Packing Theory

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When Dan and I move out of our apartment, it will mark the fourth time I have moved in six years, going back to when I first moved out of my parents’ house in 2007. I know many people move more frequently than that, but moving every two years has been wearing on me for a long time. I never imagined any of those apartments to be very permanent. It’s not like I’ve avoided decorating, or anything, but it has been a very unmoored kind of feeling. And that’s a huge part of why buying a house is such a relief, even as intimidating as it is. I’m SO ready to put down some damn roots and stay somewhere for longer than two freaking years.

But moving this many times in the past few years has given me a bit of perspective on moving and packing techniques. It’s all I seem to be able to think about lately, with Moving Day closing upon us more quickly than I care to admit.

When I first moved out of my parents’ house, they made me take every single box from their house and attic that had an E on it. I lived in honest-to-God fear those first few years that they’d realize that my bike was still in their garage. I have complained about this for years, but truthfully? I’m glad they did that. When combined with moving every two years, it has sort of forced me to be a bit ruthless about some of the things I’d be inclined to hold onto because I’m absurdly sentimental. My dad was still getting boxes of his from my grandmother’s attic for years, and it can’t get any easier to sort through this kind of stuff as you get older. My friend Melissa pointed it out this way recently: “If you don’t care enough about it to have it in your house, how is it fair to ask them to have it in theirs for you?” But when it came to boxes of “books for future children,” I sort of resented having to store it, at first.

So each time I have moved, I have spent a lot of time sorting through boxes and making executive decisions about all of this stuff. When I moved out of my parents’ house, it was boxes like “E-clothes for later” (containing all of my beloved overalls, which I wouldn’t wear anymore, but thought were high enough quality to save, just in case?) and all of my high school notes and certificates and programs and crap. When I moved from my first to my second apartment, I found myself making decisions about much of the things I had saved from college.

the Harry Potter closet!
look how long my hair was! I still miss that Harry Potter closet, even if it was a black hole.

And this brings me to my general theory – that everyone has a threshold for sentimentality and holding onto things that meant something to them. Perhaps those of us who are journalers and scrapbookers naturally fall more toward the “save everything” end of the range… Every time I find myself sorting through boxes of mementos, I start out completely ruthlessly, adding things to the recycle/donate/toss piles with abandon. I’m making progress; the garbage bags are filling up with speed… and after a few sessions, I start to worry. Am I being too cruel to my former selves? 2005-Elizabeth obviously saved this for some reason. Why do I need to save every Christmas card I ever received?? But… am I glad I still have the ones with Ghami’s notes and drawings, now that she’s gone? You better believe I am. So I’m ruthless and chucking things left and right… until my conscience takes over and I suddenly start to doubt my ability to be reasonable about things anymore.

It’s like there’s a limit to how much a person can chuck/donate/recycle in each given round. I couldn’t throw away my library school notes and textbooks when I moved in 2009. But in 2011? I really didn’t need to keep them anymore. I suppose it’s partially the luxury of having to move so often; and this time around, I’m HIGHLY aware of the large quantities of storage space in this townhouse we’re buying. The LAST thing I want to do now is fill that basement with crap I don’t feel up to sorting through now, only to have a monumental task ahead of me ten or so years from now when we might move again. Assuming we even move again. Is it making me more ruthless now? Probably. But maybe being ruthless now is easier than ten years from now, when getting rid of anything related to the wedding will feel cruel to 2013-Elizabeth. But 2013-Elizabeth, right now? Thinks it’s probably okay to recycle all of the wedding magazines that I’ve had in a stack since my sister got engaged.

I still feel like a bit of an idiot that I went out to buy a special pack of 5-color post-it notes to label the boxes Dan and I are packing… until I remember how many compliments I got from the muscle (Dan, my brother, my now-brother-in-law…) in 2011, at how easy it was for them to just carry boxes and not need to ask where they belonged. Several friends have recommended numbering the boxes and including a list of what’s inside, which would make a shit-ton of sense, as well. We’ll see.

(Dan’s theory on packing, incidentally, is “There’s tons of stuff to do… and we’ll just do it all.” Whereas I’m here typing 950 words about packing. With six days until closing and eight days until we move… maybe Dan’s right. Holy crap, you guys.)

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4 thoughts on “Packing Theory

  1. That’s a great way to organize boxes! So easy on both ends.

    I completely agree about different rounds of packing/purging, and how time helps us be okay with getting rid of stuff! I had stored a bunch of stuff in my dad’s barn since I moved to NYC. I kept ALL of my college notes! Because I might need to reminisce over that one titration experiment from chem lab freshman year?? Last fall I finally recycled all that shit.

    Obviously I mostly only know you On the Internet, but that picture–you almost look like a different person!

  2. I often refer to “future Sarah” or “Sarah of a particularly year” when I think about saving things ( I tend toward the hoarding, or as I like to think appropriately saving sentimental things, and I’m sure it’s due in large part to my mother getting rid of many things I would have LOVED to have pulled out to show my kids or have at my own house) and I’m delighted to see someone else who does, too! Good luck with your move!

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