Every time I’ve moved, I have taken a huge amount of stuff along – instead of culling before the move, I’ve always done it on the other end. I think this is inevitable. Wouldn’t a move be the perfect time to reduce the stuff in our home? Reasons why it doesn’t work that way:

  1. An employer is paying for the move. Why get rid of it when it moves for free? When we moved to our current city, in fact, insurance was by the pound, so we moved a bunch of cinder blocks (supporting a door desk) even though we didn’t think we would use them. That was crazy, but it is easier to let things linger in the move pile when you aren’t paying for the hauling.
  2. There is fear and uncertainty in a move – it is very easy to fall into the “we might need this in the new place” trap since we’re nervous about owning our first place, and we honestly don’t know what we will really need. In fact, we’ve been buying more stuff because we’ll be setting up the place from scratch. The new place is much larger (we have a 21 month old in our one bedroom apartment now, which is mighty cramped), so it is easy to expand outwards.
  3. Even stuff we really dislike, such as our amazingly ugly sofa from my wife’s graduate school days, is going to be moved because we have visitors coming to help us after we move in, so we’ll need a sofa right away in Canada for them to sleep on, etc. We have no idea where to buy a sofa in Montreal, and since we believe in investigating purchases thoroughly, we’ll end up moving this one to buy us time to make a good decision on a new sofa later. The realistic alternative would be to give this one away while in the US, then buy a temporary sofa (probably equally ugly and more poorly made) in our new city, and then research and buy the one we really want later. Yes, we could have replaced it here in the US and shipped the new one, but we don’t even have good measurements for the place we purchased.
  4. It is surprisingly difficult to find stuff you like at a good price. We comparison shop and wait for a good deal. If we needed everything all at once right after moving (how long can you really wait to get a kitchen table?), we’d end up buying a compromise at an inflated price due to haste.

I wish it were otherwise – I still cling to the fantasy of the fresh start, including the thought that maybe the truck will start on fire and we’ll get a hefty insurance payment to start fresh. But beyond the environmental damage of all that stuff being destroyed, I know that replacing it all would be a nightmare, and we’d end up with so many compromises we would likely be worse off from a minimalist perspective. We have given away stacks of stuff and sold some things we don’t need, but we’re still moving a substantial amount of excess. Hopefully we’ll have enough discipline to really do the cull on the other end.

8 Responses to “Moving”

  1. Hi,

    I have been struggling with some of the same questions as you.

    I’m moving from Mumbai to Washington DC, and I’m giving away almost everything I own.

    Write on. You are on my feed reader now.

  2. Ryno says:

    Excellent blog. I am really taking minimalism to heart now that I have found a number of websites that back up these beliefs. There was a good article in Time a coupe weeks ago about minimalism. was featured for his 100 thing challenge. Pretty intriguing.

    I am realizing that minimalism could be an entire movement of a more efficient and cleaner world, but we are a consumer based culture so that probably wont happen any time soon. Bummer.

    Anyway, enjoyed reading your tips and looking forward to applying some of them.

  3. Cynthia Boyd says:

    I am cleaning out our apartment today. We moved from LA to Paris 2 1/2 years ago and thought we had sorted and trimmed down then (no more cars, living in an apartment etc.). Now, I am going to sell more (which hurts) and replace a few patterned rugs with plain. It all gets in the way of work and things we would rather do. I watch all my friends distract themselves from what’s important with shopping for clothes and sorting through their things, over decorating, gaining weight and having to resize their wardrobe. I just want to be free of all that and all the extra things we own. We are spare compared to most but, I’m looking for courage to take the big leap and really pare down to just the essentials. Bon courage to the rest of you who are doing the same

  4. Emily says:

    I liked this post. On all of the home-y blogs, there seem to be two main schools of thought: those who seem to have the money to not have to wait and comparison shop and sale lurk and then those who say “only buy what you love. Better to live in an empty space than have anything less than amazing, perfect long term home furnishings.” Both of these seem kind of absurd to me. Is the interim furniture idea really pocket friendly, not to mention eco-friendly? Not really. But if you take that interim couch to Goodwill or sell it on Craig’s List or whatever, it helps to bridge the gap. I bought a lot of my first furniture at those place and garage sales. And call me crazy, but a house needs a couch. And if it ends up being IKEA for a while…well, so be it.

    This post is down to earth and I appreciate that. As someone who is about to move and who has made a lot of moves in the past few years, I am often asking myself the same questions.

  5. Stephanie says:

    I’m so excited to have found your blog! This post was great…. right up my alley seeing as my husband and I just sold our house and EVERYTHING (well, all but our clothes, computers and some art work) in it.

    You wrote: “I still cling to the fantasy of the fresh start, including the thought that maybe the truck will start on fire and we’ll get a hefty insurance payment to start fresh. But beyond the environmental damage of all that stuff being destroyed, I know that replacing it all would be a nightmare, and we’d end up with so many compromises we would likely be worse off from a minimalist perspective.”

    First, it was my husband’s idea to sell everything. What we didn’t sell, we gave away. That ended up being a lot, actually. I’m so glad we did it. It was unbelievably liberating. It’s my way of ‘re-booting’ my system… my approach to life. We are dedicated to a minimalist approach now having wound up in tremendous debt living the other way.

    So, now we have the opportunity to start again. And I don’t see the replacement of our things as a nightmare, but an opportunity. I know that we can get a lot of necessities for nothing… we gave away a lot of necessities. We just have to find someone else doing the same once we’re ready to start again.


  6. Matt says:

    I’m in the military, so in the last 4 years I’ve moved about 5 times. Each time is a great time to clean stuff out. I usually stay motivated by my supreem dislike for unpacking. Packing, like the post mentioned, is all taken care of by the moving company, but the unpacking and finding spaces/places for everything can be painful. Whenever I’m getting ready for it, I just think about having to find a place for it later.

    Two tricks I use:
    1. All school books get listed on (it’s free to list)
    2. Books I don’t want to keep, which is pretty much all of them, get donated to the library.

  7. Amanda says:

    I am in the middle ground with you. We are letting go of the furniture since we are paying for our own move and going across country with our old beat up furniture is more expensive than buying new stuff. We’re trying to pare way down on the other stuff, but letting go of sentimental attachment and future need is a hard road. I do get frustrated reading blogs of people who are down to about 100 items and complaining that they have too much stuff. If you want to have nothing but the clothes on your back and a rice bowl, more power to you but I don’t need to hear you brag disguised as complaining.

  8. Paul says:

    Hello. Just wanted to say that I’ve actually been fortunate (unfortunate?) enough to have gotten rid of all my possessions except for about 150 books, my clothes, and my computer. My wife and I sepearated last summer, we sold our house–and it just so happened that I had lost my job the year before and have been making only minimum wage for the past year. So, in a nutshell, I could only afford this timy little studio in the ghetto; and not only do I have no room for most of my old stuff, but I was leery about bringing nice stuff into a poor neighborhood. I don’t regret anything, though, because before I met my wife I opwned pretty much what I own now. I only bought a house and all that furnite because she wanted it all.

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