Mollie Hawkins
January 30, 2015 9:01 am

I have changed my address five times in the last year. After packing up my Toyota Yaris and driving from Alabama to Northern California for good, it took a year and a half to reach the point where I felt it was safe enough to unpack my giant red bin of shoes. And to invest in something crazy, like curtains. Next stop, matching towels!

Moving 3,000 miles away from home at the age of 27 seemed like a really good idea at the time. Everyone around me was either getting married and/or having kids, taking on exciting new careers or otherwise making Big! Life! Decisions!. Meanwhile I was working part-time in a coffee roastery—which was cool and all—but I’d reached the point where I needed, you know, health insurance and steady income. Job prospects in Birmingham were grim for me. So when my sister told me I could stay with her in California until I landed on my feet, I went for it.

I gave myself a month to tie up loose ends, apply for jobs in California, and say my goodbyes. Unfortunately, I gathered up more nerves than I did money, and while I managed to get a job fairly quickly upon arrival in the Golden State, it took a lot of time, sanity, and lessons learned to get to the point of unpacking all those shoes. I’d like to share these lessons with you so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did, or lose as many pairs of good underwear.

Giving up 90% of your belongings is liberating, yet terrifying.

Have you seen the inside of a Toyota Yaris? It doesn’t hold much. After my clothes, shoes, and essential toiletries, there wasn’t a lot of extra space for my cross-country move. I realized that I didn’t need to hang on to the majority of my belongings—I never wanted to be the person tied down by all their “stuff,” even though the sofa I had was really awesome. I donated practically everything and don’t miss any of it.

Well. I miss my book collection. Not gonna lie.

But for real, save up enough money to live on for at least six months if you’re moving across the country. Otherwise you might have to change your address five times in a year.

After moving out of my sister and brother-in-law’s house—they’d put up with me long enough—finding an “affordable” apartment was tougher than I thought it would be. I didn’t have backup funds to pay a hefty deposit. So I moved into a temporary studio (it was sold after my first rent check cleared the bank), and then to a big house with an elderly lady and her little dog.

And that’s when things got interesting.

If you move into a house with animals, keep your door closed.

After moving into the house with an elderly lady and her dog (whatever, I had my own bathroom and it was in a nice Sacramento neighborhood), I learned a very valuable lesson: keep the bedroom door closed at all times. Because dogs tend to have personal vendettas against fancy underwear.

Two days after moving in, I heard a knock on my bedroom door. It was my roommate, and between two pinched fingers she held a mangled pair of yellow shimmery Victoria’s Secret underwear, a look of disdain and horror painted on her face.

Dear reader, you have never known mortification until you’ve faced an eighty-year old woman—to whom you are not related in any way—holding a pair of your mangled panties that at one point said “All THIS and brains too!” in silver glitter. The only thing worse than your withered dignity is the sense that the lady thinks you buy ironic underwear (because if you had “brains too!” you wouldn’t have let the dog run off with them).

Don’t move in with the person you’re dating unless you’re REALLY ready.

After about two months of guarding my underwear and realizing that I could never buy frozen food (the roommate was, how do I say, a bit of a food hoarder), I decided to move in prematurely with my boyfriend across town. Neither of us were ready for that jump, and it inevitably ended with me needing to pack up once again and pay the United States Postal Service another $1 to change my address. And that itself is tricky; I swear that at least 100 pieces of my mail have never found their way to me and are just out there, drifting around in a sad sea of lost letters.

Packing really fast is a superpower. 

Post-breakup, I discovered that I could pack everything I owned and have it in a storage unit in just under four hours—my personal best! The secret? Throw things in boxes/reusable shopping bags and don’t even look at what it is. Although, this really only works when you keep your possessions to a bare minimum and own mostly dresses, coffee supplies, and shoes.

So if you ever need help packing up all your stuff, I’m your girl. But I can’t promise that your socks won’t get mixed in with your dishes.

When you do eventually acquire furniture and other bulky items, you appreciate them more.

After officially signing a one-year lease, I realized that I had to stop thinking of every move as temporary. The closer I get to 30, the more I realize that not having a couch or, you know, a bed frame, isn’t really acceptable anymore. Finally getting to a place where you can invest in a cute green sofa, some shelving units, and a bed frame that doesn’t make you go mmmph when you get out of it is really worth celebrating—even if it’s just from IKEA.

Home is where your coffee is.

I’ve moved around a lot. The only constant in my mid-twenties has been my unabashed coffee addiction. People come and go, jobs get boring, but coffee is forever (unless you’re sensitive to caffeine, then I can’t help you). After living out of a suitcase for months at a time, and having to go pick up work clothes every other day from the storage unit I rented in East Sacramento—I highly recommend climate-controlled units, by the way, y’all—the one thing that kept me sane was my daily coffee routine. When you’re in a new town and trying to figure everything out, sometimes the little joys are what keep you going.

As I sit here in my little apartment on my little green IKEA couch and thumb through all my junk mail, I realize that I’m finally not going anywhere anytime soon. I’ve made friends, gotten my dog back from Alabama, and now have furniture that definitely won’t fit in my car. So unless the landlord finds my penchant for Twin Peaks art and my tendency to repeat the same Radiohead album, suddenly abrasive enough to warrant an eviction—I think I’ve finally “settled.”

(Image via Shutterstock)

[Images via Shutterstock, herehere, here, and here]