Monday, September 6, 2010

So, You're Going to be Homeless - Part 2 - Your Stuff

   While you're still "of a fixed address", now is a good time to go through all your possessions, sort out what you *NEED* to keep, followed by what you Really Want to Keep, followed by everything else.  Too often, I've seen people allow their possessions to own *them*, rather than the other way around.  To give you an example, I know a woman, who was on the verge of getting evicted - she was seriously short on cash, and, I suppose, "between jobs".  Rather than pay her rent for her little apartment, she chose to pay the rent on her storage unit, which was costing her a pretty penny every month.  I asked her if perhaps she could get rid of some of her excess stuff, and downgrade to a smaller and cheaper storage unit?   She said she couldn't. Curious as to why, I ask her "What do you have in there, that you need so much room?"  She said: "My good FURNITURE!"


   Furniture that, as it turned out, would simply not fit in her little studio apartment.  Her work situation had actually started to deteriorate a year or so earlier, when she lost her decent-paying, decent-benefits job at the local hospital, and after finding a not-so-decent-paying, no-benefits job nearby, found she could no longer afford to stay in the 1 bedroom apartment that once held all her Good Furniture, and moved into a little studio, took what furniture would fit, and put the rest in storage. And while she could, in theory anyway, afford the rent on her studio apt, she couldn't really afford to pay the additional rent at the public-storage place, as well.  She was barely squeaking-by as it was, was unable to save any money for emergencies or other unexpected expenses, so inevitably, all it took was a small "bump" here and a minor "ding" there, to put her in the red, and start backsliding into debt.  When your weekly income *barely* covers your weekly expenses, it doesn't take much to start the debt-snowball rolling down the hill.

   Her attachment to her furniture was was her mother's, it was old-world quality, and had been in the family since she was born, her mother long deceased.  It obviously had a lot of sentimental value for this woman - perhaps reminding her of better times and the happier days of her childhood.  But there comes a time, IMHO, where such an attachment to an inanimate object becomes unhealthy.  Had this woman come to terms with her inability to keep this furniture in storage for such a long period, and made peace with the fact that it simply had to go, she would not now be looking at possibly having to sneak into the storage center at night, and join her beloved furniture, just to have some shelter.

   This is a case of where one's possessions have come to own them.  When you are treading water, financially-speaking, you don't need possessions that serve only as concrete life-preservers, pulling you down into the sea of red ink, and causing you to drown.   There comes a time when you simply have to let go, when you have to make some tough decisions, and prioritize the disposition of your possessions.  You are about to be homeless, you are probably broke or close to it, and have limited space in your vehicle.  Now, I don't know what eventually happened to that woman, but failing some rapid improvement in her financial situation, my guess is, her furniture was eventually sold at auction, to some unknown bidder, bidding on a lot of items he can't sift through, while hoping to turn a profit from his haul.  That's a rather ignominious end for some very special and beloved furniture.  In retrospect, she would have been better off on more than one level, by gifting this furniture to a good friend - and in doing so, would`ve saved herself from eviction.

   You, dear reader, will likely have to make some hard choices as well, as you transition towards vehicular living. 

   First things first - your important papers, documents, plastic, et al.  If you're already employed, I suggest you keep your driver's license, registration, credit and debit cards in your wallet, and put the rest aside for now.  If you are in job-hunting mode, take your SS card, and either your passport or your birth certificate, or your naturalization certificate, or green card, and keep them in a safe but accessible place - you'll probably need these items to prove your citizenship or provide proof that you are legally allowed to work in the US. It ain't like it used to be - blonde hair, blue eyes and a heavy Brooklyn accent is no longer sufficient to erase any doubts about your eligibility to work in the US.

   All the REST of your important papers and documents, you really should put into a safe-deposit box at your local bank.  I don't know how much that costs these days, but leaving this stuff, particularly those "irreplaceable" documents in your vehicle is tempting fate. If you don't want to go the safe-deposit box route, at least put those documents in one of those small, inexpensive, fire-resistant boxes that open from the top, and consider *leaving* it UNLOCKED. This way if someone breaks into your vehicle while you're away, they'll grab the steel box, thinking this must be your stash of valuables, only to have the cover open right up as they grab it, revealing only useless(to THEM) papers.  Chances are they'll simply leave a mess of papers on your floor, but the important thing is they LEAVE them.  If the box was locked, your papers would've been GONE - next week's trash in someone else's dumpster.  So leave it unlocked - you still get the benefit of the fire-resistance, as long as the box sits level with it's lid down.  Keep your plastic ON YOU at all times, and hide your valuables.  In fact, now is a good time for you to take any gold jewelry you aren't ferociously attached-to, and turn it into much needed cash.  Gold prices are at an all time high, and you obviously could really use the cash.  That much less to lose or have stolen, too - another benefit of selling your jewelry - you're less of  target.

   Next, it's time to sort out the stuff that you Really Want to Keep.  In a serious pinch, ALL of these items should be seen as expendable and optional.  You may have to get rid of a couple of things due to lack of space, but hopefully, you won't have to make too many compromises and sacrifices.  Take stock of these items.  Determine what you do or really don't have room for.  All else being equal, if you have to leave some stuff out, jettison the largest and bulkiest stuff FIRST. If you find you HAVE to leave an item of sentimental value, don't beat yourself up over it.  You simply can't help it, and at the end of the day, whatever it is, it's an inanimate object - it doesn't have feelings.

   Once you've sorted out what you're going to take with you, take stock of what's left.  are there any items someone else may find valuable or desirable?  If so, put it up on your local Craigslist with a photo if at all possible, ask a reasonable price, "nnegotiable", of course.  And using the time you have left at your soon-to-be ex-residence, and turn it into some cash.  Give away what you can't sell.  Donate to the thrift shop. Put a "curb alert" on Craigslist and then put the excess stuff outside free for the taking.  Anything is preferable to taking up space in a landfill, which does NO one any good.

   Keep your bedding, comforter, pillow, et al, a reasonable amount of extra clothes, and don't forget to take any of your non-perishable food items with you when you leave, as well as a manual can-opener.  If you have some cookware, take that as well, even if you can't use it right away.  Take your favorite electronics, too, even if you can`t use them right away.   If you have room, and the vehicle doesn't already have a microwave or little fridge, and you happen to own the micro and dorm-sized fridge in your room or apt, take them along as well. You can simply use them for extra storage until you can hook up with some electricity.  Got a fan?  Or a small AC?  If you have the extra room, take it with you.  You may not be able to use it now, but when you finally get some juice, it's gonna be a Great Day!  And you won't have to go out and re-buy what you already own.  ust don't cram the vehicle with so much stuff that you can`t even turn around inside, without bumping into something.  You need room for YOU, as well!  Also, don't forget to take your razor, shaving cream, liquid soap, shampoo, deodorant, and the like.  You'll soon be needing them and it would be a shame to have to go out and re-buy this stuff when doing so was avoidable.

   Flashlight, candles, matches, ashtray(if you smoke), plastic drinking cups, paper plates, plastic cutlery, napkins, paper towels, salt, pepper, spices, ect, ect will all be stuff you'll need, and will be glad to have on-hand when you DO need them.  Also, don't forget BOTH the 110v AND car-chargers for all your electronics!  Any Tupperware stuff is good, too.  Don't leave it behind. As (aHEM), "Moving Day" approaches, have all the stuff you don't use daily, already packed away into either suitcases, knapsacks, hefty-bags, or cardboard boxes, so you won't forget anything.  Keep the stuff you use everyday, out in one place, until it's time to go.

                  Stay tuned for Part 3 - Hitting The Road ;-)  Thanks for reading.


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