# How To Move In Your Car

This post was migrated from my Lifeblog.

Gen-Y has a lot of interest in the nomadic lifestyle, but I’ve not found many how-tos on the internet, certainly not about organizing a movable household. No doubt, this is because most nomadic techies are single men who eat out all the time, etc. … smile. I suppose the demographic “housewives married to a nomadic techie” is pretty small. But here I am nonetheless.

Believe it or not, I’ve been wanting to write something about keeping a nomadic household for about a year now. So why didn’t I write this sooner? Mainly because I didn’t feel qualified to at the time. A year ago, I’d only moved once and wasn’t really that minimalistic. Since then, I’ve put three more moves under my belt — one of them absolutely hellish — and I’m feeling much more ready to tackle this subject. So here goes.

### Our Story

Apparently, moving on a dime is part of the job description for a “software contractor’s wife.” We’ve moved four times in the last 16 months. I’ve never met anyone with a similar track record, and I’ve only heard of a few.

Believe me, it wasn’t always this way for me. Growing up, I lived in the same college town for 15 years, and the same house for 9 of those years. The word “moving” conjured only distant memories of my parents shuttling a few carloads of stuff from our apartment to our new house across town.

All this changed when I got married. When I said “I do” at the tender age of 19, I thought I was marrying a Missourian farmboy with a computer hobby. It turned out I’d really married a Gen-Y techie who, to my great astonishment, whisked me off to Los Angeles right after college.

For that first move, I had a whole month’s notice (by far the longest I’ve had since then), and with a herculean effort, I managed to distill our apartment full of junk down to only what would fit in our Ford Taurus. 1500 miles later, we arrived in Los Angeles with no place to live, no city know-how, and no friends outside of an odd little startup that we knew almost nothing about. It was quite the introduction to the real world.

We made our second move six months later, this time to rural New Mexico. I had two weeks to prepare for this one and again, we did it in one fell swoop, throwing everything into our car and driving over. Our stay was temporary, and only two months later, we made our third move up to Los Alamos, NM. This one was much more gradual. Since it was only two hours away, we shuttled our stuff to our new apartment in three trips over the course of two weeks. For the first time, we hardly had to throw anything away, and that lured me into a complacency. Stuff started stacking up.

Then we moved to Boulder — the absolute killer move. Though I had only one week’s notice, it promised to be a peaceful transition at first — until our car died en route to Boulder, with half of our worldly possessions in it. What ensued was a hellish week during which we were homeless living in hotels, carless in an unfamiliar city, and creditless in a depressed economy, with our stuff scattered in four places across two states. At the end of it all, we ended up losing a third of our things. If I had only been half committed to minimalism until then, that experience threw me all the way in. It also cured my shopping habit really well. :)

So here we are four months later.

Extreme minimalism is not stylish — you won’t see our home featured on theNest.com anytime soon. It’s beauty comes from somewhere else, that place in the heart where wanderlust lives. It’s a different world and you have to adopt a different mindset before you enter it.

We’re not the bare bones of minimalism — not even close! There are many things about established living that I’m just not willing to give up. On the other hand, there are little habits that, once I adjusted to them, made my moving life much much easier. Those things I’ll share with you here. Everyone finds their balance in a different place. Here is a little taste of our way.

### General Strategies

As is probably obvious by now, our favorite way to move is to simply pile all of our lasting possessions into our car. (Originally, that was a Ford Taurus; since then we’ve “upgraded” to a smallish SUV.) This little detail changes a lot. Moving in a passenger vehicle is a very different beast than moving in say a U-haul. Space is both limited and very non-rectangular. Forget traditional cardboard boxes and newspaper; you can’t afford to lose any space. The best way I’ve found is to pack your things into sturdy containers, like sterilite boxes. (They need to be sturdy because you’ll be stuffing them solid.) If you need padding, use clothing, towels, or something soft that you were going to bring along anyway. Pack the car as full of those rigid boxes as possible, and then start stuffing your other possessions into the cracks. It takes a little practice to find the right grouping techniques. Once, I bagged everything in identical opaque grocery bags — unpacking was a nightmare, let me tell you!

Notice that above I made a distinction between lasting and non-lasting possessions above. That’s because there are permanent possessions that I hold on to and transient things that I throw away and repurchase after every move. (I know, I’m probably horrifying the environmentalists — sorry guys!) My strategy is to gauge the space an item takes up against the price to repurchase. That means that if it’s cheap but big, it gets tossed — trash cans, hangers, bathmats, and consumables like toilet paper and paper towels, for example. This may seem expensive until you compare it to the price of renting a larger vehicle. I’d estimate that my restocking cost at a place like Wal-Mart or Target is about $100. That’s a huge savings over a U-haul. In general, I try to do with as few possessions as “possible” (where “possible” means a satisfying modern life, not necessarily wilderness survival mode). When I do buy, I try to invest in things that nest or are collapsible. I hope that one is self-explanatory. Believe it or not, that’s pretty much all there is to it in the general sense. In the end, everyone will approach the specifics differently. Here are a few tips that I’ve found particularly valuable. ### Furniture and Organization Honestly, the best way to deal with furniture is to not have any. We used to have a ton of conventional furniture, and I’ve been a lot happier since we ditched it all. Of course, living without anything to sit on is pretty weird, and though I did just that for six months and was perfectly happy, we’ve since bought two folding tables and two folding chairs. Since they collapse, they move pretty easily and they make our life a lot nicer in between moves. So moral of the story, if you go for furniture, see that it folds. My work table What about dressers and such? Actually, an excellent furniture solution I’ve found is Sterilite bins. Yep, I know, not stylish at all. But believe it or not, they’re just as good at organizing things and only a little less convenient. Their gigantic upside is that come time to move, you’re already half packed. I lumped organization in with furniture because after you switch to using sterilite bins, the line between the two blur quite a bit. The last tip I have for you in this category are to use, use, use ziplock bags. Trust me, they’re not just for sandwiches! I have every size, from the 2” x 2” you get at craft stores to the 10 gallon, which can hold anything from a large blanket to an entire set of pots (which it did, during our last move). I used to use tins, boxes, and other “official” containers, but the ziplock bags do just as well (and sometimes better) in 97% of cases. Other benefits? They’re a fraction of the cost of corresponding containers and they’re clear, allowing you to see the contents at a glance. I use them to organize everything, from food to clothing to office and craft supplies. I find Sterilite bins both neat and accessible. Ziplock bags are handy for detailed organization. ### Kitchen Unless you eat out all the time or you’re a very minimalistic raw foodist, you’re going to need something to cook with. The one biggest tip I can give you for pots and pans and bakeware is make sure they nest!!! This is easier said than done actually. Stroll through any department store and you’ll quickly see that, aside from mixing bowls, nesting things are not the norm. I unfortunately don’t know of any nesting bakeware sets. I cobbled together my corningware from several other sets. (I gave the remaining pieces to my parents.) For the stove however, I’m the proud owner of a crazy expensive set of nesting pots and pans from Magma, sold by companies that supply boaters. They come in either nonstick or stainless and are oven-safe, making them an all-in-one solution for the super-minimalistic. The only downside in my book is price. I got my set for$140, which is twice as much as I could’ve spent on a comparable non-nesting set. But I’d say they were worth it.

Magma’s 10-piece nesting cookware comes in either stainless steel or nonstick.

Besides boating, the other promising area I found for nesting cookware is camping. It didn’t work for us because I like to cook in bulk and it’s difficult to find any pots larger than say 2 quarts for campers. (I guess when you’re carrying everything on your back, it’s not so practical to haul around gigantic stockpots, lol.) But if you eat small portions, there’s a treasury of nesting pots with folding handles and pop-out bowls at your local REI.

Silicone kitchenwares are something that I started using quite recently and have been very happy with. I swapped my stainless steel colander for a collapsible silicone one and truth be told, I get a bit delirious every time I see it. :) There are a ton of other silicone options, from pinch bowls to bakeware. The key here is to make sure they’re heatproof (at least 500 degrees; higher is even better). Other than that, go forth and experiment!

### Benefits

What are the benefits of all these little optimizations? Well, I would estimate that I could have our entire household packed and ready to go on 48 hours notice … maybe even 24. That might seem crazy, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility.

As for the physical and spiritual benefits of minimalism, there are more than enough blogs and webpages discussing that, and I encourage you to read them! As for me, I’ve been much happier since we’ve whittled down our stuff. (Not to mention the tidying is a LOT easier, lol!)

So I hope this has been helpful, entertaining, or both. And as a connoisseur of minimalism, I’d be more than thrilled to hear about any clever innovations you’ve come up with!