Moving: the 180% task

We’ve been sending emails and packing things and making plans for our move, which is underway a bit earlier than we originally intended. Although our one-way plane tickets to Toronto are for the last week of April, we’ll be leaving this house in just under a month. So now we are hustling to find homes for our belongings. I think back on all the yard saleing and craft-supplies-stocking I did when we first moved in here, and I don’t regret it. Non, je ne regrette rien… even if it does make my life a little more complicated now. Anyway, moving is trouble no matter how much stuff you have (unless, perhaps, you have nothing). I commented to Erik this morning that even after eliminating so many of the items, there still seems to be so much stuff left: books and clothes to give away, soap dishes, rolls of paper towels, my files, and of course food. He replied, “As we say in software development: when you’re done with the first 90%, then you have to worry about the second 90%.” Yep. 

To be honest, getting rid of stuff has its thrilling moments, especially for a super-organized, super-thoughtful pack rat like me. Case in point: my recipe binder. I’ve subscribed to many magazines over the years, and when I’ve found recipes that sounded good, I’ve torn the pages out and saved them in a three-ring binder. Since I can’t seem to do things casually, the binder is divided into sections based on the type of dish and how much trouble it is to prepare. A few days ago it hit me that I was never going to be able to make all those recipes before we left, and I might as well recycle the pages rather than schlep the binder down to my parents’ house or to storage.

I sat at the dining table and excised every recipe except the ones I could make — and wanted to make — in the next few weeks. Out went everything that wasn’t in season (roasted rhubarb, marinated asparagus) and everything involving elaborate preparations or extensive shopping (vegan nut cheese, tom yum goong). At some point I looked at the stack I was making for the recycling bin and realized I wasn’t just tossing recipes, I was letting go of whole fantasies, emotional burdens posing as kitchen advice. There were the mushroom recipes I’d saved out of guilt for eating too much meat (even though I rarely cook with mushrooms — much as I love them — because the things just don’t keep well in the fridge). Every time I flipped through those pages, the photos were a reminder that I’d reneged on my former vegetarianism. Then there were the pages and pages of bread recipes, because for some reason I always think I should bake my own bread; maybe I think I’ll be a thriftier or more authentic housekeeper if I do, or maybe it’s because my mom does. I put all these nagging accusations of imperfection into the bin, and let them go. I will live with myself, just as I am, excess meat and farmers’-market-bought bread included.

The recipes were easy, though. The books are harder… and the clothes and shoes… and I haven’t even begun on the kitchenwares. Partly it’s a practical consideration; we won’t want to have to buy everything again after we return. But then, who says I’ll need these things in the future anyway? We may decide to eschew book-owning, or my size may drop to an 8 (or rise to a 14), or we may prefer new dishes to our old ones. It’s not really the moving that’s the difficult part of the process, it’s the decision-making. Every single item requires a choice, and therefore every single item holds infinite potential for second-guessing. Maybe I should just make a rule to decide once and then forget about it. Nothing is truly essential, anyway. If I decide to keep it, I keep it, no guilt. If I give it away, I give it away, no regrets. Not a bad way to go through life, in fact, especially for an overthinker like me.

(Funny thing is, I went through the same process last time I moved. Oh well, my heart is lighter this time, so maybe I have learned something!)