I need to pack + move out of my NYC apartment... from 3,000 miles away
August 5, 2020 9:07 PM   Subscribe

I'm a mid-twenties student at a university in Manhattan who left the city to visit my parents in California "for spring break" back in March. Long story short, it's now August and I've recently decided that I won't be returning to my apartment as I had initially planned - instead, I'll be staying with my parents in my childhood home through at least this upcoming new year. Unfortunately, I left some valuable stuff behind in my bedroom (along with some generally-personal items) and I'm at a bit of a loss as to how I should best proceed from here.

Additional information: Prior to my departure, I was living in a two-bedroom apartment in Harlem with one roommate. She and I have been communicating about my decision; she's been supportive of my choice but is also clearly preoccupied with the things that are going on in her own life. When the two of us were furnishing the place, we chose the design of various pieces together but traded off paying for the entirety of items (i.e. we didn't "split" anything) in a way that eventually evened out. I honestly don't care about the common-area furniture/other decor at this point; I'm happy to walk away from it all and leave it to her and her future roommate, whomever they are.

The main sticking point here is my bedroom. I left it cleaned-up and neat when I left, because I knew I was unsure about when exactly I'd be able to return. However, I do still have a decent amount of furniture (dresser, nightstand, bed frame, curtain rod + curtains, etc) and personal belongings that I'd really like to reclaim. Since I'm now in California, though, I don't know how exactly to find a mover who can carry out the job I'm asking of them.

I basically need someone who's willing to show up to my apartment and pack up my things in boxes for me (of course, the boxes would be purchased by me and sent over to the apartment in advance) before shipping them to me cross-country. Storing my things until I'm able to get back to NYC is also an option, albeit a far-less-preferable one. In essence, I'm looking for a person/service that's respectful, trustworthy, and communicative who can tackle a job like this.

I don't love the thought of some stranger rifling through my dresser drawers and finding my underwear/vibrators/illicit substances/expensive camera and/or audio recording equipment/etc, but unfortunately I now find myself in a position where I have to make myself vulnerable in order to regain all my belongings. I don't even know where to begin searching for something like this... does anything that resembles a service like this even exist?
posted by second banana to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, first things first - if you do have illicit substances there, I'd strongly suggest, before doing anything else, telling your roommate where they are and asking her to remove them. Any even marginally above-board moving company will absolutely and rightly freak out about being asked to transport anything potentially illicit across state lines.
posted by kickingtheground at 9:17 PM on August 5, 2020 [5 favorites]

Yes. It's called... a moving company.

What you're looking for is a "full service" moving company; they show up, someone points them to the stuff and they will pack everything that isn't nailed down and send it on its' way. They'll have all the supplies they need, they'll pack in an incredibly efficient if literal way -- like everything on one shelf will wind up in the same box. Movers have seen it all, I'm sure New York City movers doubly so. The caveat is that it won't be all that cheap.
posted by Superilla at 9:20 PM on August 5, 2020 [14 favorites]

I've never lived in New York but some internet searching reveals that Shleppers seems to offer a 'mini-shlep' for folks just moving a room's worth of stuff and also (separately?) offer moves to California. Give them a call and ask for a quote.
posted by mdonley at 9:25 PM on August 5, 2020

Packing your stuff up is a service that regular, interstate moving companies offer. Not the local two guys with a truck, but the Allied or Tippet affiliate. They probably won't even do much rifling since they will likely move the furniture with the stuff in the drawers as-is unless they are very heavy or very valuable.

But there are very few circumstances in which it is worth it, monetarily, to move furniture across the country. Especially if you are paying to pack and ship. Is your furniture very valuable to you? If not, it will probably be cheaper to replace it in California.

Could you pay your roommate to pack up your non-furniture items?
posted by jacquilynne at 9:25 PM on August 5, 2020 [6 favorites]

This would be a pretty standard job for a moving company. They’ll bring their own boxes.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:38 PM on August 5, 2020

A TaskRabbit could pack and ship everything but the furniture. Order some boxes and bubble wrap to arrive before they do.
posted by jessca84 at 10:36 PM on August 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Just to put a financial perspective on this - having your stuff moved across the country will cost many thousands of dollars. Probably at least 4 thousand, maybe a lot more.

Moving furniture across the country is expensive. There is no getting around that. Curtains and electronics are easy, but dresser, nightstand and bed will cost thousands to transport.

Cheapest option would be to pay your roommate to USPS the few things of value (electronics, etc) in a few boxes. That's only a couple of hundred bucks. Take a loss on the furniture. Unless it's worth $4k+ to you.
posted by weed donkey at 11:11 PM on August 5, 2020 [18 favorites]

There is a company named Soft Landings that helps people move. Whether they 1.) operate in New York, or 2.) would accept a job without an owner present is beyond my very limited knowledge..
posted by Cranberry at 11:16 PM on August 5, 2020

OP, you might get better answers if you'd tell us why you'd like to ship all your furniture cross-country. Is it because it has intrinsic value (heirlooms, expensive and relatively new, you absolutely love specific pieces), or because you've already spent money on it and feel bad about leaving it behind?

Because I'd be tempted to ask your roommate to pack 5-10 boxes for you and either try to sell the rest, or just put it on the curb.

Amtrak used to be a great way to ship boxes (especially if they can be palletized, i.e. piled on a pallet and wrapped in giant shipping-sized swathes of clingwrap), cheap and fast -- but you'd have to get a friend to put your stuff in boxes and haul it to Amtrak, which would take a SUV-sized cab or carshare situation and probably be a bit of a hassle.
posted by tapir-whorf at 11:19 PM on August 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

I had a load of removal goods packed and shipped internationally late last year. I worked with a company in my destination country but they contracted on the US side with New World Van Lines (New World International, in my case). They were courteous, efficient, and knowledgeable, and I had a good experience on with them. They weren't cheap, but under the circumstances I was more interested in quality than price. If you're interested in doing this, here's my experience:

They will usually need to do a survey in advance, someone coming in to look at the amount of stuff you have to determine how many people will be needed for how long, and what size truck. This is also where you will get your price quote. Then they'll nominate a move date based on availability of resources. You may or may not need to have someone present for the survey and the pack and load; if so you can likely nominate your roommate if they're amenable.

I was present for the pack and load, but I was mostly ornamental; the moving guys had a question for me here and there but more for convenience than necessity. As others said, they packed everything not nailed down, in a very literal fashion -- no joining up like with like, just everything which was grouped together into the same box and labelled as such. In my case they wouldn't pack alcohol, but that may be a specifically international restriction.

I can't speak to what the cost would be in your case, but yea, expect it to be in the thousands. It's possible it could be cheaper if you're not in a rush, meaning they sit on your stuff until they have enough to fill a container from point A to point B -- I can't speak to this as I needed my own container -- but these are the sort of questions you can ask the logistics people in advance.
posted by myotahapea at 11:27 PM on August 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

If cost is an issue and if you decide you don't need the bulk of your furniture, but still have some large items/boxes that are being moved, Greyhound has a parcel service that is usually the most affordable way to ship stuff.

As long as you can get someone to box stuff up, depending on which greyhound depots you use, some offer pick-up and drop off to local locations, some you need to pick up/drop off items at.

I frequently buy chair sized furniture from different parts of the country and if the seller can either drop off at the greyhound terminal or I can arrange pickup via the Greyhound website, I tend to prefer this over private shippers due to it's lower cost.
posted by newpotato at 3:53 AM on August 6, 2020

Take a loss on the furniture, unless any of it is heirloom. The curtains can be boxed up.

You said your "roommate" (former) is mostly tied up with her own life, and you're leery of strangers going through your stuff.

Split the difference - offer to pay your old roomie to box your stuff up and send it to you. You get a more familiar person going through your shit, and your roommate gets some extra money, which she probably needs.
posted by notsnot at 4:49 AM on August 6, 2020 [7 favorites]

Be very wary of bargain moving companies. They may seem cheaper but then charge 'premiums' to get your stuff back. Get references, check the state licensing
posted by theora55 at 5:41 AM on August 6, 2020 [5 favorites]

Just a data point for you: I did a move from California to Manhattan last year, in which the movers did all the packing, just as people are describing for you here. Contents were a one-bedroom apartment so definitely furniture, but not a lot. It cost 20K. If I had skipped insurance it would’ve been about 16K.

I agree with the folks who are recommending you don’t move the furniture, unless it’s really important to you. I’ll note also that in Manhattan storage units are roughly the same per-square-foot cost as apartments, so it’s probably not worth you having your things stored. If I were you, I’d try to arrange for your personal items (minus anything illicit) to be packed into boxes and Fed-Exed. I’m not sure if I’d trust TaskRabbit or similar for that; I might aim for a loose-ties type of relationship, like another student who is a friend of a friend, who you could pay to do it for you, or indeed your old roommate.

Good luck :)
posted by Susan PG at 6:17 AM on August 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

If this were me, I'd probably hire someone to pack up and ship the smaller stuff and see if the roommate was willing to rent the bedroom as furnished. Then when you're back in NYC you can either get your things and un-furnish the room, or just buy new stuff. I've moved cross-country several times and never take my furniture with me, it's just not worth the cost. And things like your curtain rod/curtains -- there's no way you're going to come out ahead on having someone take that down, pack and ship to you vs. just buying new when you return.
posted by jabes at 6:45 AM on August 6, 2020

I agree that, unless the furniture cost you many thousands of dollars, you should likely just write it off.

Unless you are completely unwilling to have your roommate do this or your roommate is completely unwilling to do it, paying your roommate will almost uncertainly make everyone happier in the end. You will end up out-of-pocket way less than paying any reputable moving company and that money will be directed to your roommate rather than to a big national moving company (the only ones likely to handle a move of this distance).

Like, if you offered your roommate $500 + shipping costs to do this, would she take you up on your offer? $1000 + shipping costs? Because even that would put you way ahead of what a professional shipper would cost you.
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:38 AM on August 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

(mdonley - haha, "mini-shlep"... that's awesome)

FWIW, I've seen this happen (last part of house-sitting for a friend), and it's a sight to see. Maybe the biggest difference between professionals and amateurs I've ever witnessed, outside of professional sports. These people are *insane* (as in, come back from lunch, where did literally everything go?).

In that case, they moved it all to a storage unit in town, so prices may not compare, but it was well under $1000 for a pretty cluttered two-bedroom. Still, anything at or below IKEA may not be worth moving. Craigslist is your friend.
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 8:59 AM on August 6, 2020

Just to reiterate the above, but add a slightly different angle to it -- when people say *everything* gets packed, they do mean *everything*.

...I had the contents of my trash can carefully wrapped in paper and stuck in a box, I am not joking.

Also, the guys who did it for me in Chicago were all ex-cons (mainly drug offenses) trying to restart their lives at a job that wouldn't discriminate -- so definitely have the roommate (or another local contact) remove the drugs before they arrive as that will be literally the last thing those guys need to be reminded of (not from a "oooh, temptation!" angle, but rather more "look I can have drugs with zero consequences but ha ha not you!" angle).

Lastly, I had my local contact tip each guy $20, giving the money to the guys in sight of each other so they knew they'd all been taken care of fairly. Apparently that was well-received.
posted by aramaic at 9:32 AM on August 6, 2020 [4 favorites]

I agree on the advice so far--using a moving company will likely be more expensive than the value of the furniture.

That said, if you DO decide to use a moving company, avoid Moishe's.

I used them for a regional, inter-state move, and good grief, were they terrible. The first NYC crew was adequate (these were the packers). But Moishe's (like many moving companies) store your items until they're ready to be sent to the destination. Several of my boxes were damaged in the warehouse.

Then during the second half of the move, the guys they hired were careless and damaged not just the items, but the structure of my actual new house.

After they were done bringing in the boxes, they hotboxed in the driveway for 30 minutes before getting back on the road to NYC.
posted by yellowcandy at 10:15 AM on August 6, 2020

This company, Sven Moving, was started by a comedian friend of a comedian friend. We hired them for an apartment move a few years ago, and they were fantastic. Easygoing, gentle, friendly, not pricey. The site says they don't pack things up, but I'm sure they would be happy to put you in touch with a way to get that done pretty easily. A caveat: we were just moving cross-town, so there was only one crew. The company is small enough and personal enough though that I'd be surprised if there were any problems. I bet they'd be happy to offer advice for the other answers you need.
posted by lauranesson at 12:42 PM on August 6, 2020

If your move endpoint in California is within 150 miles of San Francisco or Los Angeles, I heartily recommend California New York Express Movers. I used them for a move last year and they were cheaper than the big cross-country movers, super professional, and fewer of my things ended up broken than in previous moves. Unlike most interstate movers, they only operate in 3 major cities and they manage their teams in each city directly instead of subcontracting, which really improves the moving experience.

That said, if you don't have nice furniture, it's probably not worth it.
posted by A Blue Moon at 1:30 PM on August 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

It will probably be cheapest for you to fly out there, pack it yourself, rent a uhaul, get some movers to move the heavy stuff into it and drive cross country yourself.
posted by foxonisland at 4:16 PM on August 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

Thank you everyone! Sorry it took me a while to reply - I should have been more clear that I have no desire or intention to ship my bedroom furniture back to California. It's only my small decor/clothing/personal effects that I'm trying to get back here! I definitely won't be going back East to pack; I have an elderly relative I help care for here in California and I can't afford a safe place to quarantine myself for 14 days each way (so actually 28 total) in the event that I crossed state lines.

I was mostly joking about the illicit substances, but I appreciate and understand the concerns of those who advised me to tell the roommate. I was referring to a half-smoked joint that I believe I left rolling around in one of my drawers somewhere...

I wasn't aware that moving companies are willing to pack up boxes for you sometimes; I had thought that they only helped pack and ship boxes and items that you'd already packed up. I'll look into the links and suggestions posted. Thanks all!
posted by second banana at 10:29 PM on August 7, 2020

Also, in regards to those who suggested asking my roommate to pack up my things - that was actually my initial plan, but when I sent her a message last week offering to pay her to pack my things she didn't reply. I'm willing to pay her $500-1000 to do this, and am hoping that she's more responsive soon so that I can try again with a more specific offer, but I figured I'd ask to see if anyone could think of any alternatives in the event that she's unwilling or unable (which seems possible, given the texting lag). Y'all are right that that's probably the ideal option though!
posted by second banana at 10:37 PM on August 7, 2020

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