EAT, WRITE, DIGEST: Packing, Again

How many times in your life have you moved?

I’ve moved 11 times in my life. Packing for each of them grew progressively more difficult, as I moved from being a child whose parents did the packing to being a college student who had very little stuff (at one point, I could move using just my VW Bug), to an adult with a whole house full of things. And those things that I acquired are all inevitably attached to some memory that keeps them in place.

It isn’t me packing this time, though. It’s my daughter Abby who will move into her student apartment on Friday morning. This is her first apartment (last year was a dorm room), and it feels odd to be on the sidelines waiting to be asked for help. I’m trying to be quiet, to be out of the way as she organizes what amounts to her life at this moment. But I’m certainly reminiscing about my own transitions.

The first apartment I lived in without my parents was a two-bedroom garden level in St. Paul. I had a roommate, my friend Margie with whom I went to high school. We shared our apartment with hundreds of box elder bugs who tried to move inside as the weather got colder. I learned that living alone was something I needed to experience and that if I had a roommate, I should probably get together with someone whose habits might be more like my own. Margie and I remained friends, which is saying something, but we only lived together for a few months. When I got my own place, it was a very tiny efficiency apartment across the street from the one Margie and I shared. Luckily, there was no box elder tree outside the window of that place. But there were silverfish. Yeesh.

Sometimes, I compare that efficiency apartment to this whole house that I share with my husband. I don’t miss the bugs or the colorless decor, but I do miss the freedom that comes from having very few possessions. While it’s inconvenient to not own a washer and dryer, or a television, just starting out pushes us to consider what we absolutely have to have in a very different way than when we have the resources to acquire more.

This, of course, is the whole point of the tiny house movement. What do we really need? What is superfluous? What can we share with our community?

But, back to Abby. She seems excited about her move. She has acquired dishes and cookware, bedding and towels. She will leave things here, books and movies from her childhood that have little purpose on campus. But she will take a few that are precious or comforting. We will keep her place here, waiting until she decides where home is going to be after college.

And I will consider just what I need to hang onto as well. A long marriage, parenthood, friendships and jobs – all these have entered into the equation of what I’ve acquired and what I’ve let go. But, as I watch Abby get ready to leave again, I am reminded that I’ve acquired more than I can use right now. More than I need.

A purge is in order. As I clear out old belongings, donate things to people who will actually use them, perhaps my thoughts will move toward the calm that comes with space.


  1. Kathleen, I think we arrive at a point in our lives where we feel the need to rid ourselves of excess stuff, to live simpler, to keep only that which we need and which is particularly meaningful.

    Abby's move into her first apartment is such an exciting time for her and somewhat difficult for parents in the sense that this moves her ever nearer complete independence. There is a certain melancholy in it all, in realizing time has flown and we are aging and our kids don't really need us as much as they once did.

    My eldest and her husband move into their first home this weekend. And the rule in our house is, that once you get your own home, you remove all of your belongings from Mom and Dad's home. I'll give them a few months to settle in before inviting the daughter down for a day to sift through her stuff.

    Out on the East Coast, the college son will soon move from his subleased summer apartment into either another apartment or a dorm, yet to be determined. I can't be there to help and he will manage, as he did earlier, using the T or a taxi to move. Makes me sad not to be able to assist him. But when 1,300 miles separate, it's impossible.

    Savor this special time with Abby and still having her geographically close.


  2. We are pack rats here. And collect very different things. The house groans at the seams. Which is so very wrong.
    I have taken some small steps, and need to take strides.
    The things I value aren't on the whole material – don't need dusting and can be held in my mind, memory and heart with no space constraints.
    Good luck to Abby – and to you at this bitter-sweet time.


  3. I haven't moved in 20+ years. Before that, a lot. Now I'm decluttering as the kids are gone. But the kids want some of the clutter now that they have their own places. I love how it cycles.


  4. Before leaving Bakersfield for our summer in Oregon, we calendared our 2014 purge. Then we called the carpet cleaner and made an appointment for October 9. Under the gun, we'll get her done!

    Good luck to you, Kathleen and best wishes for a happy and successful 2nd year of college for Abby. xoA


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