by Roxanne Tellier
I’ll just put it out there .. I hate moving. I like looking at other houses that are staged to sell, and imagining what it would be like to live there. I like watching DIY experts slap $40 worth of paint onto walls, transform a wood pallet into a piece of luxurious furniture, and change a blah room into a stunning piece of art. In the past, I myself have spent major dollars and worked insanely long hours, hoping to make a sow’s ear into a silk purse. DIY porn. It’s a thing.
But that was then, and this is my aching back now. And here we go again.
I am already dreading the physical work required to get out of one nest, move to another, and then transform a house into a home. Expect no renovation/decoration miracles from me until I catch my breath. Maybe not even then, if my breath’s run far enough away from me. It’s enough to know that I’m going to have to, for the third time in 5 years, tidy, declutter, and pack up my stuff, and then get it from point a to point B reasonably intact, and at a realistic cost financially, mentally, and physically.
Not that that ever happens. It’s always a dog’s breakfast. I’m still discovering things that went missing in the last two moves, misplaced or disappeared into the ozone. Four years after finding the bungalow we’re in right now, I’m still trying to sort the stuff that I was supposed to downsize the last time we danced this house moving polka.
Most major cities have gone real-estate mad, and prices have risen astronomically. I would hazard a guess that the nouveau riche of the 2010s and 20s are the agents that broker the multi-million-dollar deals. Those commissions are lush. Crazy times, when ratty, post-war bungalows, that cost about $10K when built in the 50s, now regularly go for well over a million dollars.
The owners might make out like bandits, but they’ll usually also find themselves priced out of staying in the market, unless they’re willing to move out of the big cities and into the hinterlands. It’s getting so that even the furthest flung of hamlets have million-dollar sale stars in their eyes.
That being said, after selling our home in 2016, we entered the rental market with much trepidation, and had many not very fun adventures in Rental Land. We found this little place in 2017, and have been happy with the location. But our landlord has decided to downsize his portfolio, and take over this property as his own, in the Spring.
That is, of course, his right. It is, however, our problem, and after much deliberation, we’ve decided we don’t want to be at the mercy of landlords ever again. We’re gonna put our toesies back into the real estate market, and try to find a little place where we can lay back and enjoy our retirement years.
It’s crazy. I’m already having trouble sleeping, my mind racing with all the things I have to deal with. We’ve got our mover set, and I have an idea of the size of our moving van, which helps in making decisions on large items … heavier items will be staying behind, if we can’t justify the expense of moving them. Wanna buy a treadmill?
Endless lists are being made. Although we’re months away from actually moving, the house already looks like the cover of a House Horrible Magazine. Each day I wake, still tired from the tossing and turning of the night before, and try and tackle another area that must be sorted, dispersed and packed, while leaving enough necessary items out for our use between now and when we leave. AND second guessing myself on whether this might be the time to decide that we don’t need three large pots, but what if I have to cook both corn on the cob AND pasta at the same time, while making a sauce?
Decisions, decisions, and more decisions. This work is not for the nervous, the anxious, the easily stressed.
I have always had a need to hang on to things, ‘just in case’. And those ‘just in case’ emergencies happen just often enough to convince me that hanging on to elastic bands, thumb tacks, used balloons, and broken rulers, all of which might be urgent requirements in the future, should not be discarded.
But I’m really, really, trying this time – to let things go, to look forward to a sleek, uncluttered future. And I have some ideas for how to get from here to there. I just hope these ideas are less stalling tactics, and more the right way to get around my reluctance to let go of things that still feel too valuable to pass on. My fear is always that I risk not having something when it’s actually needed, not being able to replace an important tool, or not having the funds to re-purchase an item if the need arose.
Each of the recent moves has been an opportunity to trim down the chains of ‘stuff’ I’ve worn like Marley’s Ghost for pretty much all of my life. Few of these chains, “made of cash boxes, padlocks, ledgers, deeds,” are actually of much value, except in sentiment, and in what the items represent to me, emotionally.
Like Marley, I ‘forged these chains in life.’
“Dickens clarifies that these are the “chains (he) forged in life”, reinforcing the idea that he is suffering due to his own actions. The fact Marley has clearly caused his own suffering would perhaps cause the reader to view his character unsympathetically. This lack of sympathy is furthered by the animalistic imagery used by Dickens to describe the chain which is “long, and wound about him like a tail”.Marley’s Ghost – a character profile
In my case, I began forging these chains when I was about 10 or 11 years old. My parents split up, and my mother, sister and I fled Alberta for Montreal with little more than the clothing on our backs, and a small trunk of sentimental items. Leaving behind all that had been important to me up until that point in my life made me cling all the harder to the things that came my way in the succeeding years.
In 1976, I again fled a province, this time leaving Quebec behind for Toronto, and abandoning all that I had accumulated in the proceeding years. I repeated this pattern a few times, over my adult life, and each time, it became harder to let go of things that I had gathered.
When we sold our house in 2016, I did the most drastic purge of my life, but still had a house full of stuff, as well as an 8 x 10 storage unit, stacked floor to ceiling with the trash and treasures left behind by my father, mother and sister who have predeceased me, and the remnants of the collectible business I’d had in the early 2000s. That unit, too, was eventually disbursed, the treasures within mostly donated to charities that had need of the items.
And now, here we go again. Since we moved into this place in 2017, I’ve had to buy six bookshelves to try and contain a portion of the books that overflow every room, and lurk in every corner. These will all have to be sorted, and pared down to just the reference tomes I want to keep. The books I must part with will go to the Little Free Libraries in my neighbourhood.
I have been working on a new project that involves crafts, and all of those bits and pieces that I’ve already amassed will have to be carefully stored until I have a space to spread out the goodies, and work my magic upon them.
In this last month, I’ve also been interviewing clients of local food banks, for a project I was hired to do. One of the questions that I would ask each respondent was what non-food item they’d like to receive regularly. Some of the answers matched up with items that I have in my kitchen and bathroom hoards; I’ve begun sorting those little things, like soaps, shampoos, razors, cleaning products, makeup and hygiene products, and am assigning what I’m collecting to the people who run these food banks, for distribution to those that need these things.
Winter’s also a good time to collect up any extra woollies, hats, scarfs, gloves, warm socks, boots and the like, to help out those people who will be looking for warm clothes as the weather changes. Food banks are always looking for donations, as are charitable foundations that clothe refugees and immigrants.
I think it’s unlikely that I’ll ever need a full stage wardrobe again, so some lucky charities are about to receive some very fancy stage tops and shoes; I get such a kick out of seeing some of my wilder stage items on display, when I later visit the charities that received my pretty possessions.
I always find it easier to let go of the things that I’ve collected when I know – or at least, have reason to believe – that these goods will go to people who will appreciate them.
Sorting and discarding these things now, in preparation for this move, is a lot of work, but it also feels ‘right. At some point in the future, my husband and/or children will have to deal with all of this ‘stuff’ if I haven’t, and I’ve never wanted to leave a big mess behind for others to deal with.
“The meaning of life is having a place to keep your stuff.” George Carlin
While it may seem morbid, in truth, I’ve always been the person that had to clean up the ‘stuff’ that my family members have left behind, and it’s a very hard thing to grapple with, while also dealing with the passing of a loved one. That kind of emotional baggage can leave one depressed for years. I know those losses contributed to an ongoing depression that I’ve struggled with for decades.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but for my kids, most of my stuff is trash that they don’t need or want to have to deal with. They don’t want my junk, and I don’t want them to have to tidy it away. My goal is to eliminate the need for them to have to deal with too much of my left-over junk some day. One of the greatest gifts you can give your loved ones is to ease their burdens when they’re dealing with their own emotions.
Conversely, what’s trash to them, is my treasure, and now I get to pack it all up again, and move it to some other place that will hold my ‘stuff’.
Yep, here we go again, taking that deep breath and preparing to take a giant step outside our comfort zones. Big wheel keeps on turning ….