Guess what? You'll never guess. Actually, you probably will, if you've followed my exploits for more than a year. Surprise, we're moving again! Cue party noisemakers and confetti. This will be our first move in... *counts on fingers*... fourteen and a half months. This is why we're minimalists, and getting to be more so every year. I'll be writing about this process over the next few weeks, as we strategize, pack, move, unpack, and get settled in.
We decided not long after we got married that we will probably never own a house. The reason for this is that mortgages are structured in favor of the bank, and the interest and fees are front-loaded. If you aren't completely positive that you'll still be living in the same house at LEAST five years from now, it's financially extremely risky. You are almost guaranteed to lose money. If you're underwater on your home loan and you're forced to sell, you're sunk. We looked at our situation after the crash of 2008, realized that we were unlikely to spend THREE years in one house, much less any longer, and accepted the nomadic life. Now, when my husband gets an enticing job offer, it's a simple matter for us.
Accept offer. 2. Give notice to landlord. 3. Order moving boxes. 4. Reserve moving van. 5. Pack. 6. Move to whatever new city has the latest most awesome job opportunity.
We did the first four of these steps in about an hour. Two days later, we advertised a yard sale. Now, we're still waiting for the delivery of the moving boxes. We're not sweating it, though, because our house is only 728 square feet. We can fit both our entire wardrobes in a pair of large suitcases. We've scheduled three days to pack so that we can take breaks.
I plan to use a stopwatch when we pack each room, so I can get an estimate of how long packing really takes. This is one thing I've never done before. I've counted the number of moving boxes we've used before, which is 100, but I haven't tallied them by room yet. I have a strong suspicion that we won't be needing 100 moving boxes this time.
Minimalism is all about strategy. We made a policy decision not to buy a house. We made a policy decision not to spend more than a certain percentage of our income on rent. We made an aesthetic agreement that we prefer small houses, and for comfort, we both prefer putting our bed in the smallest bedroom.
When my husband began his job search, we understood that we had about a 5% chance of being able to stay in the same neighborhood. Another of our policy decisions is that it's not worth it to us for him to have a long commute. We'd rather spend one week packing and unpacking than have him sitting on the freeway for five hours or more every week in perpetuity. I married him and I kinda like seeing his face from time to time.
The clock started ticking two months out. We started planning meals around what we had in the fridge, freezer, and pantry. Points for every meal that finishes off a container of something. The last time we had professional movers, we learned that they would not take certain items overnight, including food, any kind of liquids or chemicals, explosives, firearms, plants, live animals, and various other items. We wound up with an entire truckload we had to haul ourselves, partly consisting of our suitcases and the crates for our pets, but mostly made up of pantry boxes. I was very embarrassed and annoyed, and made an effort from that point forward to eat it up and buy less. That is another policy decision: a streamlined, minimal pantry.
Every time we've moved, we've wound up in a smaller house with a smaller garage and less kitchen storage. We wind up downsizing twice: first, before we move, and second, after we try to unpack in the new place and realize that certain things just won't fit. This will be our sixth move in eight years, and we're much more serious about it this time. Anything we don't use physically, literally, every single day, is under scrutiny. Even some of the things we DO use every day are subject to analysis.
We base our plans around our emotional experience of life. What do we do in our living room? We lounge around relaxing with our pets. What do we do in our kitchen? We cook a lot and we like to talk at the dining table. What do we do in our office? We like to work on our passion projects. We plan what we keep in each room based around how we are using the room. Heaps of junk mail, mounds of dirty laundry, stacks of dishes, and piles of random, unsorted stuff are not on any of our lists for Favorite Use of Space. Knowing how we like to spend our time at home is a big help when we start scrolling through pictures of dozens of houses and hundreds of rooms, looking for our new place.
The less stuff we have, the smaller a place we can fit in. The smaller our home, the better the neighborhoods we can afford. We have found that our quality of life improves immeasurably when we can live close enough to work for a short commute. That often means fitting in a really small home. It's not just about high rents: a lot of areas don't even have large homes at any price. We learned that a 1500 square foot home in our current city would cost $1000 a month more in rent, and I don't know about you, but... yeah, no. Most people probably would choose the larger house with the longer commute explicitly so that they can keep all their stuff. We're the opposite. Calculate your hourly wage including your commute time, and then go and get your crying pillow, because you're going to need it.
At time of writing, we have a moving van to pick up on Friday, a storage unit reserved for our stuff, and a pending Airbnb reservation. What we don't have yet is anywhere to live in April, because WING-IT METHOD. Watch this space for exciting dispatches from the Place of Uncertainty!
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.