July 12, 2013

Packing for a short-term NYC move

I made the big move from suburbia to the big NYC. I've been there as a visitor maybe seven times, most with my family, but this time, it was a one-way ticket that I purchased. And without a discount because I waited too long. No surprise, packing for this move was (exaggeration alert) the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. I was moving from post-college graduation at-home with the parents to the city, so at least I could leave a large amount of my belongings in the garage. My sister was more than happy to look after the clothes and shoes I didn't bring with me. But my stay is from June until the beginning of November and a lot of events are up in the air. Will I actually get a job when I'm there? I tell myself, "I should pack dresses for my non-existent interviews and the job I don't have yet." I'm optimistic about finding one.

So there I am in my bedroom with my allotted one bag of luggage that is supposed to last me five months (or more!) of unpredictable weather, jobs, concerts, adventures, and rough patches. You know, life. I was prepared to take the Amtrak from Pittsburgh and arrive at Penn Station. I'd been-there-done-that less than a month ago when I went to visit Sam in Greenpoint, but this time I had more than just my backpack. It's a simple trip, but migrating from train to subway stairs is something to consider when you have luggage. A taxi cab from the station to my apartment was nearing $50 according to my estimates and I'd much rather spend that money on food. In this case, I kept it to one bag (28 x 22 x 14in) and my beloved backpack. I figured if there was anything I ended up really needing once I got there, I could have my parents ship it to me. Luckily, my boyfriend was already at the place and could tell me if anything important was missing and if I could bring it or if it was something we could just go purchase or find on Craigslist.

I made a list (duh) of important things to take with me. Clothes/bras/toothbrush are the obvious list items, but don't forget random items like extra copies of your resume and important interview items like a portfolio, your journal, books you haven't read yet, sunglasses, and headphones.

Here are some tricks that I used when I made my move from Pittsburgh to NYC. These worked really well for me personally, but if you have other tips leave a comment! Discuss!

1. If you've never worn it, don't pack it.
With the exception of a dress I bought for possible interviews, I said no to anything that I thought might look cute with that one outfit that I might wear but probably won't.

2. Use plastic bags for shampoo/conditioner/goopy hair gunk.
It happened once and I never let it happen again. Don't let that bottle of expensive hair product explode all over your favorite clothing and shoes. Put them in plastic ziploc bags and seal em. Better yet, just buy it when you get there if you can afford to.

3. Pack shoes for purposes.
Think you'll be going to the park? Bring some sandals. You'll be walking a ton. Bring comfortable shoes. I'm not talking tube socks and New Balances from your dad. You know what shoes work for you and what don't. If you can't ever wear them for a trip to Target without blisters, then I wouldn't bring them with such limited space. Leave that space for your favorite boots and professional shoes. Sandals are fine in my opinion, but your feet do get a nasty city grime on them within about five minutes. Leave your shoes far from the bedroom and kitchen if you can. Gross.

4. Think about what you can buy once you're there.
Yes everything is more expensive in the city, but some things are worth just leaving behind and purchasing when you get there. For instance I have a lot of picture frames and small decorations I would have loved to bring with me, but they just weren't necessary. I'm hoping to find some great pieces at flea markets and start fresh from my old decor that's worn out and very college.

5. Work with an air mattress.
For about a week, I was constantly on the hunt for a super cheap mattress and figuring out how I'd get it to the apartment once I actually found one. For the most part, queens didn't run cheap. Or as cheap as I had hoped. Sam mentioned getting an air mattress and I'd never felt like I missed the obvious more in my life. I think we'll be getting a mattress topper. *Edit* After sleeping on the air mattress for just two days, my neck hurt so back I couldn't even look down at my feet. I suggest getting a mattress topper ASAP or maybe going with a futon.

6. Check out events in the area before you make your move.
Local events got me really hyped about moving to New York (as if I wasn't already). I do love spending time with my family, so leaving them is always a bit of a bummer. But I saw what cool things were happening in the city and I didn't want to miss out! Even though it's always touristy, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a great place to start because it's free! I walked from East Harlem through Central Park to the Met (on a 90 degree day, I looked negative 100% fabulous) but it was beautiful.

7. Don't try too hard to act like a native.
This is something I always have to tell myself. I never want to be "that person" reading a map or walking back the same direction I just came five times, but sometimes (a ton of times) it happens. And whatever! There are thousands of people in the city and not all of them are staring at you when you make a mistake. Most of them probably remember a time when it happened to them and are willing to help you out if you ask. Or even if you just look a little lost in the subway, I've always found that most people will try to help you.

8. Take advantage of cool apps.
There are a lot of great apps that will help you big time when you're trying to make it in the city. I'm a huge fan of Embark, which is like Google maps, but for the subway. I also love Yelp and Foursquare. There are so many reviews and tips and most of them are trustworthy enough to give places a try. If it's terrible, write a review to help others avoid the same mistake.

Who knows... maybe I'll find out that this entire list is terrible once I'm here longer, but for now it has suited me well. I'm still waiting to realize what I forgot and then face palm myself when I find out. There are, too, always items that you wish you would have brought along after all. I'll let you know when I find out what those are. For now, I'm hoping my minimal experience so far in the city can help someone who is even more clueless than I am still.

Make a list to shop when you get there but buy Blue Moon instead!

**Edit: I made this post shortly after moving to New York, but have since moved back after I split with the boyfriend and yadda yadda yadda. But! That doesn't mean the information isn't still useful to anyone else lucky enough to make the move, so good luck! I'll be back there in a few months once I have my shit together.


  1. Sorry to hear about your breakup.. hope you get to go back soon. New York is a great place! Getting your shit together takes time but necessary to survive.. speaking from experience...

    1. thanks i hope so too! it's always nice to hear that other people have to take a life pause and figure some things out too, so I hope everything worked out with your experiences as well!


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