The past month’s a blur for me. After more than 30 years in the same house, we decided to move. First the chaos of house-hunting swamped us. In the metro area where we live, house costs have run mad. Prices double, triple overnight. Even when you find an appealing residence that you can afford, competition from other searchers often eradicates the prey from the hunt before you even learn of its availability. Or you’re subject to bidding wars with other hopefuls.
We found a place we liked and were lucky enough that our timing and offer were accepted. I thought we’d gotten through the hard part. Naïve, naïve me. The biggest challenge lay ahead: sorting, packing, discarding, moving, discarding more, unpacking, organizing, cleaning, and, yep, discarding even more. The detritus from a lengthy residence accumulates without your consciousness. I thought I’d been rigorous in my regular purgings, shedding baby items, then kids’ and teens’ things, donating massive amounts to charity yard sales, ruthlessly setting out objects regularly for the library used book fests.
Little did I know my efforts were minuscule. I hadn’t made a dent in our belongings, a fact highlighted when we carried in boxes and found only one-quarter of the storage we needed. In my regular rants against consumerism and avarice, I never counted myself among the bad guys. I was complaining to a friend when I realized the problem wasn’t too little storage, it was too many possessions.
How am I to decide what to throw away? It’s true I’ve rarely bought, stolen, or been gifted items because I coveted them. As I look over my piles, seems to me each thing has a memory, a dear person behind it. The wooden pencil holder crafted by my son when he studied shop, the needlepoint doily handmade by a Bulgarian woman that reminds me of the millions of anonymous women with artistic talents, even the mass-produce glittery figurine given one Christmas by my late mother-in-law. How can I give any of these up? When I survey my effects, I’m cushioned by all the emotions that accompany them.
This move has enabled me to re-discover memories long-gone as I unwrap and touch my stuff. “Aah, here’s that photo of all the family’s babies from forty years ago!” “My gosh, I thought I’d lost velvet jewelry box from my mother!” If I abandon my belongings, I lose my connections.
Another plus. “Moving is good for you,” I tell myself as I burrow among the debris. Psychology informs us that change opens you up to new insights and emotions, people, experiences. I’ve noticed as I age, change is more difficult to deal with. I might as well embrace it and improve myself as I go along.
Some things mysteriously have disappeared, never to be recovered as far as I can tell. Those who believe in the paranormal might credit inexplicable forces. I blame the movers. The most critical right now consists of half my shoes in a black duffle bag. I have the right shoe from one set, the left shoe from another. Unfortunately they don’t match. Also gone, my summer sandals, my black snow clogs, and one and a half pairs of slippers. Who would steal those? And how could a bag that heavy simply vanish?
I own too much in some cases (shoes, books, art), too little in a few others (shoes, also a steadfast mixing bowl used with all recipes). I must make some decisions, but how? I’d like to ponder these imponderables, but I have a bigger problem now. It’s ten at night in the middle of chaos, and I can’t find my corkscrew.