10 Signs You’ve Moved Too Many Times in Your 20s

We're a generation of transients.

I am writing this post while sitting on my couch, which is wedged between a bookcase and an armchair in the corner of my cluttered living room. My feet are propped up on a cardboard box, one of the many that clutter this room and block all the outlets on the walls. I am hoping I can write this post without having to play box Tetris in order to get access to electricty to power my laptop. The only sound I can hear besides the clicking of the keyboard is my cat bellowing in the basement. He’s been holed up there—nestled behind the dryer—for almost 48 hours, the trauma of a 10-minute car ride across town too much for his skittish soul to bear. Later, I’ll sit on the floor of the cellar and push a can of food at him, hoping to coax him out so he doesn’t get desperate and pee everywhere.

The joys of moving.

This was my fifth move in six years. According to a 2010 article in the New York Times, one-third of people in their 20s move to a new home every year. At least anecdotally, this makes sense to me, even though it’s three years later. My colleague Annie has moved seven times in last three years and our other pal has lived in six apartments in the seven years since she finished undergrad. Aly, my BFF from college, has called nine different addresses home in as many years. Not one of us has celebrated our thirtieth birthdays yet.

To say twentysomethings are transient really doesn’t seem to do it justice when you look at numbers like that. It’s hard to explain to people why we move so much. Sometimes it’s a bad roommate. Sometimes the landlord sells the house. Sometimes you just cannot stand living next door to people who use an air horn as an alarm clock. Sometimes it’s for work. But, regardless, we are a generation of nomads. We are perpetually in a state of packing and unpacking which makes us feel overly stressed, overly sensitive and in constant need of cardboard and tape.

I’ve come to think of the months of April through August as “moving season,” the time of year when most of my friends hold housewarming parties on their new cement patios after weeks of trolling Craigslist and complaining on Gchat about the utter misery of renting. It is comforting to know that I am not alone, though my hope that someday I will stop living out of boxes. I’ve started to notice things about myself that other, non-nomadic friends might find a little odd.

Here, 10 signs that you’ve moved too many times in your twenties.

1. Your movers recognize you from the last time around.
And you remember the names of their significant others and/or pets.

2. When coworkers have packages delivered to the office, they save the box for you.
Pros know: Those Amazon boxes are way sturdier than the dinky ones you get for free at the liquor store.

3. You can’t store anything under your bed.
Because you’ve flattened all your moving boxes and saved them for the next move.

4. Friends and family stop returning your phone calls around lease renewal time.
They fear the inevitable. “Would you help me move just one more time?”

5. You can spot a Craigslist liar from a subject line.
If it says “Fairmount/Temple,” that means North Philly. “NoLibs/Fishtown/Kensington” means Kensington. “Philly area” means this apartment does not actually exist.

6. You can judge an entire city block based on one glance.
My barometer: If there is not a single flower pot or window box on a block, I generally assume I don’t want to live there. A good block has either a little old lady or a hipster housewife who likes geraniums. If she’s not there, I’m not either.

7. You can evaluate an apartment without actually walking through the front door.
Crappy hallways = crappy living space.

8. You assess rooms based on how long it will take you to pack them up.
Three bookcases and a walk-in closet? Two hours minumum. Five kitchen cabinets? One hour.

9. People are constantly asking you for advice, because you are “a Philly apartment eexpert.”
Strange but true: Being nomadic makes people think you are good at moving. Which begs the question: If moving every year makes you good at finding places to live, what exactly makes you bad at it?

10. You rationalize things by saying “Oh, I can deal with [insert issue here] since I’m only going to be here for a year.”
And then that issue becomes the main reason you don’t renew the lease. And the cycle continues …