Moving: the incidentals

In my last post about moving expenses I noted that there have been expenses related to furnishings and incidentals. And how!

I down-sized and got rid of a LOT of stuff before the move, not just in my (failed) attempt to fit my belongings into the smallest shipping container, but also because the items weren’t worth bringing along for one reason or another. Some things just needed to be replaced after years of use (like bed pillows), others were damaged (like the bed sheets and duvets Hannah dog had chewed holes in), and some items were unlikely to fit into the smaller space I was moving to (like the dining room table and chairs, sideboard, large chest of drawers, mismatched bookcases, etc.).

I haven’t moved as often as some of my friends, but I have learned that moving large pieces of furniture from place to place often doesn’t work out. So I expected to buy new bookcases, a smaller kitchen/dining table, and end tables. I also planned to buy a new bed frame and night stand.

The bed frame that came with my awesome Tempurpedic mattress was a very simple one and required the use of a supportive base like the Tempurpedic platforms. I really didn’t like the platforms, which raised my thick mattress too high for my comfort zone and preference. I wanted a lower profile bed frame with a support system that allowed me to ditch the Tempurpedic platforms. So, I planned for my bedroom furniture to be a splurge. I haven’t purchased a real grown up bed frame ever, and I had decided I deserve one now that I’m closer to 50 than 40.

In December (my first month here) I spent $2,900 on stuff classified as furnishings for the new place. Gulp!

The really nice bed frame and night stand (plus a down payment on a special order media console) from Room and Board was about half of that. Some of it was also necessities like bed pillows, sheet sets, and a plush blanket at Target; a duvet and cover at Kohl’s; and a toilet paper stand and hangers at Home Goods. I probably could have waited to purchase a pair of those little padded storage cube/try top thingies for the living room, but I like to have a place to put my feet up while I’m sitting on the couch working. (My living room is my home office right now.) I ordered those from Kohl’s through Discovercard and earned extra cash back, plus used a coupon, so I got them at a reduced cost.

My list of things to pick up when I arrived was long and varied: kitchen towels, a drying rack for dishes, a drying rack for clothing, a shower rod, a hair screen for the tub, shelf liner, organizers for the kitchen drawers, and on and on. Then there were the unplanned expenses like rubber stair treads and a large rubber mat for the front porch. The porch is painted concrete and is slicker than snot when it’s wet. We had nearly two solid weeks of wet when I moved in, so I was anxious to do something about the slick steps so I didn’t end up getting hurt. (I’m really quite clumsy.)

This town has a lot of consignment shops and some thrift stores, so I scoured them looking for furnishings and found a perfect set of end tables. I also bought a few odds and ends at one of the local consignments shops that weren’t strictly required, but that I knew I’d find uses for like plain cotton napkins, a lazy susan (which is now inside one of corner cabinets, making it easier to organize my pantry goods), and a pretty wooden serving tray (totally unnecessary, I know).

I’ve been back to those same consignment and thrift stores (and more) looking for a kitchen table and a rug for the living room, but I am still stuck with using the makeshift desk I brought with me from Chicago (actually a piece made from a separate top and legs from Ikea) as a dining table. I’m hosting two guests next week and since I only have two folding chairs, we’ll have to eat our meals squeezed around this little table barely big enough for two, with one of us sitting on the exercise ball (that would be me). I don’t know why it’s so hard to find a small kitchen table and a couple of chairs.

January isn’t quite over yet, but according to Mint I’ve spent about $1,800 on home furnishings. The biggest expense was the balance on the media console from Room and Board. (All I can say is I really love fine wood, and that will be my last Room and Board purchase for a long while.) I also bought a wool rug from Pier One for the living room (it was on clearance, but still wasn’t the bargain I was hoping to find), and mattress pads for the air mattresses. (See note above about guests and know that sleeping on an air mattress feels really cold at night without some insulation. I found that out first hand. Brrr!)

I really should have restrained myself from spending so much in December, but in my exhausted yet exhilarated state it was difficult to determine what I really needed right away from what I could wait for. The bed frame was not only a splurge, it could have waited. I could have kept sleeping on the mattress placed on the floor, but I had been doing that since the estate sale back in October and I was really tired of it. (In fact there was a mix up and the bed frame was delivered two weeks later than it should have been and I actually started crying in frustration; I wanted off the floor that badly.)

I’ve been trying to space out my furnishing purchases for a few reasons. One of them is because of a Discovercard challenge I signed up for back in November. The challenge requires a card holder to charge $3,000 a month from December through April to earn an extra cash back bonus of $500. I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to sustain this level of spending without damaging my savings account, but trying to keep my home furnishing purchases in line with this challenge is imposing some discipline on me. (Note that I am also trying to meet this challenge by charging gas, groceries, and other bills to the card, too. If I could charge my rent it would be easy to meet, but I’m not clear on the fees they charge for credit card payments so I’ll call to ask them about it next month.)

Another reason is that by not rushing out to furnish the house quickly I am able to think about whether I really need any of this stuff that is still sitting in boxes. I’ve already taken one small stack of books to Goodwill and I’m questioning whether I still need some of the books I used in grad school over 10 years ago or 30 year old high school yearbooks. Clearly, my downsizing is not done yet.

I’m nearing the end of my list of desired furnishings, and while it would be easy to keep buying “stuff” or splurging on fancy meals (I did some of that in December, too, when my friend R visited over Christmas), I’m not so committed to the Discovercard challenge that I want to spend more than I truly need to. It’s just nice to know that if I do end up continuing to spend so much every month it will result in a nice cash bonus.

When February 1 rolls around I start a new “allowance” for furnishings. I’m trying to decide if I should prioritize bookcases so I can unpack some book boxes or get a kitchen table and some chairs before the guests get here.

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Moving: the tally revealed

I’ve been planning to write more, but there is lot involved in settling into a new place. I don’t normally consider myself a clean freak, but when I move into a new apartment or house I like it to meet fairly exacting standards of cleanliness. So in addition to unpacking boxes and figuring out where to stash my stuff in this little house, I’ve also been fitting in bouts of extreme cleaning.

Digression — Let me tell you, while jetted tubs may sound fantastic, they bring a whole new level of grossness to light. The last video in this article shows what I was cleaning out of this tub myself while wearing my thickest rubber gloves! It was so gunky I had to remove the jets, soak them in bleach water, and scrub them with a small brush to get them completely clean. Luckily there was a very nice Home Depot worker who knew how to fabricate the tool I could use to remove the jets, too, or I would have been SOL! The next big cleaning job will be tackling the oven. — Digression over!

Everyone knows that moving is expensive. With a long distance move the costs really go up, too. Thanks to Mint it was fairly easy to tally up the expenses, at least. Now, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty details.

My total tally for direct moving costs was $4,318.27. By direct costs, I mean that the following items were included in the total: moving supplies (boxes, packing paper, wrap, etc.), shipping container, and movers.

I could have economized on each of these by locating used boxes — either from someone on Craigslist or retail establishments — not using movers, and going with the cheapest shipping container. I actually did get some boxes from my niece who works in retail clothing and I used a few boxes I had saved from shipments, but I purchased most of the boxes I used from UHaul. I also could have skipped the movers, but my energy had been stretched to the limit by packing, shifting my possessions around the house, illness, and stress. In my above tally, also included the amount of money I paid in tips to the movers.

Finally, the shipping container I chose was not the cheapest available. My reasons for going with the slightly more expensive company were scheduling availability and customer service. I used 1-800-PackRat, but I also checked out PODS and Door to Door. The friend whom I had helped move to south Bay area a few years ago highly recommended Door to Door, but they didn’t serve my move area. I also looked at UHaul because they offer moving/storage containers, too, but their product is designed for people who will be towing the container themselves; there was no way I’d even consider driving a trailer or truck over 2,000 miles myself even if I was assured I could do it with my little Prius!

PODs quoted me a cheaper price than 1-800-PackRat, but they couldn’t commit to a delivery window time until the night before. This didn’t work for me because I needed to schedule the movers for the same day the shipping container arrived. 1-800-PackRat did lower their initial cost estimate once I told them how much PODS had quoted me, but what really drove up the cost of the shipping container was that I was limited to only two shipping container sizes since I was making a long distance move. This was true for both PODS and 1-800-PackRat. I could only choose between an 8-foot container or a 16-foot container, as the 12-foot containers were only available for regional or local moving and storage.*

I tried very hard to downsize my possessions to fit into an 8-foot container, but I just couldn’t get rid of enough stuff that I could be assured it would definitely, positively fit. If I had some wiggle room in my container packing and pick up schedule, I may have given it a try, but I absolutely needed to get that shipping container delivered and packed on a Saturday and picked up the following Monday morning. Having only one day to get rid of anything that didn’t fit in the moving container was cutting it too close for me.

Of course there are other costs involved in moving across the country: hotels, fuel, and food. Again, there are ways to economize in each of these categories. If one has enough stamina and/or craziness, it’s possible to drive straight through without stopping at hotels, or only stopping at rest areas to sleep in the car. Maybe if I was 20 years younger I would have attempted such ridiculousness. Sister and I managed to spend only three nights in hotels during our drive out here, at a cost of $213.47. (It’s interesting to see my progression of “comfort level” adjustments in just those three nights, too. Night One was spent in a Motel 6, Night Two in a Red Roof Inn, and Night Three in a La Quinta Inn. Even though we were simply sleeping and bathing in the room, I decided after only one night that I needed a bit more “comfort” than Motel 6 provided, like slightly larger and thicker bath towels, and slightly thicker walls, too.)

To be perfectly fair, I need to add in the costs of the Airbnb lodgings I stayed in for a few nights while I was between places in Chicago. While my friend A had been extremely generous and kind by offering to let me stay at her house with my dog for the two weeks prior to Thanksgiving, I had to be out of my house by Sunday, November 9th and couldn’t move into her guest room until November 12th. So I boarded the dog with the dog-walker (I’m not including that cost in my tally) and booked myself into an Airbnb lodging not too far from my old home for four nights. That cost $314.00 and brings the total lodgings bill to $527.47.

Fuel totalled $179.74. I was very lucky that gasoline prices were dropping as I drove westward. Between the lowering fuel costs and my hybrid car’s fuel efficiency, those costs seem pretty small to me.

I’m not bothering to tally up food costs for the journey for a few reasons. We packed a cooler and ate our breakfasts and lunches from it. We did this not just to economize, but because sister and I both try to eat healthy food and that is very hard to find along the interstate expressways. We purchased bottled water, the occasional piece of fruit, and some groceries at one point. We also ate dinners out each of those three nights, but I’m not bothering to add any of that in here. Sister treated me to dinner most of those nights, and we didn’t truly spend any more money on food than we would have at home.

So, the grand total for all of the above (moving supplies, movers, shipping container, lodgings, and fuel) came to $5,025.48. (Note that I was only moving myself and my dog; moving more people may up the tally due to increased costs for packing supplies, lodgings, fuel, mover time, and possibly another shipping container. Families that move a lot — like military families — must surely get some sort of moving allowance or they must be perpetually saving for the next move!)

This was pretty much consistent with what I had budgeted in my head for moving costs. But there’s more to a relocation than just moving stuff from Point A to Point B. There are also costs associated with furnishing and setting up a new household. I think I’ll save that for another post, though.

*As it turned out, it was lucky to err on the cautious side and go for the 16-foot container. There were a few pieces of furniture that didn’t sell in the estate sale and so I chose to bring with me since I had the flexibility with a larger container. And it’s actually worked out pretty well for me to have those pieces of furniture at the new house, too. The couch and loveseat fit in the little living room, the small china hutch my grandmother gave me works for holding office and hobby supplies in the second bedroom/guest room, and the small chest of drawers fit in my bedroom closet and is storing my t-shirts, socks, and underthings. This has decreased the amount of money I need to spend on furnishings at the new house. Despite the additions of these furniture items, though, I could have comfortably fit all of my stuff in a 12-foot container if it had been available.

The waterworks edition

There have been several teary interludes in the past 24 hours.

Last night, I wrote a message to my old therapist letting her know about my move and wishing her well. I was crying a lot at the time because I’m afraid she’s dying. Even though she is roughly the same age as me, she has a very bad lung disease and is awaiting a transplant. That’s why we had to end our doctor/patient relationship: she was too sick to continue working. We had been working together for 16 years. When I first met with her I’d been suffering from panic attacks so severe I ended up in the ER. I haven’t had a panic attack in over 10 years, but I found plenty to work on with her, nonetheless. (Thanks mom and dad!)

I also said goodbye last night to the chiropractor and massage therapist who have helped me work through the kinks and twinges caused from too many hours in front of a laptop for work and pleasure.

Today I had my last appointment with the physical therapist who has helped me through two bouts of plantar fasciitis and recovery from my broken ankle (which led to the most recent PF flare). I had coffee with a colleague who I won’t be completely severed from since we’re still working for the same employer, but we likely won’t be in the same physical space together ever again.

I went to the stable today to go on what was going to be my last trail ride on the horse I’ve been share-boarding for the past several months. However, it turns out I’m going to score a bonus ride in a couple days due to the hellacious weather today. Instead, I’ll get to ride again him on the trail on Sunday as a make up.

About that weather situation…we’re having the WORST Halloween I can ever remember in the Chicago area, and I’ve lived here for more than 40 years. The high today reached 40F. We’ve had wind gusts over 50 MPH, which pushed the lake up over the beaches and onto a major thoroughfare, Lake Shore Drive. This make rush hour a nightmare for many people. (Thankfully, not for me.)

Here, just a few miles away from the lake it was not much better. It was very cold this morning and as I drove between appointments it started snowing. Yes, SNOW on October 31. Not just a few flakes, but enough to accumulate on the grass. It’s like I’m getting a final reminder about why I’m leaving: the weather here really sucks!

I had on extra layers in readiness for the trail ride with a trainer, but when I got to the stable I found that the trainer was sick with something that sounded suspiciously like my bronchitis (sorry!). With the high winds possibly making the forest preserve path dangerous (due to slippery leaf cover under foot and trees/branches blowing down), we rescheduled the ride.

Still, I had to say goodbye to the receptionist who won’t be at the desk this weekend.

Besides tears, there were lots of hugs today. The hugs definitely made up for the tears.

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Wondering what happened with the estate sale? Well, I think I did OK. I won’t know how much was made for at least another week, but I’m hoping that the amount at least covered the minimum reserve.

While Saturday was a disappointment, on Sunday a lot of stuff sold. (Sunday was also the day that prices were reduced throughout the day, pushing down the potential profit.) I was still left with a few large items, including my couch and loveseat, as well as a full-sized futon and frame that had been used in my guest room for the past year. There were also several shelving units, the compost bins, and some other gardening stuff like hoses left.

I called the removing companies recommended by the estate sale company and one of them called me back to give me the scoop on how these services work. First, they dump nearly all the items they remove in a landfill. Also, they charge by the truckload, and they want to be paid (in cash) $250 per truckload. There were at least two things I heard there that bothered me: 1) I HATE to think of perfectly useful things being dumped in a landfill; 2) I don’t like to deal with large amounts of cash; it makes me feel very vulnerable to carry that much currency on me.

So, at the suggestion of a friend I put up a few “free” posts on some message boards. One post was to the online group for Chicago chicken keepers. I know many of them are big-time gardeners, too, so I assumed one or more would want compost bins, hoses, and other gardening stuff. I also put up a post on Craigslist to give away the Tempur-pedic platform support for free. The response to both of these message was gratifying. The guy that came to pick up the Tempur-pedic platform was happy to go through the smaller items (such as dishes and end tables) left over since he was just setting up in his first apartment. Through the “chicken group” I was able to get rid of a lot more. I sorted out all the towels and sheets and took them up the street to the no-kill dog shelter, and put the clothing and remaining household goods in the resale shop drop boxes nearby. I also pulled out all the metal items and neatly stacked them in the alley for the metal recyclers who are always circling through the area like hungry raptors. When the remover got here yesterday, he only had to take away one truck load. 🙂

I also decided to take the couch and love seat with me. Even before the sale, I came to the realization that I had enough stuff that the smallest shipping container wouldn’t work for me. For long distance moves like mine, all the shipping container companies offer limited options: you can get an 8-foot long cube or a 16-foot long cube. Since I’m going to use the 16-foot cube anyway, I may as well fill it up, so the couch, loveseat, and two more small furniture items will move with me. Oh, and of course the Tempur-pedic mattress, books, clothing, yarn, cooking and preserving equipment, and about 20 pints of homemade jam. 🙂

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Now, on to the sad stuff again. I still think and worry about B. He sent me a message that first night we were parted, although I didn’t get it until the next morning due to my early bedtime. He noted that he was having trouble sleeping because he was crying so much.

Here was my response: This is very hard for me, too. You have some work to do for yourself. Please do that. Please let the wonderful man that is in[side you] out past the depression and anger.

I’ve had to message him twice since then to inform him of mail I’ve received that looked important. He responded tardily to both messages and basically told me to toss them out.

I think about calling him or texting him to see how he’s doing, and then I correct myself because that is is exactly what I should not do. He needs to do stuff for himself now. I am not responsible for him. I never was responsible for him, but I let myself be convinced I was. I know better now.

Just like old times…

For the past week I’ve been going to bed by 9 PM every night. I’ve been really sick. Last Saturday I woke up feeling like the cold I’d been dealing with earlier in the week had become monstrous, yet I had to keep executing against my aggressive moving plan, nonetheless.

A friend came over on Saturday to help me sort stuff for the estate sale, so I didn’t have to conquer the remaining mess all by myself, at least. Unfortunately, I nearly lost my voice entirely while communicating with her, though. Saturday night was rough. I had problems sleeping because I was so uncomfortable. My throat hurt, my sinuses hurt, and I was coughing a lot. When Sunday morning dawned, I got out of bed and made an assessment of the situation. I decided that my level of sickness warranted a visit to immediate care, and so after I got cleaned up I drove myself there.

The doc told me which OTC meds I should be using (hint: if it isn’t kept behind the pharmacy counter these days, it’s pretty much worthless), but also noted that since I had no fever at the time or in the history I gave the triage nurse, it wasn’t advisable to prescribe any antibiotics. Oh, and BTW I had bronchitis and it would take up to 28 days to get completely over it. I’m happy to comply with any advice that leads to less antibiotic-resistant bacteria in our world, so I thanked him for the diagnosis and proceeded immediately to a pharmacy to buy the meds he recommended.

Five days later I’m finally feeling well enough that I made it through the day without the meth-producing drugs. (I was able to revert to the wimpy stuff usually bought OTC, instead.) I am planning to go to sleep soon, though, since the 9-10 hour nights seem to be helping.

My sleeping arrangements these days are very much like they were when I first started living alone back in my twenties. Back then I slept on a futon on the floor because I couldn’t afford a regular bed with mattress or a frame for the futon. Because I’m not taking the bed frame or the platform for the Tempurpedic mattress with me across the country, my mattress is on the floor right now. (Well, technically it’s laying on a canvas drop cloth on the floor.) I’m living in the bedroom with over half my belongings in boxes piled around me.

I only have to stay this “confined” until the estate sale is completed this weekend, though, and then I can spread out a bit and leave packed boxes in other areas around the house. But I’ll still be sleeping on the floor until I finally move out of the house in a couple more weeks. Then it’s on to the next stage of the move.

Lightening my load

I need to downsize and get rid of stuff. Even if I end up not moving this year (it’s not a 100% sure thing yet), I still need to do this purge because I tend to let stuff just sit around.

My house is not only quite large, it also has a lot of storage places built-in. The original owner/builder was a contractor and he liked to make the most of his space, I guess. There are built-in cabinets, drawers, and shelves that efficiently take advantage of space in nearly every room of this house. Over the 13 years I’ve lived here, I’ve managed to stuff something into every one of them, too.

As I was looking over the mess that is the basement last weekend, it occurred to me that this wasn’t just my doing, though, so I needed to cut myself some slack. Yes, I do tend to let things accumulate through inertia and indecision (and because I somehow feel I must re-use just about everything), but what I’m dealing with in the house is actually the doing of three people: me, my ex-husband, and B.

When my ex moved out, he left behind everything he didn’t want. (Yes, he basically left me to deal with his cast offs.) At the time I just wanted him out so I didn’t care. Now I’m feeling like I should be charging him for my time in packing up and removing his stuff.

B moved in with the full contents of his one-bedroom condo and small storage unit. We had to find somewhere for all that stuff to go, and most of it ended up in the basement. Three years later a lot of it is still sitting in boxes in the basement. I nagged B into unpacking and donating some of the clothes and shoes he no longer wanted, but there is still much more to deal with.

For my part, I have a lot of containers stuffed into the old cold cellar (empty canning jars and food storage stuff), a few appliances that are rarely used (like the ice cream maker and the food dehydrator), and some clothing to deal with. And then there is the yarn.

I have accumulated a lot of yarn over the years. When I picked up knitting again about 10 years ago I started a yarn buying binge, too. I really got into collecting fibers and bought yarns simply because they were unusual and/or popular: soy yarn, bamboo yarn, super soft merino, etc. I also was a DINK and had a lot of disposable income at the time, so dropping hundreds of dollars at the big knitting and yarn conventions that roll through town every year was no big deal for me. I continued to accumulate yarn every year, and whenever I went on vacation and visited a yarn store (which happened quite often on vacation) I bought something as a souvenir. I referred to this big stash of yarn as my “yarn 401(k)” and reasoned that someday I’d be happy that I “invested” in all this yarn because I’d have more time and less money.

Instead, I’m finding that having all this yarn to deal with is a huge burden. I don’t want to move this stuff to California. It will be expensive to move and will take up a lot of room in what will be a much smaller living space than I have now. So nearly every night for the past two weeks I’ve spent some time photographing and cataloging all this yarn and marking most of it for sale on Ravelry. My friend Adrienne helped me get started by coming to the house on a Saturday and helping me decide what to purge, as well as giving me tips on how to handle the pricing and shipping process.

Although I’ve started by focusing on the “for sale” yarns first, I’m still not done. Yeesh. I have sold and shipped several packages already, though, so this is progress.

As for the rest of the stuff in the basement, I’m tackling it in the usual ways.

Donate it. Some of the stash yarn just didn’t seem worth listing for sale, so I sought out a women’s shelter that would use it and packaged it up with a few other items they wanted (a coffee maker and a digital TV converter box). I dropped the bags off last Sunday, and was glad to meet some the residents at the same time. I’ve also made two runs to the Goodwill drop-off center in the past few months.

Sell it. This one is harder for me to organize on my own. I’ve managed to sell some camping gear on my own through Craigslist, but I’ve asked B to help with sorting the prepping for a garage/yard sale. There are tools, small appliances, furnishings, and assorted odds and ends that seem perfectly suited for a garage sale. I haven’t been involved in many garage sales, and I know this is something I cannot do alone. As for selling on Craigslist: it really sucks. I have the worst Craigslist luck. I get lots of people contacting me about stuff I list and wanting to come see it, and then they never show up. I’ve been trying to sell a very nice bicycle for nearly a year. I list it, I get lots of interest, but people just don’t show up to close the deal. Ugh!

Toss it. I really hate seeing anything go into landfill, but there are some things that aren’t suitable for selling or donating. I’m putting as much as I can into recycling as opposed to landfill, but badly torn jeans and undershirts are just going to end up there one way or another.

When I think of all the stuff I need to get rid of, I feel overwhelmed. If I move, I don’t want to take a lot with me. It doesn’t seem worth the cost to ship a house full of old Ikea furniture, and I’m questioning how many mementos are worth the shipping and storage costs I’ll have to pay. This is one of the blessings/curses of having a larger living space: there’s no need to examine how much you’re storing until a crisis or big event (like a death, foreclosure, or big move) occurs.

I wish I had started this purging at least a year ago. *sigh*