Moving Stuff and Things: Home is Where the Box Is

I don’t like to brag, but I think I could accurately guess the actual contents of a box based on its feel and weight. All I’d need to do is pick it up and shake it a bit, and then I’d be able to tell you whether it contains a George Foreman grill, bedsheets, stereo speakers, silverware, or an assortment of albums from the 1970s. Fun fact: Late 1970s records have a different heft than ones from the 1960s or 1980s. It probably has something to do with those heavy bass lines.

Mostly, I’m joking, but I do feel like I’ve become something of an expert on cardboard boxes and their contents. As I drift off to sleep at night, I imagine I’m walled in by hordes of moving cartons with ambiguous labels. I panic at the irrational thought that I’ve accidentally scheduled simultaneous truck rentals with two different moving companies. I dream of opening every drawer in the house, unable to find a spoon to eat my melted Ben & Jerry’s. (My ice cream is melted because I put it in the wrong side of the refrigerator.)

There’s a good reason I’m feeling this way: This past week, my wife and I moved out of one house and into a new one, along with two dogs and dog-related paraphernalia, close to a hundred boxes, assorted furniture, dishes, flatware, tools, books, clothes, guitars, and a lifetime’s collection of comics and LPs. That kind of experience leaves a mark on a person.

A couple of nights ago, I tried to recount the number of times I’ve moved in my life, and the best figure I could come up with was around twenty. Those don’t include my childhood or when I was in the military, since those really didn’t require any work on my part. Essentially, all I had to do was grab what was closest to me and hop a ride. And in case you’re wondering, no, I didn’t appreciate that at the time. Honestly, I’ve never appreciated anything when I should have.

As a somewhat responsible adult, though, I’ve pulled up stakes and moved an average of every two-and-a-half years, and some of those relocations were more arduous than others. The easiest were the ones that happened before I had lots of stuff to haul around, back when my guitar and collection of cassette tapes were pretty much all I had to carry. In those days, the rest of my possessions—the comics, LPs, stereo equipment, and Led Zeppelin black light posters—were safely back in Alabama at my parents’ house. Yes, I still owe them substantial storage fees for that.

Now, my wife and I have more stuff than any two adults should. Don’t get me wrong. It’s good stuff, and it’s useful, but there’s a lot of it. Despite donating a decent part of our clothes, books, and non-heirloom furniture, we’re still packed full. Consider this: We moved into a house about twice the size of our previous one, and it’s also somehow full. That shouldn’t be physically possible, yet here we sit, surrounded by boxes.



Here are a couple of pieces of advice for those considering a move. First, sell or give away everything except the clothes on your back. In fact, you might even get rid of a few of those, depending on your own level of modesty and local laws governing indecent exposure. Sure, you may be short on a few things when you reach your destination, but imagine how free you’ll feel as you prance through your new empty house.

On the other hand, if you’re too emotionally attached to your material goods to part with them, you might explore gathering a few minions to help you move. The drawback here is the time required to cultivate the minion-overlord relationship and inspire the loyalty required to inspire someone to haul your junk across town. This doesn’t happen overnight, so be sure to plan ahead.

As a last resort, you can hire movers, but unless you pay them under the table, they’ll make you sign waivers and disclaimers clearing them of any responsibility should they, let’s say, break your great grandmother’s antique painting of Jesus and Elvis. This takes more time than you have to spare. Also, pets don’t count as minions, at least not the kind that will help carry your stuff.

Pets: Cute, but Not Useful for Moving Stuff

Me, I’m off to shift boxes from one room to another, delaying the inevitable unpacking while trying to convince myself I’m accomplishing something useful. Eventually, the empty boxes will sit out by the curb for recycling, and all our items will be stored in their proper places. I’ll know exactly where to find a spoon, and my Ben & Jerry’s will be where it belongs, in the freezer, cooled at just the right temperature.

Oh, and one last thing: I’m never moving again.