Since heading out to San Francisco from Florida, I’ve received a lot of questions about the process of making a cross-country move alone.
Here are some details that may be helpful to you if you’re thinking about taking the same big step.
Selling and giving away (almost) everything
I considered shipping most of my things in a moving pod, but decided that the cost to do so (over $2000) wasn’t worth it.
If you’re interested in a pod, I don’t recommend U-Haul—their customer support was really difficult about getting back to me on questions.
Instead of using a pod, I chose to pare my things down to a few boxes and ship those.
I started unloading by selling all my furniture on Craigslist. Here’s what I learned:
The most reliable buyers prefer to deal by email (Gmail ranked highest) or text. Almost every potential buyer who asked me to call flaked out.
Responding to emails immediately and arranging same or next day pickup dramatically increases the chances of a successful sale.
You meet a lot of interesting people this way! I had a lovely time talking to almost everyone who passed through.
I made over $1000 selling furniture and other items on Craigslist.
Next, I inventoried most of my clothing, shoes, and books, determined a value for them (for the tax receipt), and donated them to Goodwill.
I paid a friend $75 to help me handle the delivery. The donation was valued at $1224.
My co-worker Nick Pettit showed me Amazon’s Trade-In program (after I’d donated all that stuff)—it looks like it may be a good way to get acceptable prices on media items. I didn’t use this, but it’s worth looking into if you shop there frequently. (The “catch” is they give you Amazon credit.)
I also donated my car to NPR through the vehicle donation program sponsored by Car Talk. It took several hours and over $100 at the DMV to change the title, but after that it was pretty breezy. They called as soon as they had the paperwork and offered to pick up the car the same day.
Shipping Everything Else
I ended up shipping three boxes, a poster tube, and my PC. The boxes mostly contained clothing, shoes, and a few books I really love or haven’t read. The items cost $156 to ship.
I brought two suitcases with me on the plane. A smaller one contained all the usuals for a trip (a week’s worth of clothes, makeup, etc.), and a larger one contained some items from my childhood, my Nikon D90, a tripod (gift from my father), and some documents. I carried my MacBook Pro with me as well.
Making It Happen
As far as just getting it done, here’s my advice.
Get organized. Commit to a date, buy your ticket, and plot everything you think you’ll need to do before you get there. I used Flow for this, but whatever keeps you on track.
Make roomy estimates for how long tasks will take. Give yourself 2-3x longer than you think you’ll need for stuff. There will be a lot of time-consuming miscellaneous tasks, especially toward the end—and few people will “get” how much is involved in moving. I gave myself a month and a half to move. It was tight.
Don’t schedule anything a week before the move. This is a big one. If you can, clear your schedule (including work) and focus on moving and hanging out. This is when it will hit all your friends that you’re actually leaving, so everybody will suddenly want to see you before you go. I took a couple days off, but I was absolutely slammed those last couple weeks—and not for lack of planning!
Moving Cost Summary
- $302 for a one-way ticket to San Francisco
- $156 to ship a poster tube, three boxes, and a PC
- $100 to update the title for my car
- $75 for a friend to help out with donation delivery
- $50 to check two bags on my flight to SF
Overall, $683 to get out of there and on a plane to San Francisco.
Allison House is a designer and art director specializing in 3D visuals and motion graphics. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TIME, SPIN, Pitchfork, and many more.