4 Things I Wish I Knew When I Moved Out For The First Time

And some valuable tips for your new home.

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Photo by Erda Estremera on Unsplash

When I was eleven years old, moving out seemed unbearable.

Remember Belle from Beauty and the Beast who sang about the monotony of her little town? I was the exact opposite of her. I wanted to live in one place. I wanted to cultivate a long-lasting relationship with my home. Looking back, it makes sense that I felt that way.

As a child of immigrant parents, I moved countries twice. Since we had to rent a home, we moved house innumerable times at the end of our lease. These experiences were in equal parts painful and nerve-wracking at the same time.

After college, I have had to move house every 2 years or so. I ended up making a lot of mistakes every time I moved. If I could turn back time, here are 4 things I would tell my younger self.

Money does not buy a great home, at least not in the way you think

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

I graduated from college with approximately $22,000 in tuition fee debt. In retrospect, that isn’t even half of what most international students have to pay off. But that’s still a huge amount for someone earning a low income. I had to rent a home in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Furthermore, I did not have any family money to rely on.

I’ll be honest — when I first moved, I disregarded my debt for the first few years. Instead, I focused on ‘luxury’. I wanted to have a beautiful bookshelf in my room. So I spent a lot of money on books I never read. I wanted to have a cosy home office so I spent on new tech devices, some of which were very poor investments.

I splurged on decorating my room. Meanwhile, my student loan debt skyrocketed.

When I turned 25, I wanted to look for a studio apartment of my own. But my savings account looked bleak. I was nowhere close to even affording a decent individual bedroom. The reason was simple, I couldn’t spend when I had so much growing debt. It made me anxious and regretful.

Tip: don’t use your hard-earned money to ‘buy happiness’. Save it, so you can secure that happiness starting today.

Resources: I tried a lot of expense tracking apps — they didn’t work for me. Instead, I decided to look at the big picture. Here’s the video that got me thinking — Simple Steps to Financial Freedom by Matt D’Avella. It explains the importance of securing rainy money, savings and repaying debt.

Declutter your home constantly, no excuses!

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Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

My family has always had serious hoarding problems. So I’ve often found moving houses annoying and stressful as hell. But to my surprise, I picked up this bad habit. And it became a coping mechanism of sorts.

At the age of 22, I discovered retail therapy. But the one thing that I loved the most was organizing. I even bought extra storage boxes to bring some “order” to my life. My room started to have less floor space. The tabletops and countertops piled up with impulse purchases.

The growing clutter became a safety net for my insecurities.

When I had to move house, it was a nightmare. I was so attached to the things I owned I couldn’t throw them away. Instead, I ended up filling almost 60% of a large lorry with my possessions alone. It was a giant pile of endless STUFF.

But that moment taught me something crucial. Three years later, the landscape has changed. Today, I’m approaching a minimalist life.

This means decluttering every few weeks. I remind myself whenever I can, to only keep meaningful items. A dress hand-picked from an assorted bundle of clothes. A fountain pen I saved up money to buy. All these things hold meaning. Unlike impulse buying.

Tip: Keep only the things you truly love. When you buy a new shirt, throw two old shirts that you’re not using. Digitise all your lecture notes and documents. Donate, donate and donate. Before moving house, discard anything that is not essential to your current house. There’s a chance this will hold true even in your new house.

The most difficult bit for me was switching from physical books to ebooks. As someone who loves the feel of a book in her hands, I am still adjusting to this new normal.

Resources: I started with reading Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organising and Tidying Up. This book is very different from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The former deals with practical techniques, while the latter focuses on philosophy. I also combed through my favourite Korean minimalist vloggers 슛뚜sueddu and 히조heejo. Their lifestyle inspires me to abandon luxury for simplicity.

You already know this but, saving the environment starts from home

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Photo by Jane Palash on Unsplash

In 9th grade, I did a case study on Greenpeace. That was my first introduction to environmentalism. Needless to say, I identified with many of their causes. I told myself “I’m going to volunteer for Greenpeace one day! I will save our planet’s wildlife!”.

But I was nowhere close to being a worthy volunteer. When I moved out for the first time, I was the worst candidate for the role.

I bought countless plastic containers to store food. I didn’t carry my own reusable bag to the supermarkets. I bought a lot of food which I wasted. I kept the tap running while washing the dishes. I printed out a great deal of paperwork for personal development courses. I used the aircon almost every day. And my diet steered toward cheese and red meat; foods which left a pretty high carbon footprint.

There’s something uncomfortable about going against nature. You can feel it in even in your home. In the staleness of air, missing greenery and the slick of unhealthy food.

Tips: Switch to glass containers for dry food and silicone bags for storing in freezers. Use good quality wooden or porcelain bowls for food. Grow herbs and simple veggies that you can use for cooking. Switch to a fresh food diet with as many vegetarian options as possible — limit the amount of meat. For makeup and wellness products, switch to cruelty-free brands or try homes remedies.

Resources: Educating yourself is the first step. My go-to is, of course, the website for Greenpeace International. There is a wealth of information on adopting a green lifestyle. Some related articles are reconnecting with food and reducing the use of plastic. I also refer to The Chalkboard Mag for eco-friendly tips. You can check out this cute article on maintaining house plants during summer.

In the end when all the packing is done, what remains is gratitude

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Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

I didn’t like my current house when I first moved in. I didn’t like the location. It was on the hillside. I felt alienated all the time. The commute to work was very tiring. I didn’t like my bed. The list of complaints was neverending.

But now that I have to leave, I realize how many things I took for granted.

No matter what kind of home you’re moving to, it’s a place you have chosen. And you have to trust that you made a good choice. I know I did.

I love the little valley where I live. The sunlight fills my bedroom in the morning. The nature reserve looms in the backdrop like a ginormous garden. The two old telephone towers rise in the distance, blinking red lights at night. Looking out my window, I can watch the muted playback of other lives. The lights in their apartment. The televisions flashing. The gentle wind that only rises here.

My room has a lovely nook. It has an antique bookshelf. And I have a bathtub where I sometimes take a dip and drink wine. The open kitchen has seen many disasters. And many wonderful recipes. Here, I’ve seen so many turbulent times. But I’ve also seen joy and hope and laughter.

Here, on this hill, in this little home — I’ve made a life for myself. I’m so proud and glad of it. And I am so sad to say goodbye.

Today, as I am getting ready to move out again, these are some reminders I have for myself. And if you’re in the same place as me now, or will be soon — I hope you remember to look at the grand scheme of things. Let’s focus on what’s meaningful to us. What do we choose to move out with? Or rather, what do we choose to move in with next?

For me, the answer is simple. I’m moving with the hope to live a simpler life. I want to be judicious. To be considerate of my choices. And not least, I want to be grateful.

That’s what I’m choosing to move in with. What about you?

I code for a living. When I’m not knee deep in bugs, I enjoy reading books, sketching and writing for change. My kryptonite is a fluffy cat.

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