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Most people wouldn’t put the process of moving from one home to the next very high on their list of favorite activities. For most, it’s an expensive, stressful process that requires weeks of planning. Our family is about to be a part of the millions of people that will move this year, but we’re hoping our minimalist lifestyle provides for a very different experience.
Our Last Move - What We Brought
When we moved into this house, we were two recent college graduates. My wife had just graduated and I had been out for two years. For both of us, our possessions were very much “college gear” - the furniture, place settings, etc that we had carried around with us over our time in school.
At a high level, here’s what we brought when we moved in 10 years ago:
- Bed (full) with sheets, comforter, etc
- Futon with sheets, comforter, etc
- Three dressers
- Tons of pillows (bed pillows, throw pillows, floor pillows, sitting pillows)
- Couch and love seat set
- Coffee table
- End table
- Two floor lamps
- Two table lamps
- Two TV stands
- Two TVs
- Two desks
- Two desk chairs
- Two desk lamps
- One desktop computer with monitor
- One laptop
- File cabinet
- A whiteboard
- Dining room table with chairs
- Two stools
- Two full sets of plates, bowls, silverware, and cookware
- Enough clothes to last both of us 2-3 weeks without doing laundry
Not included here was the endless boxes and bins of paperwork, books, sentimental items, and…junk.
Despite the length of the list, our 1900 square-foot house felt woefully unfurnished when we moved in.
Nature abhors a vacuum. So do people.
It quickly became obvious that we “needed” to buy more stuff but we didn’t have the money to buy everything right away. Thankfully, we were disciplined enough to avoid financing furniture, but that didn’t stop us from dedicating time and money to fill the voids in our home.
Over the next several years, we furnished each room, buying new couches, desks, coffee tables, beds, and so on. Throw in clothes, kitchen items, and toys for our growing family and we had very quickly “solved” our empty house problem.
Fast Forward to Today
Over the years, we learned that a full house doesn’t necessarily mean a full life and we did pulled a 180 with our finances and our focus on stuff. We parted with half of our possessions, and in other cases, even more.
It’s been an incredible journey. With our moving day just a week away, here’s our packing list:
- 5 sleeping bags and pillows
- Full-length mirror
- Kitchen table
- 5 Folding chairs
- Two laptops
- Three tablets
- 1 Set of plates, bowls, silverware, and cookware
- Enough clothes to last each of the five of us 1 week without doing laundry
- 3 kids bicycles, a wagon, a stroller, and some outdoor toys
- A few boxes of toys, sentimental items, and seasonal items
We’re moving less stuff out as a family of five than we moved in as a young couple.
Moving as a Minimalist
While the benefits of having less stuff to move may be obvious, it’s worth taking a look at just how different moving as a minimalist can be.
A Cheaper Move
Even if we hadn’t minimized, we wouldn’t have planned on paying a moving service. That said, with how much stuff we had (and how big some of the items were), we certainly would have needed to rent a moving truck - our minivan wouldn’t cut it.
Based on a quick search, the smallest truck we could get for our move date after taxes, fees, and making multiple trips would have cost $150.
With our downsized lifestyle, I’m estimating we’ll be able to make the full move in 2-4 trips with our minivan - no moving truck required.
The same number of trips and $150 cheaper is nice, but there’s an even bigger financial impact from our minimalist lifestyle - the reduced cost of our new living space.
A Cheaper Place
Because we’ve practiced living smaller, we’re able to drop from four bedrooms to two, from two living rooms to one, and from three bathrooms to two. Looking at comparable rentals, we’re saving $550 a month if we hadn’t been able to make that change.
In addition, by being a one car family, we were able to get an apartment with a one-car garage instead of a two-car garage. For comparable units, this is saving us $175 a month.
Put those two together and our housing cost is roughly half of what it had been. Instead of a $1700/month lease, we were able to lock in at $975/month, saving us $8,700 in rent next year.
Way Less Stress
We don’t have a ton of items to take apart and reassemble. We don’t have boxes upon boxes of unknown items that we’re hauling, hoping that it’s worth the effort get them into to our new place.
We’re already going to have enough going on with moving our family of five. Knowing that we can do the move ourselves in one day takes a lot of the stress out.
Moving if You’re Not a Minimalist (yet)
I wouldn’t recommend minimizing your stuff only for the sake of having an easy move. That said, the benefits of downsizing your things reach far and wide - from the financial to the mental and spiritual.
If you are going to be moving, you have the perfect opportunity to assess what you really need in your life.
Here are some tips as you get ready for moving day:
- Before you box each item up, consider whether you’ve used it in the last 6 months and whether you really will use it in the next 6 months. If you have items that are still in boxes from your last move, you can almost certainly put them straight in the donate pile.
- Beware the three most dangerous words when trying to live a lean, intentional lifestyle: just in case. Just because an item may have a use sometime in your life doesn’t mean you’re obligated to hold on to it. A great place to start is looking for low-cost items that you could replace quickly if you really needed to.
- Sentimental items are great for sparking memories but they can’t do that job if they are sitting in a box in your basement. Pick the few items you would love to see daily and put them on display. For the rest, consider giving them to someone else that would find meaning in them. Otherwise, a great way to honor those memories is to give those items new life by donating them to a good cause.
Consider a Packing Party
Finally, remember that minimizing your stuff doesn’t end once you’ve moved in. I’m a big fan of the packing party concept from The Minimalists.
Once you’ve moved in, resist the urge to unpack everything. Only pull items out when you are ready to use them. After a few months, take note of how much stuff is still sitting in those boxes and start thinking about what you can part with.
Even with how little we own, we plan to follow the packing party mentality with this move as a way to measure where we’re at.
While you may not have a move planned on the same timeline, you’re almost certain to have one in the coming years.
Consider how you can start minimizing your stuff now - it’ll help make your move a whole lot easier and you’ll see the benefits of living with less for years to come.
If you’re interested in learning more about minimalism, I highly recommend you check out these resources:
- Book: The More of Less by Joshua Becker
- Documentary: Minimalism: a Documentary About the Important Things
- Website: Simplicity Voices - a curated collection of minimalism articles from authors all over the world
How was your last move? Do you still have boxes in your basement that you haven’t opened? If you’ve got plans to move in the future, how stressed are you about the concept of moving all your stuff?