Rental Rookie

Rental Rookie: In NYC, stick with the smallest U-Haul

By Michelle Castillo  | April 27, 2011 - 12:15PM

Moving day can be a joy or a pain, depending on how organized you are. Seeing that I am a self-professed pack rat, it wasn’t just a nuisance, it was a nightmare.

Part of problem was that I bought all the furniture for our apartment because, though my bedroom was bigger and I should have paid more, we split the rent equally. You see, Mike wasn't sure he was going to stay past one year, so we had agreed that I should plunk down the cash for our necessities. Now, I had all this stuff to move to a different borough.

I started stealing printer paper boxes from work and prowling the streets at night for anything that could hold my possessions. My best finds were the milk crates that bodegas threw away. Not only were they sturdy enough to hold heavy items like pots and books, I could also use them later on in my new apartment.

I made a commitment to pack one box every two days, which, even given my busy working schedule, wasn’t that hard to do. I had fully packed my bedroom the weekend before I had to go. All that I had left to tackle the two days before the moving date was the kitchen, so packing the last bit up was the least of my worries.  

My dad graciously agreed to fly out, my boyfriend gave up his weekend and my uncle and aunt from Jersey had the day off and said they could help me move, so I decided not to go with movers. My friend Emily had moved the week before, and she had filled an entire van and didn’t even have furniture. She suggested that I get the second smallest U-Haul. It was the same price as the smallest U-Haul, so I went for it.

I booked my U-Haul two weeks before my move date. It was a good thing, I was told by the people at the U-Haul station, because July tends to be the busiest month for them. I saw so many panicked people who had come up to the rental place only to find out that all the U-Hauls were booked.

The second-smallest truck turned out to be a bad idea. If you have the choice, take the smallest possible moving truck you can. Trust me, it will make things easier.  If you know how to organize your stuff inside, the smallest U-Haul can fit the entire contents of a studio up to a one-bedroom apartment. The slightly larger U-Haul was harder to maneuver, plus it came with a whole set of restrictions on where it couldn’t be driven. You can’t take it in any of the tunnels or down the Westside Highway, so you basically had to take city streets, which were hard to drive with a heavy trailer that you couldn’t really see around.

Also, coming from California, my Dad and I didn’t find out till after the move that you couldn’t turn on a right on a red light here in New York City. Luckily, we didn’t get caught.

Finding a large parking spot for a big truck and trailer is generally a problem. I considered it proof that miracles happen when we found a spot right in front of my apartment. Otherwise, we’d have to have played the "sit in the moving truck and drive it around the block every 15 minutes" game, which is just as fun as it sounds. 

My new apartment had a small elevator, so bringing stuff up to the sixth floor was easy. It took a couple of trips to get everything upstairs, and even though we were covered in sweat, it was done within an hour. I felt badly enough that my family and my boyfriend had to lug my stuff. Had I lived in a walkup, like many of my friends did, it would have been an even more stressful experience for everyone. If that had been my situation, I would have probably have hired pros.   

At the end of the move, I treated everyone to a nice dinner. There’s no better way to say thank you than a plate of warm food at the end of a hard day.

Next up: Settling in my next apartment.

Michelle Castillo moved from Los Angeles to Manhattan to attend Columbia University's Journalism School. She has covered arts and entertainment for The Los Angeles Times,,, and Hollywood Reporter, and currently writes about geek culture for's Techland. Rental Rookie is a twice-monthly column chronicling her first year as a renter in NYC.


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