Stuff!

Preparing for yet another move, I am reminded of a move we made when I was a little girl.   Dad was the minister at a two church charge, the main church being in Marion.  I can’t remember the name or location of the second church, only that it was small and close by.  Every June, Dad would have to attend annual conference held at a different place each year.  In June of our third year at Marion, as usual Dad left for Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana, for the Louisiana Annual Conference of the Methodist Church. Quite unexpectedly, we received a call from Dad sometime during the week informing us that we were “being moved” to a town a couple of hours away, Greenwood, Louisiana.  The way things worked in those days was that the Bishop of the conference, along with the District Superintendents, would meet and discuss and juggle things around and make decisions, one of which was relocating local pastors.  Conference would be one week, then the following week moves would take place on a Thursday.  The relocating minister would move out of the “parsonage” on Thursday morning, and into his new parsonage and “charge” on Thursday afternoon.  That way they would have a few days to get unpacked and settled before they had to preach their first sermon at their new church on the following Sunday.  (Yup, all it took was a few days to get settled in to the new place!)

Today I cannot even imagine how we lived that way, but that is how we did it!  Of course, each church provided the house (parsonage) and furnishings for the house (congregants discards) so when a move was made, the only things to pack were clothing, dishes, and personal items.  There was no need to find a new place to live, or to give notice to landlords that we were leaving.  Even so, I don’t know how we did it.  I’ve had six weeks notice about this move which is the general “heads up” I get anymore.  Of course in this day and age, especially since I am no longer connected with the church, we have to give all sorts of people notice of our move at least a month in advance.  Utilities have to be notified so they can come in and take readings, and a new dwelling has to be secured whether it is an apartment (as is the case this time) or a house. That means a quick trip to the new place to “house/apartment hunt” and sign a new lease, or place a bid. Professional movers are given the opportunity to offer bids on moving us and then the movee (us) decides who to go with. (Sometimes it works well, other times it is a disaster!)

In the meantime the movees continue with their jobs and everyday living.  Only now along with life’s demands, the movee (me) has to start packing.  Today people (oy. . . us) have a lot more “stuff” to cart around than did people living in the ’50’s and ’60’s.  We no longer live in furnished places, so we cart around a houseful of furniture.  We have more clothes than ever before, at least three wardrobes: everyday summer, dress summer, everyday winter, dress winter, special occasion summer and winter, etc.–something that was unheard of when I was growing up.  We have appliances that were not even dreamed of when I was a child: bread making machine, Jack Lalaine Juicer, coffee makers of several kinds depending on our mood, food processors (large for meals, small for a dish or two, tiny manual for holidays–this one deserves another post).  Speaking of kitchen gadgets and appliances, we keep kosher so that means we have many sets of dishes: meat, milk, and pareve –yes, a complete set of dishes and cookware for each!  Then we also have to have separate sets for Passover (I use a lot of paper and disposables during Passover because I don’t have enough space or money for more sets of dishes!) and all of the dishes have to be packed according to set.  Professional movers are usually shocked when they see the number of kitchen boxes required for my kitchen

Now let’s talk about books.  Both my husband and I are bona-fide bibliophiles!  Between the two of us, we have thousands of books: religion, science, math, history, art, literature, poetry, children’s books, etc.  We have given away thousands of books through the years but our library multiplies anyway.  And lest you think we collect books just to put on a shelf and admire from afar, I assure you that almost every book we own was read at least in part if not entirely from cover to cover.  All this to tell you that I have a lot of books to pack. Professional movers also marvel at the number of book boxes we crate with us.  Oy. At times it is embarrassing.

With this move we are downsizing into a tiny apartment, so besides packing tons of boxes, I have to designate which boxes go to storage and what goes to our apartment.  We are giving away furniture, books, dishes, clothing–the frivolous stuff but not the items we use regularly.  Even so, I’m not sure how we’ll fit into our new digs.

There is another issue with boxes, too.  Fortunately I save boxes from move to move, so we have most of the boxes we need.  Since Richard has already left town and begun his new job in our new home, I’m left here to do all of the above.  I get an uneasy feeling when I think we may not have enough boxes because I have no car to gather and bring more empty boxes back to our home.  I’ve decided that if we have too few boxes, I’m discarding more stuff till what we have fits into the boxes that are already in our apartment waiting to be filled.

In the meantime while I’m doing all of this and plotting and planning and scheduling to get it done, I’m also in grad school.  I must keep up with my studies, too. Wow.  What can I say. Somebody needs to examine my head because this is a lot of stuff to juggle.

Looking back to my childhood, I simply don’t know how we packed and moved in just a few days time.  Life was simpler for sure, not as carefree as we oftentimes like to romanticize, but it was simpler. Today’s necessities were not even dreamed up a few decades ago.  When I was traipsing through Nicaragua many years ago, everything I needed fit into a backpack–everything.  I remember how freeing it was to be unencumbered with stuff.

Stuff, and the acquisition of stuff, creates too many headaches, heartburn, high blood pressure, stress, greed, and more.  I’ve begun paring down our lives, but as I pack, I am aware that a lot more needs to be done. Richard, if you are reading this wherever you are, do not worry that I am throwing your stuff away. I’m not. But I am getting rid of as much stuff as I can get rid of in good conscience.  It is time for a simpler lifestyle.  If not now, then when?

What are your thoughts?  What have you done to simplify your life, or get rid of stuff?  I’d really like to hear.

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14 thoughts on “Stuff!

  1. Cecelia, This is a wonderful essay that you took the time to write. My move from an Iowa farm house to my first dorm room at Park College (now Park University) in Parkville (suburban Kansas City, Missouri was the fifth move of my life. As an infant I was moved from my grandparents’ home to a small, brand new two room house that had been made for chickens but was used by us instead – it was cozy both space wise and heat wise. From there we moved to a two story, six room house across the road on another farm when I was three. When I was ten we moved to the house that I lived in until I left for college.

    With regard to “stuff” – may I “take issue” with you in one small “it’s just the way I am” way? – I prefer “things” although my husband and step-mother both say “stuff” – I know I sometimes place too strong an emotional tie to some of my possessions. But I think some of that is only human. However, in the time of disasters those who escape with only their lives often say their things can be replaced – lives cannot be.

    1. Yes Barbara, you can take issue with anything you want to! 🙂 You make a good point. We all own items that we cherish, that may have sentimental value. And I agree that when it comes to disasters and life or death situation, our possessions pale in comparison. I will still use the term “stuff” though, especially when I am the one having to pack every item and make a decision about what to do with the “stuff” we crate with us everywhere we go. But then, once we are settled and are there to stay, I will unpack each box and get the joy of deciding where to place each treasure.

      Thank you so much for taking time to read such a long post (I was rambling this morning, postponing my “date” with the boxes!) and for taking to time to leave such a well-thought-out comment. I do appreciate it. You have a wonderful day. After we find a house to move into (sometime within the next year. . .hopefully) I’ll write about the joy of unpacking our things, and reminisce about each item’s meaning to me/us.

  2. Four years ago, after we sold our Evanston condo and before we took off for a year of travel, we drastically downsized. I was ruthless. We had two yard sales and listed furniture on Craigs List. We kept only those things we had sentimental attachment for, which fit into a 10 X10 storage unit. Friends said they envied us–not for our year of traveling but for getting rid of so much STUFF. For a semester following our move we lived in an efficiency apartment in Seoul, ROK. Life without stuff was so much simpler. Now resettled in NC, I’m trying to limit household purchases, evaluating them on necessity and environmental impact.
    Nancy Werking Poling
    author of HAD EVE COME FIRST AND JONAH BEEN A WOMAN
    and OUT OF THE PUMPKIN SHELL

    1. Nancy!

      That sounds like what we are doing. We are moving into a very tiny apartment, and to be truthful, I’m tired of packing and moving stuff that just collects dust until the next time we move. With each move, we get rid of some stuff, but never quite enough. This time Richard has already gone to Cleveland, so I’m left to my own devices. Like you, I’m being ruthless! It feels good to get rid of the excess, and let’s face it, most of this stuff is excess.

      It is good to see you here again. Hope you and Jim are enjoying life. Did I see that you are working on another book????? I’ll be looking for it.

      Cecelia

  3. It’s amazing how much stuff just accumulates over the years.
    Since Annabelle and I currently live in a 450 +/- sq. ft. apartment (and no longer have our store space), we’ve de-cluttered quite a bit. Sometimes I wish we had a bit more room (just to work on stuff… art projects, etc.), although part of me knows if we had that space it would be a mess in no time. 🙂

    1. Yes, I want to be able to live comfortably in a small space. 450 sq. ft. is really small. Our place will be a little bigger. It has a beautiful picture window that looks out at a courtyard with numerous trees. Lovely. I was willing to give up the space for the view. Hope I’m not disappointed.

    1. I’m with you, Nancy. Even so, without realizing it our lives seem to fill with clutter if we are not vigilant. At any rate, we will be donating quite a bit to charity. I’ll be sure to check out your links. You are always a source of information AND inspiration!

  4. We haven’t moved in about 15 years so we have accumulated a lot of stuff too. But before this year ends, I’ve pledged to donate some of it to the Salvation Army or Goodwill.
    Good luck with paring down and moving Cecelia!

  5. Wonderful and interesting post! I don’t know how you do it … with the school at the same time, to boot!
    I’ve moved so many times so I’ve stopped counting. Most of the times, alone. One of the first times though, I was married, and the whole move was paid for by my then-husband’s new employer. The movers came, they packed everything, drove down south, and UN-packed everything. It was great, but I learned something very important then, about STUFF. I had two, full kitchen cabinets full of empty glass bottles … you know the type that pickled cucumber comes in. I’d saved them all because «I thought they might come in handy»?!?! Handy, for what?! I don’t make jam or anything … I BUY it! I felt so stupid when I saw them all being unpacked…

    After a few more moves, I became really good at not accumulating stuff. THEN came the move to here. We lived in Gerry’s house in QC and he’d lived in the same house for 40+ years! We were moving from that house into this two-bedroom apartment. He had to do the most, with regards to getting rid of stuff, because almost all of it was his. We made it, of course, but it was a heck of a job.

    I say «stuff», because I’ve lost so many «things» in my life … it used to hurt, and I didn’t think that was right because they were just … ‘things’. Losing living creatures … people, animals … then I allow myself to hurt, to mourn, but not stuff 🙂

    1. Rebekah,
      What a wonderful comment! I, too, only had one time when the movers came in and packed, moved us, then unpacked. I have moved dozens of times, literally. I don’t like it but like you said, frequent moves helps us declutter! This time will be a drastic reduction in living space, so I’m becoming ruthless with the stuff that classifies as clutter. Your last paragraph is so true. After awhile, with moves galore and the loss of so many things in life that I once though valuable, the stuff just isn’t as important as it use to be. I agree with you 100%! Thanks for taking the time to read and to comment, as always. Have a delightful day. 🙂

  6. Moving is hard work and the hardest part is what to toss and what to hold … sentimental value and all. Sending you energy and light to help you along…. Keep us posted!
    Checking back in to catch up after a lull on the comments front but hectic on the home front. 🙂

    1. Moving is the hardest thing in the world for me to do. I’ve had to do it too many times. Uprooting and relocating challenges us on many levels, not just the physical act of filling boxes and moving them from one place to another. I still hope, even at my age, to one day “settle down.” Thanks for stopping by. Hope things are a little less hectic on the home front. Have a great day.

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