I am deep in a dream when the jingling of the bells on our front doorknob snaps me awake. It’s my husband, an extreme lark by constitution, bringing oatmeal and tea. It’s 7 AM and we can’t pick up the moving van for two hours. Meanwhile, I’m not completely sure of my name or what century it is. We get into a conversation that ends in me doing a Keith Richards impression and him declaring that he is Cookie Monster. By the time I get out of the shower, he has already removed the legs from all the furniture in the house.
The listing for our new rental house went up 19 days ago. I was 1000 miles away at the time, and saw only photographic evidence of it before we filled out the application and provided half a dozen references and our credit reports. It was somewhat like believing in Sasquatch, but mainly because he was going to be your new college roommate. I came home just in time for us to leave again for Thanksgiving. Technically we have had only five days to pack. This… exciting… timeline is further compounded by the fact that the house is barely half the size of our old house, a whopping 728 square feet, or smaller than the average Hollywood closet. I would use ‘swimming pool’ as a unit of measure but that goes without saying.
I work as an organizer and clutter coach, and this is the 28th move of my adult life. So I feel quite confident in my plan that we can move and unpack two carloads a day the week before the move, reuse the same 20 boxes several times, have everything unpacked into the closets and cupboards, and simply drop all the furniture into place on moving day. Magically, the crock pot and bread machine will finish together, and we’ll sit down to a hot home cooked meal. People say I’m a dreamer…
I still insist that this plan could have worked. It could! Unfortunately, each of the staging areas we planned to use is unavailable. There are drawer fronts and cabinet doors missing in the kitchen and linen closet, waiting to be rehung, and there are two extremely bulky pieces of furniture in the garage waiting to be hauled off. They belonged to a previous tenant, and nobody really wants them. At least an actual white elephant might provide some company for our dog during the day. Maybe it could also stomp flat some of our empty boxes. Alas, it is merely a metaphorical white elephant.
The result has been that we have created a “staging area” (read: very large pile) in the laundry room, and our garage looks like a Standard American Garage rather than the laborrrratory it is supposed to be. If any Mad Science happens out there in the next two weeks, it is going to have to involve nanobots. The kitchen is getting unpacked last instead of first, which also rules out any interesting chemistry experiments. If this continues we will have to resort to poetry.
The office cabinet shown in the picture above is not the result of a failed rocketry experiment, although that would have made a great YouTube video. It’s because we have a California King mattress, which sort of implies by its very name that it should come with a Valet de Mattress Hauling and at least a couple of serfs. (Serfs up!) What does our quarter-acre mattress have to do with the pile of kindling we once called vital storage space?
Okay. We are stubborn and frugal people of blue collar extraction, which often tends to result in fraught storylines. We did the move ourselves. That means 5’4”, 123-lb me holding my end up of something heavy, wobbly, and higher than my head, while my 6’2” hockey playing, ex-logger husband holds up the other. We are trying to shove the mattress through a hallway that is shorter than the mattress is long, while simultaneously pushing it through two doorways and a 90-degree bend. It is much like trying to stuff a loaf of bread into an envelope, or trying to coax the actual white elephant mentioned earlier into a gym locker. It is like trying to shove a sleeping bag into a compression sack. It is like trying to pull on a pair of skinny jeans after stopping at Cinnabon. I am so busy thinking up good analogies for this process that I quit paying attention to what I am doing, and nearly cold-cock myself on the door frame. The resulting linear goose egg on my forehead is the sort of mark that could lead either to a lot of concerned inquiries about my marriage, or an adjunct professorship at Hogwarts.
After I get up off the floor, we realize that we need to get caster cups for the bed frame anyway. We leave the mattress in situ. I sit down for a few minutes, a bit woozy, and then finish unloading the remaining boxes in the van, so we can head back for the second load. After riding across town for half an hour, I feel fine, but decide to stop for a snack. My hubby decides to keep going, driven by the strict 7 PM time cutoff on the van, while writing me off as a casualty for the day. Before I have finished eating my energy bar, he has loaded up the cabinet and rolled it out the front door. I have no idea any of this operation is underway until I hear him say, “Well, I guess that’s not going with us.” When the expression “close shave” is used, it generally does not mean a literal attempt to shave tangible, real-life beard stubble off of a man. (Or woman. I don’t judge). See photo. Fortunately, cabinetry is an inefficient means of decapitation; if ever you should need cranial removal services, say, during the coming zombie apocalypse, my vote is for a custom chainsaw prosthesis.
Speaking of chainsaws, we have this broken old IKEA couch which has been propped up by an anvil on one end for the past several months. I have forced this issue because it has made no sense to me to replace the couch when we are planning to relocate anyway, and don’t know the shape, size, or color of our future living closet. We have decided to bust it up ourselves and throw it in the curbside bin, rather than pay for a junk hauler. This decision has been undecided for us by the clutter gods, Whoops and Ohdang. The cabinet has just gone to Stuff Heaven, newly glinting meta-hardware sparkling around its aetherial doors. The interior space is gone while only the shell remains. We call the junk haulers.
Next comes the moving of the elliptical machine. One would think that moving such a thing up an incline would be much more difficult than rolling it down a ramp. One would think wrong. Ah well. It is a machine designed to provide a workout and build physical fitness, and arguably, it is succeeding. We have a moment of destiny while on the ramp. Hubby is in the van, pulling the heavy end of the machine backward on the handcart. I am standing on the ramp, pushing the handlebar end, which is precariously balanced on a furniture dolly, a flimsy item that resembles an empty picture frame with a wheel on each corner. As the heavy machine is levered off the ramp into the van bed, the dolly slides free and rolls toward me. This is when I thank Past Self for all the years of distance running, yoga, and dance classes. I simply step through the frame, one foot at a time, and it rolls down the ramp behind me, sounding like a series of roller skates being thrown into a dumpster. I prefer this to the alternative of being squashed flat by a glorified hamster wheel. Core strength FTW.
Somehow we get the van returned on time. We buy another ten boxes. We load another carload. We get it home and unloaded. We get the caster cups. We eat large steaming bowls of Japanese food, where the waitress tells us that she pays $1400 a month for a studio apartment. (I don’t ask, but it may be larger than our new house…) We go home and make the bed, which in this case starts with the frame and box springs.
The odyssey of our first night in our new home begins. While my lawfully wedded spouse is a lark, I am a night owl. He is capable of falling asleep before his head hits the pillow, and I don’t mean to imply decapitation again, not so soon anyway, but there is that whole ‘sawing logs’ thing. I realize we are living close to railroad tracks again. I finally fall asleep, only to wake up at 2:30, broiling hot, and get up to look for the thermostat. At 3 AM I realize that I don’t know where the package with my broken old phone that needs to be returned has wound up. At 4:30, I get an impromptu lesson in fluid mechanics and cavitation in old pipes; as the automatic sprinklers kick on, a banging and shuddering indicates that trapped underneath the house is the ghost of the Tin Woodman. I decide to go get my phone and listen to Mystery Show for a while. At 5:30 I finally fall back to sleep. My husband breathes the deep, peaceful breaths of the only carbon-based lifeform in our galaxy who could conceivably share a mattress with me. At 7, a flock of no fewer than 50 wild parrots flies over our house, a fact that our own parrot finds exhilarating and inspirational, which she demonstrates by imitating, to the last decibel, the backup beep of a garbage truck. Which makes our dog bark, or perhaps he is trying to whistle, in which case, wow. In other words, it’s a fairly normal Sunday morning. Feels like home already.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.