Making a big move and need to start consolidating possessions to the essentials
November 13, 2012 3:27 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning to move in a little over a year and will only bring what I can fit in my car. How do I start clear out most of my possessions?

In about a year and a half I'll be moving and I need to come up with a strategy to begin consolidating and reducing what I own. I want to do as much as possible in the months leading up to the move so I'm not stuck at the last minute trying to rid myself of possessions.

I'm only bringing with me what I can fit in my Dodge Neon. My mom is willing to let me bring a few boxes of personal items to her house.

I'm 25 and live in a 11' x 14' bedroom. My closet is overflowing and I also have some things stored in the garage. The first step I took was to take about half of my DVDs out of their cases and put them in a binder that can actually go with me in the car.

Any advice about where to start or how to go about reducing my possessions would be much appreciated. Any of your own experiences about making a similar move are also welcome!

Thank you.
posted by mtphoto to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
There are some good resources in this recent AskMe--including links to other AskMes and some stories on the Blue. Try searching with the different tags in those posts--declutter(ing) minimalism, etc.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:34 PM on November 13, 2012

Best answer: Very simply:

1. Set a timer for 25 minutes (the point is to keep it short to avoid burnout).
2. Pick an area to sort through (e.g. hamper, closet floor, closet shelves, under bed, etc.)
3. Get rid of anything you know you don't want (put it in trashbags and take it to your local thrift store, or throw it away if it's not suitable to be given away). Don't agonize over it, just get rid of the low hanging fruit. If it's especially valuable (i.e. more than $50 resale) you can put it on craigslist, but only if this isn't going to kill your momentum.
4. Once you've done all the areas in your bedroom, go back and be a little more picky about what you keep and get rid of. Repeat until you have only what will fit in the car.

I find this way easier than trying to do it all at once, because as you shave down your possessions you'll start to have an idea of how much more you need to get rid of to get it to fit. Also, getting rid of stuff in waves produces less "sticker shock" than doing it all at once.
posted by zug at 4:41 PM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Keep a cardboard box by your door and throw unneeded items into it. When it gets full carry it to the Goodwill, the Salvation Army or leave it on the sidewalk. Reduce the number of step required to get rid of stuff to the absolute minimum.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:54 PM on November 13, 2012

Best answer: Don't leave the house without carrying something out of it. Twice a day between now and then will get rid of 700 items, and that's a lot. Every time you bring something in, you have to take something (or two somethings) out, especially clothing.

Cancel subscriptions to periodical literature, unless you read it religiously. Even then, donate it to the library as soon as you can.

Measure the inside of your car and determine approximately how many square feet you have to move in. Designate an area with about that many square feet and grow accustomed to it. That is your target. Begin putting things there that you might want to move with you and see how much room they take up.

Unless it's spectacularly unique or signed, never move a paperback.

If it's clothing and it doesn't fit right now, get it out of there.

Obtain small boxes and put the stuff you think you can't live without in them. You can decide at moving time whether it's worth it (you've done without it for a year) to ship it UPS ground to your next location, even if it's just across town.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:17 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

What zug said -- start with the low hanging fruit. What I found was that, when the low hanging fruit is plucked, the rest of the fruit hangs lower. It's always easiest to shave off the least needed layer, then give your brain a little time to decide on a new "least needed" layer.

Also, don't waste time selling stuff unless you know you'll get a good price and it will be worthwhile. Make a brutal, pessimistic estimate of the total time it will take to ebay something (photos, dealing with buyers, shipping, etc.) and ask yourself what your time's worth. The set of "things worth selling on ebay" has significant overlap with "things small and valuable enough to be worth taking with you". For anything that's not clearly worth the trouble of selling -- goodwill, free shop, friends, leave in front of house, whatever.

The last time I did a big move I was lucky enough to be in a university department. I'd bring boxes and boxes of stuff in and leave it on the semi-official "free stuff" table. Hordes of undergrads would descend like locusts and it would disappear in a day. If something similar is an option for you, I heartily recommend it.

Lastly, have fun! Getting rid of stuff is one of the greatest joys I know.
posted by pont at 5:22 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I did a similar move this year, but with, like, a tenth as much time and several times as much stuff. One thing that really helped me was to decide what I was going to take with me rather than what I was going to get rid of. It's easier to keep the number of items you're packing small when you're making an affirmative decision that you like and want to have a given item in each case.

As far as DVDs and books and such go, if you're in the US, USPS Media Mail is great and you should use it -- it's likely cheaper than the gas required for you to take those boxes in the car with you. Plus those are the items you're least likely to need before your move, so you can pack them soonest. USPS Parcel Post is also reasonably priced, but not the amazing bargain that Media Mail is.
posted by asperity at 5:22 PM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Join your local Freecycle if you have one. My biggest issue is that I hate to throw away useful things- even though they are no longer useful to me- but selling stuff is generally low-yield. With Freecycle, your stuff gets to continue having a useful life and that feels better than throwing it away. And you can group items together for Freecycle too ("box of kitchen gadgets" or "bag of size 8 dress pants" or whatever) which gets rid of it faster than if you tried to do it individually. Plus, it's amazing what sort of stuff people end up wanting, and it can be fun. I had this really cool stuffed fennec fox I got as a souvenir at a zoo, but it did not make the cut for things I needed in my tiny new apartment so I Freecycled it. The cutest little kid came with his mom to claim it- he was so happy. It was adorable.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 5:34 PM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Get as much stuff in the cloud as possible. Movies, music, books, photos. Pare down your wardrobe, then pack it directly in the trunk. Most of what you have in household goods can be repurchased pretty cheaply. (Don't you love Ikea?)

Go for soft sided stuff rather than boxes or bins.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:46 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I go back and forth between living at college and my parents house. I second the cloud. Get a scanner to scan any important things you want (a multiple page scanner is best) and scan a little at a time. Don't buy real books anymore, buy digital or use the library. Donate old magazines to your library's free table usually in the front (or goodwill if they don't have one of these). Once you get rid of this stuff, make a conscious decision anytime you have to buy something and take a second though to determine if it's something that will add value or just clutter.
posted by eq21 at 7:34 PM on November 13, 2012

I will share that I assisted with a move involving an early 90's Plymouth Acclaim. Using 39 gallon contractor garbage bags (full and tied off) of 3 mil strength as the measuring stick, we managed to fit 14 such bags of stuff into the car. The person only had to drive four hours. Your desired level of safety and Tetris abilities might vary.

You might want to experiment with your Dodge Neon so you see what is your upper comfort limit?
posted by 99percentfake at 8:59 PM on November 13, 2012

Best answer: You have lots of advance time, so you can do stuff like take a box to Goodwill every Saturday morning between now and then.

Another thing you can do is organize a clothing swap with your friends. Everyone comes over and brings stuff they don't want. You put out your stuff. But while they're shopping, you're just divesting; and you take the leftovers to Goodwill after. But this way you know that your stuff has had a shot at a second life. Can do this with books and CD too.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:02 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @99percentfake
My moving trip will be driving from Montana to Los Angeles, so I appreciate the story about how full the car might get. I think I'll try to keep the passenger seat somewhat un-stuffed.

@fingersandtoes and bobobothegreat
There is a Goodwill that's on my way to work! I think the once weekly trip will be helpful and not too much of a burden. Yes, I totally agree that the easier I make it to get stuff out of the house, the more inclined I'll be to actually do it.

I completely forgot that there is an active Freecycle group where I live. That will make giving away special items easier.

For everyone:

I started a list at the end of August of all the items I hope to bring with me and few that I'll eventually have shipped to L.A. The list is getting extensive, but it's mostly small items that I think will fit in my car.

Any advice on how many days worth of clothing to take? I won't really have to pack winter clothing since they don't have snow in L.A.

Are there any office supply items that would be worth taking with me?

On my "bringing with me" list, I included about 10 books I don't want to part with. Should I create an upper limit for myself, maybe 10 books? One box of movies? 15 shirts?
posted by mtphoto at 11:03 PM on November 13, 2012

Question: are you going to have to be frugal in LA, or are you going to be flush?

Maybe its time for a fresh start; take only what's dear to you and donate the rest. Move with minimal stuff - furniture can be had cheap through craigslist. Thrift/2nd hand/consignment stores for clothes.
posted by porpoise at 11:33 PM on November 13, 2012

Any advice on how many days worth of clothing to take? I won't really have to pack winter clothing since they don't have snow in L.A.

Maybe limit yourself to the equivalent of one washer/dryer load of clothes? Pick out your absolute favorite clothes, and ditch the rest. Just do laundry when you run out of clean stuff.

You can add to your wardrobe once you are settled. L.A. is a mecca for inexpensive clothing (thrift shops, outlet stores).

P.S. Our local mountains do get snow, and the beautiful eastern Sierra are just a fun roadtrip away, so if you think you'll want to go exploring, bring some winter gear. (Or buy used here.)
posted by nacho fries at 11:51 PM on November 13, 2012

I like the Apartment Therapy suggestion of keeping a "to get rid of" pile by the door: be ruthless about putting stuff in this pile, but keep the pile around for a bit (a week, a month - depends on your schedule, but it sounds like you have a little more time). If you end up pulling that one shirt out of the pile because you really wanted to wear it, then you'll know that's a keeper. But if you end up not using something from the pile during the holding time, then you'll know that you don't need it or use it regularly, and it can go. This two-step process kind of eases the separation anxiety from your stuff:)
posted by eviemath at 3:13 AM on November 14, 2012

Haven't seen this specific piece of advice so apologies if someone has already given it.

Another thing to do is to put anything that you kinda want to keep into a cardboard box then seal it. If you haven't opened that box in 6 months then you probably don't actually want to keep it and it should be taken to a charity shop.

Good way to getting rid of the 'This kinda has sentimental value but isn't in any way wanted' items.
posted by Wysawyg at 5:20 AM on November 14, 2012

Came back to say that when I moved from San Francisco to Florida, that I ended up having to get a whole new wardrobe because the difference between City Business and Tropical Business made that box of suits I shipped to myself in Ft. Lauderdale superfluous.

Your Montana office/work clothes may need to be ditched all together. Bear that in mind.

Also, I loved this Air Force Crew Bag, I only use them when I move, but for $20 they are PERFECT for cramming an entire dresser full of stuff into a containment mechanism.

Office supplies? Oh HELL NO! Important papers. Yes. Again, digitalize as much as you can onto a thumb drive. Keep insurance records, pink slip, marriage certificate, divorce decree, deeds, transcripts, diplomas in a plastic bag, easily accessible in the car with you.

Also, spend $130 on AAA. You will never be sorry for this.

I rather envy you your adventure. Also, LA can be fun when you're young!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:00 AM on November 14, 2012

My room is 2m by 4m, and it has to hold everything bar my kitchen stuff. I'm trying to do this at the moment in preparation for moving in with my partner next month - I don't have a car to use as a unit of measurement though. And I'm a crafter, so I have to keep explaining to MrMippy that it's quite normal for our tribe to have three projects on the go at once...

One big help is a) a Kindle b) being able to send books to Amazon for gift credit. I can read things and trade them in, or I can buy my new books in electronic form so that they fit nicely on a little device. I read very very quickly and I'm bad at remembering to take books back to the library, so it's saving me money and space. The drawback is that instructional books and pattern books aren't well suited to the format. And Amazon pay the postage for sending books to them, meaning I can get them out of the way quickly rather than waiting for my next charity shop trip.
posted by mippy at 6:30 AM on November 14, 2012

When I'm going through my things I usually have a few things I definitely want to keep, a few I can definitely get rid of, and a whole bunch of stuff that I waver back and forth on. For those things that I just can't get myself to get rid of, I put them in a container and put it away for a few months. When I come back to it, I have no trouble getting rid the majority of it...and I'm also usually psyched to find the one or two items I end up keeping.
posted by hannahelastic at 2:37 PM on November 14, 2012

Don't plan on filling the car to capacity.

You'll have to leave it unattended at certain times during the trip and unloading tons of stuff will be a real pain. Also, if the new place you get is crappy in any way, having tons of luggage means you'll be less likely to move.

There's an old story I've heard (don't know how true) about how kids in South Africa used to catch small monkeys with a glass jar and a piece of fruit just wide enough to to fit through the mouth. They'd leave the jar in the yard and when a monkey reached in for the fruit, they'd run out after it. The monkey would panic and not be able to pull it's hand out because it wouldn't think to let go of the fruit.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:54 PM on November 14, 2012

I should note that you probably don't want to cut down to one washer/dryer full of clothes a year in advance of your move, as they'll all be worn out by that time if they're worn and washed that frequently. Of course you should still work on weeding out things that don't fit, are overly worn, or that you just don't like now, but no need to be that thorough quite yet!
posted by asperity at 9:32 AM on November 16, 2012

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