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A MOVING EXPERIENCE

by Rose Madeline Mula

You know how they say we should live every day as if it were our last? Even more important, we should also live every day as if we were moving tomorrow. That would make us think twice about acquiring “stuff.” You know, things like that lovely crystal wine decanter (even though you always just pour directly from the bottle) … a coffee bean grinder (that you know in your heart you might use for three days, tops) … another food chopper (that you’re sure is far superior to the four you already have) … a new porcelain figurine (for which you have absolutely no display space) … still another pair of shoes (to cram into the closet with the three dozen pairs already jammed in there) … ditto more sweaters, shirts and pants than you can wear in three lifetimes … as well as every new gadget and gizmo that hits the marketplace.

If, like me, you’re such an acquirer, it’s not surprising that you’re also an easy target for every book that promises to help you get organized — which is never going to happen unless you win the lottery and can buy a home with luxuries such as a separate walk-in closet dedicated solely to housing a collection of 150 pairs of stiletto-heeled boots on custom-designed hangars. Not so far-fetched. I recently read an article (and saw pictures!) of just such a marvel.

Of course, if you’re wealthy enough to afford such fantasies, relocating to a new mansion would be no problem. Your staff would simply arrange to have professional packers and movers come in and take care of it all while you jet off to Bora Bora. (It would be much too traumatic to stick around and watch all those people work. You’re not heartless, after all.)

If, however, like me, your budget dictates that you must do all the packing and unpacking yourself, you are so going to regret all those impulsive purchases of the last few years.

I moved a month ago, and I vow never to do anything so rash again. Every step of the operation was a horror — scrounging empty cartons from all the liquor stores and supermarkets in town, spending a fortune on giant rolls of bubble wrap, and swathing every plate, bowl, cup and mug in the bubble wrap before packing them into the cartons (do you have any idea how time-consuming job that is?), then stacking the filled cartons on any available floor space.

When I started, I was very efficient — color coding each carton by contents and making a master list. People make too big a deal about moving, I thought. It’s a cinch if you’re organized. Maybe I’d even write a book about painless moving. I even took time out to craft a rough outline.

By carton 25, I abandoned my system and just starting stuffing items randomly into whatever box had an available few inches of space. As for my master list, I tossed it into the trash, along with my outline for the definitive book about moving efficiently.

I also soon ditched my plan to place heavier cartons on the bottom of each pile and started piling large boxes with pots and pans on top of smaller cartons with fragile china. At some point, I even stopped labeling the cartons and had no idea what was in any of them. I toiled for three days, stopping only for calls of nature (thank heaven, I had left a narrow, barely negotiable, path to the bathroom).

The stacks grew higher. By the third evening they began to teeter dangerously. I should do something about that, I thought. Instead I went to bed. I was exhausted. But who could sleep? I kept expecting to hear the crash of stacks of boxes colliding against each other like falling dominos, knocking down walls and crushing me in my bed.

Actually, that might have been a blessing. It would have spared me the pain of moving into the new place, which turned out to be even more chaotic than the move-out of the old. My movers were as inept as I, stacking boxes haphazardly everywhere. Yes, everywhere. Though my new condo has two bathrooms, the paths to both were blocked with cartons by the time they left.

Crying was not an option. I had no idea where my tissues were packed.

I picked a carton at random and opened it. Okay. Some of my china, which belonged in my dining room breakfront — which, of course, was inaccessible. I opened another carton. Pots and pans for the kitchen …. come on! I knew there was a kitchen here somewhere. I wouldn’t have purchased a condo without a kitchen. I put the pots and pans on top of the opened (but still filled) carton with my china. Oh, oh! Did I just hear the sound of shattering crystal?

And so it went. The harder I worked, the bigger the mess I created.

Why did I decide to move? Sure, the old place had no elevator, and my aging knees were not happy climbing three flights of stairs. Yes, I had to share a laundry — and it was down those same three flights of stairs — and accessible only from the outside of the building (think icy walk, heavy laundry basket, trick knees…). Yes, the complex was aging and I was concerned about major repairs in the near future ($$$). And yes, it was not connected to the town sewer system and had its own plant that had to be brought up to code every couple of years ($$$$). But I had been there for nine years and I had long since found a niche for all my stuff. And even though the new condo was slightly larger and had more closets, I had no idea how it was going to hold all my possessions in all those cartons.

Happy ending: Eventually, I did get everything stowed away, and I disposed of all the empty boxes and acres of bubble wrap (a major accomplishment in itself) and was actually able to see my floors, my own laundry (bliss)., my balcony (ditto)…

I even found my tissues, but I no longer needed them, except to dab at a couple of tears of joy.

I marvel at people who move frequently. But maybe it’s like childbirth — maybe in time you forget the pain I’m not about to test that theory, however.

Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through Amazon.com and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.

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