ETA: University Van Lines got all my stuff to California in good condition and within the two week estimate they gave me. I highly recommend them.
I used to be morbidly afraid of childbirth, but that was until I moved out of New York City. I think it will be one of the benchmark experiences of my life, in that whenever I am miserable I will look back upon the last week and be comforted by the realization that nothing else could ever be as bad. Anyway, here’s a rundown of my experiences, in the interests of saving other people who are contemplating a similar move some trouble.
Instead of shipping all my stuff to Taipei, I decided to ship most of it to California to store in my parents’ garage. As a result, I had to pare my belongings down to two pieces of check-in luggage, one carry-on bag, and one large backpack, and pack up all the rest of my Catherine Crap™. The rest of my stuff went into a bunch of boxes from Staples that I’d saved from my prior move two years ago. Their boxes are actually quite reasonably priced if you order in bulk, but make sure to do that far in advance of your move–when I ordered my two box bundles, Staples managed to deliver only one of them. Their customer service was truly excreable and the only reason I got my second bundle in a timely manner without having to pay extra shipping charges was because my then-roommate got on the phone pretending to be my husband and proceeded to scream something about our sick baby.
I discovered MovingScam.com while looking for moving company review sites. MovingScam.com has articles on how to find a trustworthy mover, user reviews of movers throughout the United States, and an active bulletin board. One of the little tidbits I gleaned from the site is that New Yorkers often miss out on good moving deals because they don’t bother to look at out-of-state companies. As a result, I ended up going with University Van Lines, which is based in Rahway, New Jersey and has received mostly stellar reviews on the site.
I called the company about a month before I left. They sent out a representative, Scott, to my apartment to estimate what the cost of shipping my stuff out to California would be. I lived in a studio apartment, so the whole process took only about 20 minutes, including paperwork and setting up an appointment for the actual move itself. Scott told me that it might be cheaper to ship my books via UPS, but I wanted to make sure everything stayed together.
It’s too early to write a complete review of University Van Lines because my stuff is still en route, but the moving process itself was as pleasant as could be expected. The company called the day before to tell me to give me a time frame for when the van was going to come. There were three movers, two men who actually moved the boxes from my apartment and one who marked and inventoried all my boxes. I also photographed all the boxes just in case.
Far less pleasant was my experience with Freecycle NYC. I put postings offering up my kitchenware, bookshelves and futon about five days before I was set to fly out of the city. About 30 people in total responded about the stuff. I selected three people to get the items, and out of those three people, only one, a man who wanted my bookshelves for his son’s room, actually showed up at all. He even sent me a thank you e-mail. The women who wanted my kitchenware and futon both flaked out on me.
The futon woman in particular really ticked me off, because I had repeatedly confirmed a pick-up time with her and let her know that there were three other people who were interested in the futon, too, so if she changed her mind she had to let me know ASAP. Fortunately, my neighbor was willing to take the futon, otherwise I would have had to trash it, thereby defeating the purpose of placing it on Freecycle in the first place.
Freecycle is great in principle and I am sure there have been many happy exchanges of stuff on it, but I have had to deal with flakesters and jackasses the four times I offered stuff on it. A group is only as good as its members, and I would suggest not using Freecycle unless you have reams of patience and free time to sit around waiting for irresponsible brats to show up, or the group puts a feedback system in place. Also, don’t offer to give someone your items until you have spoken on the phone. They might still be a no-show and block your phone calls, but then at least you have their number to use in all sorts of cruel revenge pranks. Just kidding! Here are some more tips from the official Freecycle site.
I had originally wanted to donate my items to charities I found through NYC Waste Le$$, but all of the organizations I called are unable to pick up furnishings unless you are donating at least a sofa or a dresser, and most of them needed to be informed at least a couple of weeks in advance. In my world, a full-size futon is a sofa (and a bed, and a desk, and a closet…), but most non-profits would beg to differ, apparently.
When I finally began packing, I started with my books. I figured it would behoove me to get the heaviest things out of the way first, but unfortunately I also managed to hurt my back. Now, I know I am 26 and no longer have the body of an 18 year old, but I had no idea things would disintegrate so rapidly in just eight years. I really wish I had gotten a back support belt and a pair of padded work gloves to help ease my labors.
That’s what I can think of for now. I’ll add more if I think of anything else later, but my brain has already started the process of erasing everything that happened last week from my mind.