I'm moving. How much of my stuff should move too?
January 25, 2011 8:48 PM   Subscribe

I'm moving from New York to San Francisco, and wondering whether it makes sense to move everything with me, or sell most of it and replace it after I've moved.

We've got a one-bedroom apartment, but aside from a nice bedframe, a couple of small accent pieces and a couple of works of art, most of our furniture was bought used or extremely cheaply, and we're not at all attached to it. Much we could sell for basically what we paid for it, and aside from the mattress most of what we'd lose money on would need replacing in a year or two anyway. We also have some good-quality kitchenwares, clothes and bedding, some books, and a new TV, but beyond that, very little that doesn't seem very replaceable.

Has anyone had any experience selling their stuff and starting over? Was it cost-effective? Did you regret it? How bad was the hassle factor? And how much would it really save in moving expenses versus piling everything into a Uhaul? Help me figure out if I'm being logical about this, or just romantically attached to the idea of a fresh start.
posted by psycheslamp to Grab Bag (31 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
sell it
posted by H. Roark at 8:54 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

My girlfriend and I moved from San Diego to NY last year. We got rid of just about everything before we moved and I'm glad we did. We managed to load everything into a very full Town and Country that we rented for 700 bucks for the week and had a great drive. A UHaul would have been a nightmare... parking, maneuvering, bad seats, ugh. We bought new when we got here and I don't regret it at all. You can always buy new/used stuff to fit your space when you get to your destination.

I vote sell it and use the spare money for a couple decent meals on the trip.
posted by mikesch at 9:04 PM on January 25, 2011

I moved from Philadelphia to Oakland back in August. I sold my furniture (which was a mixture of five-year-old IKEA and hand-me-downs from my parents) and some kitchen stuff (mostly hand-me-downs), shipped everything else (other kitchen stuff, clothes, bedding, books, small flat-screen TV) cross-country by UPS. By the cheapest rate this will take about a week. Price of course will depend on how much stuff you have.

I think it was cost-effective. I was comparing it to getting one of those shipping pods and flying cross-country, which is what I did; there was no way I was driving a U-Haul across the country.

The only problem with this plan that I had was that I don't have a car in Oakland. (I didn't have a car in Philly, either, but it's where my parents live so they were able to help.) So I had to rent a car and buy all the things I needed in a couple days. This was quite stressful for me because I hate shopping; you should keep this in mind. (If I had a car I would have spread out the shopping a bit.) Also, there were a few times not long after I moved where I was sitting around freaking out about how my new stuff was not my old stuff.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:04 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sell it. Craigslist is active here, and we have thrift stores, yard sales, and antique and salvage stores. As well as Ikea and its kin.
posted by rtha at 9:05 PM on January 25, 2011

I've made the east to west trip a few times now. If the stuff is as cheap as you say it is, I would sell it. Cheap furniture is very easy to find on craigslist in the bay area. There's also an Ikea in Emeryville, which is just over the bay bridge from San Francisco.

Are you driving out? IE, are you able to take any of the smaller stuff with you? Good cookware is good cookware.
posted by MidAtlantic at 9:06 PM on January 25, 2011

Oh, one more thought - if you're driving out anytime in the next month and a half, getting a uhaul across the mountains in winter is going to be absolute hell. Something for you to consider.
posted by MidAtlantic at 9:06 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

In one year's time I lived in four states. The last move was, by far, the best. I sold everything that did not fit in my Honda Civic coupe and restocked when I got to Denver. And when I restocked I only brought into the house what I really, really loved or that which was an insanely good deal to tide me over until I could find something I loved.

Sell it. Sell it all!
posted by FlamingBore at 9:07 PM on January 25, 2011

On our such last move (SF back to NYC, actually) we not only sold everything, we took our sweet time buying back anything new. Only getting things we actually wanted to keep, and questioning whether they were there out of necessity or habit, resulted in having a household full of just the stuff we want, and none of the junk.
posted by anildash at 9:10 PM on January 25, 2011

Renting a uhaul would probably be around $2,000 plus gas, so if you're not going to be losing a lot of money on the furniture resale then it's probably going to be much more cost effective to get rid of it all.

And if you're attached to the idea of a fresh start and buying new furniture sounds more like an adventure than a hassle, I'd definitely go that route.
posted by geegollygosh at 9:10 PM on January 25, 2011

Freecycle is also super-active here, so if you have a kind friend with a truck (or time things well and rent one), there's that. Not to mention the Alameda Point Antiques Faire and the OMCA White Elephant Sale and...
posted by wintersweet at 9:13 PM on January 25, 2011

If your U-haul gets a flat tire, a broken heating system, a leaking gas tank, a malfunctioning lock, or you can't find a motel with vacancy for 200 miles, you're really going to regret hauling everything with you across the country. If you must have it, ship it. If it's not worth shipping, then don't take it with you.
posted by germdisco at 9:13 PM on January 25, 2011

sell it. we drove from the East Coast to SF and that was enough of a pain without having all of our possessions with us. As everyone has mentioned there is a big culture of thrifting and furniture recycling here, craigslist, freecycle & lots of Ikeas and other low cost furniture options. U Haul will probably be a couple thousand dollars. Also there is zip car and city car share if you can get if you have a license to help facilitate shopping.

You could send your books via USPS media mail - for slow but cheap service and use parcel post for things you don't need right away. I'd use UPS or something similar to move the TV.
Another option is to do the Store to Door type cubes.

Good luck with your move.
posted by oneear at 10:03 PM on January 25, 2011

I moved from Brooklyn to SF in 2009. It was going to be $2500 for the Uhaul (just rental, not including gas or mileage); I went with a movement company which ended up being double that. It was a mistake.

Sell your stuff and ship the things you absolutely need. You'll save money and it will be way less stressful than driving a Uhaul cross country (although the drive is wonderful, should you choose to do it).
posted by kdar at 10:36 PM on January 25, 2011

Sell it. I have moved across the country three times (CA-NY, NY-CA, CA-NY again) and the first two times I used a bigass pickup truck with a shell and a U-Haul, respectively. The third time, I ditched everything but one handmade side table, a handful of books, and my art collection, all of which I shipped. The first two moves were brutal. The last one was a breeze, and allowed me to buy stuff that suited my new space.
posted by bedhead at 10:40 PM on January 25, 2011

I have moved eleventybillion times, including to another country and back. Here is my detailed answer to a previous AskMe about what is worth moving and what should just be replaced when you get to your new home.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:41 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

unless your furniture has sentimental value it is not worth the hassle. keep in mind also if you have kit like furniture sometimes they break from just trying to undo them.
posted by HGH at 1:18 AM on January 26, 2011

I would be tempted to take a lot of my furniture with me rather than buy used or random cheap furniture since bedbugs are such a risk now. In the past I got all my furniture used, but I've made the decision that it's floor pillows, self-built or Ikea-transported-by-me if I need anything else. If you happen to buy furniture infested with bedbugs, it will be very expensive and mind-bogglingly inconvenient to get rid of them and you may not be able to save your TV, electronics or art.
posted by Frowner at 6:28 AM on January 26, 2011

I think the OP is at a much bigger risk of bringing bedbugs with them from New York (where they are a huge problem) than in acquiring them here (where they are not yet a problem, from what I've read/heard, although I imagine it's just a matter of time).
posted by rtha at 6:32 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've moved cross-country a few times, and the easiest way by far is to sell or give away everything replaceable first.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:53 AM on January 26, 2011

Sell what you can, but be willing to let stuff go for free. It sounds like you don't have kids, so this should be easy to do. Stuff that people don't think about is media and apparel. Let this stuff go. The digital age is upon us, get rid of those books and DVDs. You can buy an ereader and a hard drive that will fit in a glove compartment or a backpack, together, for less than the cost of a decent shelving unit. Shoes take up a lot of room. Pick your best 10 pairs, sell or donate the rest. Same with tee shirts. Pare your toiletries down to what you will certainly use, and will use up in the next month. Think really basic. Every place has a drugstore- make up, deodorant and toothpaste are easily replaceable.

If you have any desire to upsize your bed, now is the time to do it. (Two twin extra long mattress with a good mattress pad and a platform bedframe is great, cost effective way to get a king size bed.)

Use Craigslist to sell your mattress, frame, and bedding to someone who will be thrilled at the great deal they got. Even if you want to keep the same size bed, mattresses are typically not cost effective to move. If you have a super nice linens, I might keep those, but I wouldn't if they are just standard big box store items.

Moving is a lot more expensive than most people think. I'll never rent a truck again. Gas alone is a killer, plus moving takes a lot longer with a truck, which means more "on the road" expenses like hotels and meals out. Anything that's irreplaceable that wouldn't fit in my car, I would ship. You'll spend at least $1000 to rent a truck for a non-local move, plus gas, and you can freight a whole lotta stuff for that kind of money and spare yourself a bunch of hassle.

If I were to move long distance, I'd pack the clothes and essentials I needed for the road, take only what I could fit in my car, sell almost everything, and ship what I could not replace.
posted by Leta at 8:27 AM on January 26, 2011

Oh, here's a good rule of thumb: if the item in question would not fetch it's shipping fee at a yard sale, just get rid of it, as it will be cost effective to replace, particularly if will be replacing it with a used equivalent.
posted by Leta at 8:40 AM on January 26, 2011

We pared down everything we could before we left - sold or Freecycled. We used ABF U-pack (the truck, not pod, option), which was awesome except for drastically underestimating how long it would take to load it. It cost about $1400 to move from Tucson to Virginia - their schtick is to load the van then pack high-value consumer goods behind it. Our stuff came through with no problems (we loaded it well) except that a lot of the linens smelled like smoke until we washed everything.

Your best bet is to get rid of anything you possibly can - it really helps. Then again, selling to replace can be very cost-ineffective. Try framing it as a value-density (value per unit volume) and keep stuff where that's higher.
posted by bookdragoness at 9:10 AM on January 26, 2011

I'm on team Sell It, but with one small caveat.

It's going to be hard to sell a mattress (and any associated bed related furniture) on craigslist in New York, what with the bedbug thing. Your only real chance of getting money for your mattress is to sell it to a friend who knows you've never had bed bugs. Otherwise you should factor in the loss of a mattress into your math. Since a good mattress is crazy expensive compared to almost any other furniture and is the one thing you can't get cheap on craigslist, this is really something to ponder.
posted by Sara C. at 9:44 AM on January 26, 2011

One thing a friend of mine suggested for this question: are you moving somewhere where things will cost more to replace?
May not be different with these two cities, but it's something to keep in mind.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:24 AM on January 26, 2011

Unless you have something so unique that you can't replace it... sell it all.

When I moved from Dallas to Portland, I sold most of my stuff, but I did ship some. I never thought about it until I read your question, but I now realize it would have been more cost effective to have given the rest away for free and replace it rather than ship it. It would have been more fun too!
posted by 2oh1 at 11:03 AM on January 26, 2011

Best answer: Funny. I did the same thing about a year ago. I had about the same amount of stuff, sold it all, bought new things in SF.

The main question you should ask yourself is this : How badly do you want to buy new stuff? How badly do you want to spend a week driving cross-country?

At the time, I didn't really want to spend a week driving a truck, and it looked like truck rental (plus hiring movers) would be at least as expensive as buying new stuff. Ultimately, I don't think that turned out to be true. You always forget about the random shit you have to buy just to have around the house. Like soap holders. Another thing that's a real pain is having to actually buy all that stuff -- shuttling around the city, going to stores, etc. Plus, selling your stuff on Craigslist, you're going to get a lot less for it than you should. A LOT less. Craigslist is a bargain hunter's paradise, and they KNOW that you need to get rid of your stuff : they can see it in your eyes.

The upside to all this was that I bought all new furniture, and the stuff I bought was a lot nicer than my old stuff. Then again, I had the money to throw around, so that was okay.

My advice? Ditch all the larger stuff. It sounds like you won't miss it anyway. Keep all the smaller stuff and have it shipped. Shipping is a LOT cheaper than truck rental. I wish I had done this. There was no reason for me to have to buy a new chef's knife. (I like to have good knives) There are also all kinds of options now where you can rent like a 7X7X7 cube and have them deliver it for you coast-to-coast. Check into your options and find a shipping method that works for you. That would be my advice.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:21 PM on January 26, 2011


Use Craigslist to sell your mattress, frame, and bedding to someone who will be thrilled at the great deal they got.

Hah! Good luck trying to sell bedding in NYC.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:24 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sell it.

I moved from MA to DC last year (a year ago tomorrow, in fact), and I spent awhile trying to figure this out. I ended up FedExing about 8 large boxes of stuff, including clothes, bedding, some sentimental items, my best kitchen gear, my sewing machine, etc--the stuff it would cost a lot more to replace than ship. I was amazed at how cost-effective FedEx was--it was the best deal of UPS, USPS, and FedEx. I think I used ground and I insured everything (HIGHLY recommend this). I media mailed my favorite books. I took two suitcases on the train with some immediate clothes, a cup, bowl, and plate, and my toiletries. Right after I got to DC, I went to Ikea and bought new furniture (the basics--bed, couch, table, etc). I went to Target and bought cleaning stuff. I added in other things over time (rugs, a chair, stuff like that). Yeah, it was a decent outlay to buy all that stuff new, but ultimately I saved money and it was really fun to decorate and make a fresh start. Art is expensive/challenging to mail--I was able to have a friend drive some stuff down for me a few months later, and carry some of the small pieces in my suitcase.

My situation was a bit different in that I was able to store some large furniture and other items with sentimental value in my parents' basement, but I don't regret it a bit--the opposite, in fact. It's one of the best things I've ever done and I am thrilled that I had the chance to do it. I think everyone should do it! It really helped me pair down my belongings and now everything I have in my place is something I love, because I had to think hard about whether or not I wanted to ship it and I had a pretty limited amount of shipping space. I do think it worked out to be cheaper, as well.
posted by min at 3:13 PM on January 26, 2011

min: in my experience USPS was the most cost-effective. I'm mentioning this because the question of who's most cost-effective might depend on annoying little details of the cost structure, how heavy your boxes are, and so on.
posted by madcaptenor at 4:38 PM on January 26, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all of your stories! We're currently thinking we'll ship a fair number of boxes, but sell the furniture and anything else big, heavy and replaceable.
posted by psycheslamp at 7:55 PM on January 26, 2011

For sending your boxes across the country, Amtrak offers shipping and their prices can be much less than UPS or other shippers. It's not amazingly convenient for a NYC to SF move because Penn Station doesn't participate, so you have to go to Newark; and then Amtrak is in the East Bay so you have to go to Oakland or Emeryville on that end. But if you have a way of moving your goods the last few miles on each end it could be a cost-effective option.
posted by yarrow at 7:44 AM on January 27, 2011

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