Of the 3 big changes you can make in your life, changing where you live is probably the easiest (the other 2 being who you love and what you do for a living).
Despite aspiring to always live somewhere warm, I recently indulged my desire to live in New York City for a couple years as a young professional having fun. After two years of sub-zero winters, iconic American tourist locations, and high fashion, I decided I’d had my fill and it was time to move on.
My next stop? Austin, Texas.
My friends thought I was crazy. Moving from Los Angeles to Manhattan made sense… but Austin? Texas?
To be honest, years of big city living was starting to be a bit of a grind. It’s exciting to have access to everything whenever you want it, but the prices, crowds, and density start to get to you after a while. This time around I was interested in a place that was still urban, but a little more laid back, reasonable cost of living, and with easier access to nature (and of course warm). Where else but Austin.
No matter where you go, there’s always a steep learning curve to an entirely new city. The move itself is always stressful. But there is a great sense of bliss in knowing that you can pack up and move if you want to. And even though I have moved around many times I learned quite a bit about how to make the process easier.
Moving Out of New York City
Of all the moves I have made in my life, moving out of New York City was the most difficult. Not from an emotional perspective of course, I was happy to leave, but from a logistical perspective.
Using any kind of moving service in New York City is expensive–very expensive. Many places will charge you an additional $800 specifically as an extra for New York City pickup fee. It’s also not practical to rent a truck for a self-move as there is really no place to park it while you load your stuff (you might also find that it magically unloads between trips up and down the elevator).
I knew from the outset this would be difficult and that when I moved out I’d only be able to bring with me what I could ship or bring with me on the plane. That suited me fine as I believe in trying to stay as close as I can to the “two suitcases and a carry-on” lifestyle.
There are a few item management strategies I use to keep me as mobile as possible.
- Only buy cheap or second-hand furniture (except mattress, always go for quality there)
- Only buy glasses, pots, pans that I can easily replace
- Avoid buying large, bulky items that cannot be easily shipped
- Regularly throw out clothes that don’t fit or that I don’t wear
- Don’t buy anything that is purely decorative
- No souvenirs (take pictures instead)
This way when you move out really all you have to take with you are clothes, computers, and a minimal amount of irreplaceables.
There are inevitably a few oversights that result in “stuff” which needs to be sold off or shipped. This time around I had a high powered Vita-Mix blender, a too-expensive to easily replace kneeling chair, a canvas painting, and a couple other items.
Here are a few strategies to make dealing with these items easier.
- Keep the original boxes and packing materials for expensive items to re-ship them in
- Use Fedex packing service (for $17.99 for my painting and $21.99 for my kneeling chair I was plenty happy to let them do the pack job for me, the additional shipping costs were reasonable, and they arrived safe and sound in Austin)
- If you can let it go, just sell it, and use it as a reminder not to acquire hard to replace items
One other thing I learned that I would be remiss to leave out is that if you are living with and moving with a significant other, they might not necessarily share your attitudes towards minimalism, replaceability of stuff, and restraint in shopping. At the very least, you double your own lapses in acquiring difficult to move items. It happens, plan for it.
And of course there was the one last bite of “leaving the Big Apple tax” (ie, landlord trying to take as much of security deposit as possible).
Landing in Austin
I arrived in Austin on a mid-August day for the first time ever on a scouting mission for an apartment. It was a scorching hot 105 degrees out. It hadn’t rained in months and all the moisture had been baked out of the air. My kind of town.
Fortunately I had a friend in Austin to stay with and deposit my stuff while I was looking for apartments.
I’d used a combination of Craigslist.org and an apartment locater service to research a few places beforehand. Every city I’ve lived in seems to have its own terminology and system around how the realtor system works and what types of unit construction is standard from building to building. It’s always a good idea to verify things like dishwasher, refrigerator, parking, elevator, etc. that you might take for granted where you live now. In New York City, for example, it’s not uncommon for apartments to have none of those and still cost just as much as ones that do.
Moving to Austin though, prices are generally cheaper and most things are an upgrade from living in New York. Thankfully most apartments in Austin only cost about half as much as their equivalents in Manhattan. It didn’t take too long to find a nice place just outside downtown.
Everyone knows what “sticker shock” is, but we don’t really have a term for the opposite so I’ll call it “sticker bliss.”
I went to a great Tex-Mex place for brunch called Trudy’s. I had a sausage, egg, veggie scramble dish that only cost me about $7. An equivalent brunch in Manhattan probably would have run north of $20.
A pack of 100 trash bags that cost $35 in New York City only cost $13 for the same brand in Austin.
I can only describe it as a sense of euphoria as I kept discovering how much cheaper everything was.
Every city has its own hum, its own set of neighborhoods and definitions about what their reputations are, its own local hot topics, and its own culture.
This is probably the most difficult part to tap into as you can really only pick these things up by living in city for a while and making friends with locals.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how friendly Austinites are. I was loading a heavy dresser into my car and two unrelated people stopped by and offered their help.
Have you been thinking about moving to a new city for a while? It might be time to exercise your freedom and take the leap.