How I Moved Four Times in Four Months (And Kept My Sanity Intact!)

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By Eva Recinos When I first moved to San Francisco a year ago, I didn't realize that looking for housing was like auditioning for a reality TV show. Getting a place here is like going to a casting call — you need to bring your best smile and a quick summary of why you're amazing to compete with the other possible tenants. No one warned me that it also helps to have more than two months' rent ready to pay. While this might sound like the usual rigamarole for getting a house, this grueling competition takes places everywhere in San Francisco—just for a room. I quickly learned about this madhouse situation after leaving the dorms at school. With the firm decision to stay in the city for the summer, I started to look for a place – and ended up in four different places over the course of four months. It turns out that finding a sublet was sometimes easier. The competition didn't really let up — one post on Craiglist can yield 60 or 70 replies — but somehow, against reason, it turned out to be easier to go from place to place until I could find something permanent. If you find yourself in a similar situation (and I hope for your sanity that you're moving less times than I did), here are a few tips on how to make the constant moving a little easier, from someone who's been there:
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I spent more time during the summer hanging out with Craigslist than I did with friends. I checked the website each evening and sent out a ton of emails every day. Even if a room seemed less than ideal, I reached out in case it might turn out to be a good arrangement. I also never stopped talking about my need for housing. I was lucky enough to find my first two rooms from friends. During the summer, a lot of people travel for work or pleasure, and this can turn into a great opportunity to live somewhere temporarily. But believe me when I say that finding a room on Craigslist in San Francisco took a lot of effort. This city is cut-throat. One guy told me that he chose only a handful of people to see the room, and he originally received about 50 emails. When it comes to the housing search—even for a temporary one–it pays to email quickly and frequently. Oh, and keep mentioning you need a place during all those bar nights.
Will you ever really wear those bright purple fishnet tights again? When was the last time you put on that sweater that always hangs in the back of your closet? These and more questions started popping into my head as I tried to minimize the amount of things that I needed to pack and carry. That included clothing, decor, knick knacks and more. For starters, I thought long and hard about what clothing items really played an important role in my closet. The ones that didn’t make the cut ended up on clothing racks around San Francisco for others to enjoy. I made multiple trips to Goodwill, Crossroads and Buffalo Exchange. The great thing about the latter two stores is that I received store credit for the items they accepted. It’s always a good idea to reassess what objects you really need in your life — especially when you want to fit everything into as few bags as possible.
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If you sublet a place, chances are it will come with major furniture and things like pillows. These are the bulky items that you can do without for a few months. I thankfully didn’t need to deal with huge pieces of furniture, but it did help to store things like my huge, fluffy duvet comforter. Without a car, I didn’t really know how I could get all my things to a storage facility. But through social media, I found out about Boxbee. The service basically delivers large, yellow containers for storing your things. They pick up the boxes when you finish stuffing them, and then they go into storage and you can rest easy. I used two containers to put away my duvet, extra pillows, desk supplies and more. It made moving frequently much easier.

Disclaimer: After using Boxbee’s service, I briefly helped them spread the word as a student ambassador.
With each new place, I learned to adapt to different room layouts. The thing about subletting is that I obviously couldn’t set up my own bookshelf or even a big jewelry box. I invested in a couple of collapsible felt boxes that really made keeping things organized a cinch. I found mine at Target and loved them because you can easily lay them flat for packing and then pop them back up for storing jewelry, beauty products, electronics and more. I bought them in black so they don’t look dirty and match with any and all surroundings. Eventually I will buy more fashionable organizers, but in the meantime these work like a charm.  
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Okay, so maybe my Lyft driver didn’t expect to pick up a short girl on the sidewalk flanked by suitcases and bags — but he didn’t deny me a ride, either. When I couldn’t get someone to give me a hitch to my new place each month, I called an Uber or Lyft to pick me up instead.

No driver ever turned me down, and a few even helped me take my suitcases up the stairs. In one move, I accidentally ordered a fancy Uber and ended up getting a ride in a Lincoln Townhouse. Not my usual style, but definitely the most comfortable ride and a great way to de-stress from the whole moving process.

 

When I moved here, one of my going away presents was an incredibly soft and warm blanket. I joked that it was the type of blanket that zapped any possible motivation to do anything out of my body. It turned out to be the perfect companion, as it definitely got me through quite a few cold San Francisco nights. Because I didn’t tote my huge duvet everywhere, this blanket ensured I’d stay warm and feel comfortable.

I had perfectly good bedding in all the rooms which I subletted, but there’s something about having your own personal blanket that gives you comfort in times of hardship–like crazy moving situations. And as comfortable as a great blanket feels, make sure to leave it at home until your final move into a place so you don’t look like Pig-Pen (i.e., no reason to drag it back and forth!).

 

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As much as I realized the importance of getting rid of extra things, I made sure to hold on to a few very personal tokens. I kept postcards, family photos, small pieces of art and other sentimental items. This way, I could take them back out in each place I moved and add a bit of my own personality to my rented room. I kept these little treasures safe in folders and books I was already toting around. Keeping these nearby will make a huge difference if you find yourself moving a lot. Not to sound overly sentimental, but they were a nice way to make each place feel a little more like a home. Once you get a permanent place you can give each object a proper frame or place — you’ll be glad you held on to them.

 

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