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Notes on Packing

2010 August 17

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As I pack up my apartment in Boston, it occurs to me how much more packing is, as a process, than simply storing items in boxes to move them. Packing begins that stressful, exhilarating, and exhausting task—moving. I have not moved nearly as many times as many of my friends have. Moves back and forth between home and the dorms during college got so routine they can hardly be counted as separate moves, and my move to Florence during junior year doesn’t quite count either, since I only brought two suitcases with me. I moved home after college and lived there for two years, in the same bedroom I grew up in. My first adult move occurred when I moved to Boston four years ago for grad school, and I was astounded by the effort, thought, and emotions bundled up with the physical act of packing. Not only did I need to fill boxes with my possessions, I needed to take stock and evaluate those possessions. Which books was I going to keep and which ones would stay behind, to be left in a paper bag in my closet (where they still remain)? How far back should I keep credit card statements and cell phone bills? How many teddy bears was it logical and practical for a 24-year-old woman to take to her first adult apartment?

I was fortunate enough to live in that first adult apartment for three years, but the miserable commute and college-y neighborhood soon grew to be too much, and my roommate and I relocated across town, from Brookline to Somerville, last summer. That move was another evaluation, another taking stock of what needed to stay and what needed to go, but for the most part, it was a simple move. Our new apartment was similar in terms of space and storage, so my roommate and I didn’t have to get any new furniture (besides bookshelves that I bought because my old room had a built-in shelf) or even get rid of anything.

This move to Brooklyn is easily the biggest I’ve ever made, in terms of distance, significance, and what I’m leaving behind. I will miss many things about Boston: seeing familiar faces just about everywhere I go, the view of the Charles from the red line train every day, being so close to home, and the friends I’ve made here, just to name a few. But I’m ready to go. Then why is packing so hard?

Of course, there’s the sheer challenge of fusing two people’s stuff into a New York apartment. We have one closet, friends. One. I have become accustomed to a walk in closet in my bedroom, an extra coat closet in the living room, and a huge pantry. And now I’m faced with being very creative with my belongings—not to mention those of my boyfriend. I got rid of four bags’ worth of clothing and two shelves of books. I’ve condensed my CD collection into one booklet and have sent my parents home with my yearbooks, scrapbooks, knick knacks, boxes of photos, and shoeboxes of mementos like ticket stubs and birthday cards collected over these four years. I’m selling and giving away most of my furniture. Tonight, I will box up the rest of my closet, and I will stand over my crate full of notebooks—notebooks I’ve been writing in, on and off (mostly on), since freshman year of high school. We don’t have room for them in the new apartment. I know this. The only time I look back at them, I just end up spending hours marveling at how angsty/sad/ridiculous/melodramatic I used to be. But there’s a tiny voice telling me if I abandon those notebooks, I’m leaving behind some vital part of myself that I might not get back (though, to be honest, I’m probably better off).

Does anyone else have this problem when moving? What do you keep and what do you leave behind? And what does that mean? Do you keep your writing, your books, your old photos?

6 Responses Post a comment
  1. Mike permalink
    August 17, 2010

    Jill, I just threw away all my college notebooks when I was at home a few weeks ago! I’m sure there’s something in there I’ll need some day – I have a habit of rashly throwing things away that I wind up needing – but it’s not worth the clutter.

    As someone who has lived in seven different apartments (I just counted for the first time – yikes!) and on two coasts since college, you’re doing just fine. Before moving to New York, I went through all my digital photos and chose a number to print as decor for my room. That way too they all look uniform rather than some matte, some glossy, etc. And I always go through my clothes and paper files and throw away what I don’t need.

    But I never throw away books. I can’t bring myself to do it.

  2. August 17, 2010

    JILL! Don’t tell me you threw those away!!! Keep them! Send them home with your parents (securely wrapped with tape)! Don’t throw them out! Mine have traveled with me, but if I were you, I’d keep them in RI. It would be absolutely losing a vital part of yourself, even if you can’t stand reading them now. For nostalgia’s sake – keep them, keep them, keep them!

  3. August 18, 2010

    Oh, God. I am aaaawwwwfffuuuulllll with throwing stuff away. So awful I really had to annoyingly extend that word out like that. I admire you for being able to give those boxes of photos and scrapbooks of ticket stubs to your parents – photos and ticket stubs I find myself sticking to like glue. As well as books…AND old notebooks full of embarrassing writings. So, I would obviously vote, TAKE THEM! Or at least put them at your parents. Kathy and I stored many, many things such as these at my mom’s when we moved cross country, in the of course eventual hope that we will one day move back and have a big house and I can take all the crap back…and THEN go through it and throw stuff out…maybe.

    Good luck on your move!!

  4. August 18, 2010

    Ugggh, I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I can’t tell you how much crap I still moved, but shouldn’t have kept. Still sorting through it all. Barf!!!

  5. August 19, 2010

    Hullo there, I just found your super cool blog! Totally get you on the move/purge thing, which I am struggling through as we speak. I recently spent about 5 minutes debating whether or not to throw away a piece of scratch paper filled with math problems I had worked through. WHY WOULD I EVER NEED THIS? I think I was just proud to have evidence that I had actually done math problems, and it was difficult to get rid of the proof!

  6. meghan permalink
    August 19, 2010

    moving is horrible, i know… but i do think you are onto something about getting rid of stuff being liberating. i decided to purge my closet recently and it felt amazing. i have purchased a few items of clothing this summer… but all told spent less than $50 on it. so i am trying to think more carefully about what i buy rather than imposing a ban. and whenever i buy something i have to get rid of something else! also, one of my biggest secrets is shopping in my mom’s closet. i am lucky that we are around the same size and that she has a good sense of style!
    i am intrigued by the second-hand/vintage idea. there is a massive goodwill by me and while i’ve donated stuff to it, i’ve never shopped there. there are also a couple of higher end consignment shops in town that i have not checked out. i am into this fall blazer trend so that will be something to consider.
    good luck with your move and the start of your next big adventure :)

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