Contain Yourself

Michael Flack

MANY YEARS AGO, I read an article that posited that U.S. income inequality is due, in part, to the unwillingness of unemployed and underemployed Americans to move to a new state or city to take a better job.

It mentioned three reasons for this reluctance. First, folks didn’t want to sell their home, which may have decreased in value due to the recession that caused the bad job market in the first place. Second, the other spouse might have a job that, even if it didn’t pay well, still provided some income. Third, people didn’t want to lose their connections to family, friends, schools and church.

While the above three reasons are the main ones, I think many people also don’t want to move for two other reasons: the anxiety and cost of moving. As an adult, I’ve moved numerous times. The initial two moves occurred while I was in the Navy. I knew going in that I’d be moving often, so that may have softened the impact. Probably more important, the Navy provided a free, white-glove moving service, plus my possessions were few and of little value.

Things were different in 2017, when my wife and I decided to sell our home, put our stuff in storage and travel the world. I knew that packing up would be stressful and costly. I therefore used a technique I’d learned as a nuclear submarine officer: I delegated the responsibility to my wife.

I told her that she had “extraordinary and plenipotentiary power to negotiate and execute this move.” I based this authorization on a scene from The West Wing and felt it was quite witty. I guess my wife’s not a fan, as she immediately recognized it for the screw job that it was.

Still, with the boldness of President Bartlet, she called a few full-service moving companies and just as quickly received egregious quotes for moving what was essentially a very nice Noguchi knockoff coffee table and a slew of boxes filled with pure gold, otherwise known as our personal possessions. To spare me a fit of apoplexy, she didn’t share the quotes, but instead looked at other options. The best was PODS, short for Portable on Demand Storage.

PODS is the company that owns the eponymous and ubiquitous containers that sit on streets, driveways and the back of flatbed trucks throughout the U.S., Canada and Australia. A flatbed truck with a hydraulic lift system lands an empty storage container uncomfortably close to your residence. You then pack it with your stuff and, a few days later, it’s hauled away.

In our case, a 12-foot by eight-foot by eight-foot PODS container was landed inches away from our townhome. Delivery and pickup were free. Over the next three days, we packed it with all our worldly goods, locked it with our own sturdy podlock, and then it was hauled away to be stored in a nearby secure climate-controlled storage facility. The hardest part—and, by that, I mean blood, sweat and tears hard—was packing our stuff in the container.

Two years earlier, my wife had made friends with the subcontractor who had collected the empty boxes after our prior move. She had chatted with him over a couple of the most economical Bud Lights she ever bought. She subsequently subcontracted with him for $500 in cash to help us pack up our gold and stash it in our PODS container. We also paid him in items that we couldn’t fit in the container, which included a very nice Costco-pedic mattress. Without Stanley’s assistance, I’m not sure the PODS option would have worked out so well.

During the ensuing four years, whenever I saw the monthly storage charge of $194.84, which surprisingly never increased, I always wondered how our stuff was doing, if it really was in a secure climate-controlled storage facility and, more important, if it was undamaged.

Well, four years later, we finally stopped traveling and, for $2.46 per mile, had our PODS container shipped to our new home, with an additional $139 required to have the container placed on the street in front of our new home. We emptied it ourselves and the container was removed three days later. After unpacking all the boxes, we were thankful that the only damage was one cracked wine glass. We were also confused as to why we’d put so much crap into storage in the first place.

PODS isn’t necessarily the option for everyone, as the emotional and physical cost may not be offset by the financial savings. My wife and I were both in good shape and retired at the time, so body aches and time were not an issue. Now that we’re a few years older and slightly wiser, it might not be an option next time.

Michael Flack blogs at He’s a former naval officer and 20-year veteran of the oil and gas industry. Now retired, Mike enjoys traveling, blogging and spreadsheets. Check out his earlier articles.

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