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Bring up moving in conversation and it jump-starts things. People either love to do it or hate it with a passion, it seems. Even talking about packing and/or unpacking in conjunction with a trip raises all sorts of sympathetic flutters and groans of compassion. I've always liked packing and unpacking. There's something very Christmassy about it. When it's for a trip, packing is like wrapping up presents to give to yourself during vacation or traveling. And when it's for moving, unpacking is all about opening great big boxes of presents you haven't seen in awhile, and giving yourself the gift of where to put them in your new place.

Anders' parents have reached the point where they have decided it's time to sell the house they have lived in for 41 years and move to an apartment in town. 41 years is a lot of accumulation. I can tell his mom is having a hard time with the whole idea of moving, even though she's all for the decision they've made and thinks the time is right. She gets teary-eyed talking about the chore ahead of sorting and purging through all of their stuff, to decide what to get rid of and what to keep. They have to pare down, of course, because they are moving from a big family house to a suitably-sized apartment. And the thought of leaving her garden is making her really sad.

The kids and I were there today for lunch (before I went to town to get my hair cut), and she started going through closets, showing me clothes that she doesn't want to part with and reminiscing about the occasions she purchased them for, and asking if I wanted any pillows; proceeding to climb up on a stool and empty an top-story cabinet of throw pillows, and then telling me later that Maria (her daughter) and I can divide up the large potted outdoor plants between us (later, when they actually move out, not now, of course). She said, "I have to get rid of the philosophy of "good-to-have"...we're past time for "good-to-have", too old for it now."

I've moved a gazillion times in my life, 29 to be exact, and sometimes the urge to be moving again is overwhelming, so I am very familiar with the awful dichotomy that moving engenders: exciting and sorrowful at the same time. But I've never made a move knowing that it might be my last or that my next one will probably be my final one, to an elderly care home, for example, and it's hard to know how to strike the right note of understanding and sympathy with the positive "think of it as an adventure!" attitude that I was raised with.

I am always on the purge bandwagon, simply in order to keep the mountains of stuff that a family accumulates under control. It seems that no matter how often I go through our closets and prune severely, they are still FULL of clothes. No matter how many bags of toys and games I remove from the playroom to give to the daycare or take to the flea market, the remainder simply swells to fill the space. The spaces I have moved to have incrementally increased during my lifetime of moving and my/our stuff has only expanded to fill it.

Having to REALLY purge, like an ENTIRE ROOM FULL OF STUFF, is unimaginably hard: Things you have sentimental attachments to. Things that belonged to your grandmother. Things you and your husband bought together when you were first married. Things that fulfill a function or give your heart joy. Things you were given or purchased or acquired somehow once upon a time that have moved with you through the years. Multiply that by a lifetime and it begins to feel daunting in the extreme.

Someday I'll have to face it, too, but for now, hopefully, I can be the objective voice of reason for someone else who is trying to pare away the unessentials (and hopefully not end up taking them all off their hands into my own home...eek!). I know when I am going through my own closet, hemming and hawing over items that I haven't worn in years, but love too much to ditch, it always helps to have a friend (or sister) on hand who can help me look objectively at that pair of leggings from the 80s with one eyebrow raised, saying, "" to get me to release it back into the wild.

Really Great Writing Out There Right Now: Loose Woman

More Really Great Writing Out There Right Now: The Ghost Carousel

Yet More Really Great Writing Out There Right Now: The Stone Gods

*Matsuo Basho
mood: thoughtful
music: Sister Hazel—Beautiful Thing


I haven't moved as many times as you, but I know the feeling. What do you leave behind? Sometimes that can be an extremely hard call.

What do you give to "someone else"? What do you donate to charity? What do you just throw away? It's never easy.

Oy with the moving. Do they have garage sales in Sweden? My rule of thumb is if I haven't used it in the last year, it's outta there. Unless it somehow adds to the quality of my life, even though I don't use it much. I wishyour mom-in-law good luck, that would be tough.

They don't have garage sales, at least not the way we do...they have organized flea markets, but you have to take your stuff TO the place where it's held (not so easy if it's furniture, etc). Garage sailing is one of the things I miss most about summer in the States!

Edited at 2008-07-24 07:36 am (UTC)

Re: Moving after a long time

I feel for them!!

I'll have to see if I can adopt your concept of packing and unpacking as wrapping and unwrapping presents. It may help.

It seems like I have been reducing and purging for years. It is an ongoing process after a life of accumulating household and family goods and now having all the chicklets grown and out of the coop, especially since I share a home with a housemate/friend rather than a husband or partner. And now I've got to get off my butt and get out to the garage. It's another purging day. Countdown to garage sale. And may this be the last garage sale I ever do. I am quite tired of being on the giving end of garage sales.

It's all about the stage of life, isn't it: how we feel about purging and/or moving??

Yes I guess it is. There was quite a period of accumulation as the kidlets were growing up and now it is all about downsizing.

Should you *really* be releasing those leggings into the wild? They could do some damage, man! :)
I think your description of packing/unpacking is fantastic with a capital F. I'll have to keep the Christmas present idea in mind next time I'm grumbling over boxes or suitcases.

You haven't seen the leggings!! They'll fit RIGHT IN, in the wild. I was not a master of, subtlety when it came to patterns, back then. :D

G's mother has lived in the same spot for probably 40 years also. It's already an apartment, and a small one at that, but I dread thinking about what would need to be done if she can't live there on her own anymore. Especially since nearly everything would have to be given away since all the rest of his relatives also live in small apartments.

Unlike my family where I still have stuff at my mom's house (though she tries to get me to take a box each time I'm there) and I'm not the only one. And now my mom has the remains of my grandma's stuff too. Stuff, stuff, stuff. But some of it, you can't get rid of! My mother has hundreds of old glass plate negatives that have survived the generations and have pictures of old relatives from the late 1800s. She has the harp my grandmother played as a young woman. She has the melodion my grandfather gave her (my mom) as a birthday present when she turned 10. None of these things can go anywhere but to another family member. A harp! A melodion! These are not small items! I'm willing to take on the glass plates when the time comes as I used to work in a photographic archive so I figure I know better than my siblings what to do with them. I'm going to hope one of my sisters (the one with the music degree gets my vote) will take the large instruments. What about the baby grand piano though? My mom has one, my sister has one, the rest of us all have many pianos does a non-piano player need?

Personally, if I didn't play the things, I'd donate them somewhere: a museum, a music school. :)

Moving and sorting junk

I really can feel for your m-i-l! I HATE getting rid of stuff...although I must admit it feels good to declutter once it is done. I'm SUPER sentimental! I have crayons (in nice tins) that I've had since I was young because I never wanted to "mess them up" although I did use them...I really did! Now it almost (almost) pains me to see my daughter use them with wreakless abandon! I have not given her my Barbie collection to play with yet but I"m building up my strength to see her riping the clothes (clothes that I made with my own two hands) off the old dolls. Anyway....
When I made the BIG MOVE from LA to Sweden I had to get rid of LOTS of my precious stuff. So much of it was easy to give away or sell, but there were many things that I had kept simply because of the people who gave them to me. After teaching for nearly 15 years I had quite the collection of "teacher gifts" from my students. It was hard to part with them even though they were not things I really wanted in my new home. What made it easier for me to let go of them was when my parents came to help me pack...Dad took video tape of me showing the "precious" items and explaining who had given them to me. Some of the items moved on their own (ex: spinning jewelry boxes with flashing lights..I kid you not!) so it was best to get a moving memory of them! Other items I simply took a photo of to look at later if I ever felt the need to see them again. Mind you, I've never looked at either the video or the roll of film, but it made it easier to get rid of the actual item when I still could possess the items in some other way. I had that piece of my history and connections documented.
Maybe you could do something like that for your mother-in-law ...make a short film of her showing the things and telling about them..just like she's already done for you when she got the boxes out of the closet. Items are a gateway to might spark up some interesting stories of her life to share with your kids later! Just a thought....

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