Making Moving Easier: The Pre-Move Purchase Freeze

We all know how much of a pain it is to pack up and move a truckload of stuff.

My strategy goes a little beyond simply getting rid of stuff: I ruthlessly limit the new things I buy to only things I’ll want to take with me. This generally leads to a lot less buying in general.

I like to think that I’ve become a bit of a pro at moving from apartment to apartment. I’m about to make my forth move in the last four years, and it’s gotten easier every time for me.

My next move is still over 3 months away, but I’m already preparing now. I’m determined not to take a whole lot with me. It would be great to just have a backpack full of stuff, and I really like the idea of being nimble when I want to move around. I’m not quite there yet, but I like to use moves to get rid of stuff.

The Pre-Move Buying Criteria

Before I make any large purchases in the time immediately before my move, I make sure it fits my moving criteria. What do I mean by that? It really comes down to a few simple questions.

1) Can I move it? I first ask this to determine if it’s going to make sense to try to wrangle this item into a moving truck. Large things like couches, bookcases, desks, and other furniture are going to be a challenge to move no matter what your plans are. Knowing that, there’s no way I’d consider taking on any more of these items in the months leading up to the move.

2) Will I want to move it? If whatever I’m thinking about buying passes question #1, I’ll ask myself if this thing is something that I’ll want to bring alone with me. For example, clothes are relatively easy to move, but I might not want to take a whole closet full with me. Other clothing, like a big winter coat, might not make sense to bring along if I’m moving somewhere warm.

I’m not very sentimental about things, and that’s a huge advantage if you’re able to take that out of the equation. I’m a big believer that “the best things in life aren’t things,” and I can’t think of anything I’ve ever regretted getting rid of before a move. I like to hold on to a few nice things I’ve gotten from grandparents, but that’s about the extent of it.

I’m not a big believer in saving things because I “might” need them in the future. I can safely say that over 90% of that stuff never comes out of storage again.

3) Can I wait until after my move to buy? The answer to this is typically “yes,” so hopefully that talks me out of my purchase. It’s always a battle against instant gratification, but thinking about how much easier moving will be without the excess stuff often steers me away from buying.

For me, taking the time to start thinking about all of this now makes it much easier and less stressful later. I’ve already got a big box of stuff from my bedroom to give away, and I plan to move through the rest of the house shortly.

Have you moved lately? Do you have any tips for making moving easier?

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photo by: ASurroca

The Cheap DIY Standing Desk

Think you’re productive sitting at your desk? Try standing at it and see what you get done.

You don’t need to go out and spend a lot to make it happen. Setting up a DIY standing desk is quick and easy.

Why The Standing Desk?

Some standing desk users point to the health risks of sitting to much. The research is pretty scary, especially when they mention that exercise won’t save you from sitting, either.

Personally, I’ve always felt like I sit to much. My job requires sitting just about all day. I have a comfy office chair, but my butt still gets sore. When I come home from work and go on my computer, the last thing I want to do is sit for another 6 hours. Enter the DIY standing desk.

Real standing desks can be expensive. They often start around $200 and go way up from there. Luckily, you don’t need to plop down this kind of money to try it out. A DIY standing desk is easy to make.

My Standing Desk Isn’t a Real Standing Desk

That’s right – I went totally DIY standing desk on this one. Luckily for me, it was super easy.  Here’s a picture of my current setup:

DIY-Standing-Desk

All I did was take the IKEA desk that I have (which I bought used for $50) and rearranged the shelves that are already there.

I made sure to find the ideal height where my elbows are at a 90 degree angle to type. The screen on my laptop is probably a little lower than what’s optimal (I have to look down a bit), but it’s the highest I could adjust the shelving in my setup. I have a USB keyboard, which I’ve placed below my laptop for easier typing.

DIY Standing Desk Options

You’re certainly not limited in options. Here’s a few other ideas that I’ve seen or thought of.

The Cheap: Modify a desk

This is what I did, and it proved to work out well. I simply moved the pieces around on the desk I have. It’s nice because there’s a good surface for my laptop to sit on, and I can still use the space below because I didn’t have to stack things up.

This is definitely the preferred method for me, but you have to have a similar desk to mine to make it work. If you don’t, you can probably find something on Craigslist depending on where you are, but it might set you back $50 like it did for me.

The Cheaper: Stack stuff on a desk

If you have a desk that you don’t mind devoting to standing (or you can set it up and take it down easily), this is a nice, easy way to go. Just stack anything on top of the desk to get there right height. This could be boxes, a stool, or even another desk. If you need to make small adjustments in height, just use wooden shims or even books that you aren’t reading.

The downside to this is that you might lose the space underneath the working area of your desk. For example, if you’re using boxes to create your stack, it will require some creativity to get anything (like a keyboard) underneath.

The Cheapest: Just stack up stuff

This is a great way to test if you’ll like using the standing desk. Find some cardboard boxes or storage containers and just stack them up to the proper height. Anything that gets  you to the right height will do. If you use boxes, you’ll have a little less space for your legs and feet, which might be slightly less comfortable. Still, it will be workable until you work your way up in options.

Don’t Forget What You’re Standing On

Even though standing more might increase your energy, it’s definitely tougher on your legs and feet. That said, I like standing on a padded material to ease the pressure on my feet. I use a workout mat, and other options might be a yoga mat or some other thin cushion. It’s really up to you on what makes you comfortable.

The standing desk isn’t for everyone, but I definitely think it has it’s benefits. I’ll admit: I still sit to do work some of the time. But I find I get more done and don’t fool around at my desk as much when I’m standing.

Have you tried a standing desk before? Did it work for you?

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photo by: me

Financial Minimalism to Simplify and Save

minimalist-financesSince I first heard of the term “minimalist,” I’ve been intrigued by the idea and have at least loosely attempted to follow it in my own life. A true minimalist only owns few things (often less than 100 items). Minimalists have various reasons for doing so, but they often include their desire to simplify life or travel while carrying everything they own on their back.

While minimalism isn’t for everyone, there are a lot of lessons we can learn and apply to personal finance. Here are several minimalist-inspired ideas that I’ve applied to my own finances.

1. Use cash as often as you can, and keep as few credit accounts as possible. I’ve given up credit cards. I’ve done this mostly to simplify the number of accounts that I have open.

I hate having to track the balances I have on 5 different credit accounts and 2 debit accounts. Instead I’d rather just check one account to know exactly how much cash I have available.

If you’re set on using credit, try carrying only one credit card at a time. Then you simply have one balance on one card. It makes things easier for preventing identity theft, too, when you don’t have as many cards around.

2. Buy only as much as you need. Minimalism and frugality go hand in hand. The less you own, the less you’ll have to pay for. You won’t have to keep track of all your stuff, either.

I’m not always a big fan of buying in bulk simply because I end up wasting more. When this happens, you lose money instead of saving it. Buying multiples means that I’ll have to store things, hoping that I won’t lose things.

Get rid of as many things as you can that involve recurring payments. This is why I don’t own a car. Cars are a money pit that seem to never end.

3. Automate. Right now I have automatic payments of $1,100 coming out of my account until I finish paying of my student loan debt at the end of 2011. It’s the first thing that comes out of each paycheck so I don’t have to think about where to send my money first. It’s a foolproof plan.

I also have automated transactions to fund my Roth IRA, an account for bicycle expenses, and to send spending money to my PerkStreet account. I plan to create automatic savings and separate accounts for even more things, too, since it makes saving easy and cuts down on stress

4. Keep a simple budget, and make tracking expenses as easy as possible. I hate budgeting, so setting up a complicated budget with 30 different items just isn’t going to work for me.

Initially I set up a quick spreadsheet to track expenses, which was a great start and got me to do the bare minimum to see where I spent my money and stay on a budget.

I’ve since graduated to using Mint and the Mint App for iPhone, which allows me to add transactions in only a few seconds. Mint really does it all for me (although I’m excited to give the Adaptu App a chance to take on Mint, too).

5. Make your entire financial plan as simple as possible. I’m not always a fan of Dave Ramsey, but, when it comes to simplicity, his plan is best. Simply follow his seven baby steps, which are crystal clear, and you’re in great financial shape.

I prefer a slightly less-minimalistic approach than Dave’s, but for those that are buried in debt and don’t have a clue, Total Money Makeover is easy to follow and solid advice.

Check out this post on Minimalist Money on Get Rich Slowly where I got some of my inspiration for this post.

How do you make your finances as simply as possible?

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photo by: mockstar

iTunes Match: Is it For You?

itunes-matchiTunes Match has now officially launched with the new version of iTunes. It’s a paid service, but it could be very helpful for Apple users. Here’s a quick rundown of this new offering from Apple.

What’s it Cost?

$24.99 for a full year, which is pretty cheap in the grand scheme of things. I spend way more than this on music every year. Right now I’m spending $10 a month for Spotify premium, although I don’t actually own any songs from subscribing to this service.

What Are the Features?

iTunes Match allows you to do several things. Here’s a quick rundown:

“Match” tracks with high-quality versions. iTunes will now automatically take tracks (regardless of whether you’ve bought them from iTunes or not) and match them with high-quality files from the iTunes library. When it makes a match, the best version of the song is uploaded to the Cloud. There’s about 20 million songs in the iTunes catalog, so there’s a good chance most tracks will be paired. If no match is made, Match simply sends the version you already own instead.

Sync playlists on the Cloud. This is handy so you can access both your files and playlists when you’re on the go. No need to hook up your iOS device to your computer. Match and the Cloud handle this automatically. Music is backed up, too, for safe keeping off of your hard drive.

Multiple devices. You can sync iTunes Match with up to 10 devices, which should cover the vast majority of iUser’s devices.

Past purchases are available. This is a feature that I particularly like, as any iTunes purchases I’ve deleted in the past (on purpose or not) are not available for re-download. This didn’t used to be the case as any deleted past purchases were unrecoverable before.

Who’s it for?

Anyone that’s an iTunes user.

I can see this being especially handy for iPhone users, as Match allows you to download from the Cloud to your phone when you’re on the go.

This service isn’t really necessary if you don’t have much music on iTunes and prefer to use Pandora or another service instead. If you don’t have an iTouch or iPhone, this service probably isn’t as useful for you, either.

Will I buy it?

I haven’t purchased it yet, but I’m still considering it. I’m all about new music services this year. I absolutely love Spotify and I’m a paid member for that. As long as I have Spotify I’m not really sure there’s a need for iTunes Match since I can upload anything I want to the Spotify cloud anyway.

However, one alluring part is the ability to sync music from iTunes to my new iPhone over the Cloud instead of having to plug my phone in to my laptop.

Even though it’s offered as a backup service, I’m pretty diligent about backing up my MacBook to an external hard drive already.

Overall, the $25 price tag is pretty inexpensive and probably worth it for anyone that’s serious about listening to music with iTunes. It’s definitely not essential (like most things from Apple) but it can make life and enjoying music more convenient.

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photo by: labnol

The End of Another Car Era and Living Without a Car (Plus a Giveaway)

living-without-a-carCar free yet again!

Okay, so everything with my car didn’t go as I hoped it would. It came down with a litany of problems: the back brake was seized, causing the wheel to smoke and smell really, really, bad. Then, the starter completely gave out. Combine these two things, and you have a useless, immovable car that needs thousands in repairs. The problems were unexpected, although, with 191,000 miles on a car, I guess nothing is that unexpected.

Even though it wouldn’t start and the bake brake was seized up, I was able to sell it for $500, half the price I bought it for just less than a year ago. But, given the expense and headaches, this car was definitely a bust. For the thousands I spent to run it over the last year I probably could’ve been riding around in something much nicer that didn’t get looks every time I drove it around the block.

Despite this disaster, I’m still a fan of buying used cars. Buying used saves a ton of money. The purchase price, sales tax, property tax, and insurance are all less when a car is used and valued less than a new one. New cars depreciate a ton in their first few years, and, for me, those losses are definitely not outweighed by any enjoyment of owning a new car.

Although my car was crappy, I didn’t mind it most of the time. It’s nice not to have to worry about owning something shiny and new. If my car got dinged up, I honestly wouldn’t have cared. Coffee spill? That didn’t matter to me either.

How I’ll Get Around

For now, I plan to live without a car of my own. I’ve done it before, and I’ve gotten even more inspiration from reading Simply Car-Free. Tammy has a lot of great tips for using a bike, which is what I’ll use the majority of my trips.

Here’s how I’ll get around:

Short trips (less than 3 miles) – I’ll do almost all of these trips by bike. This includes my commute to work every day. I ride my bike year-round (yes, even through the winter in snow). I would estimate that 75% of my trips are 3 miles or less, so biking is a great option.

Medium trips (3-20 miles) – I’ll use the cars I have access to for most of these trips. I have my sister’s car on loan for the summer. When that’s gone, I’ll still be able to use my girlfriend’s car. I also plan to go back to Zipcar, which I loved and have really missed using since finishing grad school.

Long trips (20 miles and up) – Depending on what I’m doing, I’ll use a combination of modes. If I’m going somewhere that there’s not much public transportation, I’ll take a car. This could be a combination of the girlfriend’s car, Zipcar, or a regular car rental. I just rented a car this past weekend, and it only cost about $30 a day, which I think is a steal. I’d definitely prefer to take trains, buses, and planes more often (I’m writing on a train as I write this). I just read an announcement that Megabus is coming to New Haven, which I’m super psyched about, too!

To me, utilizing all these forms of transportation are much less frustrating than owning a car of my own.

My Next Car?

If I do buy a car again (which I don’t plan to do for as long as I’m living in a city), I’ll pick something a little nicer than my last car, but it will still definitely be used. I think there’s something to be said for finding a balance between cost and quality of a car. Buying a crappy old car might have low up-front costs, but the repairs can get expensive down the line. As everyone, including me, discovers sooner or later, it gets frustrating when you need to keep making expensive repairs on a nearly valueless car.

** Giveaway Info **

Update: Congrats to Hunter, who won the copy of Simply Car-Free!

I’m going to give away a copy of Simply Car-Free as a celebration for being car free again! To enter to win, all you have to do is 2 steps:

1) Answer this question as a comment: Are you a used or new or car-free person? What are your reasons? (Make sure to use a valid email so I can contact you) and

2) Tweet and/or share this post on Facebook

I’ll accept entries until Sunday, 7/22/11 and I’ll use Random.org to select a winner (one entry per person)

Top Five Wasters of Time AND Money

time-money-wastersAs I typed away on my first blog posts in January, my (now-former) roommates sat out in the living room playing hours of video games. They had three game systems and about 40 games in our apartment, so they never seemed to get bored of their options. As I watched them sit and play night after night, I couldn’t help but think of the amount of money and time that is wasted by stuff like video games. These types of things not only suck up time, but you have to spend money to do them at the same time.

Video games are expensive, with systems costing up to $400,  single games up to $60, and other add-ons that can take costs into the thousands. Video games can also be incredibly addictive, with some World of Warcraft players ending up in rehab for gamers (yes, that exists now).  It’s very easy to lose track on time while playing, too.  I bought a Playstation 3 a few years ago.  While I enjoyed it, I soon realized how much time I spent playing it. I ended up selling it after owning it for less than a year.

While this isn’t meant to be an all-out assault on video games or other things we do for pleasure, I think most would agree that video games are money and time wasters. Here are some other things we buy (and do) that cost a lot of  money and time.

Online shopping

Online shopping is often easier and cheaper than going to the store, but there are still downsides.  In my experience, online shopping leads to more impulse buying.  On a whim, I can simply jump on to Amazon.com and make a purchase any time of day.

From the time side of online shopping, I’ll get caught up in trying to find the best deals. I could browse shoes at Zappos for hours.  Once I find a shoe I like, I check other online shoe websites to compare prices and see if I can get a better deal.  I then search Google for coupon codes to use on the websites.  A lot of times I won’t even end up buying anything after getting frustrated because it’s taking so long to find the perfect purchasing opportunity.

Going out to bars

Don’t get me wrong: I love going out for a drink with friends as much as anyone.  But I have an issue when it becomes too frequent.  I don’t think anyone will argue that drinks are 2-5 times more expensive at a bar than when enjoyed at home.  Cover charges and tipping add on to the cost, too. Besides the money, going out for drinks always takes more time than I originally plan for.  I get talked into staying longer.  I drink more than I originally wanted to. I stay up later at night. I don’t feel like working after having a few drinks. Yes, it’s fun, but ultimately it costs me time towards working on other things that I want to do.

Commuting

Commuting isn’t the same as purchasing an item, but it can still be really expensive.  Driving to and from work has always been my least favorite part of the work day, and I’ve decided that I never want to spend two hours of my day in a car.  Driving 25 miles each way to a job can cost $150 a month on fuel alone. Besides the gas, there’s really no safe way to be productive while driving a car.  It’s basically a time sink and an easy way to lose 7-10 hours of free time a week.

Television

Closely related to video games, television attracts even more people.  Cable is ridiculously expensive.  The average customer pays $75 a month, with some people paying over $100.  If you invested instead of paying for cable, you’d have a huge pot of money (and probably a much smaller gut) at age 65.  Combine the price with the average American who watches almost 3 hours of television per day, and television takes the prize as the most damaging double-waster of all.

I understand that no one is productive 100% of the time, and we all need downtime for rest.  I think all of these activities are perfectly fine in moderation.  It’s when they’re taken to an extreme that they really get expensive and stand in the way of goals, too.

Do you have any time and money wasters to add to this list?

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photo by: Rebecca Pollard

Switching to the iPhone: What’s the True Cost?

Smartphone cost comparison for iPhone 4 and othersI’m not going to lie:  I’ve always been opposed to iPhones in the past.  My feelings even confuse me bit, as my tech-saviness is definitely above average (must be my “keep things simple” mentality kicking in).  I’ve always been skeptical of the high cost and necessity of owning one.

iPhones are not cheap. The cost of owning an iPhone is around $85 per month.  This is at least $35 more each month than what I’m currently paying. I’m certainly not alone in considering all the costs when switching phones.

Secondly, while I definitely feel there are a lot of great uses for them and there are many people who can utilize them for work and productivity, I also think the majority of people that own them don’t really need them. Personally, I’m on the borderline between needing one to do my work and owning one just because they’re cool.  I anticipate that I’ll be on the move more often starting later this year, and, with online ventures, I’ll need to access the web more often.  However, I already spend 10+ hours a day in front of a computer between work, emailing, and blogging.

Despite these reasons, I’m considering purchasing an iPhone (or other smartphone) sometime this year.  Before I make the switch, I’ll have to clear up some of my reservations and questions (hopefully with your help!)

Here are my concerns about “costs” of owning an iPhone, above and beyond what’s paid for monthly service:

1. Will I actually get more work done? Or will I waste more time? The potential is definitely there to get more done with increased access to the internet.  I can respond to emails and comments, read other blogs, and do other things that I would normally only do on my laptop.  But there’s also the temptation to spend time playing games or surfing the web.  I don’t want to get an iPhone just to goof around on it.

2. Will my life be more convenient to a degree that justifies cost? This goes with point #1.  While I might get more work done, there are other iPhone applications that can help me, too, like GPS when I’m lost or Yelp when I’m looking for a good restaurant.  It’s difficult to really quantify benefits like these, but I think they are important to consider.  I know iPhone users will argue with me that they use their phone all the time to find places and things.  But is this always necessary or could they get by without an iPhone in some of these cases?  While I’m sure there would be plenty of times I’m glad I have an iPhone, I’m not sure if that’s often enough.

3. Will I spend more with other purchases, too? On top of the $85 per month price tag, there are other costs associated with owning a smart phone. Some are one-time costs, like a case and charging accessories.  But what about online purchases? I’m mostly concerned that an iPhone will give lead to more impulse buys, either through the iTunes store, Apps, or other online purchases.  Amazon.com even has its own iPhone app.  While I’d definitely be careful, I think a lot of these purchases will be inevitable from time to time.

4.  Will I utilize all the features? First off, I don’t talk a lot of my phone currently, and I don’t use 450 minutes each month.  With my heavy computer usage as it is, I’m not always sure how often I’d be away from my laptop and need to access email or internet.  In fact, I often enjoy escaping my computer for a few days when I’m camping or simply away from home.  On the plus side, I would like to take more photos, and I think I would do that if I had a better cellphone camera than I do currently.

5. Will I be more removed from the world? This is somewhat of a fear of mine.  I’ve noticed the power that an iPhone has to isolate people by distracting them from everything going on around them.  I don’t want to be on an iPhone constantly, especially when I could be interacting with others instead.  Plus, my girlfriend can tell you how glued I can get to a computer already.

A lot of this post is negative towards iPhones but reflects my true feelings.  But the fact that so many people own them makes me wonder: Am I simply missing the point of smart phones? However, part of me still worries that it’s a poor financial choice.  I don’t want to get an iPhone simply because it’s popular.

What are you reasons for owning or not owning a smart phone?

Does your iPhone help you with any money-making or savings goals?

Are my concerns valid?  Share in the comments below.

 

 

Four Reasons Why I Don’t Like ‘Nice’ Things

I own a crappy car that’s certainly not looking any nicer as I rack up the miles.  In fact, I’m responsible for beating it up even more.  Yesterday, I had a few issues on a road trip back from Massachusetts.  First, I backed in a snowbank and scraped my bumper.  Then, someone parked next to me swung their door open, hitting my car.  To top it all off, a plastic piece under my engine came loose and started dragging on the road, forcing us to pull over on the highway to fix it. I could go on with the perpetual problems that my car has, but I think you get it.

Despite all the issues my car has, I love the fact that I don’t have to constantly worry about my car and I don’t have to put in a lot of effort to care for it.  It’s old and it’s never going to be perfect.  But as long as the engine runs and there’s no serious damage, I can revel in the fact that it’s stress free to own. I think the same concept applies to lots of things that you and I own.  Here are four reasons why I don’t like to always have the latest and greatest stuff out there:

1. I don’t have to worry about blemishing or breaking.  I like to call this the “plastic couch cover” syndrome. Personally, I think it’s crazy to own things and not use them (or excessively protect them) because they might get wrecked if it’s used in the way that’s intended.  I don’t really believe in buying things, like a couch or fancy convertible, simply because they will look nice while unused in my living room or stored in my garage.  I want to sprawl out on the couch without having to worry about if my feet are dirtying it.

2. I don’t have to worry stuff will get stolen or lost. If it isn’t worth much in the first place, I can’t be out too much money if I lose it or if it gets stolen.  This is why I like owning a two-year-old, not-smart phone instead of an iPhone. It’s really unlikely that it would be targeted in any kind of mugging or heist, whereas iPhone thefts seem to be much more likely.  If I lose my phone, it’s probably $50 max to replace it, instead of costing hundreds.  Mine’s not a piece of junk (in fact, it works great), but it’s not in any way expensive, either.

3. I don’t have to spend as much to buy my stuff.  Fancy things cost more.  While there is something to be said for quality, there is also something to be said for paying $3,000 for a set of knives when a $30 set may work just as well.  While I can’t say I’ve ever even touched a $3,000 set of knives, I have a hard time believing they are 100 times better than the cheaper ones.

4. I don’t have to spend as much to maintain my stuff.  My car virtually never goes to the car wash and definitely never gets waxed.  I don’t fix every little ding or make any nonessential repairs on it.  If I spill coffee on the upholstery, it’s not a big deal, either.  On the flip side, I’ve seen others freak out over any little ding or small spill.  As soon as their car makes a “strange noise,” they have to bring it in the the shop to have it checked out (yes, mine is always making strange noises).  I have enough other things to worry about, so my car isn’t about to be one of them. It’s is still reasonably clean and good looking (at least enough so that it wouldn’t stand out in a group of cars).  If it gets scratched, then it’s just acquired a bit more personality.  I’m definitely not about to spend more money than what I need to simply keep it running.

I’m not (universally) against high quality, but I’m against underutilized quality.  I’m not advocating going out and wrecking your “nice” things, either, by using them carelessly.  The ideal is enjoy what you have and be reasonable about maintaining it’s quality, too.

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photo by: Garrette

Four Steps for Moving Stuff Out Before Moving In

I few weeks ago, I moved to a new apartment.  I’ve moved around a lot the last 5 years, living in 6 apartments with 12 different roommates.  In another 4 months, I’ll be moving again! It’s always been a fairly big ordeal to move, and I definitely don’t look forward to the hassles.

I haven’t exactly been moving around with just the shirt of my back; almost all the moves have involved lots of boxes, some pieces of large furniture, and a U-Haul truck.  Having shuttled around crazy amounts of stuff for years, I finally got sick of it. Which leads me to what I do enjoy about my apartment transitions: It’s an easy time to move stuff out before I move in to my new place. Here’s what I’ve learned and what I do for all my moves:

1. I’ve enacted a simple rule: If it hasn’t been unpacked since the last move, it goes. Somewhere in the middle of all the moves I realized that many things were never getting used no matter where I relocated.  Excess kitchen supplies, spare bike parts, and less-than-appealing decorations moved in a box and stayed stored in a basement until the next time around. I parted ways with a lot of this stuff since I no longer had the room nor desire to store it any longer.

Everything I’ve gotten rid of was either sold on Craigslist, given away to friends, or posted as “free” on Craigslist.  I hardly throw out anything, and that makes me feel good since I know that someone’s (hopefully) getting good use out of my stuff and it’s not in a landfill instead.

2. I don’t move larger items unless they’re really worth keeping. Anyone who’s moved knows that the big and bulky items are the worst to deal with.  I’m talking couches, mattresses, dressers, and tables.  They’re heavy and require (at least) 2 people to carry them.  They have be squeezed up small stairways, if they even fit at all.  They don’t fit into anything but a truck. I finally had enough of this, too.  I ditched my only dresser for simple closet storage.  I bought a much smaller work desk, which suits me fine since I’m no longer a student.  Result: my most recent move simply required a friend’s Jeep and half a day’s time.

I only take the big items that are either expensive to replace and that I know are crucial no matter where I live.  I’ve moved my queen-sized bed around with me, but I’ve given up on the elaborate wooden frame for a simple and collapsible metal frame instead.

3. I get rid of stuff while I pack.  I inevitably have to go through just about everything I own to pack it in a box.  Handling each thing allows for easy decisions to be made about what to ditch.  Cleaning out the closet yields lots of clothes and shoes that I haven’t worn in months.  Knick-knacks that have found their way into the corners of my room are tossed out, too.  I designate a box of stuff to get rid of while I’m packing and donate as much of it as is useful to someone else.

4.  I repeat step #3 while I’m unpacking. Okay, so this isn’t actually “before I move,” but it’s still part of the process. Any unneeded clutter-causers I might have missed during packing will be intercepted in the unpacking stage.

It’s also good to reassess the usefulness of items once I’m in my new space, especially when consolidating with new roommates.  A blender that was once crucial when it was the only one around isn’t as important when there are 3 of them between all of my roommates.  For personal items, there’s always things that won’t fit into my new bedroom or aren’t needed any longer.  If it’s something that can easily replaced in the future, I give it away or toss it out.

The object of this entire effort is to reduce clutter, so even if you don’t plan to move soon, there are still plenty of things that you can do to get rid of clutter.  While I hate throwing away useful stuff, I realize that it’s necessary, and I don’t think it’s do you or anyone any good by holding on to things you don’t need.

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photo by: bezoing

Beg, Borrow, (But Don’t) Steal: Cutting Down On Buying to Own

A cordless drill. A printer. A tennis racket.

These are all things hanging around in my room right now that I use once a month or less frequently.  Why do I own them? Well, I’m not really sure anymore.  I acquired them all at one time or another because I either needed them for a specific project (drill) or I thought it would be convenient to own (printer) or I used it much more frequently in a previous life of mine (tennis racket).  They’re all relatively expensive items, and they’re most definitely worth something to someone.  I just feel like they’re not worth a whole lot to me.

Having items like these around, and purchasing new things that assume a similar, infrequently-used role, made me think that I could easily get away with not owning but borrowing these types of things instead.  Here are some reasons why I would choose not to buy these types of things in the future:

1) I don’t have to pay. There’s no cost if I don’t buy.  Simple as that.

2) I won’t need to waste space storing it. Owning stuff requires a place to put it.  Borrowing doesn’t. Let someone else who already owns the item keep it at their place.  I can borrow it when I need it and simply give it right back when I’m done.

3) I don’t need to keep track of where it is. I like this point because it becomes a more and more relevant factor when I own less and borrow more, resulting in less things I own.  Owning a lot of stuff creates a problem itself for things getting lost in the shuffle.  But I would argue that the less frequently I use an item, the more likely it is to get buried and lost somewhere.  It’s fairly unlikely that I’ll lose my toothbrush, but I guarantee it’ll be harder for me to find that one-quarter inch drill bit.

4) I don’t have to care for and maintain it. This can work for a lot of delicate or expensive things, but in my mind, this fits best with car ownership.  I don’t like owning a car, and I lived almost two years without owning one.  Instead, I used Zipcar, which I found to be easy, relatively inexpensive, and almost stress-free.  I can reserve cars online quickly and easily.  It costs $8-10 per hour.  Best of all, I don’t have to pay for maintenance , gas, or insurance, which represent the majority of the cost to own a car.  At $8 an hour, I would need to use a Zipcar for about 25 hours a month to roughly break even on what I’m paying to own my car.  I typically only use my car for 2-3 short trips a week, so it’s unlikely I hit 25 hours in any given month.

As for items other than cars, they tend to deteriorate or become outdated with time.  I don’t want to own something just so it can collect dust while simultaneously becoming obsolete after a new and improved widget is invented.

The three items I listed at the beginning of the article are things that I could either readily borrow from others or find a way to use it somewhere else.  While it may cost you some money to rent or bribe a friend to use a tool only occasionally, you’d be surprised how much money this can really save.  There’s most definitely the tendency for the mind to create the idea that an item is used much more frequently than it really is.

Some might say “What if I need it right away? Borrowing or renting is a pain!”  Sure, I can see that argument.  But I still don’t agree there are enough instances of this for me to justify owning my drill, printer, or racket.

While we may all use the things we own at a different frequency, the main idea is to eliminate ownership of what’s not used often.  You may use your tennis racket every day, and it makes total sense to own one if that’s the case.  But if it’s been so long since you used it that you forgot that you owned it, maybe consider how often you plan to use whatever you are going to purchase before you make the decision to buy next time.

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photo by rudlavibizon

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