Posts Tagged moving

Moving and Packing: The Hidden Cost of Move-Out Waste

I’m moving again. Moving reminds me how much stuff I have, and how much stuff I don’t want. This time, I’m moving across the country with a boyfriend (who is then flying across the country to move again — to Boston) and a pet bunny (who has a large cage) … and basically no space for anything but clothes, my computer and a few kitchen items.

Moving forces me to fix or toss the broken things, to use up or throw away the half-used things. It brings me into up-close and personal contact with my Stuff. I have a lot of it. It is stressful.

We are starting early, and have so far taken advantage of the following godsends:

  • Half-Price Books paid me cash for books and DVDs I can’t keep
  • Turnstyle consigns good quality clothes and housewares I don’t want
  • Wells Fargo exchanges foreign currency I won’t be using (at a high price, I’m sure, but oh well) and turns my coins into dollar bills
  • Whole Foods recycles #5 plastic (like take-out clamshells and yogurt containers)
  • It’s In the Bag helps me recycle plastic film and bags at my grocery store
  • The food shelf at Mississippi Market (because I don’t want to take canned pumpkin or vegetarian gravy mix for Thanksgiving season in California)
  • Eureka Recycling for taking shredded paper (stapled in a paper bag), and a scanner for turning my acres of paperwork into pixels
  • The jewelry repair shop, which replaced my watch batteries and is fixing a broken bracelet
  • A kids’ nonprofit, for needing donations of school supplies (oh boy are you getting them)
  • Goodwill. I’ve been 3 times in the last 2 weeks.

Remarkably, all this extra effort has saved me money — I made $45 this past weekend.

And I’m not alone — here are some links to more about people, governments, businesses, and colleges and universities working to reduce move-out waste.

Amanda Wills, East Coast Editor of Earth, describes steps she took to green her cross-country move from Phoenix to New York. My favorite — mapping your road trip to avoid elevation changes, and getting an oil change/tire pressure checked before you leave.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources also offers tips for greening your move. My favorite is asking your landlord if you can leave reusable cleaning supplies for the next tenant — because there is no way I’m packing my plunger. There just is no way. Ew.

The City of Davis, CA Recycling Program helps apartment complexes throw Move-Out days at the end of August with donation stations for unwanted, reusable items. New residents and nonprofits are welcome to choose items for free from the donation stations.

Spencer Brown, who founded Rent-a-Green-Box in Costa Mesa, CA (where I’m moving!) was troubled by single-use cardboard boxes and tape, estimating that 100 boxes are used in each move and then thrown in the landfill. His company makes and rents green boxes called RecoPacks, which are manufactured from hard-to-recycle plastics like bleach bottles. Read more from LA Yoga Magazine.

A similar central Ohio business called EcoPack was later founded by Gavin Derryberry and Nick Harpster. Read more from ThisWeek News: Dublin, OH.

And the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education has a ton of articles about campus move-out days that reduce moving waste at colleges and universities.

What are your favorite tips for making a move as painless and waste-free as possible?


Leave a Comment


Next month, we are downsizing from this to this:


…and I’m not alone. Time Magazine published this article a couple of weeks ago about the changing housing market and the collapse of the big box house. Even Apartment Therapy says that successful people have less stuff.

It was the cost savings that convinced us to break our month-to-month lease. We’re hoping that being on the District Energy system for heating and cooling in a newer building will save us – plus parking and internet are included. That and the living two blocks from work (on the skyway!) will save us parking costs on the days we do have to drive for work.

I’ve been reading a lot about downsizing. Though I am dreading getting the couches back down the 3 flights of stairs, I’m excited to take this as a chance to design my life better and be a little more intentional about the stuff I have.

Like Matt from Unclutterer, I’m a little sad that guests won’t have their own room anymore. We’ve hosted everyone from cousins to parents to dogs to long lost friends over the last year, and having two bedrooms and two bathrooms made this easy. But I’m excited that cleaning won’t take as long… it’s amazing how much one really does expand to fit the space available. I’m looking at you, giant overflowing closet.

I’m packing a little bit as I go, asking questions like these from

  • Can I get by without it? Would I have to replace it if I choose to get rid of it?
  • Is it in good shape? Will it last for a long time?
  • Does it need repair, and if so, how much will that cost and is it worth the price?
  • Do I know someone else who would benefit a lot more from its use?
  • Does it serve a purpose in this new life that I’m moving to?

There are a couple of treasures I’ve found buried. Hello, beautiful hand-sewn gloves that were once my grandmother’s, hiding in the sock drawer! My trunk is already full of non-treasures ready to be repurposed at Goodwill.

And I know it’s early to be thinking about this, but I’d really like not to leave future generations with a lot of crap and unnecessary paperwork when I do (eventually) die. At 24, I’ve already accumulated a scary amount – and I’d rather not make someone else take care of sorting and dividing what is useful. I want to have everything in order.

With law school ahead, I’ve been eyeing our growing collection of furniture with an equally wary eye – and am excited to be forced to jettison some of it. recommends measuring and plotting the space on graph paper. Lauri Ward’s Downsizing Your Home with Style goes even further, recommending floor plans and photographs of every piece of furniture you currently own. I may settle for a list on notebook paper… but one piece of her advice I will DEFINITELY be taking into account is designing around the electrical outlets in the new space. It’s amazing how much more we in modern society depend on electricity than the original designers of my current 1893 apartment had in mind.

Have you downsized? I want your advice!

Leave a Comment