The Cost of Moving Your Stuff Across the Country

by Kati Stevens

After spending nearly seven years in Los Angeles trying to break into the brutal business of television writing, I decided I could be an unpaid writer anywhere and made a drastic change. I hated the job that had been keeping me in Gap jeans for the brunt of my 20s, so, at the bright, shiny age of 30 I finally went with Plan B and joined the Peace Corps. That meant two years abroad. What would I do with my stuff while I spent two years in the wilds of Western China? Well, that’s what parents are for.

Unfortunately, my parents live in Connecticut, so I drove my 2007 Chevy Aveo to Connecticut where it will sit, the battery wondering why I abandoned it and letting the self-doubt leak its life away, along with boxes of books, dishes, more books, several Disney Vinylmation figurines (yeah, I’ll admit it — it’s not like we were going to be friends anyway), pillows (both regular and throw), and more books.

My trunk and back seat of my compact vehicle only allowed me to bring a fraction of my current possessions, so I dumped a lot of free and near-free furniture I’ve acquired over the years and any books I could get as e-books through the Los Angeles Public Library digital media borrowing program (hint: if you never turn your Kindle’s Wi-Fi on and just use the USB to transfer books onto your Kindle, you can never lose your “borrowed” books). Half of the remaining books I had was sent via the wonder that is media mail. Meanwhile my couches went to my ex-roommate’s new boyfriend, while a lamp, dresser (minus the fancy knobs I got at Costco Worldplus Market), a scanner/printer, an old tennis racket, a toilet paper roll holder I JUST BOUGHT, a coffee table with what appeared to be a werewolf bite mark in the corner, etc. all went into the back alley behind my house where they vanished into the Santa Ana winds.

I stopped halfway in New Orleans to go to Jazz Fest, which has nothing to do with me moving across the country, though it does have a lot with me turning 30, never having gone to Coachella once while I was in California, and now going to a place where the benzene in the water will probably give me leukemia, so I’m only including one night’s Airbnb charge in my hotel room sums.

Bed I sold on Craigslist but got free from the sibling of an ex-child TV star: -$50

Food and drink for goodbye party I threw for myself: $35

Bagels for prank on supervisor: free, thanks to subterfuge

Media mail for about half of my books: about $86 (that’s approximately 172 pounds of books, Jesus)

Oil change, front struts, and other stuff my car probably didn’t need, but better safe than sorry, right?: $664.20

Boxes I stole from people moving in next door or from work: $0

Luggage I got a friend to take with her on a flight back home so I had one less thing in my itsy-bitsy stupid car: $25

New Orleans-Denver airfare I bought for friend who drove with me from California to Louisiana: $139

Gas, dear God, so much gas: $233.05

Road food (there are a billion Cracker Barrels in this country, I counted): $117.88

Hotel rooms: $234.06 (my lovely points-loving grandparents paid for two nights in Marriotts in Tennessee and Virginia or it would have been way higher)

Total: $1,484.19 plus my dignity and sense of well-being.

I miss California. I hope I made the right choice because, if not, it was quite the pricey mistake.

Kati Stevens is an unpublished novelist, un-produced screenwriter, and soon-to-be Peace Corps China volunteer. Her bagel prank videos, as well as a rap video she made in New Orleans starring a finger puppet, can be viewed at the “Katherine Stevens” YouTube video channel. If you’d rather read some more, though, you can find her tweets at @katerbee.

Photo: Joe Hardy