We’re in the process of moving back into our home after a long time on the road, and it’s proving to be one of our most tedious moves ever. All of our stuff was stored in our friends’ loft, which shielded us from the financial costs of storage (thanks, Jon and Bonnie!), but as a result, we didn’t really engage in our normal moving ritual of obsessively getting rid of crap.

Photo of an empty apartment
We embraced minimalism on a prior 6-month trip to Hawaii, so moving was easy then.

In the past, by selling, donating, or just tossing out the items we don’t absolutely have to take with us, we’ve ended up with about half of the amount of stuff to move.

This time, however, the process wasn’t so streamlined. It actually felt like a big ordeal, and for a fleeting moment, I had the immobilizing and scary thought that I never want to do this again. I envisioned a curmudgeoned, old, future version of myself saying, “Bah! Moving is too much trouble! I’ll just stay where I am forever.” And that was the wake-up call I needed.

How Did It Come To This?

Alright, so, I’m probably being a bit dramatic about our move back into a 1,280-square-foot condo. It could have been a lot worse. But I still wanted to stop and think about why this move felt so much different than those before it.

Our first four years living together, Steven and I were always very happy in a one-bedroom place. With just the two of us, it was always more than enough space (and furnishing all of our one-bedroom apartments was a lot cheaper than furnishing our three-bedroom condo). But when we decided to make the leap from renting to buying, we were convinced of the “need” for more.

Real estate agents tell you that more rooms will automatically make your place more attractive to future buyers. Your family all tell you they need a guest room to visit. You might even convince yourself of a need for an office or man cave or she shed. But the opportunity cost of dumping more cash into a bigger place, plus the direct costs of heating and cooling that extra space, cleaning and maintenance, and the extra property taxes, really add up.

It’s All a Bunch of BS

Listen, we fell for it too. While we didn’t go crazy and buy a mansion (our place still only had a five-digit price tag), we were nudged into upgrading to a three-bedroom place at the suggestion of everyone else. And you know what? One of our extra rooms sat empty for so long that we decided to rent it out to friends while living there ourselves — twice. If you’ve already bought a place that you’re finding to be a little bigger than you need, consider putting an extra room to work for you rather than just filling it up with more stuff.

What else can you do? Avoid what I call “leveling up” your possessions. Here’s what I mean: We typically get our furniture — kitchen tables and chairs, couches, desks, coffee tables — from cheaper retailers like IKEA, used furniture stores, or clearance centers, and we’ve found that we can actually recoup the full cost of these items through platforms like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace pretty consistently when it’s time to go somewhere new.

@tripofalifestyle There are a surprising number of things you can own or use for a net cost of FREE if you put your mind to it. #ikea #ikeahack #ikeafinds #moneytok #🚐 ♬ original sound – Trip Of A Lifestyle

We can essentially start over every time we move without incurring hefty moving costs or the tax of renting a storage unit. It’s also kinda fun to have a clean slate when you move, and even though we don’t have the fanciest furniture, there is value for us in knowing that almost everything in our house is brand new.

Now, you might object: “IKEA furniture sucks. I’d much rather spend a little more and get sturdy stuff that’ll last forever.” But there are hidden costs to that.

Let’s consider a beautiful, solid oak bookcase you fell in love with at a showroom. It’s expensive and heavy, but “good” furniture often is — it’s an investment that will last a lifetime. The problem? Now, every time you think about moving to explore someplace new, you’ll worry about carrying the weight of the bookcase into a moving truck, the size of the truck needed to fit the bookcase securely, and the damage it might incur in transit. Not to mention having to pack up everything the bookcase displayed: books, records, photos, candles, and a few succulents. The result? You feel like you can’t just pack up and go whenever you want. You’re in love with that bookcase and everything on its shelves.

I’m not saying to give up the things you love, but I do want to challenge you to give your home a good Marie Kondo-ing and ask yourself not only whether your possessions spark joy, but also whether they’re worth what you might be giving up to own them.

Reducing Clutter Increases Freedom

Remember the frightening thought about the old lady version of myself who never moves again? The reason it’s so important to not feel that way is because when the cost (mental, physical, and financial) of moving is minimized, the freedom to move is maximized.

But what’s so great about moving anyway? Is it so wrong to stay in one place?

There’s nothing bad about settling down when you want to. Not everybody wants to pack up and move to Hawaii for six months. It’s more about having the opportunity and freedom to move when the desire or need arises.

Photo of a soaring hawk
A hawk flying freely over the Grand Tetons during our 7-month trip to every US National Park.

Feeling free to pick up and move as necessary can help improve your financial position in life, too. When a job offer comes your way for more money, a better title, or to do something you truly love, you should feel free to take it seriously, even if that means moving. Locking yourself into one location seriously reduces the options available to you. Even just moving closer to work to save money on transportation or moving to a lower-cost area can be a huge win for your finances.

This type of freedom has been crucial for us — we’ve had amazing travel experiences and improved our financial position exactly because we’ve been willing to move. Next time you’re cleaning a spare room that’s used sparingly or considering staying in one place forever, consider what you have to gain from letting go.

— Lauren

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