The smartest thing I did to lessen the chaos of moving house cost me only $20

Cable boxFlickr / Wendy Seltzer$20 later, my cable box was a distant memory. This is a picture of someone else’s pile of wires, though. I didn’t think to capture mine.

At the very end of February, I moved from the Manhattan apartment where I’d lived for five years into a co-op in the suburbs.

I’d been incredibly lucky to stay in the same apartment for half a decade. That’s pretty uncommon in New York, where rents are constantly in flux and renters are always looking for something better.

Because of my sweet deal, however, I was unprepared for the utter chaos that is moving.

If you’ve ever moved, you know what it’s like, spending weeks packing everything into boxes only to dismantle them when you desperately need your umbrella the day before you move out. Somehow, I found myself on the train to my new place carrying a vacuum in a shopping bag.

When you move out of an apartment building, I imagine, it’s even more complicated than moving from a house: You have to coordinate with the building management as to your move date and time, find a place for the movers to keep their truck (yes, I had movers, and one of them ended up having to stay in the truck and relocate it regularly), and pay a series of move-out fees, one of which is a deposit that you have to retrieve the day you exit, lest the building “forget” to return it.

Also, you have to return your cable box.

Most people, like me, rent a cable box from the cable company to use its services. When you move, you have to trade in that box for a new setup at your new place. This sounds easy, right? But among the scheduling and the movers and the fees and the landlord coming by to make sure I didn’t wreck the place, I had to find time to personally go to the cable company’s retail location and trade in the box. I could have done it after work the night before leaving, but that would require me to drag the thing halfway across Manhattan to the office and leave me without internet for at least the night, a night that half a dozen people were trying to get in touch with me about logistics.

So I paid someone to return it for me.

This might be obvious to you. But it wasn’t to me. It felt like a stroke of genius when I realised that for $20, I could hire a TaskRabbit to show up the morning of my move and ferry my cable box (along with my old cable box that I had never gotten around to returning when they were upgraded) back where it belonged. It took 10 minutes to coordinate and I got a $20 off coupon for booking my first task, meaning it didn’t end up costing me anything at all.

This isn’t a plug for TaskRabbit beyond the fact that that I used the service and it made my life that much easier. If you don’t have the site where you live, I imagine a similar effect could be achieved via Craigslist, or maybe even a well-timed Facebook post. Perhaps you have friends who aren’t at work when you move on a weekday thanks to building restrictions that eliminate weekends, and they will do it for free. I don’t.

I had always viewed freelance service site TaskRabbit as a way to make money, not as a resource at my disposal. But the entire experience was so painless — the TaskRabbit showed up on time, spirited away the boxes, and texted me a receipt — that I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. (I even got an unexpected $40 rebate for returning the boxes!) In fact, when my coworker recently told me she dropped her cable box during the chaos of her own move and broke her toe, I could only shake my head sadly and wish she’d hired a TaskRabbit.

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