“It’s just as hard to go back to a place you once left, as it is to leave it again.” ― Charlotte Eriksson
Now that I’ve created expectations I offer this disclaimer. This is not a moving story ― as in moved to tears or moved to laughter. I’m simply mixing metaphors ― that’s what I do. On the contrary, this story is about packing boxes and totes to schlep across town to my new home, after sorting through the ephemera of my life, then shredding, saving, or throwing away the paper trail. Yet, as I’ve recently learned during this experience, both tears and laughter took me by surprise and took me places from the past. Like an archaeologist exploring a lost civilization, I discovered orphaned relics and forgotten memories.
I’ve written a lot about moving for this blog, perhaps it’s because I’ve moved a lot. I also think that moving is an almost perfect metaphor for life. Moving ignites emotion which is often defined as energy in motion. Moving is a kind of time travel ― from the past to the present to the future. Moving mandates that one puts one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. Often like the children’s backyard game of Captain, May I? it’s one step forward and two steps back. Sometimes we freeze in our tracks. Life is like that too.
“She took a step and didn’t want to take any more, but she did.”― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
Sometimes we move for a job, or a relationship ends or begins; we move for economic reasons, to save money, or if fortunate, metaphorically move up in the world. We move to go to school, or because we purchase or sell a home. We move to escape a dangerous or hostile situation or neighborhood. We move because our family is growing, someone dies, or children leave home and strike out on their own. We move because we’ve lost a job or we’re evicted. We move because we retire. We move because we can’t take care of ourselves anymore. We move because we want to and sometimes because we have to.
Moving is seldom, if ever, simply the act of packing boxes, moving to a new location and unpacking and settling in to a new home. Moving represents the passages we experience in our journey through the stages of our lives. Throughout life we’re told, “Move on,” “move over,” “keep moving.”
“I give you this to take with you: Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.” ― Judith Minty, Letters to My Daughters
The reason for my move this time is quite simple. I’m about to cross the threshold of the Third Act of my life. I need to begin to reduce my living expenses as I start planning to retire from my working life, first settle in to more affordable housing, pay down debt, save a little money, work part-time awhile, then evaluate what I need to get by before fully retiring. Since I hope to remain an active person engaged in my avocations and live independently for as long as I’m able, I return to a neighborhood where I lived for almost 20 years. It’s a true neighborhood with all the elements necessary for me to thrive. It’s walkable with local restaurants and retail businesses, art galleries and cafes, a music venue, and most of all, friends nearby.
For this move I was downsizing from almost 800 square feet to less than 650. I gave up stainless steel appliances, hard surface plank floors, a walk-in closet and a storage unit. What I gained was more reasonable rent. Madison, like some larger urban cities, rents have increased dramatically outpacing income, and because there’s a shortage of apartments and a low vacancy rate, they’re less competitive then in the past. For renters, the choice is currently between luxury apartments and those that require some degree of remodeling or updating, or compromise and concessions. As the result of my planning, research, and timing, I was lucky to find my affordable new home.
Since I was downsizing and losing storage space, the first thing I had to do was reduce the paper footprint of my life, which included 12 banker boxes brimming with old bills, tax returns, car maintenance records, obituaries of family and friends, letters and emails from ex-lovers, 401(k) retirement statements, payroll stubs and check registers, monthly budgets, resumes from different decades, cover letters, job and unemployment applications, medical and benefit enrollment documents, medical history, poems, to-do lists, paper copies of online journals, travel brochures —and more —and still more.
This phase of my move has consumed almost a month of Saturday mornings — sorting, pitching, shredding, reviewing, reading, weeping, laughing, and remembering. I sometimes paused and thought —this is the archive of my life, perhaps a family member — or dare I wish —a biographer would want, need, or cherish this ephemera. I laughed out loud to myself and filled 33 gallon heavy duty trash bags and took boxes with confidential papers to be shredded.
Like the Dr. Seuss bestselling book, the last one published while he was still alive, Oh, The Places You’ll Go! this moving story began with “Oh, The Places I’ve Been!”
“There is always a sadness about packing. I guess you wonder if where you’re going is as good as where you’ve been.” ― Richard Proenneke, One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey
Now begins the intentional chaos, the removal of art from walls, the wrapping of knick knacks, breakables, and mementos in yards of bubble wrap, the packing of books, the slip-sheeting of dishes, cookware and glasses, emptying the pantry, closets, drawers, and cabinets. Discovering some lost item that consumed two hours of time one day and now I can’t remember why I searched for it.
Like the banker boxes, my closet holds both material things and memories. I hope to lighten my load and donate what I don’t wear anymore. I will sort through clothes I haven’t worn since my last move, outfits I hold onto as a reminder of my former smaller self, favorite out-of-style clothes that I hope will one day be back in fashion, and things I wore that are attached to fond memories or people from my past. I will lean into the lessons I’ve learned throughout my life of what to hold onto and what to let go. That’s one of the essential steps of moving, letting go and holding on, cherishing the familiar and opening up to the wonder of the unknown.
Besides packing boxes and totes, there’s a master moving to-do list to manage which includes — first and foremost —scheduling movers, plus complete address changes for medical and dental insurance and clinics, banking and credit cards, car loans, and license and registration — critically important this year — obtain a new driver’s license so I can vote in November, order new checks, update work, online retailers and service providers, set appointments for internet, cable, and phone service, transfer utilities, let your family, friends and loved ones, know how and where to find you and most importantly plan on how to take advantage of their generous offers of help, but not hurt their backs, or waste their time, because I’m not very skilled at delegating. If you’re out of breath from reading this run-on sentence — I’m overwhelmed.
Before I began packing up for the move, I took some photos of my home and spent time enjoying the environment I created and have lived in for the past three years. I’m at that age where I think every move is my last move, yet if I’ve learned anything from the past — things change. I’m grateful for the solace of my time here and curious about my future. I’m happy to return to a neighborhood I love.
Thank you in advance to my friends, family, and loved ones for your help and for your patience as you listened to me procrastinate, ruminate and extrapolate about the move. Don’t worry, I’ll move on.
“As long as you’re moving, it’s easier to steer.” ― Anonymous
Stay tuned for the next installment of my moving series, Another Moving Story II, when I reach the other side of my move and the unpacking and nesting begins. Life is good. I’m grateful. Thanks H.P.
To read more moving stories: