Reckling: All the wrong moves |

Reckling: All the wrong moves

You may have heard the claim: Following death and divorce, moving is the third-most stressful event in a person’s life. Well, it’s true! No matter how well-planned the move, nor the strength of the vow “to do it better next time” after the last time you moved, all order is lost in the shuffled chaos.

I always go into a move with optimism and try to convince myself, “This won’t be too bad. I’ll be super-organized and get an early start on packing the daily nonessentials. I can edit my clothes and kitchen contents — so it’ll just be that pared down stuff and only a few large pieces of furniture.” Ha! Somewhere in my subconscious there is a voice of realism saying, “Ugh! Prepare thyself for arduous, long days of sifting through junkola.”

Packing is the worst thing ever. It involves many preparatory steps, and as much as you plan, it never seems to work out right. And don’t you dare fall victim to procrastination, either. An early start is crucial.

The first unpleasantness that emerges is the expense: boxes, packing paper, bubble wrap, those large hand-held tape dispensers, padding for extremely fragile items, the enlistment of a professional moving company — it can cost a small fortune. You become a box whore as you try to score free boxes from grocery stores and liquor stores, while Dumpster-diving for good boxes becomes your new sport. You do all this only to realize you never seem to have enough boxes when you begin packing. You start to cuss yourself in disbelief of all the stuff you have re-accumulated since your last move.

Of course, we all have one of those master-of-the-universe preacher friends who lectures you on how “moving is a piece of cake — just number every box, and then document its contents into a separate ledger as you pack each item. Then you know exactly where everything is.” Right! No problem!

There also are the nervous friends who weakly volunteer to help you on the day of the big move, and you can sense their inner prayers that you will not take them up on their offer. Or, like my ex-husband, other friends may shut down completely on you and bluntly say, “I don’t do moves.”

I’ve moved myself, and others many times in the past several years. Primary reasons read like a typical middle-age American saga: an empty nest, deaths in the family, divorce, downsizing, moving out of state, relocating again and again. If I wasn’t busy moving myself and my own stuff, I was involved helping my loved ones move their stuff or struggling with the painful process of sifting through my parents’ belongings after they each passed away. As my children moved to various colleges and post-grad schools, the maternal instinct to have my little ones comfortably settled in all boils down to the physically demanding and emotionally disturbing task of moving.

As Wallace Stegner put it, “It’s easier to die than to move. … At least on the Other Side you don’t need trunks.” He makes an excellent point!

Once you have mastered the hunting and gathering of boxes and have all the packing materials you need, it becomes clear that it is time to purge. Purging involves massive and ruthless removal of worthless items. You must go through every drawer, cabinet and garage bin, and it takes somewhere between a fortnight and forever. The process not only is bogged down by the sheer quantity of stuff but is always sidetracked by reviewing old photographs, letters and torn-out articles you’ve saved for some unknown reason. If you are like I am, it also involves looking at inconsequential lists scrawled on all kinds of paper and reading bad poetry I’ve written.

It’s amazing, as the moving process continues, how quickly your sentimental feelings evaporate with every load you lug. Purging becomes increasingly brutal, and you end up letting go of almost everything you unearth out of those bottomless, dark closets. Even all those funny-shaped parts that must belong to something important are pitched out.

Then there’s the “junk drawer” full of unlabeled keys, coins from various countries, petrified bubble gum, antique Chapstick and brittle rubber bands. “Never again!” you cry aloud.

It’s an enigma that what starts out as an organized, well-thought-out plan always ends up in a rushed, adrenaline-pumping, just-throw-it-in-the-box move. Barbells end up with the china, cooking gadgets are entangled in fine lingerie, and the snow globe that your Aunt Effie gave you will shatter and drip onto important papers in the bottom of the box.

I guess in a perfect, lovely world, we could emulate British designer William Morris’ mantra, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Huh, no hoarding allowed? Pack-ratting nevermore? Yes, I’ll do it better next time.

Margaret Reckling lives in Woody Creek and welcomes your comments at

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