Best Guide For Moving to Los Angeles: Part 2 – Minimization

moving to los angeles

Below I’ve broken down minimalism into its two components: the physical and the emotional.


Physical Minimalism

Bring Less. It’s easier.
All other variables go out the window (how many people you’re traveling with, your destination, your vehicle) in the face of this rule.

Simplify the process of moving to Los Angeles by bringing less. It’s not just important to be physically light, but you want to be as emotionally light as possible (more thoughts on emotional lightness below). The less you bring, the less you have to worry about shipping, moving, and storing.

Letting things go seems scary if you can’t imagine yourself without the furnishings surrounding you as you read this. After all, they’ve been there for the last 20-plus years. But most things can be repurchased or replaced. So minimize.

How to Minimize
Go through your belongings. Sort everything into three piles: Bring, Store, Toss. Take your time with this process. It may take a few rounds to strip down to the essentials. With my first pass, I was looking through knick-knacks I haven’t touched in years, like the handmade Chinese Yo-yo I got in China, or my collection of shot glasses once proudly displayed on my college dresser, that have sat wrapped in newspaper and stuffed into a box since graduation. I’d spend a few minutes reminiscing about the friends and that life, all of which seemed like forever ago.

By my third pass, I went through the sentimental material things without a backwards glance and was left with nothing I didn’t absolutely need. I was like a BIGGEST LOSER contestant who arrived soft and covered in fleshy rolls but emerged 10 weeks later, a piece of sinewy toughness. You have to be like Jillian Michaels, and ruthless about dropping dead weight.

If you’re driving, the smaller your vehicle, the better — space limitations force you to leave things behind.

Use the 6 Months Guideline
If you haven’t looked at it or used it in 6 months, Store or Toss (toss preferable). Try not to spend too much time reminiscing. If it really breaks you up inside, take a picture before you get rid of it, and save it in Evernote.

Resist the urge to Store everything.

Computer CD’s, music CD’s, if you can’t get it online, save it on your computer, then back up your hard drive. Get rid of all those discs.

Start early.

Start small: clean out this drawer, or that bookshelf. This part of the desk, those pile of papers, that section of the closet. Create the goal of cleaning one small section and don’t stop until that’s done.

Take a short break after 15 minutes. It’s emotional work. Eventually, you’ll eliminate a majority of the inessentials.

Examine your Store and Toss piles: can you donate anything, or sell it on Craigslist or eBay?

Find storage for your Store belongings, like someone’s basement. If you need to rent storage to house your stuff, then you did not do it right. Reexamine what you’ve Stored and Toss more stuff.

Reexamine the bring pile: do you really need it all? For the first few rounds, the answer will probably be no. Start at the top, and repeat.

Sticking Points

  • Furniture – Don’t get hung up on not having furniture when you arrive. First, moving furniture is time and labor intensive. Second, who knows what you’ll need it? You might crash with a friend. You may rent a furnished apartment. Or, you can always Craigslist sofas, bed frames, dressers.  The furniture situation will sort itself out. I slept on an inflatable mattress for the first few months. When David Horvath decided to start for real, he, “… slept on my sister’s floor for 9 months, eating not much more than cereal, plain white bread, and salads… Rent was a few hundred backs, paid for by selling everything I owned in LA, keeping 5 days of clothes and not much else. I bought an air bed but had no table…”
  • CD’s/DVD’s – Get an iPod. If movies are important, subscribe to Netflix. You can ship out your movie collection later.
  • Books – If you haven’t picked it up in a year, donate it to your local library or give it away. If you can’t bear the thought, box them up or find someone else’s shelf space. Bring only the bare essentials to your work, not something for the coffee table (that you’ll find on Craigslist.)  Bring books that have been dog-eared and bookmarked and highlighted – those are the books you’re going to use. Or buy a Kindle.
  • Shoes – Shoes are tough. You got trainers, gym sneakers, dress shoes, sandals, boat shoes, athletic cleats, rock climbing shoes, boots… and that’s just the start. I managed to hone it down to four pairs: trainers, sneakers, dress, and sandals.
  • Clothes – Strip your closet down to the essentials. Also difficult, but try to cut down as much as possible. Again, you can always ship out what you don’t bring later. Click here for a more in-depth look at minimizing your wardrobe.

Sorting through the material things in your life is time consuming, and it’s only the beginning. For a great guide and some motivation, read Leo Babauta’s how to minimize in small steps.


Emotional Minimization

This is a little more abstract, (and just a little bit new-agey) but it’s important. I’ve heard and read all the advice out there about moving to Los Angeles. By far, the worst – I mean, the absolute worse – advice people offered about moving to Los Angeles is: “you should only move out here if entertainment is the only thing you see yourself doing.” It’s probably well intentioned but in my opinion, good intentions never stopped bullshit from smelling like bullshit.

How can you really know if it’s for you unless you’re out here? It sounded like someone’s attempt to aggrandize their own experience, to give significance to their sacrifices.

I’d like to offer my contrarian perspective: if you’ve thought about moving anywhere, to start in any industry, it’s worth trying.

There’s risk and fear involved, but in anything worth doing there’s risk and fear. That’s where emotional minimization comes into play — it’s managing that risk and fear with something Tim Ferriss dubbed “fear setting.”

First, we have to find a common definition for risk, and for the purposes of fear setting, it’s “an irreversible negative outcome.” What are the negative outcomes that plague you? For me, I defined these outcomes as:

  • I’d move out and be unable to find a job in entertainment. I’d quickly run out of money.
  • I’d find a job but quickly realize that I absolutely hated what I was doing.
  • I’d have to return home with my tail between my legs and face ridicule.

We all have different negative outcomes, but all for me, the nebulous doubt shrink-wrapping the situation basically came down to these three fears. Once defined, I “rated” them in terms of their irreversibility, 0 being something I could change in a day and 10 being cataclysmically fatal.

Well, if I wasn’t able to find a job in entertainment, I could wait tables until something came along, so that was a 3 at the worse. Same thing with “hating my job.” I could always quit. (My fear of not finding any work at all was actually quite low, as I mentioned in Part 1. I’d rate it as a 0 or a 1.)

My third fear, the idea of returning home, was the most difficult for me to imagine. I knew the possibility existed, and I’d have nothing to show for my work. I accepted that. What twisted my gut into knots was the embarrassment of scurrying back home and admitting defeat. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that over the course of two decades, I’d done worse things to embarrass than try something and fail. Those moments sucked, but they were never cataclysmically fatal. So I gave that a 4.

When you define the risk and the fear, you can manage it. What nebulous risks and fears are holding you back?



Remember what I said about managing expectations?

A final note about entertainment Los Angeles successes: Jon Hamm was 26-years-old and freshly dropped by WMA. He landed his breakthrough role on PROVIDENCE at 28, which led to his Donald Draper role on MAD MEN.

Justin Lin was a UCLA film school graduate with three indie films under his belt. The three films, collectively, were almost profitable. Then he reluctantly took on FAST AND FURIOUS 3, and convinced Vin Diesel to return for a cameo and relaunched the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise, which eventually led him to becoming a billion-dollar director.

Aaron Sorkin was a broke actor when he picked up a pen to write his first script.

For year one, expect to get your feet wet, to learn about the town and its millions of idiosyncrasies. Learn the business, learn the talk, and learn your way around town, both geographically and politically. Don’t feel like you’re doing it wrong if you still feel a little lost months (or even years) after you’ve arrived.

In Part 3 of The Best Guide for Moving to Los Angeles, we’ll cover Getting to Los Angeles.


Photo Credit: Visual Panic

8 comments… add one

  • Natty

    I’ve really enjoyed reading this article and the one previous to it. It’s giving me a lot of insight in a way that doesn’t sugarcoat anything and I truly appreciate that.

    Moving to LA has always been something that has been on the back of my mind, but for some reason it’s looking more and more like something I should do. A part of me is nervous because of the fact that I don’t really have anyone out there to connect with and it can sometimes take me an incredibly long time to make friends and such, but this is something that I want to do.

    I want to be involved in the entertainment industry in a way that NY doesn’t offer me. My only issue is that I’m not 100% sure, which direction I want to go in. I don’t like being directionless when it comes to things like that because I feel like it can waste time, but I also know that nothing helps you make decisions more than actual experience!

    I guess it’s time for me to start saving.

    Thanks again!

    • Chris Ming

      Hi Natty, really glad to hear you’ve found these posts useful. In my case, it definitely took a while to get settled in, make friends, etc. — nearly 2 1/2 years. But if you’ve got your eyes set on the film & tv industry, it’s a move you have to make IMO. Even if you do it, you learn what you like and don’t like (e.g. I learned I hate physical production) then decide to move somewhere else, that’s totally cool too. At least you got a chance to really learn. Please keep me posted on how it goes!

  • Lina dahlgren

    Please give me tips on moving to LA

    • Chris Ming

      Hi Lina – check out this site: 🙂

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    Wayfair $1009:

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  • Natasha

    Part 3? The drive?

  • Adam

    Man, you absolutely rock! Well done, well written, ALL great tips. Thank you so much! I’ve been on the fence about the move because everything seems so daunting and intimidating…but the way you break it down, it really helps with the anxiety. #justgottadoit

  • Lydia

    12.5.2017: I’m 50 and have been trying to move back to LA because that’s where I really want to be and let me tell you, this is so helpful. I wish I had found this site years ago. This is excellent. Thank you for taking the time to write this and I will be sure to pass this on to anyone moving anywhere b/c it is so well written. Keep writing.
    Thanks Again

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