Relocating for a new job can be a major hassle. Here’s how (and why) you should sell everything you own before you move.
When Obsorb co-founder Marshall Haas agreed to join MetaLab as their new Director of Labs, there was only one problem.
Haas lived in St. Louis. MetaLab is located 2,300 miles away in Victoria, British Columbia.
The typical American response to this predicament is to rent a truck for a couple grand, pack all your crap, hire movers for another few hundred, and drive to the new city with all your earthly possessions in tow.
I did something very similar when I moved cross-country from New York to Colorado. The final bill was north of $3,000 to move everything.
At some point in this misadventure, it occurred to me that I could have sold everything in New York and replaced it in Colorado for roughly the same total cost.
Haas realized the same thing, but he was actually smart enough to pull it off. Here’s what he learned:
It’s cheaper than you think
In Victoria, I bought new furniture — TV, couch, bed, kitchenware, etc — and still had cash left over from the sale of my old stuff.
From clothes to couches, I found myself attracted to a different style than I had before. Also, a nice side effect of one shopping spree is getting everything to match.
Finding what’s important to you
When you begin replacing things, start by only buying what you miss. Maybe a couch, a TV, and a bed, and then continue. It’s how you’ll make sure to only buy what is essential. Years of junk builds up fast, you’ll be amazed at what you owned, but never used.
Less to worry about
When it’s gone, you realize how much work goes into managing the relationship with your stuff — insurance, maintenance, repairs, finding space for them, etc. Your belongings cause real anxiety, something I didn’t fully understand until some of those items were gone.
Americans sometimes have a perverse relationship with our stuff. I’ve been guilty of this too.
Leasing space for $100s a month for junk we don’t use? Check.
Owning more material possessions that we know what to do with in a given weekend? Yep.
Tripping over the crap lying around our living room? Been there, done that, bought the souvenir mug.
(And added it to the pile of crap in the living room.)
Time for a new way of doing things.
Do You Need to Keep It?
If you answer “No” to any of these questions, you should sell, donate, or get rid of the item in question:
- Would it cost me more than $20 to replace? If no, then the cost of lugging the object from place to place isn’t worth its replacement cost.
- If I needed this item again, would it take more than 2 hours to replace? This basically rules out anything you could run out to the store and fetch. There’s no need to stockpile items you might use on the off-chance the circumstances arise. Especially when you can pick up that power drill, lawn chair, etc. at the local Big Box store.
- Does this item have great sentimental value? Here’s where things get tricky. Even highly fungible items, like clothes and accessories, can become sentimental if they were given to you by someone you love. The key here is to figure out if the item in question is (a) unique, (b) has exceptional aesthetic value, or (c) can’t be replaced.
Even for the ultra-minimalist set, that last one is a tough nut to crack, so don’t worry too much if you’ve followed the first 2 steps and all you have left are sentimental items … you’re doing better than 98% of the U.S. population.
But what if you don’t want to get rid of stuff permanently? What if you want the same (or very similar) item when relocating?
Let’s talk about The Craigslist Locker Method.
The Craigslist Locker Method: Virtual Storage for Relocating
I resolved to do things differently after the stress of the New York-Colorado move. The next time I had to move (albeit intrastate), I sold as much as I could using The Craigslist Locker Method.
What is The Craigslist Locker Method, you ask?
Imagine a system where you can “check out” any household item in one city and then check it back in before you move. Repeat in your new city.
If this sounds like the next miracle startup from VC-land, it’s not. It’s just a creative use of Craigslist.
Online services like Craigslist, freecycling, and even Amazon are making it very easy to do something similar with your furniture, appliances, and electronics. Instead of “owning” anything, you have an online storage locker system you can draw what you need from, anywhere there’s a market-based exchange like Craigslist.
Here’s a basic example:
Buy a $10 used IKEA bookshelf from the local Craigslist page. Sell it back to Craigslist for $10 when you have to move. Buy another one after you move to your new city.
You don’t lose any money, and save yourself the trouble of disassembling and moving a bookshelf.
Craigslist (and similar online services) can become a kind of virtual storage locker for your things. This comes in handy when you’re looking at relocating to a new state.
Here’s a few other scenarios for you to chew on:
Scenario #1: 50” plasma TV
Buy a 50” plasma TV on sale for $500 from Best Buy. Sell it a year later on Craigslist for the same amount. After you move, order a similar 50” plasma from Amazon.
You saved yourself the cost of moving a huge TV across the country, including the risk of damaging it, and upgraded your set to a newer model.
Scenario #2: Antique furniture
Buy an underpriced antique furniture piece at a local estate auction. Baby it for a year and sell it on a specialized forum before moving. Rinse and repeat in new city.
With this technique, you could easily make money buying and holding antiques for a year or two. You have to be a very conscientious owner, and this takes more work, but you could easily translate this technique to washers and dryers and the like if you’re a bit handy.
If you’re good enough, you can even turn The Craigslist Locker Method into a startup business idea.
It’s a piecemeal solution to the problem of moving with your stuff.
But I foresee a solution to this problem in the future. At any given time, there is excess capacity for large household items. The market doesn’t have a mechanism to freely exchange these items when they’re idle.
Exactly the way extra rooms or cars at airports sat around unused before AirBnb and FlightCar.
For now, The Craigslist Locker Method is how I’ll be moving in the future.
You are not your things.
Seem self-evident? It’s not.
Too many of us spend our lives ordering our priorities around the accumulation of consumer junk. Click to Tweet.
Is this the path to fulfillment?
Is this the freedom the American founding fathers dreamt of when they signed the Declaration of Independence 237 years ago? Since it’s Independence Day today here in the United States, this is a question worth asking yourself.
Are you really “independent” if you’re chained to one place by your oversized home and your horde of stuff? Can the consumerist ethos of buying everything you can afford (and then some) be more of a burden than a freedom?
Why not sell everything you don’t need, even if you aren’t relocating?
Image by Victor1558.