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Home » The Vine

The Vine: May 28, 2014

Submitted by on May 28, 2014 – 9:35 AM50 Comments


I’m toying with the idea of moving across the country. I’m currently in Chicago. I’ve lived here all my life; I need a change. I want to go to Portland.

I’ve been a few times, and it’s a very nice place to be. I have some friends who have recently moved there, and they are very happy. I’ve never done anything like this before, and I would love to hear advice from the good folks in Vineland!

The good news is I can work remotely, so I don’t have to worry about finding a new job. I own a condo, which I’d have to sell. What do I do with my stuff? How do I get it across the country? I’ll get rid of some of it for sure (I need to to that anyway!), but it seems silly to have to replace an entire apartment’s worth of furniture, kitchen stuff, my bike, etc. I also have cats. How do I move them? My family is all in Chicago, so I think I could store some stuff there if I can’t move it all at once. My folks would board the cats for a while too.

I have a kinda crappy old car. Do I dump it and get a new one, or try to drive it across country? Or do I buy a new car when I get to Portland? Or do I go carless?

How do I find a new place in the new city? I’ve owned my apartment for eight years, and can’t imagine going back to renting. But buying a new place right away in a new city seems like a bad idea.

I’m super-anxious about this, and I’m probably overthinking this a whole lot. I’d really appreciate any stories or advice your readers want to share!



Dear Boxy,

I can’t speak to specifics about Portland — I suspect you will not need a car, but I’ll let the locals get into the particulars — but I can tell you that any move, even across town, is daunting. So #1, give yourself a break for stressing.

#2: spreadsheet! Or just a straight list, but in my experience, an Excel file with all its little boxes helps you shift your thinking about a cross-country move from a monolith with no handles on it to a series of smaller, more manageable things that you can do in an order and cross off. …Not that selling real estate is ever “manageable” in the traditional sense, but you can still make a sub-list of tasks.

So, start there. If you want to move, you need to sell or sublet your condo. Research selling it (that list looks something like “contact realtors, go on Zillow to get comps, decide whether to sell first and then leave town or vice versa, what would I have to do to up the curb appeal (paint foyer, fix gutter, replace charge plates in the kitchen)”); research subletting (“contact realtors, do I need board approval”).

On the Portland end, same basic deal: go there. Look around. Figure out three neighborhoods you want to live in, look at every apartment you can over a long weekend, make a punch list. What are the utilities, what’s the transit situation, do you need a compost set-up, can the sectional fit up these stairs. But as you’re writing things down, the act of writing them down and rearranging them is going to clarify everything for you — what’s important to you, what has to happen in what order.

(Another handy way to project-manage big life stuff like this is to start at the end, then reverse-chunk the task from there. If the end/goal is “I live in Portland,” then the chunk before that is “unpack.” The chunk before that is “pick up keys; take delivery of furniture/cats.” Or however you arrange it. Some people find this way of organizing more motivational. Do you.)

…Readers! Veterans of moves to other time zones, moves with pets, and/or Portland residents! Does Boxy need a car? Should she pack ’em all and let God sort ’em out? Share in the comments.




  • attica says:

    My sis just transplanted cross-country. She sold her car at home via CarMax, I think, flew x-c, and leased a new car in new town. The furniture came via Professional Moving Company, which makes things much easier (if sometimes harder to schedule delivery, thanks, WINTER) on everyone. The dog flew, too. Airlines can help with that whole thing. (It helped that she had friends in New Town with whom she could crash while finding a car and a place to live. But if you don’t, budget for a hotel and find a local realtor before you get there.)

    The thing to remember most of all is you’re not the first person to ever do this — there are entire industries already in place to pick up what you can’t carry, both literally and metaphorically.

  • Sean says:

    Lists. Lists for your lists. Lists about what lists to make. In a word: lists. Excel is great, or handwritten, whatever floats your boat.

    Also buy a good notebook and just make that your Portland notebook. Nothing worse than trying to find the goddamned Post-It you wrote the MOST IMPORTANT NUMBER EVER ON AND YOU KNOW IT WAS RIGHT HERE at 3 a.m. when you’re trying to decide if you should throw out that book your aunt gave you in the 11th grade and you haven’t read it yet but maybe you will and oh shit what am I doing?

  • Sarah says:

    I’ve done the cross country thing a few times. Depending on your cats, they might prefer to chill w/your parents and then arrive after shit is settled (via airplane altho two cats might mean two people traveling and two cat carriers and that sounds expensive). I’ve also done the long move from FL to CA w/cat in the backseat. She generally just chilled in her carrier, as she hates being in a car. She was sooo unhappy but she adjusted in a couple days. Some cats will snooze on the floor of a car as you drive.

    The less stuff you move, the less expensive moving will be. So buying everything new isn’t practical, but don’t move inexpensive furniture. You can replace everything like that on the other end. Again, done this both ways – moving everything from Montreal – Florida – California. Then when I moved to Texas from California, I got rid of as much as I could, then I only had to move my bed, myself and all my non-furniture stuff.

    If you want to DIY, you can uhaul/budget/pod move for somewhere between astronomically expensive when you include gas to reasonable. Professional movers charge by the lb for long distance moves. Get multiple quotes. Every company has a different minimum, and if you have less than the minimum, you pay for more than you’re moving.

    You can also move your car. If you rent a truck, you can often tow your car behind it. I’ve done this. If you hire pros, you can drive your car to Portland. Done this as well. If your car is old but in generally good shape and you don’t drive a ton, and you plan to live a similar not driving much lifestyle in Portland, I’d move it. Your old car is cheaper than a new car.

    Moving is stressful, like Sars said, so just accept it as a source of stress and do whatever you do to make it manageable.

  • Jo says:

    You probably can get away without a car in Portland if you want. There’s pretty good public transportation, although I think the Max (light rail) stops running around midnight in some areas, so if you live further away from downtown and want to go out, that could be a problem. If you live anywhere near a busy Max line, you’d likely be fine. I have lots of friends who rent homes in nice neighborhoods in Portland for pretty decent prices
    — I don’t know anyone’s exact rent, but I know what they do for a living and where they live so I’m making an educated guess about affordability.

    If you want a new car, the advantage of waiting until you get to Oregon is that there is no sales tax, so you can save money (I bought my car in Washington, where I live now, so I’m not entirely sure how the no sales tax thing works for vehicles). :)

    The furthest I’ve moved cats was 8 hours and I’ve never tried to fly a cat, but it seems really traumatic. If you’re going to drive, you can research hotels along the way that allow pets and just resign yourself to a couple of days of “Mrow. Meow. MEEEOOOOWWWWWWWW.” Your vet can give you a sedative for the cats that helps in the car.

  • Nanc in Ashland says:

    As an Oregonian, I’m going to throw some reality checks your way. Full disclosure: I live in Southern Oregon, but visit Portland often.

    There’s no sales tax in Oregon. Before you jump up and down woo-hooing, let me throw a few tax realities your way. With no sales tax, general fund income in cities, counties and the state is usually drawn from personal income tax (likely higher then Chicago), property taxes (take a look at the break down for the area you’d like to buy in), and a number of user fees and things like lodging taxes in hotels, gas/fuel taxes, meals taxes (here in Ashland)etc. Plan on hiring an accountant to do your taxes the first, and possibly second year you’re here. The partial-year resident form is a pain in the patootie. Also, you can’t just get your car smogged at any gas station–you have to go to a State DEQ station. On the plus side (at least in So. Oregon) the lines are usually short and you drive away with your new tags–no need to go to the DMV after you register your car for the first time.

    I would suggest moving as little household stuff as possible. Portland (and the rest of Oregon) has oodles of great second-hand stores, consignment stores and thrift shops. You can buy what you need second hand and splurge on a great bed or whatever is important. You can upgrade as you have the $$$$.

    If you’re really serious and haven’t already done so, contact the chamber of commerce and request a relocation packet–lots of good info in those.

    I can’t really help with kitty moving tips or neighborhoods but you might think about renting for at least a year just to be certain you like the neighborhood. Keep an eye out for Wesson! And if you can telecommute, you might check out other towns just outside of Portland–you’ll be close enough to the action but not right in the city.

    Finally, if your car is truly “kinda crappy” I wouldn’t drive it over the Rockies (did that when I was younger–what the hell was I thinking?!) I’d sell it and get another once you’re settled here.

  • Lulu says:

    I have opinions on the following:

    1. Rent or buy in the new city? The easiest thing to do is probably going to be to rent at least for a little while, so you can enter into the buying process from a local spot. Choosing an apartment in a brief weekend-long stay is a crapshoot, but it doesn’t matter if your apartment is crappy because you can leave it. If you buy a crappy place, that’s worse. Give yourself time–local time–to work on buying.

    2. Hire movers or no? This will come down to a couple of factors: your sentimental attachment to your material possessions, and the cost of replacing your stuff (which will depend on how much stuff you need to live). You may find you don’t need that much stuff. This is a good opportunity to declutter and get rid of–try to live without–anything you don’t really, really need.

    Make a list of the items that you would feel very, very sad to part with (specific items, like “Grandma’s quilt” or “the copy of Sense & Sensibility I’ve had since I was 11”). Will these items fit in a suitcase? A car?

    Then make a list of the items that, while you don’t feel attached to your specific instance, you do need something of that type in order to live (a bed, some plates, a can opener, etc.) How much would it cost to replace these items? Is there any way you can get this list down?

    Get rid of anything not on either list. Sell, donate, whatever.

    Finally, use an online tool to estimate the weight of all the stuff on both lists.

    Armed with the estimate of the weight of the stuff you would need to move, get multiple quotes on movers, AND research them all on BBB and Yelp. You don’t want a shady company for this. How much would it cost to use a mover? Is the cost greater than the cost of all the items on your “could replace” list?

  • Mika E (Ipstenu) says:

    Moved from Chicago to SoCal 18 months ago.

    We hired a moving company to haul our stuff, and another to move our CAR. Yes, we flew in with two cats. Oh, this works WAY better with two people, by the way.

    The logistics were pretty basic:

    1) Find a new place to live and get sleeping things.
    2) Hire movers
    3) PACK ALL THE THINGS – This is like every other move in the world
    4) 6 days before the flight, have the car picked up to be delivered at new home
    5) Day of flight, movers arrive
    6) Taxi to the airport.
    7) Fly my pretties!
    8) At the new airport, taxi or get a ride home
    9) If you time it right, the car arrives the next morning.

    This worked okay, though in retrospect I would NOT fly the day of the movers, it’s insanely stressful. We drugged the cats, and I regret not taking photos of the absolute derp face of them.

    When I signed the papers for the new place, I picked up bedding and cat supplies, so they were waiting for us when we arrived. My wife had never seen the place, and after a whole day of movers + airports did not bloody CARE about it. I scheduled delivery of everything on the day after the flight, so the new appliances AND a food delivery worked out well. I forgot to bring cooking supplies, of course, so that was a fun morning.

  • Gina says:

    May I recommend subletting your condo for a year (or two) and renting in Portland until you’re certain about the neighborhood in which you’d like to buy? Provided your condo board is cool with that option, it’s a great way to try out a new area without committing to something that may not work for you long term. It’s also a good way to potentially find a reliable buyer for your condo, particularly if you list it as having a rent-to-own option.

    Tap into your recently relocated friends as resources, especially if they’re also from Chicago. They’ll have a unique perspective on how the two places compare, and can help you navigate any potential culture shocks. The day to day ones are often the most jarring (“they want HOW MUCH for a quart of milk?”).

  • Sean says:

    As someone with a fair number of inter-city moves under my belt, I would add that:

    1. The condo is really the most complicated part. Dealing with the stuff is a balance of how much you pay someone else for the time and inconvenience of sorting/packing/moving/selling/discarding/buying/acquiring. There are many options for how to get stuff from point A to point B.

    Before you sell your condo, ask yourself how DONE with Chicago you are, particularly the condo/neighborhood you already own. Is it a place you never want to live ever again, to the point where you will keep searching for something different? Do you only envision moving back to a different neighborhood/type of property in Chicago in the future anyway, if you do want to come back?

    2. There is a very major cultural difference between living in Chicago and living in Portland, something that you don’t get when you just visit a handful of times. You may feel ready for something different than Chicago, but you might discover that it isn’t Portland. Your “place” might be Austin, TX or Minneapolis (depending on how much winter you like with your vibe). I say this as someone who has lived in both Chicago and in the Pacific Northwest. To give only one example, there are some people who are just predisposed to getting seasonal affective disorder in the PNW. It can ruin even the best planned out moves.

    Since you have the luxury of a job that allows you to move, and you can leave your cats and some stuff with your parents, it might be best to set yourself up in Portland for a time frame of 3-6 months or even 1 year (logistically easier for rent and subletting, if you can, and better to experience all seasons).

    If you’re NOT 100% done with Chicago, hold onto your condo unless you absolutely cannot afford to (can’t rent out, can’t afford mortgage + rent).

    If you like living in Portland, great! You can decide whether you really want to have your old car or not (note that car transports, btw, aren’t always much more expensive than the fuel & time you spend on a 1000+ mile journey driving). You can figure out moving cats, stuff, etc. based on what makes sense for where you have gotten set up in Portland. And at that point, you can sell the condo (selling when you’re not living there can be a hassle, but that’s what agents are for & you do have your family for serious emergencies there).

    If you spend time in Portland and realize that it’s not for you, it’ll be easier to “undo” the move, and re-set yourself in Chicago before deciding whether you’ve discovered that, hey, you really like Chicago or being near family or certain friends or whatever, or if Portland wasn’t “it” for you, what other place might be.

  • KLM says:

    Background: I temporarily relocated to Portland for several months in grad school and still visit often. I’ve also moved (and driven) cross-country, though not with cats.

    If your car is crappy but not so crappy that it won’t make it over the mountains (as Nanc points out above), I’d recommend taking it to Portland, packed with as much of your stuff as will fit. (And that can be a surprising amount of stuff, says the girl who once drove all of her worldly possessions from California to Pennsylvania and back. Granted, I was 22, so I didn’t have a ton of worldly possessions, but still.)

    I don’t know what you have to do upon taking a car into Oregon — like how many days/weeks/months you have before you have to pay OR registration; I know I got away with keeping my CA registration when I lived there — but stick that on your list of things to research. You *can* get around Portland without a car (MAX is very good for some parts of the city; the bus system seems pretty functional; bike infrastructure is good) but in my admittedly limited experience, some of my favorite neighborhoods aren’t super convenient to transit, and more people had cars than I expected. Until you know where you like to hang out, the car can be a good safety blanket.

    (Alternatively, look into where there are Zipcars, or research Car2go. When I go to Portland now and want to go somewhere not-transit-compatible, I use Zipcar.)

    I concur with those saying don’t move inexpensive furniture. If there’s a piece you love, sure, take it, but you don’t know what your new living space will look like or what it will fit. And selling stuff will give you a little cash in your pocket for gas and road-trip snacks and stuff.

    And yes — go visit and hang out in neighborhoods before you move, if you can swing it time-wise and financially. You’ll get a much better sense of where to live for your lifestyle.

  • LizzieKath says:

    Ex-Portlander here. Echoing the sentiment that whether you can go carless is a function of the neighborhood you live in – getting around the west side is pretty easy (trolley, Max) but parts of the east side (esp. Northeast) are notably lacking in public transitability.

    I loved not paying sales tax. Especially now that I live somewhere where the property and income tax are just as high as in Oregon but ALSO has a 10% sales tax. :- This chart I found seems to suggest that overall taxes are slightly lower in Oregon than Illinois:

    I wouldn’t buy right away. Visiting is great and advised, but until you really live there, you might not know which neighborhoods you love hanging out in and which make you feel meh. Six months or a year isn’t that long to rent until you’ve decided what kind of a vibe you want and where you want to be. Craigslist is your friend!

  • Claire says:

    Do not try to convince yourself that this is something you can do quickly. Even if you’ve done the math and say “But I can totally close out everything here, move cross country, and be set up and ready to go in the new place in a week!” don’t try to meet that challenge. I had to move one state over for work 2 years ago, and I ended my job in the old place on a Friday, drove to the new place on Saturday, and started my new job on Monday. It was all possible, but good lord, it was MISERABLE. Give yourself as much extra time as you can afford.

  • mcm says:

    Based on our move from Chicago to the Bay Area four years ago, I can share what worked for us on the car and cat front:

    Re: car – I was so stressed out about this decision, I called Car Talk. Unfortunately, that’s no longer an option, so I can only tell you what they told me. They pointed out that if I was trying to sell the car alongside the stress of packing, moving, etc., I may well end up selling it for significantly less than it’s worth. They suggested moving with it then selling it after arriving in CA. (They were actually all about the road trip, and I would have been, too, but for the 1-year-old and the cat. You don’t have a 1-year-old, though, so if you decide to do the same thing we did on the feline front – see below – I’d totally suggest you road trip it.) Anyway, I took their advice and we actually ended up keeping our decade-old two-door Civic for another year and a half before we actually bought something new. That gave us the time to both get our finances together after the move and get to know our new home enough to get a better handle on what kind of car would be best for us here.

    Re: cat – we left our cat with friends for a week, and bought them round trip tickets so they could bring him to us. Sure, it was a slightly pricey solution (though we approached them early enough that we were able to monitor tickets and buy when they dipped below $300 apiece). However, it eased our mind to know he was taken care of as we were moving, and we didn’t have to worry about him freaking out, running away, puking all over everything in transit (I mean, he did that to our friends, but it wasn’t our problem – heh). Also, it meant that he arrived after all our furniture did, which I assume made things a little easier for him – familiar objects, smells, etc. Also also, it was really nice to have from-home friends staying with us for a couple of days while we got settled. Yes, we had friends in the Bay Area already, but that’s not the same as having someone you’re comfortable with actually in the house helping you unpack and listening to you kvetch about how, no matter how excited you are to be there, you’re totally going to miss Chicago.

    So that’s what worked for us. Good luck, whatever you decide!

  • KTB says:

    +1 to quite a bit of what Sean said. I lived in the Portland area and in Portland for the better part of twenty years (I moved to Seattle almost two years ago), and here’s my advice:

    1. Definitely spend time in Portland in January/February/March. Some people love it, some people hate it, but if you can get through that time period and still love Portland, you’re in good shape.

    2. Pick your quadrant carefully. The MAX runs very well east/west on both sides of the river, but only north/south on the Eastside. If you want to go carless, I highly recommend living in NE/NW/SE/NoPo or very inner SW. The further out you get from downtown on the Westside, the less frequent the transit and no MAX. Same with the Eastside–don’t go too far south or the transit gets sparse.

    3. Maybe list your condo in Chicago on VRBO or AirBNB for a while during the time when you’re trying out Portland? That ought to cover the mortgage.

    4. Craigslist is an excellent place to find an apartment for rent, but definitely map everything before you suddenly find yourself driving out to Gresham for “an amazing SE experience!”

    5. Lastly, Sars is welcome to pass along my email if you have more Portland-specific questions. I’m happy to help.

  • Ealasaid says:

    Wow, I moved from the SF Bay Area (where I’d lived all my life) to Portland last year! Here’s how we did it, in case any of this is useful:

    – Spent a weekend driving around PDX with a local friend and making notes about neighborhoods we liked.
    – Spent another weekend visiting about half a dozen apartments we’d found online via extensive searches (Craigslist, Zillow, random property managers pages, etc. I looooove looking at listings, so I’d send batches of links to my bf and we’d weed out all the ones that weren’t quite what we want/needed.)
    – Got lots of advice from local friends about tenants rights and whatnot. This site, for example: Other vital info: ask if there’s ever been mold, what the property manager’s policy is around mold, etc. Likewise for vermin, bedbugs, other horrible crap.
    – Picked a couple great places and applied. One was accepted (the other had been called-dibs-upon when we applied, but we applied anyway in case the other people flaked. They did not), and we signed the lease!
    – Panicked (or at least, that’s what I did)
    – Did a huge declutter purge (I own 1600+ books and hoard other crap in similar fashion). Sold every piece of furniture we didn’t love like crazy on craigslist and the purged crap online at various places and at a joint yardsale with a friend who was also moving. We made about $800 cash with all this, which was a HUGE help. (Man vs. Debt is a GREAT resource for how to get rid of your crap. He goes into detail about the best places to sell different types stuff, for example.) My mantra was, “do I want to pay money to move this to Portland?” If the answer wasn’t “hell yes,” then it had to go. This turned out to be very effective.)
    – Packed everything. Hired movers to schlepp the stuff into the pod we rented from PODS. (Note: PODS are awesome but pricey. They take a week or more to get from point A to point B because they are gathered in batches and shipped via huge semis. We basically camped out in our new digs until the POD arrived.)
    – Caravaned to Portland in our two cars with our cats and all the stuff we didn’t want to put in the POD (my plants, my wine, his guitars, etc.)
    – Hired movers to schlepp all the boxes out of the POD and into our two-stories-plus-a-basement house and put them where they needed to go.
    – Celebrated.

    It’s been just over a year, and we’re almost unpacked! :D

    Portland is amazing. We are stoked to live here, and our neighborhood (inner SE) is awesome.

    Oh! We also bought “The Newcomer’s Guide to Portland,” which turned out to be really helpful. Moving out of state is a hassle in weird ways if you’ve never done it before.

    Good luck!

  • Kristin 2 the Kristin Boogaloo says:

    What everybody said, although I’m befuddled by Nanc’s “keep an eye out for Wesson” comment. Did anyone else go to a scary Florence Henderson place there?

    One thing you might consider, if you want to have options, is renting in Portland and renting your condo furnished. Then you can get some relatively inexpensive new stuff for Portland without it costing you a fortune to move all your stuff there. If, after a year, you want to live in Portland forever, you can sell your condo and maybe even the stuff in it.

    Best of luck! Moving’s a hassle but shopping for new pretty stuff isn’t…

  • Nanc in Ashland says:

    Wesen, not Wesson! Damn you auto-correct spell check!

    If you’ve never seen Grimm you’re missing a big ole lovefest for Portland and the Pacific Northwest! Mind you, I spend lots of time watching and saying “hey, I’ve been lost there!” I have a horrible sense of direction.

    And if Florence Henderson did a bit as a Wesen of the Week it would be fabulous!

  • SolitaryBlue says:

    Seconding Lulu’s comment that if you decide to hire a mover, check them out! The first (and only) time I ever hired a moving company was a NIGHTMARE. They didn’t show up, and when I called to complain I was told that their prior appointment had “taken longer than expected” but they’d be there the next morning instead. I was pissed but I agreed to let them come the next morning. Well, they didn’t show up then, either. Several dozen phone calls later, they finally came — at 11:00 PM. Finished unloading the truck at my new place at 3 AM.

    And this was a move from a one-bedroom apartment to another one-bedroom apartment in the same city. I’m still pissed thinking about it now and it happened in 2003.

    So: If you use a moving company, research them first.

  • JenV says:

    If you decide to do the whole U-Haul thing and move your stuff yourself, I have a piece of advice inspired by several horror stories I’ve read very recently: DO NOT f*** around with the security of your rental truck. Not sure about Chicago or Portland, but here in Seattle moving trucks are theft magnets. Those several horror stories I’ve read were of people about to make an interstate move who loaded up their truck, parked it overnight to depart the next morning, and woke up to find the truck, with all of their belongings, gone. Nightmare.

    So yeah, do whatever you can to make sure that truck is safe – pay a fortune to park it somewhere secure, park it at a friend’s house in a sleepy suburb, sleep in the cab, take the battery out at night, rig up your own Rube Goldberg-esque security system, whatever it takes.

  • attica says:

    If you’re ditching furniture and the like, consider taking the tax deduction and donating to Habitat for Humanity. When I was closing up my late mom’s house, there was a bunch of stuff we couldn’t sell in time, and they came and picked it all up. They can really use furniture and housewares, or at least the one in that neighborhood could. The nice thing was they gave me a receipt for what-all they took, and let me apply the value I saw fit.

    I tell you what; I’m never moving my sofabed again. Life is too short for that nightmare.

  • Clover says:

    As much as I wanna say something clever and contrarian (because Portlanders love to say things that are clever and contrarian), I love Portland and highly recommend it as a place to live, especially since you have a JOB! The biggest impediment to Portland relocation tends to be “how the heck will I get a job?” so you’ve answered a big question by having that part settled.

    I second many of the great suggestions in this thread, especially these:

    –Prune your furniture and household stuff aggressively. There are lots and lots of fantastic secondhand stores here where you can score fun household goodies for a song.
    –Pick a place close in for ease of transit. I have a car, as do most people I know, and many of us STILL hop on the MAX all the time because it’s so easy. Do note that parking can be a bear in some of the close-in areas! Make sure you ask questions about parking when you’re shopping around.
    –Sign a short-term lease if you can. The people who raise the specter of SAD aren’t kidding. January in Portland is . . . a good time to binge-watch TV, read, or otherwise dissociate from reality.
    –That said, prepare to have fun in the crappy weather. Get some fun boots and good rain gear. On the first day of the rainy season, get your ass outside and have a good time, just to prove you can. It’ll make the rest of the rainy season easier.

    Also, when you’re looking around, consider the other side of the mountain. I live in the profoundly uncool Portland suburb of Beaverton and I love it! I’m a MAX ride from the big, hip city. Housing is cheaper here and more plentiful. There’s no night life whatsoever–you’ve got to go to Portland for that–but it’s just over the mountain if you do want it. I enjoy the quiet and slower pace of the ‘burbs, where parking isn’t a hassle and there aren’t any panhandlers. I’m also a lot closer to the beach and wine country–it’s nice to hop in the car to these destinations without having to make my way across Portland and through traffic to get there.

    Good luck! And Sars, feel free to share my email address with Boxy and her cats.

  • Barb says:

    2 cross country moves, and 3 that were across half the country.

    major moving companies not only have movers, they have packers and unpackers.
    i found PACKERS to be wonderful.
    I found UNPACKERS to be demons from hell.

    Too much stuff came in the front door for me to make decisions about “where to put that” for anything but the major pieces of furniture.

    I also suggest resting or staying with a friend for a couple of months, minimum.
    That makes it easier to learn areas you would like to live in, what is convenient to where.

    YES, to the LISTS!

  • Rebecca says:

    I have lived for varying lengths of time in Massachusetts, New York, Colorado, Hawaii, California, and North Carolina. It’s a lot of moves. The #1 thing I wish I’d done differently with almost every move is not signed a lease when I first landed in my new city. There are just things you can’t know for sure when you show up. Examples: discovered that my commute took way longer than I thought; realized I was spending all my time hanging out in another neighborhood; realized I’d settled on a mediocre place too quickly, and that if I’d waited a few weeks I’d have better choices. It was always anxiety-making to move to a new place, a relief to have a settled place to live…and then I kicked myself when I realized I had bought short-term relief for the price of long-term satisfaction. Just my 2 cents. If I can avoid it, when moving in the future I will always sublet or AirBNB for a month in my new city while I search for a good living situation.

  • Kim says:

    My sister moved cross-country (Seattle to Atlanta) last year! I can vouch for much of the advice in this thread, and throw in some tips from her experience:

    –The housing market, both buying and renting, is *tight* in P-town right now, especially if you’re on a budget and or have pets. If you have the chance to visit and research neighborhoods, do; if it’s possible to arrange for a rental to start with, and in advance, go for it. Sis found an apartment via Craigslist and actually got the landlord to walk through the place Facetime-ing with her by phone to show her the layout, and that sealed the deal.

    –She went the PODS route, and then we split driving duties in her car and met the furniture on the far side. She packed the containers herself, with help from friends and relatives…but in ATL she actually looked up and hired strong youths to unpack and carry shit in, because the packing process had nearly driven us all to homicide.

    –Alaska Airlines, at least, will ship pets as cargo, so they don’t need to be accompanied by ticketed passengers but are separately handled, not flung around like baggage. (They have specific carrier/kennel requirements for the critters’ safety.) Sis ended up doing this with her three cats, since she couldn’t coordinate that many plane tickets and there are limits to the number of pets that can go in-cabin, per flight. The kitties were definitely freaked from the ordeal–look into putting some puppy pee-pads in their carriers, flying or driving!–but their little walnut brains erased it all pretty quickly. I’d say Sis was by far the most traumatized, just imagining their experience.

    Good luck and godspeed! I recommend Pine State Biscuits and the Grilled-Cheese Grill once you get settled, for your carboloading needs.

  • Candace says:

    My husband and I moved from California to Wisconsin 13 years ago (with two cats), and now we’re planning the reverse move (with the same two cats plus a 10-year-old kid).

    For the first move – we got rid of most of our furniture and one of our cars. Then my husband drove in the remaining car with the cats while I drove the small moving truck. A big help for us was that Motel 6 will let you stay with cats (I think it’s $10/pet). You can find a Motel 6 pretty much anywhere you are, so we’d drive until we got tired and then start looking. We also bought a whole “pet net” system that was supposed to keep the cats in the back of the car. They got through that in about 10 minutes. One of the cats spent the trip miserable on the floor but one of them got into it and would hang out on the back of the seats looking out the windows.

    For the reverse move we’re planning pretty much the same thing, except we’re older and have more stuff so it’ll be a bigger truck and we’ll hire movers to help us load it.

  • LisaD says:

    We made the move from Seattle to Chicago and back. Moving out there, it was a corporate relo – they handled *everything!* Coming back was all on us, and MAN was it expensive! We had also added 2 kids to the mix by that point. We totally should have gotten rid of a ton of our stuff, but we didn’t and we literally paid for it. It cost around $15K to have our stuff packed and then moved by professional movers. The less you can move the WAY better you will be.

    We also moved cats. On the trip out we had two cats and they flew with us on Alaska Air (that airline will be your new BFF for transit between ORD and PDX). We had them in soft sided carriers on board with us. I think at the time their tickets were $75 each. On the way back we only had one kitty, and my husband and FIL drove the cars back (I flew with our kids) with the cat. She was sedated, and it made a huge difference because she is a yowler on ANY car ride.

    Like the other commenters, I also strongly recommend you do whatever apt hunting you can and then rent first. It really makes a difference in getting to know a chosen area and knowing you can pick up and move if you want to – whether it is to another neighborhood or all the way back to Chicago. Enlist the help of your transplanted friends. Ask them for feedback. See if they’ll go scout a few places for you and send you pictures/feedback. And if you can hang on to your Chicago condo, I agree it would be a good idea. It’s nice to have a fallback just in case it doesn’t work out.

    And you will experience some culture shock in the PNW. I grew to really love it out there, but little things drove me nuts – like wait service in restaurants just not being great. But I did truly love the laid back vibe the PNW has and that you work to live, not live to work. I also hope you enjoy getting outdoors. There is SO much to do, and with the weather being so temperate, you can do a lot of it year round. Do be prepared for the rainy season tho. You won’t have the t-storms of the midwest – mostly a near-constant gray drizzle. You’ll need a good rain jacket you can layer under and some good waterproof shoes/boots. You really won’t need an umbrella as much as you think. If you don’t mind not seeing the sun for what seems like days on end, you’ll be ok. But the summertime is truly worth the wait.

    Cross country moves are a big undertaking, but with good planning and research, you can make it a smooth move.

  • Clover says:

    @Kim: Co-signing the Grilled Cheese Grill recommendation.

    Also, don’t wait in long lines for ANY Portland hipster foodstuffs. The Voodoo doughnuts are just doughnuts. Salt & Straw is just ice cream. Equally delicious things are commercially available in less hip locations all over the city.

    Portland things that are NOT overhyped: Powell’s Books. The bins. Stumptown Coffee. Forest Park. The rose garden (the one with roses, not the sports arena, which I think is now called something else).

  • StatMom says:

    YMMV and all that, but if you decide to rent a moving truck, I CANNOT recommend UHaul. I myself have rented, and/or been involved in at least a dozen moves where a UHaul truck was used, and there have been problems with every. single. truck. Problems ranged from relatively minor (a leak in the roof) to major (brakes not working!). When the defective brake truck was returned, the representative essentially shrugged their shoulders. No indication that the truck would be repaired before it was sent out again. It seems there’s a reason their rates are among the lowest.

  • Georgia says:


    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Salt & Straw is possibly the most unappealing name for an ice cream shop I’ve ever heard. Never been there, but [shudders].

  • Anne says:

    My boyfriend lives in Portland (I’m about an hour and half south, but I spend most weekends up there) and I’d say having a car is worth it. You can get around the city fine using the MAX or biking (really bike friendly city) but one of the greatest things about Oregon and southern Washington is the incredible number of things to do outside. Your access to Mt. Hood from Portland is pretty incredible, but it would be hard to do without a car.

    Also ditto on the visiting in February. Coming from Chicago you might not be bothered by the weather– it’s not nearly as cold out here, but the monotony of the gray can seem pretty monumental by the end of winter. I’ve been in the Northwest for about 10 years now, but when I moved up I remember asking a lot of people if the winters were really as bad as everyone said, and the universal answer was, “Well……yeah.” I concur.

  • Jo says:

    To add to what Nanc in Ashland said:

    I live in Washington now, but until two years ago lived in Oregon my entire life (both in the southern part of the state across the mountains from Ashland, which I hated and in Eugene, which I LOOOVE).

    I never thought the income tax was a reason to tell someone not to move there (I don’t think that’s what Nanc was saying either). It seems high, but now that I live somewhere without income tax and pay sales tax, I don’t really notice a big difference. (Alternative idea: You could live in Vancouver, Wash. and pay no income tax, but do all your shopping not far away in Portland.) I never owned property so I didn’t pay property tax, but my husband owned a house there for two years while we were dating and didn’t seem to think it was a big deal. Oh. But you will wind up owing the state money every year, even if you think you paid a lot of income tax. I never made more than $24,000 living there and almost always owed about $100.

    I wonder if the smog check Nanc mentioned is a new law or is just for older cars or specific models. I drove an ’89 vehicle up until 2008 and then had a 2008 model and never knew Oregon does smog checks. I have been told that Oregon’s registration costs a lot more than other states. But I’m unaware of required smog checks. It was never an issue for me. My parents still live there and have had lots of cars through the years and never have mentioned it either.

  • ferretrick says:

    Just need to point something out-there’s nothing in the original letter that says Oregon. He could be talking about Portland, Maine.

  • Kristin 2 the Kristin Boogaloo says:

    @NancinAshland –

    BWAH! That went right over my head, but I get it now. I do enjoy the juxtaposition of Mrs. Brady and “infinite darkness”. Well, indeed.

  • sarah says:

    Yes to the lists. And yes to getting rid of stuff.

    When I moved cross country, I did not own a place, but did have a cat and a car.

    I shipped my stuff and my car. Visited family on the old coast for a long weekend while my stuff shipped (and my cat stayed w/ local friends). Then picked up my cat, a few suitcases and flew across country. I stayed w/ a friend while I waited for my stuff (though I think it arrived before me…crazy truck driver hauled ass) and looked for a place. I got a place w/ random roommates which made it easy to move out when I found a place of my own. I’d wait to buy til you know the area and what will work for you there. Your Chicago lifestyle may differ from your Portland lifestyle and you may want different things in a home, which may take a bit of time to figure out.

    If you sell your car first, you can look for a new one online and have it all but purchased for when you arrive.

    Good luck.

  • AmySue says:

    It’s been said, but moving from Chicago to Portland is a big cultural deal. I say that as a person who’s lived in California and who currently lives in Washington. You do already have a built-in support system with your friends in Portland. Ask them what they recommend for neighborhoods, do they need a car, etc.? Also, you might find that people in the PNW can be a little aloof. Actively make plans to get together with your friends and have them show you what they like. Since you already have a job and won’t be plunging into that new arena, check out some activities that you might do when you’re not working. The food is great, but do you like hiking, music, artisan cheese or something else? Lastly, it’s dark here in the winter, and if you can make it through that, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular summers.

    Good luck!

  • Kim says:

    @ferretrick: Dang, you’re right. We PNWers aren’t predisposed or anything, noooo. Perhaps some Mainers can weigh in and tell us about the funky things in their Portland?

    @Clover: Truth. I teared up the first time I saw the scope of the kids’ section in the main Powell’s; I was that overcome, on behalf of my ten-year-old self.

  • Liz says:

    Just don’t fly the cats cargo, whatever else you do. Oh, the horror stories.

  • Hannah says:

    Couple of suggestions, one inspired by the comment up-thread about losing a post-it. I take photographs of every piece of paper that I don’t want to lose. That way if I do lose it, I still have it. Plus a smart phone is easier to carry around than a bunch of paper! For example, when someone hands me a business card, I photograph it (both sides if it’s printed on both sides) then toss it. I have this dream of storing all those cards in a folder on my computer or in the cloud, but haven’t done so and probably never will. Still, I have those photographs!

    Two, this may not be your cup of tea but you should check out Vancouver, Washington which is JUST over the river from Portland itself. The advantage to living in Vancouver is that while Oregon has no sales tax, Washington has no income tax. So you can shop in Oregon (saving the sales tax) and live in Washington (saving the income tax).

    Vancouver is also cheaper to live in that Portland itself. But not quite as nice from what I have heard.

  • Hannah says:

    [oops, probably wouldn’t have posted my first post if I had read the entire thread, I see that someone already suggested Vancouver WA for the reasons I posted]

    So, about moving cats. I’m a crazy cat lady and have also dealt with feral cats who are even more skittish than housecats so…

    1) If you’re driving the cats cross-country, bring carriers and towels to put over the carriers. My cats are significantly calmer of the carrier is draped with a towel and they can’t see out. In particular, I noticed that one of my cats couldn’t deal with the scenery flashing by quickly from a side window, it made her very agitated.

    2) You can try pulling the towel back if they seem calm … let them look out (to the front rather than side) and if they adapt to that, leave the towel off the front door of the crate so they can see.

    3) Cats do better if confined on the trip, I would NEVER allow them the run of the car, and I would not open the car door if the cats were not secured in their carriers.

    4) Back in the day I occasionally stayed at Motel 6 with pets and didn’t tell them I had a pet, I just got a room in the back and walk (or carry) the pet up. That was in my starving student days and also I resented paying an extra fee per night for what I considered a member of my family! YMMV. I do realize that it’s only fair to let them know there’s been a cat or a dog in the room so they can vacuum extra carefully (as if) … as the next guest could be allergic.

    5) Cats, much more so than dogs, are very bonded to PLACES. So a relocation has to be done carefully. First, any cat moved to a new home, whether across the country or across town, should be confined indoors for at least three weeks. Cats do tend to run off, get disoriented, when they are in a new place, because they want to go HOME and this isn’t home. So, no yard access for three weeks!

    6) Cats bond with a new place more quickly if there’s less of it with which to become familiar. So, keep your cats in a single room for a few days when you arrive. Make sure there are some kitty lairs that they can crawl into to feel save – put bedding inside a closet, a little kitty tent, whatever. In a new location, cats sometimes become fearful and want to hide, watch and wait, until the magical moment (hours, days, weeks or months later) when they say “OK, this is not dangerous, I can relax now.” Once they act confident in that one room, give them access to more rooms and eventually the whole place.

    I realize some cats are just super-confident and don’t need ANY of the above. I have never owned such a cat :-)

  • Anne says:

    1. Get rid of as much stuff as possible. Seriously, the less you have to move the easier it’ll be. Before my first cross-country move, my mom and I cleaned out my apartment and got rid of almost everything, which was tough at the time but 100% the right thing to do, as it made relocating later on easier. And what I got rid of was mostly second-hand furniture and appliances, which I was eventually able to replace with nicer things. I kept a few things that had real sentimental value, my books, clothes, art, and my cat.

    (Full disclosure: this part of the process can be painful. But you don’t want to move with a ton of crap and start over somewhere else with – well, literal baggage.)

    2. The first time I moved, I shipped what was left of my stuff (I’d gotten rid of that much) and then flew myself and my cat to the new place. The second time, I packed up a van and drove myself and my cat (in his carrier) to the new place. If you fly, or if your cat is anxious, kitty prozac can be helpful!

    3. I’d maybe suggest keeping your bike and ditching your car in Chicago. Rent a U-Haul to get your stuff to Portland (and enjoy the road trip!).

    4. Most importantly: spend a weekend out there before you move. Get a good sense of the place – you’ll see it differently if you’re looking at it as your actual future home and not just a city you’d like to live someday. That’s the time to find an apartment to rent. Once you’re moved and settled, then start looking for a home to buy. (Also, what if you settle and find you don’t like it as much as you hoped? Renting for a while gives you a little buffer; it’s easier to pack up and move somewhere else if you don’t have to sell your house!)

    5. Good luck!

  • ErinW says:

    The thing I didn’t know until I did my own recent interstate move: you can hire different sets of movers at each end. It’s crazy expensive to hire one company to pack the truck, drive the truck, and unpack it. I rented a UHaul, hired movers in one city to pack it, drove the truck myself (my mom drove my car, with my dog in it), and then had a second group of movers in the new city to carry stuff in. It was still stressful, especially because of all the variables involved, but everybody did their part, and I spent MUCH less than all the estimates suggested I would need to pay. And I never carried a couch.

    If you do Uhaul, buy the insurance policy. It was $35 where I was, and I ended up needing it because I took the right sideview mirror off.

  • Faux McCoy says:

    We’ve moved 9 times in 23 years, including to overseas locales (thanks, US military!). I can’t speak to the Portland specifics, but here are a few hard-earned lessons for what they’re worth:

    1) Add my voice to the clean-out chorus. It’s amazing to find out what you really don’t need when you realize you’ll have to haul it around with you. Also recommend the checklist/folder/scanned documents route…I create an accordion file for all the paperwork for every move.

    2) Definitely hire professional movers if you have the means, but accept that even with professionals, some of your stuff will get damaged. I’ve also found that there’s an equivalent value-to-damage ratio…your crappy, pressboard bookcase from college will come through without a scratch, but Grandma’s antique sideboard will require refinishing.

    3) Have a friend help you with both sides of the pack-out. You can’t be in every room at the same time, and movers tend to work multiple rooms at once, loading and unloading. Having a trusted partner keeping an eye on things on the second floor while you’re on the first can prevent a lot of stupidity. Additionally, they can help check off and account for the items as they are unloaded. Also, we make the movers empty the boxes on the receiving end and haul all the cardboard and paper with them when they leave. It leaves your house in a chaotic state afterward for a while, but when they say they’ll schedule a time to come back later and remove that stuff, let’s just say “later” might as well be “never”.

    4) Look into United’s PetSafe program…they did a fantastic job with our dog.

    5) We’ve had good experiences with CarMax and it’s very little hassle, vs. trying to sell your car yourself.

    The last thing is just to prepare for “sticker shock”…movers, first and last months rent, security deposits, utilities deposits, buying new stuff, replacing broken/lost stuff, restocking the pantry, pet costs, new license/registering vehicle for Oregon plates, etc. With every move, we just accept it’s going to put a dent in our wallet and focus on the excitement of exploring a new city.

    Hope this helps…

  • anotherkate says:

    Regarding Attica’s comment about donating stuff and getting a tax break – you’re only going to get a (small) benefit on your federal taxes for material non-cash donations if you already itemize your deductions on a Schedule A. Also, some people have been trying to claim tens of thousands of dollars in material donations for their old clothes and appliances, which means the IRS is more likely to scrutinize your return if you put in a large deduction. Donating to a good cause is great, but don’t do it just for the tax break.
    This lesson brought to you by the girl who donated her car to charity and then couldn’t actually benefit from the $3000 donation value and could’ve used the $1800 cash the dealer offered.

  • Tara says:

    My partner and I moved from Atlanta to PDX, and honestly, most of my advice has already been said. I should think that most of the moving-related advice would apply to moving to Portland, ME, too.

    That said, the month-to-month lease is still fairly common (compared to our previous experience) here in Portland, OR, and it might be a way for you to experience a couple of neighborhoods here before you buy. And the housing prices really can be as cheap as you’ve heard! Depending on where you buy. (Our house in SE was soooo cheap!) The neighborhoods are so distinct here, it’s worth it to try and live in the ones that call to you, before you settle on which one is a good fit.

    Also, if you are a person of color, or have previously been comfortable within a culture heavily influenced by non-white folks, please be aware there will be a high potential for some fairly extreme culture shock. Being in an interracial relationship and coming from the Deep South and the Baltimore-DC area, respectively, we totally thought we had a handle on this racism thing. Long story short: after three years of trying, we’re leaving Portland, and we couldn’t be happier to go somewhere where 6% of the population being Black isn’t “a sizable AA community.”

  • deb says:

    I’ve moved stuff a couple of times using uship – had a lot of luck, but like with anything, you need to be careful who you use. I wouldn’t use anybody that wanted all cash, either all upfront, or half upfront. It was more expensive to use somebody who agreed to take a credit card upon delivery – but I feel like it’s a lot safer. If you do move a car on one of those moving things, they’ll usually allow you to pack some stuff in it, but not too much.

  • PPK says:

    I have heard that some moving companies essentially play “games” to avoid fixing trucks and are really just hoping that the truck pukes at someone else’s location. If you rent a truck to move, maybe give yourself enough time to drive it around for 30 minutes and make sure it’s reasonably sound.

    If you drive your car, take it in for a check up if you can find somewhere that you reasonably trust. Maybe consider new tires and a AAA membership. You want to reduce the chance of getting stuck on the side of the road somewhere strange with no one close to rescue.

    If you’re driving, I personally suggest planning the night stops and booking the hotels before you leave. Sure, it stops you from making a marathon 20 hour drive, but it preserves you from hopping from hotel to hotel because they’re all full from some sports tournament and you’re exhausted and just want a shower and a bed.

  • Nikki says:

    I’ve done a cross-country move several times, so, your questions:

    1) Condo. You have the option of renting out your condo instead of selling it; you can hire a company that will manage placing tenants and collecting the rent, and then take a cut. If your condo would rent for significantly more than your associated expenses, I suggest that. Otherwise, I don’t suggest putting it on the market until you’re totally comfortable with all the moving-related tasks.

    2) Stuff. You can rent a moving van or pay professional movers. Movers are likely to cost $5000+, and a moving van through Penske would probably cost $500-1000+ gas. You can look into Uhaul, but I’m fairly sure you’ll pay more since they charge for mileage. For one of my moves, I had a hitch put on my car and moved with a trailer, which was certainly the easiest and cheapest ($250 for hitch, $150 for trailer rental + gas), but it allows you to bring the least amount of furniture.

    3) Cats. I’ve moved with a cat, and just kept her in the carrier while driving. Definitely don’t let the cats roam your car. I sedated her initially, but honestly she was way more calm in the carrier than “sedated” and out. A friend of mine moved with 3 cats by setting up a small tent in the backseat. I have 3 now and if I moved again, I’d just use their carriers.

    3) Car. This depends a lot on how you’re moving. If you go for a hitch, obviously you’ll keep the car. If you WANT to bring the car, you can rent a car trailer and hitch it to the back of a moving van. Or, you can enlist family to drive your car while you drive the van (or vice versa), and then fly back. There’s also “car on a truck” service, and for $1000 or so, they’ll drive your car out there for you.

    4) New Place. Call up your friends who live there and have them help you find a place TO RENT. You might ask them to weigh in on whether you’d need a car as well. Rent for 6 months or a year, to give yourself time to figure out (A) whether Portland is your new home, and (B) where in the city you *really* want to be. I’m in your boat, own a home and don’t want to go back to renting… but a trial period is really the best idea.

  • Lauren S says:

    I moved from Kansas to Pittsburgh about a decade ago and deeply regret bringing all my stuff. It cost over a grand to rent the truck and the only things I actually needed were my computer, chest, rug, and stand mixer, which I could have all fit in my car.

  • Waverly says:

    Brooklyn to Seattle all the way back in 2005.

    We hired cross-country movers after doing a crap-ton of research, There is a great website called that will help you weed out the companies to avoid. My advice (which I took from the website) is this: do your research, then set up appointments with three different companies to come to your place, look around, and make estimates. It was a long and involved process, but totally worth it. Our movers were professional, friendly, on time, not remotely scammy and careful with our stuff.

    We flew out here (no car) with the cat. It was stressful. He was crammed into an FAA approved pet carrier under the seat in front of us. The tranquilizer that we gave him did not make him remotely tranquil.

    If you choose to fly with your cats in the passenger compartment with you, be ready to take them out of their carriers and hold them as you walk through the scanner thing. Leash them up if they are runners.

    Portland is great! They have good public transit there called the Max, I think. If you live in the urban core you probably won’t need a car. If you want to live in the suburbs, you probably will.

    Good luck!

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