Whether you’re moving into the heart of the action or, like us, a little off the beaten path in Austin, you’ll probably encounter the typical hassles of city moving. With Austin being as crowded as it is and tons of new people moving here everyday, there are plenty of businesses around just to help you with your stuff. Storing it, buying it, donating it, moving it, etc. Here are a few that I used and can happily recommend.
Buying a House
For Mr. Betty and I, the whole process started with buying our first house. We lived in the same South Lamar gated apartment community for seven years and were ready to shed the noise of apartment living for our own place. Austin is crazy right now, definitely a seller’s market. Our budget wasn’t huge and we were realistic about where we could live and how to make the most of our money. For us, the decision to move east was simple. It’s got charm of its own, and allowed us to get a bigger place, a yard, two-car garage, all that stuff. It was hard to say goodbye to our hot 78704 neighborhood, but as most homes were tiny and approaching a million bucks a pop, it wasn’t like we had a choice.
For those looking to buy a house in Austin right now, let me offer a few tips:
1. Don’t get overly attached to anything. It’s really competitive, so be prepared to make offers on multiple places. I experienced a few rounds of heartbreak, really letting myself get so excited about a few places. Next time, I’ll be tougher.
2. Keep a flexible schedule and a positive attitude. Because I work from home it was easy for me to take off at a moment’s notice and go see a house right when it hit the market. (And just like with BBQ, Austinites will wait in line to see a house. Be prepared for a dozen people to show up before a house officially hits, everyone trying to get a leg up and make offers immediately.) Any house that was a serious contender required a second visit with Mr. Betty.
3. Get yourself a really good Realtor. All things being equal, it’s your agent who will win you the deal with good relationships, clean contract writing, and basically advocating for you. I lucked out because one of my best friends happens to be a rock star at her job. Melissa Lombard worked tirelessly on our behalf, and it was through her persistence that we ended up with a great house. When we sell one day, we’ll be excited to work with her again.
We opted to pack and move ourselves, saving on moving expenses so that we could put more money towards home renovation. I’m a good packer and love to throw things out, so I started sorting through nonessentials like clothes, books, mementos, to box up or donate as soon as I could. Before we even found our house, I already had 40 or 50 boxes packed. Once we had a home, plan, and moving date secured, we were able to kick it into high gear.
We rented a large U-Haul truck for about $60 and made a plan to pack it ourselves with the help of a few generous friends. We also took advantage of a Living Social deal which gave us two strong experienced movers from Keep Austin Moving for two hours for $99. And…wow. These guys took charge and packed our entire apartment in that time by themselves. It made the day so much easier. We were able to conserve our energy for unpacking, which we did ahead of schedule. I should note that my protective friends and husband really wouldn’t let me carry much, even though I was in my second trimester and not a useless blob like I am now.
A real life saver was using Binstro, who reached out to me to see how they could help us move. The local startup is typically used for storage, which I didn’t think I needed. Unbeknownst to me, it would be the thing that saved my sanity. But more on that in a moment.
The process works like this:
1. Place an order for how many bins you need to hold your stuff and choose a delivery date and time. You’ll receive a nice clean stack of reusable bins, ready to go with blank labels and a Sharpie. Each bin holds 75 pounds, so they are really large and convenient. Rather than making them super heavy, we chose to mostly fill ours with clothes right on the hangers, layering in carefully wrapped breakables in between.
2. Schedule a pick up. My original plan was to just have the bins immediately delivered to the new house, but as our renovations weren’t quite complete, we opted to store them for a few weeks. This gave us the flexibility—and space—to really focus on the renovations properly without having to constantly shuffle around tons of boxes during construction. We had peace of mind knowing that our belongings were safe and secure in climate controlled storage. Each bin was barcoded and double-fastened with zip ties.
3. Schedule the delivery of your full bins. When you’re ready to be reunited with your belongings, Binstro will bring them to wherever you are. Then you unpack and schedule one last pick up of the empties. It’s so incredibly easy and I found each interaction to be friendly, pleasant, and smooth. (These people work hard, and my personal recommendation is to give a generous tip, but that’s completely up to you.)
Pricing and more explanation on how to use Binstro can be found on their website, along with additional bin sizes and add-on services. They are very accommodating with pickup and delivery times, and I’d recommend setting those up about a week in advance.
Because our bins were mostly filled with clothes on hangers, it should have been easy to just unpack into a new closet. But our new closets, while more numerous, are considerably smaller than the enormous ones in our apartment. This was made worse by the fact that the previous owners didn’t optimize the space. Mr. Betty and I realized that if we were going to keep any kind of order in our bedroom, our smaller walk-in closet would need an overhaul before we put anything in there.
Mr. Bettty took a sledge hammer to the two puny bars and shelves, then patched and painted the walls, giving us a fresh slate. After reviewing our options for affordable closet systems, we opted to go with the Rubbermaid HomeFree Series of customizable wire shelving. Careful planning and a few rounds of measuring and sketching out ideas gave us a good list to bring to Lowe’s. We bought a couple big kits and extension packs, choosing to mix and match pieces for our own, completely customized system. Here are the before and after photos:
Big difference, right? It’s still a tight fit, but we were able to put a lot of stuff in there and I can’t imagine the mess we’d be in had we not made this crucial update. Adding a robe hook behind the door and a pull-out rack for ties and belts let us maximize the space even further. I believe we spent around $400-$500 on the closet altogether.
Part of what reaffirmed our need to organize properly on the front end was reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. While I don’t quite have a clutter or hoarding problem, there are plenty of areas where I can improve and this book offers lots of great tips to living a tidier, more organized life. Moving into a new space was the perfect time for me to reevaluate all our belongings. I found myself letting go of things that I thought I loved, but haven’t touched in years.
Anyway, moving is stressful. But our experience was a good one largely in part to the fantastic local businesses available in Austin. I can wholeheartedly recommend Binstro, Melissa Lombard, and Keep Austin Moving. Thanks for everything, you guys! We never could have done it without you.
As we finish different areas of the new house, I’ll be updating the blog with renovation photos, successes, and mishaps!