They say (whoever “they” are) that moving is in the top three of most stressful life events, right behind death of a spouse and divorce. Show me a person who actually enjoys moving, and you might as well show me Santa Claus, or the Easter Bunny…they are all figments of our imagination.
Never one to look on the dark side (HAHAHAHAHAHA) however, I do try to find the silver lining in the cloud of relocation.
It isn’t easy. Dealing with realtors sucks. Finding a mover is a nightmare. Packing blows, and unpacking is akin to medieval torture. However, there is one teeny, tiny spec of joy in the chaos that is packing up all of your worldly possessions and transporting them to a new location…throwing them the fuck away.
Don’t get me wrong, we all need things. A bed to sleep on, clothes to cover our bodies, something to eat off of, and an item or two to keep us entertained, to name a few. Then there are the sentimental items. The pictures, nick-knacks, tchotchkes, and other assorted paraphernalia of past lives that seem to grow as time goes on. There are also the collections. DVDs. Records. Your mom’s Precious Moments dolls. Dildos. These are like objects you go out of your way to accumulate in a pathetic attempt to have your material possessions make you seem like you are much cooler than you really are.
Well, ok your mom’s Precious Moments collection is lame as hell, but you get my point.
Finally, there are the miscellaneous items. We don’t know how we procured them, hell we may not even know what they are, but nevertheless, they’re ours. Another physical item that needs to be cleaned, stored, and transported.
I had a problem with all of this.
The fragments of my past have been slowly taking over every surface of our apartment. Our DVD collection was belligerent and numerous. We attempted to keep them orderly by packing them in special “DVD boxes” from Ikea. This helped us to keep the DVDs out of the way, but took up 3 shelves in a closet. Every plane in our dwelling seemed to be littered with some sort of candle-like substance, picture frame, or ethnic statue knockoff with remnants of the “Home Goods” label still affixed to the bottom.
It was madness, I tell you…madness.
Then we decided to move. Suddenly what is always a horrific incident of terror shone in a new, glittery and gay light. Instead of stressing over the moving process, I was going to embrace it. I was going to use this time to throw our shit away.
I was going to be ruthless. No picture frame was safe, no DVD could hide. It was going to be a glorious time of soul-cleansing home purification.
And it was.
At first, anyway.
To start off on the right foot, I attacked an area that would have a serious impact right away. I removed every picture frame from my “Family Gallery Wall,” took out the picture, placed it in an album, and threw the fucking picture frame away.
I have to admit it felt good! From there I moved into my kitchen. I tossed cookbooks that had never been cracked open, and fondue pots that never worked. I chucked a drawer full of kitchen gadgets that over the course of the year had somehow managed to become intertwined and turn into Meca-Gadget, the most useless monster on the planet.
No, despite my love of cooking and entertaining, if it hadn’t been used, had no discernible use, or became infused with it’s neighbor it was gone.
Next, I voraciously attacked the cabinets and tossed everything from the only glass left from a set of 8 to a gross amount of trifle bowls (what the hell is a trifle, anyway!?!)
Once the kitchen felt sufficiently barren, I moved on in a similar, “take no prisoners” fashion through every room in our apartment. With each bag of trash or box for donation, something miraculous happened.
I began to breathe easier.
It was as though removing the physical “stuff” from my life was lightening the emotional “stuff” as well. I was on a role, and very excited by the lack of moving boxes I seemed to require. This feel-good cleansing of the senses and spirit came to a screeching halt when I entered…the bedroom.
Now, you might think that it was my dresser or closet that gave me pause, or my boxes (and boxes) of shoes. It could very well have been the several bins of purses and other accessories that were hemorrhaging from under my bed. You might think that, but you would be wrong. I had no problem slashing my wardrobe, ditching my shoes, and bagging my bags. It was a project, yes, but staring at a streamlined closet of items I actually wear was a wonderful reward.
My nervous breakdown de jour came when I looked up at the shelving my husband had installed to house the Japanese teapot collection we had suddenly found ourselves in possession of post-wedding. So tormented about the future of these ceramic pots was I that I did the only rational thing possible…avoided them all together.
Remember that scene in “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” where the gangly protagonist
masterba, goes into a burning pet store and proceeds to save all of the animals?
You don’t? Fuck you, it’s my story. Humor me.
One by one Mr. Wee goes through the pet store and saves each animal grouping like some high-water wearing Noah. That is with the exception of a slimy cluster of snakes. Each time he passes the snake’s tank, he stares at it in disgust, and moves on to the next creature knowing that eventually he would have to contend with the slippery reptilian mass. The scene ends with him running out of the burning pet store screaming; a pile of snakes in each hand.
Those Japanese teapots were my snakes.
I did a fantastic job intentionally avoiding coming to a decision about their fate. In the beginning, it was easy to do. But with each bag of garbage and moving box marked “Fragile” (it’s Italian), I was one step closer to having to contend with my own reptilian mass…of porcelain.
That day came two days before we moved. The days leading up to it had been long and emotionally fraught. My husband and I were both close to our max stress level. We went from having all of the time in the world to “leisurely” move (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA) to feeling incredibly behind as the result of another death in our family (yeah, we have that kind of luck!)
Two deaths in two months makes you realize that none of your stuff…
…actually matters in the grand scheme of things. Yes, this teapot collection that had been lugged around to five different apartments was a lovely reminder of my wedding day, but so was my husband, and he didn’t need to be wrapped in newspaper every time we moved, or dusted weekly (he’s very active, so the dust doesn’t have time to settle.)
There was a lot to do, and we were trying to get through everything without breaking down. I thought having my husband there as I executed my ruling on the teapots would be helpful. He is always the rational one. The practical one. The stone-cold emotionless “realistic” one. The one who wanted to keep the collection for sentimental reasons?!?
Oh hell no.
After torturing myself for WEEKS over what to do with those damn pots, I finally grabbed those snakes, and Mr. Suddenly Sentimental was NOT going to change my mind.
I did what any woman who was standing steadfast in her decision would have done in such a situation.
I stood there like a deer in headlights for what was probably a good ten minutes. I then threw out all of the rationalizations I had told myself as to why it was time to purge the pots. Unfortunately, the more he understood my reasoning, the more confused I became. The entire (dusty as hell) pot collection now sat on our bed. There was so much more to do; yet I felt paralyzed. The snakes had bit me. They had won.
I knew I couldn’t take any more time on this issue. I had already spent one breakdown too many on whether or not to part with one particular physical item or another. I needed to end this. Like pulling a bandage off a gunshot wound, I attacked the pile of pottery and threw them into a trash bag, a lump in my chest the entire time. I tied up the bag and added it to the pile of trash waiting to be removed from the house. It was finally over.
We have been settled in our new space for over a month now. It’s larger. It’s airy. It’s clutter-free.
I have not been this happy in a VERY long time.
I have by no means become a full-fledged “minimalist” but there is definitely something to be said for purifying your home of possessions and keeping the clutter at bay. I don’t know that it will necessarily lead to enlightenment, but it sure as hell keeps you from spending the weekend cleaning which opens up a world of possibility for you to go out and experience life rather than sit at home with your stuff.
I know that there is still a lot more that I can do. Two medium plastic boxes sit in my closet full of old journals/yearbooks/photos/Ghosts of Melissas Past that I can probably whittle to nothing, but I think I’ll save that for a day when I have nowhere to be and an extra bottle of gin lying around. Some snakes bite harder than others. I need to be prepared.
Making sure Mr. Sentimental has plans is probably not the worst idea either.