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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.

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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 AfterActionReport.info. 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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Mark Royer
Mark Royer
6 months ago

Good article, Mike. I wish our neighbors would use PODS. Many seem to feel the need to store their junk in their garages, with their cars in the driveways and on the street, in spite of HOA rules against on street parking overnight. Who prefers to shelter junk in the garage and leave the new Teslas out in the elements? Go figure.

Philip Stein
Philip Stein
6 months ago

Like nature, my wife abhors a vacuum. If there’s an empty shelf in a cabinet, or an empty space in a closet, she’ll find a way to fill it.

We moved recently and I had to shake my head in disbelief at all the junk we accumulated. To make matters worse, my wife develops sentimental attachments to things and its near impossible to convince her to get rid of stuff. We moved nine months ago, and we still have unpacked cardboard boxes in the garage.

I try to minimize investment costs, but minimizing moving expenses is not an option in our house.

Chazooo
Chazooo
6 months ago
Reply to  Philip Stein

I’m married to one of those types. And, my stuff in my man cave is “clutter”, I have to dust it, close the door when company invades, etc. Her stuff follows the latest decorating dictates, is precious and valuable, the things folks will fight for when she passes on. I visualize a 40 foot dumpster in the driveway after we are gone.

Philip Karp
Philip Karp
6 months ago

Hilarious! You got the makings of a stand-up comedian!

mjflack
mjflack
6 months ago
Reply to  Philip Karp

Philip Karp, I’m the Stand-Up Personal Finance Comedian! Thanks for the kind words.

excel lent
excel lent
6 months ago

It is exasperating to realize you have spent years holding onto scattered sizes of nuts, bolts, hinges, rags, wood scraps, window and tire cleaner, motor oil, anti-freeze, lawn ornaments, hoses, extension cords, eave troughs, rope, twine, wire, paint, bird feeders and seed, windshield scrapers, bug killer and on and on… well because you might just need that again.
Spouse and I are working on eliminating all of the above and helping my mother do the same. It is a weight off your psyche and most of these things will never be missed. American living can have its own set of burdens along with the upsides.

Brett
Brett
6 months ago
Reply to  excel lent

I agree with Ormode. I save various screws and bolts I have left over. I’ve had a number of times where I needed one of those and was glad to have it on hand. Otherwise, it would have been a trip to Home Depot (maybe more, if I didn’t get exactly the right size). These only take up a gallon or so total volume on my bench.

Ormode
Ormode
6 months ago
Reply to  excel lent

I can’t agree. If you are actively doing work where these sorts of things are required, you should keep them. You have to be well-organized, and not keep unusable stuff, but nothing is more annoying than driving to 5 miles to Home Depot and discovered a small piece of wood costs $3.89.
I am gradually accumulating the bits and pieces that are likely to be useful.

mytimetotravel
mytimetotravel
6 months ago

I am about to move. I am almost 75, and I have been in the same house for 32 years. Fortunately, I have not accumulated a lot of “stuff”, and I have already donated much of what I had. However, I have zero enthusiasm for packing and unpacking. I want to wave a magic wand and find myself in the new location, and I have found one (well, you might consider my checkbook the actual magic wand.) There are companies that specialize in helping seniors downsize, and that handle the whole move – packing, overseeing a moving company they choose, and unpacking, having previously planned the location of the furniture. You just have to get yourself and your pharmaceuticals and jewelry from point A to point B. This is definitely not cheap, but I don’t care. I haven’t spent any money on travel since 2018, I am going to spend it on a magic wand instead.

Rick Connor
Rick Connor
6 months ago

Good information – I’ve never priced one before. When we moved last year we used a U-haul service where we contracted two movers at one end to pack the truck, and two at the other end to unload. I drove the truck the 90 miles in-between. It worked great – the movers were polite, professional, and efficient. It saved us at least a $1000. Both my sons have used this service and have been very satisfied.

mjflack
mjflack
6 months ago
Reply to  Rick Connor

Rick Conner, Sounds like you worked a similar work around. Though if you needed to store your “gold” while you travelled, then PODS may be an option. Appreciate your comments.

M Plate
M Plate
6 months ago

I’m embarrassed to admit that sometimes your writings will contain a word that I need to look up. I’m a word smarter today, thank you.

mjflack
mjflack
6 months ago
Reply to  M Plate

M Plate, I try and do what I can. Thanks for the kind words.

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