Sending Myself Packing, Two

“It must be very liberating.” The word is always spoken in italics by those uttering it.
“So freeing; to be getting rid of everything like this?” Of course they are referring to the downsizing of my life, my cleaning out and clearing out of a lifetime of accumulations. Here is the methodical elimination of books and CDs, kitchenware and appliances, stemware, candle holders, vases, tchotchkes, and all those things that were so important to me at various times during my life.

I wrote about this a month or so ago and am still in the process of packing. With the Peace Corps pulling out of Ukraine, I have been afforded an extra month before needing to move out of the house giving me some much needed additional time to sort and pack, sell or donate, give away or toss a houseful of stuff.

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Last week I carried 34 boxes of books out of the attic down to the first floor foyer. There are 14 stairs from the attic to the second floor and another 14 stairs from the second floor to the first. That’s twenty-eight steps, times 2 (up and down), times 34 (boxes of books) equaling 1904 stairs. A few days later I carried 36 more boxes down from the second floor to the first (that’s another thousand steps). With each box weighing an average of 45 pounds, that’s 3150 pounds, or over a ton and a half of books. No wonder I’m tired.

Everything currently in the house needs to be somewhere else within a few weeks, including me. By the end of the month I will be out of this house and will be moving on. To where, I don’t know yet. The house is a mess: empty, half-filled and filled boxes scattered around; plastic bins; piles of things needing to be sorted through; big, thick black plastic garbage bags; and dust.

The 1700 books are all boxed and the 700 CDs have found another home (laziness masked as altruism). All the artwork and things hanging on the walls have been bubble wrapped and secured. The smaller pieces have been delivered to the storage unit and the larger pieces are waiting for friend’s pick up trucks.

I am beginning to prepare for the dreaded estate/tag sale. I don’t visit tag sales and have no idea what used things go for. A friend went through the house with me and suggested prices on most of the remaining possessions. Regardless of what I think something should sell for, I know that I need to remove my emotions and all logic from the deal and accept the real world of bargaining and getting something for next to nothing. I have to divorce myself from reality, suspend the rational part of my brain and know that the antique china and silverware my mother brought with her from Germany when she emigrated in the 1950s will fetch only a few dollars at best. People simply don’t entertain in that way anymore. People will not see the discriminating taste, the refined attention to quality as they walk around the house. They will appear disinterested while silently judging my possessions as junk. They will see a tag marked at $8 and demand I accept $3. They will see the $200 chest freezer marked down to $50 and know I will smile and curse under my breath when they offer $25.

After this sale I might be able to finalize my moving arrangements and figure out where I’ll be while I continue to wait for the Peace Corps to find me a new assignment. It’s difficult to sign a lease at this point without knowing for how long I will be living somewhere. I need to find a forwarding address pretty soon. I have plenty of things to keep me occupied while I remain in this extended state of limbo, waiting for direction and hope and purpose. Upon waking each morning I hope to hear something over the course of the day from the Peace Corps; offering me a commitment, a country, a departure date.

My friends are trying to remain positive and supportive while I go through this metamorphosis, this change of life. They are trying to point out the silver lining in the bank of dark clouds and dust swirling around me. I’m not seeing it yet. I suppose when all this is over, when I am sleeping on a friend’s couch or in an extra bedroom somewhere, or in that new tent I just bought, I will look upon this as liberating. Until then.

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About rich1019

A new adventure is just around the corner. While not an adventure seeker by nature, I'm open to new experiences. Peace Corps. Life is calling.
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2 Responses to Sending Myself Packing, Two

  1. mark says:

    Liberating? I never believed “you are what you eat” made sense because that would mean some days I’d be a cow, others a crab and still others an apple tree. But “you are what you own” seems closer to the truth, because, if we are able, what we consciously collect and choose to keep is informative. Why cook books and not history tomes? Why all of Elton John but nothing of Eric Clapton? Why the still lives but not the nudes?
    The Peace Corp decision you made is definitely courageous, because it comes from your heart. Deciding to divest yourself of much of your past life is a separate decision. You get to fill in the blank about what it means to you.

  2. Not liberating. I’d say it’s … scary. That’s how I felt, doing the same thing for the same reason — the Peace Corps adventure. It’s taken me five years to downsize from a four-bedroom house full of my family’s, my parent’s and much of my siblings’ stuff to two suitcases, a backpack, a messenger bag, and a few vacuumed space-saver bags I’ll have the ex-hubby send to me once I’m over “there” and no longer “here.” (These seem to me to be relative terms for sure — given the “wherever you go, there you are” scenario.)

    Anyway … scary. yes. Every time I gave away, sold or donated another item I felt like I was chipping away at a sculpture of myself, a little less leg, a gouge in my ass. How can I possibly give away this or that tiny symbol of my entire belief system or small token of six decades of living? I get the Buddhist impermanence thing and all that –the letting go — the chastity of austerity, blah, blah, blah. But when you treasure the faded and frayed objects that represent your life it’s just sad to say goodbye. The fingerprints of your emotions are all over these things.

    I most enjoyed recycling things to strangers, telling each item that it was going on an exciting journey. I loved the stories people told me about what the item meant to them: how it reminded them of their own grandmother, how useful it would be in their home. So I guess, okay, we’re sharing ourselves in an odd form of immortality, as if spreading our genetic material around. But it isn’t liberating to cast yourself out into the unknown, the unadorned empty space of an uncertain future. Skydiving – now that might be liberating. Freeing yourself of fear and inhibition. Yeah, okay. “But I want to keep the silver lipstick case from Aunt Jeanette” is what I’m thinking as I slip it into my purse, my ego safer from just this one timid act. “And maybe this thin, leather bound volume of poetry – yeah that’ll fit in this outer pocket. Can’t let that go …”

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