me, what to sell and what to ditch. Help?

DVDs and CDs -> Rip them to your laptop. Whether you want to toss the disks and cases entirely, toss only the cases, or keep the disks and cases, is your choice.
Favorite skillet -> If you plan to cook for your friends while you bum housing off them, take cooking kit. Otherwise, if it's expensive or hard to replace ship it; otherwise ditch it.
Books -> If you've read it and plan to read it again; or you haven't read it but plan to soon, keep them. If you 'mean to' read them but haven't got around to it for more than a year, ditch it. If you don't plan to read it again, ditch it.
Cookbooks you don't use -> See 'Books', ditch.
Coffee table books -> See 'Books'.
Extension cords -> Where I am these are very cheap; ditch them.

If I make my parents address be my permanent address and have them notify me, will that work?

I don't see why not; maybe get them a scanner with a nice 'scan and e-mail' button. Alternately, I have heard of some services that will handle this for you.

Can I make it so that I don't have an address at all, and only have a cell phone number?

Sounds like more hassle than it's worth to me when you could just use your parents' address.
posted by Mike1024 at 3:14 AM on March 31, 2009

Best answer: "Living" with your parents for tax/unemployment/mail purposes is ideal, especially if your stuff is stored there too. If your folks are willing you can ask them to open your mail up, you can leave them some money to deal with your bills etc, and if you happen to need something for some reason, so long as you stored and labelled it all properly it shouldn't be too much of an ask for them to post it to you.

Things that you want to keep, but are very unlikely to need on your trip, ask your family to store, and as I said above, if you expect them to root through it to find something for you, make sure you stored it in a way that makes it easy to do so.

You already have a good handle on what to take with you, although even so you're probably over-packing. One decent backpack's contents ought to be enough; keeping a car gives you a lot of storage space of your own too. Were this me, I'd pack toiletries, three or four changes of clothes including one suit, shirt and tie; laptop and phone, and a book or two that I was currently reading. Everything else you own: sell, give away, donate to charity, or toss. You can travel very light if you put your mind to it.

You say you enjoy cooking; the absolute ideal outlet for this desire is, cook for your hosts. Use their skillets. I find it hard to believe that a skillet could make a meal more than 5% better. A meal on the table when they come home from work is a very, very nice thing to do for people, especially if they're working and you're not. Hell, if you find yourself with a desire to visit Brisbane, and you're willing to cook for me, you can have a couch here! Go the whole fifties-housewife hog if you can: tidy, wash dishes, clean etc. Your proposed plan does ask a lot of people to take you on as a guest, and it's your duty to make your stay as little of an imposition as possible.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:30 AM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Use Earthclass Mail, with an address in the state from which you file taxes, have your drivers' license, get checks, set up health insurance. I use them, and they are great. They scan your mail, ship anywhere you want, and toss whatever you specifiy. $9.95 a month. Send checks to your parents to mail any bank deposits for you that you can't arrange to get electronically deposited in your bank. Meet with your local branch manager ahead to arrange for them to receive and deposit any checks by mail from your parents.

If your drivers' license is about to expire, get a new one at your current address.

Use Craigslist to get rid of most of your stuff. Offer what's left over for free after posting a couple "curbside pickup" ads on Craigslist. You need to get the big stuff out at least weeks ahead so you have enough time to deal with what doesn't sell and how to get rid of it.

I don't have the link, but go to the site for "Couch Surfing." I haven't used them, but I've met several worldwide travelers who have. That will lead you to other travellers with all their tips.

Consider getting a netbook for the road, lighter to carry, less to lose.
Sign up for an offsite computer storage like Mozy.
Put your CDs on computer, MP3, ipod, iphone, etc.
If you've got some cash now, get a Kindle for books. Otherwise, just buy used books on the road.

Travel light. At any given time you only need a week's worth of clothes. Get two pairs of good-looking outdoor quick-dry, wicking pants, 2 quick drying shorts, and two quick drying shirts--Columbia, Beans, etc. that fold down to nothing, Get a Polafleece zip neck pullover, a Polarfleece zip up jacket, a fleece vest, fleece tights for sleeping in, and a good rain proof jacket. Get a pair of waterproof low cut, lightweight hikers, pair of sneakers, and a pair of Tevas. Get 5 pairs of quick dry underpants and two quick dry long-sleeved, plus 3-4 short sleeved tees. Buy a portable clothesline. Think "camping."

Buy a big roll of two-gallon Ziploc bags for the big items, one-gallon and one-quart size for the small stuff, and keep your clothes sorted into those inside your duffel or backpack so you stay organized. Squeeze out the air to save space. Buy a really decent hanging toiletries kit, medium sized, to keep that stuff organized and in one place.

Read about the "Frugal Traveler" in The New York Times from his fantastic European vacation summer, 2008. Adapt some of those ideas for meeting up with people in less touristy parts of much-visited locales. Also, check out local groups wherever you go--hiking groups, reading groups, eating groups, etc. for company.

Have fun. The economy is tanking. If you feel the need to explain, say you "were on sabbatical." Just go!
posted by Elsie at 4:45 AM on March 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

I found that the cheapest way to ship things is through Greyhound (the bus line). They have a companion shipping service.

You can get an even better rate (50% off) if you (or a friend) qualify for a Student Advantage card. They offer a "first month free" type of promo, so you can just sign up, use the discount, then cancel it.

Just be SURE to pack your things VERY well. In my experience, stuff shipped through Greyhound gets banged around a lot. Double box, double box, double box! The upside is that it is WAY cheaper than UPS.
posted by bengarland at 5:16 AM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Lose the cookbooks. If there are any specific recipes you like, type them up and save them on your computer; otherwise, there are plenty of great websites for recipes.
posted by bluloo at 5:32 AM on March 31, 2009

Address: My experience has been that it is impossible to live without an address that at least appears to be a "real" (not PO box) address. You will need to have a "home of record" for car insurance, for example, as well as official things like getting a new drivers license and so on. I would suggest either using your parent's address, or using a local mailbox-type store that offers mail forwarding if you want to keep a local address. The good thing about a commercial forwarding service is that you can call them from Seattle and have them overnight your mail to you, then have them hold it until you are in Denver, and so on, without imposing on your parents' time and generosity.

And how do do I live responsibly with no current address?

By not being a mooch. That means being the best damn guest anyone has ever had, not expecting to be waited on hand and foot, and leaving before your welcome is up. I think you might be surprised how expensive traveling can be, even with free accommodations. You'll be wanting to take your hosts out to dinner to repay their hospitality; you will be needing to find car repair or other services in new places without the benefit of your local network and under pressure of time; a few nights here and there in motels (not as cheap as they used to be) and lots of restaurant meals turns into real money pretty fast.

About what to keep and what to ship: First, err on the side of getting rid of stuff. Most people in the developed world have incredible amounts of stuff, most of which isn't very important to us. So make getting rid of it the default option. I'd suggest keeping things that have sentimental value, and that have a high "density" of value. Nice books have a lot of density of value, as do CDs -- a cubic foot of them is expensive to replace, and provides a lot of enjoyment. A cubic foot of cheap soup pots, however, is cheap to replace, and one soup pot provides about the same pleasure as any other.

So to make this more straightforward, I'd suggest shipping your books, music, mementos, and some clothes (but probably not most -- be ruthless in sorting your clothes into keep/don't-keep piles). I'd suggest not keeping 95% of your kitchen supplies (except for things that your really like and would be expensive or difficult to replace), 99% of the piles of paper we all accumulate, your bedding unless it is new and expensive, and so on.
posted by Forktine at 6:23 AM on March 31, 2009

I think that if you plan it right, you can be responsible by not becoming a sponge. Being a guest does have some financial responsibility so don't come to somebody's place with the attitude of "FREE COUCH, DUDE, I'LL ONLY BE HERE A MONTH OR TWO OR UNTIL I FIND A JOB!!"

Granted, in your position a beach apt is the worst possible choice. You could still be in California and pay about 1/4 of that rent which most likely will be the equivalent or cheaper than your travel costs. Travel does tend to clear the mind but it can be burdensome. Sometimes stability can be good in your situation. I would probably try to find the best market for chemists and move there in a cheap room-mate situation until things look up.
posted by JJ86 at 6:38 AM on March 31, 2009

I'd mentally divide things up like this:

Things that can be replaced.
Things that cannot be replaced.

Only things that cannot be replaced should be shipped home to your parents -- photo albums and such. Think carefully about whether you care about some 'memento' type things or whether they're just crap you keep around because you feel like you should.

Amongst things that can be replaced, I'd keep only the things you will actively use while you're traveling. Don't tote anything in your car that doesn't absolutely have to be there, and pare down even the categories of items you'll be taking with you.

If you have an MP3 player, take that and leave the CDs. If you don't, take some CDs, but perhaps not all of them. I have no idea how many CDs you have, though -- some people only have a few dozen, in which case, putting them in little carriers is probably not a big deal.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:48 AM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would also add to the idea that it helps to be a responsible guest. Doing work around the house without being asked can be a great way to have people appreciate you being around. Volunteer to cook, clean, do yardwork, etc whenever you can. This can be a good way to make yourself welcome without spending a lot of extra money. You definitely want to still kick in for groceries and towards any extra expenses.

I would definitely have discussions with the people you are visiting before you go to talk about how long you would like to stay there and what the expectations are for your behavior. If the people you are visiting have jobs they might not be too happy if you are out late every night, for example.
posted by jefeweiss at 8:24 AM on March 31, 2009

Wow. After all the excellent answers, I feel compelled to ask about your goals. What are you hoping to achieve amidst everything previously discussed?

After leaving the USA, I've lived in Seoul for over a year. I have yet to receive more than a handful of things that were worth being sent to my current address. Credit card statements? Sign up for their electronic / automated services. Bank statements? Checkable online. If you MUST have postal mail access, I nth recommend Earthclass mail. I've yet to need it or try it personally, but the service itself sounds worthwhile.

For now, though, I'd be thinking about what you're looking for. Goals? Ambitions? Those sort of things will keep you from being on the run forever. Best of luck :)
posted by chrisinseoul at 9:05 AM on March 31, 2009

ender6574: "I'll be available to work, in fact as I travel I'll be interviewing for jobs, but how do I adequately convey this to the unemployment agency (only dealt with them once before, briefly, and read posts on here, there's no way to deal with 'them'"


I'm not worried about the unemployment system.

Um... you should be, since what you're proposing technically constitutes Unemployment Insurance benefit fraud and you could face criminal prosecution. You are required to be in the area looking for work. Every two weeks you need to report the companies (address, phone number, contact person) where you've applied for a job, using forms delivered by snail mail. Lying on these forms or having someone else do it for you constitutes fraud. They also schedule random meetings for you to come in to meet with a EDD adviser and could cut you off if you fail to appear.

I know you paid into the system and you are looking for work, but since the unemployment rate is through the roof in CA they might want to start making an example of people.

As for other tips: I suggest you scan copies of all your important documents (SS card, passport, etc), encrypt them, and put them online so you always have access to them while on the road. You don't want to have to dig into your trunk to find that one document when you need.
posted by sharkfu at 9:43 AM on March 31, 2009

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