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Boxes, bins, bags

October 23, 2012

I’m sure there are more rewarding things to do than read a blow-by-blow account of someone else’s packing. (Makes watching paint dry sound rather appealing, in a soothing Warholian kind of way.) However, I have bored the shit out of every friend I have in real life, all of whom hate me now because all I do is moan and complain about packing up the house. So you guys are next. I’ve got a week to go, and I think I may have reached the nadir of despair.

Mother of christ. Every drawer! Every shit piece of lego from every drawer, every penny stuck to the bottom of something, every key to nothing, every nail, every battery, every expired blister pack of Benadryl, every dried out marker. I thought I’d cleaned this place up! I threw away an entire dumpster of shit, took many station wagons filled with crap to Goodwill. Yet somehow I am still finding evil little nests of utter chaos. Why are there so many packages of unplanted basil seeds? Why did I end up with custody of the stupid fondue forks? What am I supposed to do with all these two cent stamps? Oh, god, an actual LIBRARY children’s CD, one I lied to the librarian about returning. I have no shame.

Several written, but never mailed, thank you notes, from years ago. Mine, and the children’s. These I had to stuff way down in the trash can, my face burning.

A plastic film canister that smelled suspiciously of marijuana, which I have not smoked in…well, in as long ago as there were plastic film canisters lying about, I’m willing to bet.

Dessicated play-doh. Lots of it. Un-played-doh. Little hardened beautifully colored disks. The waste is appalling.

And there is no shortage of actual dirt, either. The books I’ve dutifully carted up and culled were apparently nothing more than repositories for enormous quantities of dust. And dead bugs. And spiderwebs. And actual spiders. One bit me last weekend when my boyfriend and my father were here–my hand swelled up rather impressively. This is to be expected when one is digging around in boxes brought up from the basement, and rummaging in bookcases and the backs of drawers, but the bite in question took place IN MY BED, when I absently rested the back of my hand against one of my pillows. Jesus. Short of having blood pour down the walls and voices urge me to get out of the house, you couldn’t ask for a clearer sign that it was time to pack up and move along.

This is what’s behind me, right now, as I type:

Shelves formerly known as Book

Those are the doors to the porch. The porch is exactly the same–I retreat to it when I need to feel…furnished.

The kids are fine. They’re cheerfully accepting suppers concocted from freezerburned vegetables and expired cans of cream-of-tomato soup. They find tripping over boxes vastly preferable to having to keep the house immaculate, and I must say I do too. They’re not sad about leaving the house. I am, truth be told, a little. I’ve left a lot of houses before, and it’s sad no matter what. Especially at this stage, when you’ve already lost the house you actually liked, and are living in piles of shit and dust and cardboard.

I go from thinking I’m a hero for doing this all by myself, to feeling very martyred indeed. But it doesn’t matter what I think, in the end…in a little more than a week, we’ll be out of here for good. And I do mean good.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. October 24, 2012 1:44 am

    Oh dear, just the thought of this is making me dread our upcoming move. Also the challenge of trying to pack when there won’t be any place to even stack the boxes (mini-apartment).

    Congrats on clearing the bookshelf.

  2. October 24, 2012 5:15 am

    I love your description of all the assorted crap. Where does it all come from? During one of our moves, I was particularly bothered by pennies. On moving day, every time I saw a penny, I’d put it in my pocket. By the end of the day I could barely keep my pants up.

  3. Karen permalink
    October 24, 2012 7:20 am

    Evil little nests of chaos – you put it so well!

  4. October 24, 2012 7:40 am

    It is always amazing to me how much stuff is actually in any given room that you don’t see until you take it all apart. When it’s all safely in drawers and on shelves it doesn’t seem so bad, but out on the floor it looks like ten times as much.

    At least this way it’s all kind of a whirlwind and there is a clear end in sight! When I moved across the street and it seemed stupid to box anything and it took months. Months! And my children were young enough that when I did pack things in a box I would turn around a minute later and find most of it had been taken back out for some game. (Ugh, now I’m having moving PTSD and should get out of here.)

    Sorry about the spider bite!

  5. October 24, 2012 9:44 am

    I don’t know if this will make you feel any better but when my mum moved from the house where she had lived for 25 years, we found a little bottle of dried chilli flakes which had expired thirteen years previously. We all have loads of mystery crap hiding in every corner, invisible until the room is nearly empty. It just happens.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      October 24, 2012 10:50 am

      When I helped my mom move last summer, we found a bottle of Chloraseptic throat spray that had expired in 1977. We were both flabbergasted–we had moved probably fifteen times since 1977. I am trying very hard NOT to do that sort of thing….

      • October 24, 2012 5:58 pm


        Just last night I found a bottle of Chloraseptic spray that expired in 2001….I/we’ve moved 4 times since then (including to western Washington state from Philadelphia). My throat was so sore that I didn’t even think twice about using it.

  6. SarahB permalink
    October 24, 2012 10:26 am

    Oh I remember that feeling from our last move! It is to be tolerated and gotten through and no more!

    Just from that one photo, I get the sense that we would be the exact family to buy your house where we geographically matched. Of course, it would probably cost far too much for us in my major metropolitan area.

    Good luck!

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      October 24, 2012 10:51 am

      Email me and tell me where you live. It’ll be back on the market in two years, and I bet it costs a lot less than you think. And I’m smack in the middle of a whole bunch of major metropolitan areas….

  7. kathryn conway permalink
    October 24, 2012 12:38 pm

    wow….you’re amazingly strong and powerfully awesome to do this all by yourself. i am impressed – your shelves are lovely and i would imagine looked somewhat fantastic when filled with books!
    i was able to downsize in the wake of my separation and i still marvel at how i ever thought i’d be able to tame the detritus of 3000 square feet when i am powerless to do the very same with 800.
    you’re gonna feel so amazing when it’s finally done. if you’re ever in nh, call me and i’ll buy you a drink! xo

  8. October 24, 2012 4:29 pm

    I love those bookshelves. LOVE. And even being a relatively on-top-of-it-chucker, I still come across bottles and jars of things that make me scratch my head and say, “…did I really buy this fifteen YEARS ago, pre-kid, prehouse, pre–yes. Yes I did.” Evil nests indeed.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      October 24, 2012 4:59 pm

      The bookshelves actually look awful–dirty, in need of fresh paint–without my books. But I remember the first time I walked into this house–and there are other built-in bookcases, floor to ceiling along one wall of my younger son’s room, for instance–and realized that I was finally somewhere where shelf space outstripped my books. A place I could FILL UP with books. Which I then proceeded to do, for eleven years.

  9. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    October 24, 2012 5:14 pm

    Oh, and in case anyone wondered (I did, after rereading)–the film canister with the suspiciously skunky smell was way in the back of one of my dressing table drawers. I don’t even get to ground anyone over it…it dates from pre-ex-stoner-husband-moving-out-days.

  10. October 26, 2012 10:43 am

    This is now a few posts old and possibly too late to be truly helpful, but hopefully they’ll be of some use. We renovated and rented our house, and packed it up to move to Mexico for 6 months, and in 3 years we’d accumulated so much shi!te it was ridiculous – I was still making charity bin trips the night before we got on the plane. I shudder to think what you’re going through. Moving just sucks the life out of you.

    1. Washing/laundry baskets (the plastic, double-handled type) are better than boxes when it comes to the last few awkward bibs and bobs (especially linens/pillows etc) that haven’t yet made their way into boxes in orderly fashion. Borrow some extra ones from your friends/neighbours if you can.
    2. Keep a few boxes or a laundry basket full of “survival” gear – essentials from the kitchen, including a few plates, some cutlery, and one or two pots/pans, toaster, any must-have computer equipment, and whatever else you usually reach for with some regularity during the day. That way, you know where they are (all together) and you don’t have to unpack the whole kitchen/office to get to those essentials.
    3. Decide in advance where the non-essential boxes (which in my case would be the books, and excessive cooking equipment) can be stored, ie, out of the way so you’re not tripping over them every 5 minutes, and ideally, tucked away somewhere so they’re not always in plain sight, making you feel guilty for not having gotten around to it. Moving (and the work that goes with packing up a house is EXHAUSTING in itself – let alone the settling in at the other end).
    4. I think your ex-husband should be helping (or at least offering to help). You’re moving his children too, and the years of accumulated stuff from your lives together. If he hasn’t offered, well, he’s a bit of a selfish arse in my opinion.
    5. Ok, this one’s possibly a bit of a long shot. You have two children. I think bribes/prizes may be in order for who can unpack the most boxes! Why not keep a running tally between the three of you? If nothing else, it will give you a sense of accomplishment every time you’re another box down.
    6. Make sure there is wine/vodka tonic/champagne waiting for you at the other end.
    7. It’s perfectly acceptable to have take-away for at least a week post moving (if your budget allows it). Otherwise, eggs on toast/eggs with soldiers is an excellent no-fuss meal.

  11. October 26, 2012 10:45 pm

    sweet jesus, yes, the waste is what always gets to me. we’ve moved something like 10 times in the last 15 years, but the last three were the worst. by the end of the process i’d get to a point where i just couldn’t make the decision to keep or to pitch anymore, and i’d start just sweeping it up and throwing ALL OF IT out because my brain was too fried to continue selecting things out to preserve. i always felt so guilty about all that waste…but what really galled me was when we moved to a house we knew would be temporary (our last one before the current one) and put half of what we owned into storage. all the stuff we packed into that pod….we never missed a single. goddamn. thing. the day my husband went and got it, brought it home to our new place, i felt sick just opening it. why was i bringing all this shit i clearly didn’t need into my house? because i had room. [sigh.]

    i love those bookshelves too.

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