Friday, October 18, 2013

Move Me

ETA: We'll announce this weeks book giveaway winners tomorrow, when Tim O'Mara will be our guest. Be sure to tune in!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: The past couple of weeks I've been helping my next-door neighbor get her house ready to put on the market. (If any of you are interested in an historic 1840s house in a charming rural village in southern Maine, send me an email and I'll pass it on!) Two things have struck both of us: the enormous amount of stuff that people accumulate without even trying, and the irony that your house will never look as perfect as when you're putting it up for sale. In my neighbor's case, a kitchen re-painting that she always meant to do suddenly made the room brighter than it had been in years. She and her husband also finally carted out everything that had landed in the convenient-for-storage summer kitchen, and she finally set it up as a dining room the way she always wanted.The last time Ross and I moved, the Smithie was 16 months and The Boy was 6 weeks old. Closing, packing, cleaning and relocating with two tiny children was so traumatic, I vowed I would never move again. So far, almost twenty years later, I'm still in the same place. One of the things I found frustrating was the same phenomenon my neighbor is experiencing: we waited until we were leaving our little Cape Cod starter home to do all the things we had said we were going to do. The wheezy old refrigerator was replaced with a brand-new model; the stained plastic flooring in the bathroom was ripped out and a lovely black-and-white tile installed, we painted the upstairs and the garage was - for the first and only time in our history - neatly organized. By the time it was ready to show, we didn't want to leave!

I have very few memories of packing to move - nursing round the
clock and severely sleep-deprived, the only thing I can recall is tossing books into milk crates while simultaneously breast-feeding my baby at 3am. So my sense of how much we had accumulated at that point is hazy. However, when my father-in-law died in 2002, I took the lead in cleaning out his southern California apartment, and I was amazed at the quantity of bits and pieces that one man could leave behind. After sorting and tossing, we shipped at least ten large cartons from Laguna Niguel to Maine - and had 32 banana boxes filled with recyclable goods to donate to the Salvation Army. What makes it even more amazing is that my father-in-law consciously tried to live minimally, buying little, passing along objects to friends and family. Another good reason to never move: with an attic, a cellar, and a large barn to use as storage, Ross and I have undoubtedly gathered enough flotsam and jetsam to star in an episode of HOARDERS.

How about you, Reds? Any memorable moves in the past? Coming up in the future? And do you tend to hang on to your stuff, or get rid of it as soon as you can?
LUCY BURDETTE: I hope no moves are coming up! Yikes, it's such an ordeal. Still I've been trying to pare away some things this summer, imagining what it would be like if someone else had to come in and clear it all out. My medicine cabinet, for example, probably holds 30 to 40 bottles of nail polish, some of them crusty from decades of disuse. The only time I use nail polish these days, is for a Jungle Red Writers event! My next door neighbor moved just weeks ago. It was definitely traumatic. But her realtor recommended a woman who packs and sorts and moves other people's junk for a living. I have to tell you, this was a godsend. Maybe if this writing gig doesn't work out...Jungle Red Movers anyone?

HALLIE EPHRON: I'm a thrower outer and my husband is a bringer inner. I like to think maybe there's some zero sum game going on but sadly he's in the lead. So I like to think we're never moving. Never. Ever. Because if we do it will be ugly.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: We've spent the last eighteen years getting our house done exactly the way we want it, even down to, finally, an outside color I like.  So I definitely want to stay here and enjoy it! (Not thinking about needing to refinish the hardwood floors... Not thinking...) But I'm finding myself becoming more and more obsessive about organizing and cleaning stuff out even though we have no intention of moving any time soon.  I moved my parents and then my mother five times over the last dozen years of my parents' lives, and was absolutely horrified by the amount of stuff involved even though my parents' homes had never LOOKED cluttered. (I'm still using boxes of my mother's staples and paperclips...)

If we ever do move, I want Lucy's neighbor's lady!!! In the meantime, I'm definitely going to tackle those old bottles of nail polish.

RHYS BOWEN: The word MOVE sends shivers down my spine. We have quite a big house and we've lived in it since 1980--time to accumulate lots of stuff. Our children say in threatening manner "Don't you dare die and leave us with all this."  I'm currently trying to get John to go through the mountains of papers in his office. One of the reasons I love our condo in Arizona is that we started from scratch with a new condo and there is no clutter, no boxes of dubiously outdated Christmas ornaments or John's old school reports lurking anywhere. It's easy to clean, it looks nice and bright. In California every closet is full of things that should probably go, plus odd assortment of souvenirs left by our kids--letter jacket, T shirt from big swim meet, even a first sewing machine, that I'm too soft hearted to discard. But we have been upgrading the house bit by bit. All new doors. New toilets in all bathrooms. New hall floor scheduled next. Then a repaint job. But I'm staying put until they drag me out.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Moving. The WORST. Here is a confession and a writing thing.
The writing thing: my editor asked me this about my main character Jane Ryland: "Who moved her in to her apartment? " The thing that's' so brilliant about that is how evocative and informative it is. Don't you know so much about a person if you know the answer to that? Did they use a mover, or friends? Champagne, or beer? An incredible amount of stuff, or bare bones?Walk-up, or penthouse with private elevator? SO helpful!

The confession, and as a result the best move ever: A TV station I worked for was so happy that I'd accepted the job, they offered to pay for my cross-country move. No holds barred. (I can tell you thins now, because it was  long time ago.)

Listen to this. I did nothing. I said to the movers: Here. Here's my apartment. See you at the other end.

It was hilarious. First of all, it was a joy. They packed everything.  However,  when I UNpacked, I unwrapped cereal boxes, half-bottles of ketchup, rolls of toilet paper, used bath soap. They'd packed everything, without any thought about what might actually be needed or logical. I guess it was faster that way.

Gotta tell you, Reds, even so.  That's the way to move.  

ROSEMARY HARRIS: Bruce and I put our New York apartment on the market a few years back. We got rid of extra furniture, painted, moved a few things. (Wow...these closets are big! Look at that light.) When we saw the agent's pix online we thought - What a great place! Liked it so much we decided to stay. Still there.

In CT - I love my house. I'd love it even more if I had a basement, an attic or two extra rooms. And because of the terrain, it's impossible to add on. And will be difficult to negotiate once we get older (you have to see it...three levels, open staircases, lots of windows, i.e., few walls, rocky steps all over the outside, tree growing through one of the decks. I used to joke about parents signing a waiver when their kids came over. Now I'm thinking about seniors.) So we went house hunting. Saw an interesting place 50 miles further north. Then reality set in....we'd have to MOVE. By the time we did everything we'd need to do to get our house ready for the NY apt. we'd probably want to stay.
So here we stay. With frequent purges and trips to Goodwill or Sally Army to avoid the hoarders syndrome.

So, Julia. How many acres and how many square feet?
JULIA: I agree with Hank. Or, if I can't have movers magically whisk my worldy goods from here to there, I plan on staying till I croak. Let my kids and grandkids deal with the junk!
How about you, dear readers? Any moving horror stories? Happy stories? Do you flip houses, or are have you moved in for good?


  1. Moving has got to be one of the most traumatic events of life. So much so that I honestly cannot remember a single thing about our move from the house we rented after we were married into our own house some three years later. The rental house was small, but it was just us, so it was perfect. But then we had a two year old, a one year old, and a baby on the way and it had become amazingly crowded, mostly with baby paraphernalia, so we headed some twenty miles down the road to a house of our own. We stayed there for some twelve years or so, leaving only when I’d been offered a job clear across the country and we decided it was time to leave California. But I didn’t do any of the moving; instead, I finished my California job, got on a plane and headed to Alabama and started that job while my husband and the girls packed up, sold the house, and moved. Ten years later we moved from Alabama; both of the girls were now out of the house and John and I did all the packing, cleaning, moving. All the stuff from California that had been sitting in self-storage for ten years got moved along with everything in the house . . . and it all went into self-storage in New Jersey where, for more than a year, we had no home while we literally fought with the builder to get our house done so we could move in. And now that we’ve been settled in for several years, we’ve talked off and on about really cleaning out the basement and doing something about the garage so the car could go inside. But it’s slow going . . . despite our efforts to be reasonable, the stuff comes in faster than it goes out; it’s a losing battle, I fear. But we’re not worrying about it because moving isn’t in the plans . . . and if I have my way, it never will be . . . .

  2. We're in the process of "getting ready" to sell our house, too. Of course, we have no idea where we'll go yet. We are the world's worst procrastinators. I have way too much junk.

    I have cartons in the cellar that contain wedding presents from 1974. And I've moved them twice since then. In the same boxes. Do ya think that maybe I don't need them? There's only the 2 of us. How much junk does a couple need? We lived in our motorhome and traveled the eastern US for a year. If I could live in 32 feet why do I need so much in the house? Maybe I need a dumpster and just throw everything out.

    We've moved twice. The first time, my company relocated us like Hank. (Their packing is still evident in the aforementioned cartons.) That was definitely the way to move. I don't know what we'll do when I finally find our new home. I'd just as soon leave everything and start from scratch. I could use a new bridal shower.

    Julia, we're looking for a small home or else I'd consider your neighborhood.

  3. I grew up as an army brat. Moved quite often as you can imagine. Have had the wanderlust ever since. Never in one place more than 3 or 4 years. I am much older now and have lost the desire to move. We've been in present location about ten years. I've always been able to throw everything in my seabag and half a dozen boxes or so and good to go. Everything else went to the dump or salvation army or whatever. I am faced with another move now. To a much smaller place. I can now see why it is so traumatic. Many years of stuff and memories. Good luck to all of you who are moving.

  4. I am never moving again. Never ever ever.

    When we moved here from Atlanta we knew we wanted a smaller house with a little bit of land in the country and that is exactly what we have. With a creek when can listen to when we go to sleep at night, and a pond stocked with rainbow trout. Perfect. I love it.

    The house we now live in is about the size of the basement of the house we left. Talk about getting rid of stuff!

    Here's the horror story. We had just watched one moving truck pull out of our driveway. My father-in-law was there to make sure the second moving truck would leave without incident. We were to stop at the closing attorney's office to sign papers on the sale of this house.

    The phone rang and it was the closing attorney's office.

    The closing had fallen through.

    Not because of the people buying our house, but because of the people buying their house.

    When we sat down atthe closing here in Boone to sign the papers on this house we still owned the house in Atlanta - renting it to the buyers.

    Donald making about half what he had been making in Atlanta, me with no job. Two houses.

    Obviously, it all worked out, but I don't ever want to go through something even close to that again.



    Never ever ever.

  5. Worst. Move. Ever.

    Island to mainland. Three days before Christmas. Snowing steadily. Young driver of empty moving truck too impatient to wait for plow. Tried to gun it up the hill approaching island house. Slid off the road. Took wrecker two hours to right the truck, then he and his crew left the island without our stuff!

    We had to scramble half the night to reschedule everything for the next day (which was two days before Christmas.) The snow was still falling. But we got it done, somehow.

  6. We moved in August. The kids are 3 and 4 and they have adjusted really well. As for me...ahem...ask me again in a couple of years!

  7. My mother says you should clean out every 10 years as if you were getting ready to move and that we are 3 years late.

    HA. I packed her house when she moved after 50 years. Like the minimalist father-in-law, she'd done a great job cleaning out, but really, Mom, if you hated the wedding gift table cloth so much that you never took it out of the plastic bag it came in in 1948, why did you keep it?

  8. Leslie, it's been almost twenty years instead of ten, but I'm working on it:-)

    That's a pretty good rule.

  9. Ten days before our cross-country move from California to Massachusetts, my husband broke his ankle (tibia AND fibula, poor guy), so badly that he had to have surgery. Our son was a toddler at the time and we were doing all the packing for the move ourselves...If I had not had wonderful friends (two dear friends from Australia in particular, who basically spent the next ten days at our apartment helping me!) I don't know how we would have gotten through that move!

    And then after we finally arrived in MA and picked up our car from the auto shippers, the air conditioner dumped water all over my husband's cast...But that's a POST-move story :-)

  10. We moved my in-laws into a nursing home several years ago and then cleaned out and sold their house. It was a tiny little house but it was packed. I'm not a pack rat but I came home and cleaned and decluttered my entire place.

  11. suctsais Hank, we had a move paid for once. They packed everything and then unpacked it. What a nightmare... because the stuff arrived 3 week apart so I had a sofa but no legs, no cooking pots but my outdoor furniture was there, lamp but no shade, bed but no mattress.
    And when they assembled things they put the bicycle pedals and handlebars on backward!

  12. I've got moves in my future, I'm sure of it. I moved three years ago, and I got rid of so much stuff. I FEEL like I'm pretty lean ... or am I kidding myself. Not going to think about it not going to think about it...

  13. UK to Sweden. Twice. Don't ask. I still wake in a cold sweat.

    My parents are currently cleaning out their gigantic house so that they can sell it. My mother thankfully works in a nursing home and does not want to do to use what she has seen with patients and relatives.

  14. We've moved a few times too. Austin to New Orleans. New Orleans to El Paso. Both of those Adventures in Moving, meaning U-Haul. We arrived in El Paso during a sand storm. No lie. El Paso to Lubbock with almost 2 year old, but with professional movers this time. Sort of. Lubbock to NE Ohio with almost 4 year old. Professionals again. Moved into a rental house with snow on the ground; didn't see ground again that year until spring. Self moved again to house we bought. El Paso, Lubbock, and Ohio rental: demon son managed to break a window while throwing a tantrum as we were loading the truck. Fast forward to 2000: son is in the army (yeah!). Husband has a new job in Minnesota. New employers are to pay for the move. New boss chokes when he hears the estimate from the mover they picked. New boss wants spouse (me) to pack everything to save them money. Spouse mutters expletive and gets estimate from other movers. Much cheaper. New boss accedes to my arrangements. Estimator underestimated; not all our stuff fits on the truck. They already had someone else's stuff loaded first. Second truck brings the rest of our stuff a couple of weeks later. Spend eternity unpacking. And cussing the movers.
    On to 2006. We're moving to Houston. New movers are a nice bunch and very accommodating. After they leave with the truck, me and dog clean the house, the UNSOLD house, spend the night, and hit the road. We stop off in the Dallas area and bunk with my parents. And spend an extra day. My husband has to deal with the unloading in Houston. When I arrive the house is filled with boxes and he admits he was near tears as they kept bringing stuff in. Of course we have no basement; such things don't exist down here. So years later we still have too much crap and no place to put it. And our son is living in our guest room temporarily with his crap. And my sister is storing more of his crap in her barn. And we are storing more of my husband's crap in a storage unit.

  15. When I moved here 24 years ago, I had just exactly enough belongings and just the right place for each one. (Except for books. I've always had lots and lots of books and not enough bookcases.) It's amazing how "stuff" accumulates and reproduces over the years. My basement storage room used to be so neat and orderly - just seasonal items, and each in its own box with proper labels, etc.

    Then my mom died. We cleaned out her house and dumped a lot of things. There were many items that were too good to toss but we didn't have time for a tag sale. I (very stupidly) volunteered to take those items - NONE of which I wanted, by the way - in case sometime in the future the grandchildren might want something. That was 1997. (I remember joking with my siblings that since I'm the oldest, they'll probably see all those things again when they have to clean out MY home!)None of the now-grown grandchildren has wanted anything. I can no longer walk through my storage room. I don't want any of it, Hurricanes Irene and Sandy supplied just enough water in the basement to make things messy but not actually flooded, and I have developed a fear of going to the storage room, because I don't want to see how the items down there may have reproduced, or what monsters have moved in. I also have boxes of books down there that I've never had room for upstairs.

    I have NO intention of moving! It would be too overwhelming. From time to time I think of going through closets, etc, and tossing out items I don't need, just to make it easier in case I decide to move. That's when I decided that I'm not moving. Years ago I donated a lot of things but you'd never know it if you took a look around today. Most of what is left is not in any condition to be donated.

  16. I'm with some of you - having cleared out my mom's stuff in a couple of stages, I hate the thought of making my sons do that. On the other hand, I have the pack rat gene! I have moved three times since my divorce in 2002. Each time I thought I had done a huge divestment of stuff. So why are all those boxes still in the basement?!

    We're now in our last house, at least until we need a nursing home, so gradually I am building bookshelves and also divesting of even more stuff. (And the kitchen renovation is making progress every day - whee!)

  17. Leslie, your mother has a wonderful theory.. hmmm..

  18. I can't wait to move. How's that for something different? But it's true.

    I hate our neighborhood (they poisoned my dog, dammit), the suburb we live in is inconvenient for anything, and I'm ready to be gone. I've even packed up boxes of stuff (right after the dog incident), and I've been ready to go.


    Real life gets in the way. We won't have the house paid off for another 15 years, we can't retire until...well, someday. Our house is gaining in value again, but let's face it, I'm a bookseller. Disposable income is something I've read about.

    But one of these days it's going to happen. I'm ready to move once more, but it's got to be to the right house in the right place. And then our kids can handle moving us to an old folks' home.

  19. The story that popped into my head is from a long-ago move (1977). We owned a house that was wonderful, except that it was TEEMING with cockroaches -- in the walls, everywhere.

    So, when we were moving, I (with three daughters under 5) sprayed every box with poisonous bug spray --- once before I filled it, and once it was sealed.

    I am surprised we didn't all die. But I never saw a cockroach in our new place!

    In case you were worried, I carefully washed every item after unpacking.

    Where did that energy go?

  20. I've spent much of my life moving, and every time I do I lose something important; pictures, books, mementos, clothes, even furniture. I don't how it happens, but it does. The older I get, the less tolerance I have for this. I know I'll end up moving again, but I'm not looking forward to it. That wonderful sense of every move being a new beginning is fading...fading...almost gone.

  21. Fun topic, some terrific stories, and I *love* the accompanying photos, Julia.

    When I was married to my first husband, a compulsive gambler, we moved constantly, mostly due to the eviction notices we were in the habit of receiving. We had so few possessions that our friends were all the help we needed, and all it took were two pizzas and a couple six-packs of beer for them to show up. In seven years we never lived in one apartment longer than six months, and New Year's Day was always a moving day, hangovers and all.

    Husband number two and I've lived in our home for 26 years, having moved once. We packed ourselves for that move, with help from my brother, and since we didn't bring much in the way of furniture (my childhood maple dresser was my major possession, and I refused to allow Ron's second-hand bachelor furniture into the new house), it was relatively easy.

    Three years ago we had some renovations made on our house, and in order for them to be completed more quickly we moved out for 14 months. I wrote about this recently on Debs' entry on simplifying, how we completely emptied the house and are being seriously strict about what comes back in. I did some paring down when we moved out, to the extent that the organizer I worked with (I hired a new one for the move back home) asked me several times, "Are you sure you want to get rid of this?" Yes I was, and did it ever feel fantastic. I could feel the energy of the house shift, and I was similarly energized not just by the emptying out, but by the clearing out, the letting go of things I no longer needed and sent on to bless other people.

    That truly amazing feeling is continuing as I work with a gifted organizer who's helping me look at my possessions in a way that makes it easy to decide what goes and what stays. I haven't regretted getting rid of one single thing, and have actually rejoiced at the lightening up this has all resulted in. Another result is that we're able to enjoy our redone home the way we hoped to, by filling it with family and friends for great times rather than repacking it with endless stuff. My buying habits have changed dramatically, too. I'm a catalog shopper for everything from clothes to furniture, and see scads of things I like and would probably enjoy in the short term. But just because I like something doesn't mean I need to own it.

    When we planned our renovation it was with the understanding that this home is our final home, and we got it just the way we wanted. Today happened to be Ron's last day at Apple after 33 years, so now we can go play. It'll be fun having a home base instead of a warehouse.

  22. When I went there to move in my stuff, the staff member on duty walked me up to my unit, and also demonstrated me how to use the elevator and lock, and offered to do this anytime I came in.