We’ve all done it. Some of us often, some of us only once. We learn to get better at it, but it’s never enjoyable. It’s usually better with friends, though this can be contested. Whenever I do it, somehow the temperature outside is always well above 90.
When a friend or colleague tells me they are moving, I automatically feel as though they deserve a homemade casserole. Moving is such a silly concept: we take all of our neatly organized belongings (clothes, pots, furniture, chotchkies- there are always way too many of those), make a giant mess placing them all in boxes, bins, suitcases, or other containers to schlep up and down stairs and into a big vehicle so we can then repeat the process in reverse in our new residence.
I once moved apartments in Chicago and spent a week packing, transporting, and subsequently unpacking four giant plastic tubs. This was the most inexpensive and inefficient way to go. Moving outside driving distance should be an Olympic sport, and one that pays. Your options are to sell everything and then buy it all again, or try to ship things- and that will cost you your whole year’s salary.
Yet here I am, planning to move for the up-teenth time, 2 miles away and a world apart. From Boston’s North End- a tiny, cobblestone street vintage European snapshot to Eastie, a heavily immigrant neighborhood that still remains “authentic”, according to one realtor. I wonder who considers themselves to be “inauthentic”?
In the midst of the mess, the boxes, tape rolls, donation piles, never-opened packs of sponges, I have been attempting something quite outside my comfort zone: embracing the clutter. It sound easy, and this is not to say I don’t have clutter in my life (everyone has a junk drawer or three, right?) but when things are even the slightest bit out of order, my mind tends to start buzzing and won’t relax until they’re put back. In their place. Where I have determined that they belong.
It’s not easy to admit a desire for control, especially over something as meaningless as how my bathroom towels are folded. “Who cares?” I sometimes ask myself. “No one will see them anyway.” As I looked at the boxes and bags and crap piled around my living room, the fact that we can be our own worst enemies really hit home. “No one will see it,” isn’t totally truthful. I will see it. I will remember that my life is not as categorized, clean, and minimalist as I would like it to be, as I can convince myself it is by keeping my home in control. This outward reflection of my own inward junk is truth, yet, it is uncomfortable.
Anyone could tell you that life is messy, that it never comes at you neatly packaged with a bow. I’m not 16 and hoping for a car for my birthday. Anyone could also tell you that moving is the worst (alongside waiting in line at the DMV and calling Comcast for customer service), but most everyone, when asked, has a moving story to share. My parents do it (they describe the wilting July day, the day I worked at Bed, Bath and Beyond instead of helping them move, and how all the spices went missing). My friends do it (“We drove a U-Haul all the way to DC from Chicago and realized our apartment was too small for all our furniture!). I do it (remember the blue bins?). Whenever you have nothing to talk about at a party, try asking someone if they’ve had a bad moving experience. You’re set for the next three hours, and I would bet you’ll attract a crowd.
Maybe the reason life is so messy- it’s the dusty kitchen appliance you never used, the wad of old t-shirts in the back of your closet, the business cards from people you don’t even remember tucked away behind all the pay stubs you saved- is the connection we find in the plot of the mess. As I breathe through the mess that ultimately mirrors what my life looks like, I keep a log of the experiences so that next time someone tells me they are moving, we have something to talk about. And for now, the boxes serve as a pretty decent footrest.