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In the last 365 days, I’ve had four different zip codes. I’ve lived in three states, worked four different jobs, and tried to make four different buildings feel like home. If you’re a chronic traveler, mover, wanderer, or hopeful searcher like I am, this is for you. If you’ve spent your entire life in one place, and you’re finally planning that big move to a new place, knowing it won’t be the last time you pack your boxes and make the trek, this is for you. These are three tips I wish someone would have told me to prepare for (and make the most of!) this lifestyle, before I had ever packed my first bag.
1. You don't have to unpack everything.
This is the one thing that took me the LONGEST to understand. I was very lucky growing up to have lived my entire life in one house with both an attic and a basement. I never experienced apartments with minimal storage space, nor had I ever experienced moving to know just how much goes into packing and unpacking your life in boxes. If you’re like me, and you know you’re going to be living life in a new zip code in a couple years, you don’t have to unpack everything. Believe me, I’ve tried to do it. It’s not possible. You know all that stuff that existed in your parents basements, attics, storage closets, armoires, under beds, storage ottomans, and china cabinets that you’d see come out of hibernation maybe once every three years? Yeah, you, as an adult, will also come to acquire that stuff. Even if you don’t think you will. Even if you think you travel light. Even if you subscribe to minimalist blogs and your kitchen is completely white with only natural lighting…you’re still going to have those things you don’t use but can’t get rid of.
When I first moved into an apartment, I tried to find a place for everything. This turned into stuff just being everywhere. On the floor, on my dresser, on my closet floor, on my closet shelves, on kitchen counters, shelves, and cabinets—it was taking over. And, the only time I EVER used those things, was to move them out of the way to use my microwave. The next time I moved, I just kept stuff in boxes; at the time, this was entirely out of laziness. It wasn’t some life hack that I was confidently trying. I just didn’t have my life together enough to actually unpack all of my junk, and it turned into a life lesson.
I unpacked all of my essentials, and if I needed something, I found it in the stack of moving boxes I kept neatly in my closet. GENIUS. I’ve adopted this practice in every place I’ve lived since, and although, I realize that my laziness turned into a good thing that makes my life easier, since then, I’ve always hated when someone who loved me would ask “So, how are things?! Are you all unpacked yet?!” Well, I am here to tell you that you can answer that questions with a confident “Nope!” and it’ll be okay. Keep that stuff in boxes. Keep it organized and wherever you can keep it, and then the next time you move, you can pride yourself in knowing that half of your stuff is already packed and ready to go to the next destination. Remember, Aunt Ida that is checking in has lived in the same house since she was 19, and has a China cabinet full of tea cups that haven’t been used in your life time. I promise you don’t have to explain to her why you don’t feel the need to unpack the sentimental birthday cards you’ve had since you were 11. Be proud of your well-organized and aptly labeled boxes.
2. Buy Extra-Long Curtains
When you move somewhere new, there’s a constant struggle to make this new building feel like home. You’re adjusting to new furniture layouts, the new water pressure, the fact that your shower now takes 15 minutes to get hot when your last apartment was scalding immediately—it seems simple, but I’m here to tell you the secret to making your house feel like a home is extra-long curtains. Let me explain. When you buy extra-long curtains, you can use them on nearly any window size. This means, that even though your current apartment has two short windows, you can still use the same curtains in your next house that has two super long windows. And on another positive note, long curtains look expensive and regal, making you feel like you really do have your shit together. Life hack.
Also, buy the same colored curtain for every window in your house, and buy extra! Just because your current bedroom only has two windows, doesn’t mean your next bedroom won’t have four, so if all your curtains are the same color, you don’t have to worry about being able to pull from that extra storage of curtains (that you can happily keep in a box in your closet) to cover that extra window. And no, one colored curtains aren’t a death sentence to your Instagram-worthy living room; it is not a punched ticket to monochromatic hell. Play it up! Change up the color scheme and accents in each room, if you want.
Let me give you a peak into your future if you buy different colored curtains. You have two blue curtains from your previous guest bedroom, and two brown curtains from you previous office, and your new house has a room with three windows. You’re now running to Target to buy three new curtains that match, and your brown and blue curtains are sitting in a box in your closet, waiting for the day you live somewhere with a two window per room layout. Don’t waste your money. Buy the long, matching curtains. Ask me how I know. The best part about curtains is that, in the grand scheme of things, they’re not that important. But, when you have one consistent and familiar backdrop across every building you live in, it makes the “settling in” process much easier. Who knew curtains could feel like home?
3.) Money! Money! Money!
This is probably the most-important thing I’ve learned in living across three different states in three different job markets in the last year. MONEY. Do your research, and a lot of it, before you even visit the next place you’re going. No matter where you are going, or for what reason, the political, social, economic, and cultural aspects of that area WILL affect your money in one way or another. Research where the closest grocery store is, how much your typical groceries cost in that area, how much gas costs, how much restaurants, alcohol, clothes, and coffee costs. If there is something that you find to be essential to your lifestyle, figure out how much that thing costs in your new location, and where it’s located in proximity to your new job or new home. Remember that you’re looking at a new place with rose colored glasses, and even though that yoga place you found on google is “only 30 minutes” away from your new house, in three months, you’re not going to want to drive 30 minutes to yoga every day, nor are you going to want to pay for the gas to drive to yoga every day. Take all of that stuff into consideration to make the best of the decisions you do have control over.
On the other hand, if you’re still in the early stages of planning, and you haven’t decided where you want to go yet, jump on your local job boards and check the job market! See what they’re offering and how much they’re paying. If you have control over where you’re going next, and you realize that the job market wouldn’t allow you to afford all the essentials that we price-checked above, then go somewhere else! If your new location is set in stone, then still check the job market. As you apply for jobs, you’ll be aware of what other companies in your area are paying their employees, and you can use that to negotiate the best, and most fair, wage with evidence from the surrounding area. Get that money, girl.
What I would do to tell 18 year-old Emily what I know now. To all my wanderers, I hope you feel fulfilled and happy in all of your adventures, and I hope you never stop thinking about the next destination. To those who have buried your roots deep, and you’re looking for a sign to uproot and find the sunshine somewhere new, I promise it will be the greatest adventure you’ve ever known. If you hate it, the soil will always be there for you at home.
“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”- Kurt Vonnegut