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When the Move to LA is a Maybe: A 12 Month Trial Run

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When the Move to LA is a Maybe: A 12 Month Trial Run

Picture Courtesy of Paul Hanaoka

When the Move to LA is a Maybe: A 12 Month Trial Run

You’re thinking about moving to LA. You’ve heard the amazing stories of people who said it’s the best thing they ever did…

You’re thinking about moving to LA. You’ve heard the amazing stories of people who said it’s the best thing they ever did…and you’ve heard the stories of people who hightailed it back to their hometowns after a year. Here’s the good news: it’s totally possible to give LA a trial run! Here’s how to do it.

Commit to 12 months

This is the one thing you don’t want to negotiate on. Unless you have some real legit circumstances, doing less than a year just isn’t giving yourself a fair shake. A year will give you time to get over the initial shine (“OMG palm trees and sunshine everywhere!”), the disappointment slump (“I’m never gonna make friends or get a good job”), and find your balance somewhere in the middle. It gives you a chance to actually find out what working here is like and gives you a chance to wrack up a few successes so you at least feel good about your time.

Keep The Lowest Possible Overhead

This should be your mantra. You don’t want to be miserable, but you should be okay with the idea that your first year in LA is going to be the leanest time here. The less you have to worry about money, the more you can use this time to invest in your future and lay the foundation for a successful life here.

Be Real About The Situation You’re Leaving

Humans HATE losing something they already have. It’s hardwired into our DNA. Try to look at your situation with detachment. Maybe ask an acquaintance who doesn’t have any sentimental attachment to your current living situation to see how reticent you should be to give it up. There’s a world of difference between leaving a rent controlled studio in New York versus an apartment in the midwest. If you are relatively certain you could leave for a year, return, and get the same standard of living, do that!

If you do have a dreamy living situation and decide to get a subletter, do your prep work ahead of time! Give a set of keys to a good friend so they can serve as the liaison, should any issues arise. Put aside at least a month’s worth of rent in case your new tenant decides to go missing or be late with payment. Find out if you’re actually allowed to have a subletter in your lease and figure out how you’re going to roll with this one. You probably have a good idea if you can ask your landlord for permission or if you’re going to just wing it and hope for the best. Which leads us to…

Put your stuff in storage!

If there is any question that your move to LA might not be permanent, do yourself a favor and put your stuff in storage. If you’re subletting your place, this is where all of your personal stuff should go. (Your prospective subletter will be much more excited to have the empty shelf space than your book collection. Your closet, medicine cabinet, dresser, and other spaces should be totally empty.) If you aren’t subletting, take a good, hard look at what you’ve got. A second-hand Ikea bookshelf might not be worth storing, but a good bed might be. Figure out your largest item and go from there.

Be Smart About Storage

Not all storage companies are created equally! You don’t want to get locked into a restrictive lease agreement, overpay for storage or end up leaking money on expensive initiation fees. You also want to be able to pay online or by phone each month and get your stuff back when you need to without penalty.

Check out a company like US Storage Centers. They’re available in 20 states, offer month-to-month agreements, free moving supplies, and, in some locations, a free moving truck. (Cool US Storage Centers hack: you can lock down a rate at any time by reserving a unit online.)

Assess Your Car Situation

Most likely, you’ll want to take your car to LA. But with ride shares, busses, subways, and bike lanes, it’s totally possible to get around without a car here (this is really dependent on your work) and might actually be less expensive. Check out US Storage Center’s car storage solutions– with low rates and a flexible lease, it might be cheaper and easier to store your car in the LA area than to pay gas, insurance and registration.

Traveling Light Means Traveling Easy

The less stuff you have to schlep around, the easier you’ll be able to move around LA. Maybe you’ll score a spare room in Alhambra for the first few weeks, then move to a shared house in West Adams before landing a job and roommate in Van Nuys. The less stuff you have to haul around, the less time you’re wasting as you move through your first year. Remember, this trial year is all about experimenting and investing in your own future. So what if you’re living out of a suitcase? Build the right start and you’ll have years to reap in the rewards.

Don’t Keep Score

It’s easy to fall into a habit of keeping a mental scoreboard of LA’s pluses and minuses. Don’t fall into this trap! It only leads to negativity and disappointment.

Instead, be at peace that you’re going to be in LA for 12 months. Give yourself the gift of making those 12 months the best they can be. Call your parents and friends from the beach. Take in the scenery from LA’s hiking trails. Go see a show— there is TONS of free top-shelf entertainment in LA. Eat at a great food truck or hole-in-the-wall joint. Work hard and treat yourself. At the end of the year, you’ll know if it’s right for you. In the meantime, give yourself a year you’ll never forget.

Stacey Garratt

Stacey Garratt is a freelance writer and a native Valley girl who moved back to LA from NYC five years ago.

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