Move House and Find Out Just How Much Junk You Have

Why do we ever relocate?

As a homeowner-turned-landlord and longtime renter, I appreciate both sides of the home ownership vs. rent debate. Honestly, when it comes down to it, I prefer the option that will keep me from having to move.

My wife and I, a few years away from owning a home, recently relocated to a cozy space in Washington Crossing, an upgrade in every way from our previous abode. The living room and kitchen, which is big enough to play catch in, have the original hardwood floors. The bathroom is renovated in dark wood, making it a calming, classy place to have a bowel movement. The place is all functional character, surrounded by green and quiet, but close enough to Philadelphia and New York so that we can make a living and have some fun.

But it’s not ours, and the day will come when I have to again beg for boxes from glassy-eyed store clerks. When I’ll have my weekend dominated by sore muscles, stiffness and concerns of where furniture goes. When I’ll have to tap dance around stacks of cardboard boxes, working and living in a constant state of interruption. And I’ll realize that my reluctance to use a Kindle will have repercussions on my aging body.

I always get so excited about the conquest and possibilities of a new place—we can finally have a reading corner; the park is a block away—that I forget about the annoyances of moving. Until I get started. Then I remember that it’d be easier just to live in my car.

So, as a permanent reminder, here are some of the less obvious and more obnoxious aspects of moving.

1. Moving never comes at the right time. We had planned on staying in our previous condo for at least another year or two, but our landlord, citing a family emergency, was forced to sell. She gave us two months to vacate, news that sprung us into worry-fueled action. We spent the hours after the surprise announcement analyzing our options. Can we afford to buy something? Do we like the area enough to stay long-term? How much do we need for a realistic down payment, especially if our family is going to grow?

I now understand why the current generation of young adults is in no hurry to leave their parents’ houses. It’s exhausting being a grown-up. Sometimes it’s easier to have the hard decisions made for you.

We aimed to reside elsewhere by May 1st. That meant the prep work and move would take place during an exceptionally busy time. An out-of-town wedding and the Easter holiday hijacked two weekends. For my music-professor wife, there was the stress involved in parting ways with a longtime employer and preparing for finals. Putting my projects on hold was impossible. One of the little-known secrets of freelance writing is how hard it is to say no: Do it too many times and you’re declining your way toward a nametag and minimum wage. I said yes to everything, including a weeklong copyediting stint in New York that started a day after I had lugged a couch and two bureaus.

Right now, my home office resembles a storage unit. And where’s Comcast? I have no idea. They remain a corporate Godot in this lengthy play of annoyances, meaning that it’s likely I’ll be conducting my business in noisy coffee houses and cramped library cubbies until the end of time.

2. You can’t find a damn thing when you move. You don’t know desperation until the morning after when you’re hunting for a missing coffee pot—why, oh why, did it take the movers until 2 a.m. to finish?—in a sea of boxes that are apparently all marked “kitchen stuff.” It’s like starring in the lamest Twilight Zone episode ever.

3. Your possessions own you. Dozens of bath towels, some of which feature patterns only found on leisure suits; electric bills from 2003; enough blankets and pillows to build the Camelot of childhood rainy-day forts. You can’t just throw this stuff out. Every item must be evaluated for sentimental value, future usefulness, and ability to sell on Craigslist. It’s like a sales presentation for timeshares: just when you think it’ll end, another 30 minutes of your life gets devoured.

The only plus was I proved to be an ace salesman on Craigslist, making $130 off our soon-to-be garbage. It’s comforting that if my writing career flops, I can make my fortune at the Golden Nugget flea market.

4. Your work suffers when you move. Because of the swirl of activity, I wrote most of this post on a crammed New Jersey Transit commuter train bound for New York City. I was surrounded by a gaggle of chatty middle-aged women headed to the Broadway matinees who all sounded like your mom’s most annoying friends.

If you could cut me some slack I’d appreciate it. After all, I only just found that coffee pot.