“You might want to start unpacking some of these,” one of the movers kindly suggested. How many times had he seen people dazed amid a semi-load of boxes? Was the look of disbelief on my face common? Not all this stuff could possibly be ours. Maybe in the four miles between the old house and the new house, the movers stopped off to pick up someone else’s stuff, because there was no way it could have fit into the smaller house we just moved out of.
Like a conveyor belt, the movers kept bringing more boxes inside, asking where I wanted each one. Even though I had carefully labeled them with kitchen or office or bedroom, only so many boxes can fit in a room before blocking access to the cabinets you need to relieve the backlog. Then there was the furniture. Sure, that bookcase worked well in your old living room, but do you want it in the new living room? (So far we’ve moved that bookcase three times, and I’m eyeing a fourth location as I write this.)
“Ma’am? Ma’am?” The mover’s voice interrupted my paralysis.
“Where do I put it all?” I asked.
He set a box down at my feet then took a step back. “Here, try this one,” he said.
I ripped the tape off and dug in, tossing kitchen utensils and saucepans in any old drawer and cabinet just to get them out of sight. I grabbed the empty box and ran outside, shouting “I unpacked one!” My sense of great achievement shone with a huge smile. The movers looked at one another. Yep, they’d seen this behavior before.
In addition to the overwhelming boxes, a pile of packing paper soon buried the overstuffed chair and ottoman. I made a desperate call to a new neighbor we had met a few weeks before. She came over to help empty boxes of glassware and food, setting them on the dining room table until I could deal with them later. She folded packing paper and broke down boxes, effectively keeping me from breaking down. (Did I mention we moved nine days before Christmas?)
A month later, we were still unpacking boxes (and moving that bookcase), but at least the chaos was corralled. Husband took several opportunities to point out that we didn’t need “all that crap” that we—ahem, I—had acquired over the years. Not that I use them, but I can’t bear to see teapots and ancient casserole dishes from my parents and grandparents end up in a church bazaar sale. And who among us has recently pulled out their high school yearbooks to reminisce? Husband’s mantra: “Just chuck it all away.” Easy words for a man who arrived in this country with nothing more than a backpack full of a few clothes.
Though my inner Zen agrees with Husband, still…you can’t buy a new house without also buying new furniture. We needed new storage thingies for all the stuff I intend to burden my nieces and nephews with someday. But have you seen furniture lately? The affordable stuff is not only hideous, it’s cheaply constructed and crappier than the crap we’d put in it. So, Husband started trolling Craigslist and eBay, scoring deals on used quality pieces and rounding out our collection of cherry dining room furniture. I displayed my grandmother’s set of collectible salad plates in the corner cabinet, then stood back to marvel at how this is just so not me. Husband walked in and declared, “Aww, that looks just like an old granny’s house. You must feel good.” He meant it. I smothered my despair with a glass of wine and thought about calling Goodwill to haul everything away.
A matching corner cabinet and buffet are the gateway drugs to matching bedroom furniture (another first for us), which we bought from a model home stager for an unbeatable price. The old furniture now occupies the spare bedrooms, awaiting our first Airbnb guests. If this keeps up, I’ll want to replace it with matching stuff—you know, for our guests’ sake. Next, the kitchen needs a makeover; it can’t compete with the gourmet kitchen we left behind in the old house. Husband doesn’t think we need to replace 20-year-old countertops and appliances. Why not spend the money on his landscaping plan instead? And the living room furniture is boring, which is distracting when you’re trying to watch television. Then there’s the unfinished basement, which could benefit from a guest room, man cave, workout room, bathroom, laundry room, and workshop space. Finally, the garage could use some organized storage to hold all the jars of spare screws and nails, bits that fall off things you don’t own anymore, and Husband’s running shoe collection, which currently numbers around 30 pairs (for me it’s unused family heirlooms; for him, footwear, earbuds, and iPods).
As I survey our little kingdom, I wonder what will become of all the stuff we’re collecting when we decide, in 10 years, a motorhome better suits our inner nomad.