Now having moved into 7 different spaces in the last 12 years, I have learned a lot about moving. Beyond how to get ready and how to ease the transition, I have also learned there are things that move really well and get used in every single house AND there are things that do not. Even though we are (thankfully) not moving in or out of a home this summer, I know a lot of people are. As such, I thought it was a good time share some of our lessons learned about items not worth investing in if you move a lot. If you or someone you know just moved in and are getting ready to set up your (next) home, you may want to think twice before investing in these 8 purchases!
Let me start with why I feel the following items are not worth investing in if you move frequently. Mainly, there are two reasons: 1) They break or get damaged very easily during the process of moving; OR 2) They are so house-specific that there are decreased chances they will fit in home after home. I’m not saying that you don’t need these things or shouldn’t buy them if you move a lot. I just don’t recommend spending a lot of money to get the highest quality version you can. These are the items that should be bought at bargain prices so if they get damaged or never work again, you aren’t out a lot of money or heartache.
This one might be pretty obvious, but it’s at the very top of the “don’t invest” list for good reason. We made the mistake of investing in some pretty pricey, good quality rugs in one of our first homes. We thought if they were neutral enough, we’d “always be able to use them.” But then our next two homes had carpeting, so the rugs stayed in storage for 4+ years. By the time we pulled them out, they were in such bad shape that not only would we not use them, but we had a really tough time selling them.
Rug shown here was a $200 purchase from Joss & Main. Since it’s an outdoor rug, we’ve been able to re-purpose several times over.
I love rugs for lots of reasons. Not only do I like something soft under my feet in certain areas of the home; but from a design perspective, they go a long way in covering unsightly floors and making a space feel more yours’. However, rugs are indeed very specific to a room and house, and can look awkward if they aren’t the right size or shape. Not only are room sizes and colors schemes apt to change from house to house, but we’ve also encountered such a variety of flooring (everything from wall-to-wall carpet, wall-to-wall laminate, wall-to-wall tile, and more!), that our need for rug(s) continually evolves. Because you can never guarantee a rug will work from one home to the next, I suggest buying inexpensive ones whenever possible. Shop stores like Rugs USA, Target, and Wayfair/Joss & Main for bargain prices; and pick as common a size as you can. That way, if the rug doesn’t work in your next home, you can sell or donate it without the guilt that you didn’t get your money’s worth.
Curtains are somewhat of an “inside joke” among military spouses. Many of us have stacks of them because even with the best intentions of buying neutral and as long as possible, inevitably the curtains you have almost never work in the new house. You’ll either need longer or more of them; the windows won’t have blinds so you’ll need shades…the list goes on and on. Like room size, windows vary greatly from house to house: in size, shape, quantity, the way they face…and even decoratively.
I am a strong believer in hanging curtains in a rental (in fact, I wrote a whole post on it!). I think they make a house feel more complete and less like a rental unit. They are a great removable element that adds a lot of color, style, and personality; and thankfully stores like IKEA and Target sell them pretty inexpensively. Learning to make curtains can also save you tons of money as long as the price/yard is cheap. There are some things you can do to increase the chances of your curtains working over and over again: buy neutral; buy very long and learn to hem; and buy in bulk so you never run out. Still though, there just might be times when the curtains you have won’t work, so don’t invest in custom or expensive window treatments. And just be prepared to buy more curtains at some point!
In our third home, we had an enormous garage. It shouldn’t surprise you that I decided to organize it “once and for all;” and I did so by buying a dozen (!!!) HUGE plastic tupperware bins and sorting every last garage item into them. This backfired in two ways. First, our next home didn’t have the same abundant space in the garage…so they didn’t fit. And second, it didn’t matter that that they didn’t fit because they didn’t survive the move anyway! Lids were dented and warped, corners were shattered, and some had significant dents or cracks in the long sides of the bins.
See that crack!
In each and every move we’ve had, we’ve noticed that packers treat plastic bins different than other items. After they (quickly) check to make sure there is nothing breakable in the bin, they load it with packing paper so items don’t bounce around, and then wrap the entire bin in plastic wrap or brown paper. Because these bins are not loaded into boxes of their own for protection, they are VERY prone to damage as they are
stuffed stacked into various moving trucks and storage units along the way. Having been left with dozens of broken plastic tubs and lots of money wasted money over the years, I have now learned to not buy clear plastic tubs. If we really need a plastic tub for something, I now buy the opaque ones which seam to be made of stronger plastic. Still, I don’t get too attached to them because I know they are prone to damage no matter what!
In our fourth house, we made the very “gutsy” decision to invest in a good-quality, large sectional. I say “gutsy” because sectionals require a large amount of space and tend to have a “direction” (there is typically a short arm and a long arm). So far, our gamble has paid off. We’ve not only had the space to fit the sectional in each home since, but have also been able to orient it the “right” direction for the room. However, there is no way to know if we will continue to have such luck in future homes. As we look at potential homes to live in each time, we have to consider the sectional and if it will fit…and we may someday have to choose a house over the couch.
I think sectional couches are great. They help define a space in very open concept houses (we used it to separate off the family room from the playroom), and sure are comfy for movie watching, lazy weekends, and cuddling. However, as described above, they have very specific room and space requirements. You can’t just “flip” (most) sectionals around the other way; and if the full unit doesn’t fit in the room, there is not much you can do to “make it work.” If you decide to buy a sectional, again, don’t spend top dollar. (I can tell you right now I will be VERY sad should the day come we have to bid farewell to our sectional because it wasn’t cheap.) A better approach to keep you out of this conundrum may be to buy two couches that can be arranged to meet a variety of needs and layouts. They can be arranged like a sectional when space allows; but if one doesn’t fit, it can be stored, sold, or placed in a different room.
I’m not sure I will ever buy a floor lamp again. That’s actually not true (because I am currently looking for one for the playroom, ha!), but I don’t want to buy anymore because they break every.time.we.move. Here’s the thing: movers can be a little lazy, and they don’t disassemble anything they don’t have to. Most floor lamps can be disassembled to fit into a box, but movers typically just wrap them in blankets and load them onto the truck standing tall. If the lamp arrives still functioning, it will most certainly be bent. Almost all of ours’ have arrived both broken and bent. (Hence why I am looking for a new one for the playroom.)
This floor lamp is now gone since the wiring was damaged in our most recent move.
Floor lamps are often necessary (especially in base housing where overhead lighting tends to be insufficient), just don’t invest in super high-quality floor lamps. And if you do have them, no matter their price point, I highly suggest you take the time to disassemble them yourself before the movers arrive. In pieces, movers will have to box them up, which results in safer transport and a higher likelihood they will actually work at your destination.
TRASH CANS – BIG & SMALL
This one is kind of a funny one, but it makes the list because we’ve made the mistake a time or two! Trash cans – you can’t live without them – but each house has different requirements and we end up buying new ones (almost) every time.
Indoor Trash Cans
To start, trash cans get broken quite easily during the moving process. It’s a little irritating, to be honest. Again, they often aren’t wrapped or protected, so they typically arrive bent, dinged and possibly with a broken or missing lid. Second, we’ve had homes where we need an under-sink, open can yet others where we’ve needed a larger, lidded can to sit out on the floor. Each home and each kitchen is different so don’t spend too much money and don’t get too attached!
Outdoor Trash Cans
In our experience, most neighborhoods provide their own large, outdoor trash cans. However, we did have one home where they weren’t provided. Seriously. Way back when, we bought a basic “utility” trash can (I think we bought it for recycling). After two homes of not needing it, I was ready to get rid of it but we chose to move it one more time. Then we moved into the house where no cans were provided and used it day in and out. We moved it again, but we don’t need it here so it’s sitting outside empty. The point of my ramblings? Trash cans – sometimes you need them, sometimes you don’t. Don’t invest in fancy ones and be prepared for them to break or not be needed home after home!
WHITE (UPHOLSTERED) FURNITURE
For most upholstery, movers will wrap the items in layers and layers of plastic wrap and load them straight onto the truck. Even though they are “protected,” these items still get super grimy from a long journey through various trucks, warehouses, and dirty hands. Our white couch and upholstered dining chairs emerged from their first moving truck so black and dingy that it took some serious elbow grease to get them presentable (needless to say, they were never “bright white” again…nor were they ever moved again). And it’s not just upholstered furniture. I have also noticed in recent moves that our light-colored furniture (mostly painted wooden pieces but our IKEA Kallax shelves too), have also emerged from the moving trucks with serious dirt, grime and hard-to-remove scuffs.
We eventually sold this white sectional because it was so dirty after moving it for the second time.
I’m sounding a bit like a broken record here, but again, it’s not that you can’t have pretty white couches and light-painted furniture. Just prepare yourself that they will show their journey more than other items in your home. Take extra steps (when possible) to protect these items (use layers of sheets or do your own wrap job before the movers come); and have stain remover, magic erasers, and touch-up paint ready to make these items shine again!
Finally, let’s chat outdoor items.
Outdoor Dining Sets
It wasn’t until our sixth home that we had decent enough outdoor space to (finally!) get some outdoor dining furniture. Until then, our outdoor spaces consisted of small balconies, a courtyard, and a 4′ square of concrete. Because it had taken so many homes to finally have an outdoor space that accommodated furniture, we were very sensitive to the fact that it’s not a guarantee in every home. As such, we didn’t want to buy top-of-the-line items that might very well get sold at a garage sale or stored in our next home. After a lot of hunting and pecking, I found a classic, black metal patio set for around $250 (it was end of season prices). Not only was the price great, but the table easily dismantles and the chairs stack, allowing for compact storage should we need to store it in future homes. We’re now in a home where we can not only use the dining set, but also have space for other outdoor items (e.g., couches, chairs, etc). Still, my same rules apply: it needs to be super affordable (so we can willing let it go if the time comes), or super stow-able so we can store it if it doesn’t fit the next house.
Like tuppeware bins, grilles are another item that can easily get damaged in a move so it might not be the best idea to invest lots of money into a top-of-the-line version. In our experience at least, grilles do not get packaged or wrapped at all. It is wheeled on and off the truck with no other protection. As such, sides get dented and scratched, knobs fall off (and go missing), and lighting/heating mechanisms can be damaged from the jostling around. We had heard this from friends and neighbors, so when I bought a grille for Greg for Christmas one year, I specifically opted for a more affordable option. If you (or your loved one) love your grille, I recommend talking with your moves about options to ensure it arrives safe and sound and in working order.
So those are my picks for “not” to invest in items! I’d love to hear, especially from other military families or people who move a lot, if you agree or have other items not included on this list. Please share in the comments. And also, don’t be discouraged by all the “don’t buy” items! Back here on Friday, I’ll share the items we’ve used over and over again and would recommend buying every time! See you then!