It’s fair to say that, as a married woman looking to move, that my life has now become a battle against crap.  Although the veteran of at least two dozen moves, this happened to me once before, when I was a bachelorette resident of Daytona Beach, Home of the Shell Yeah Angry Minor League Turtles, a used beer koozy of a town that I miss from time to time, as its salt water taffy is excellent even if its charter ballet isn’t.

The neighborhood I lived in was, to use a precise real estate term, iffy. Outside of the fact that I need a military escort to get the mail, I was frustrated with a parting gift the former tenant left me in the form of a permanent cloud of Marlboro Stank. S/he had a habit, judging from the tenacity and intensity of the smell, of perhaps ninety thousand packs a day.

“You can tell there’s a war going on, Josh The Pilot offered hopefully in the early days when I draped sheets of Bounce on the ceiling fan and emptied entire cans of Renuzit into the hall closet. I had three ozone treatments for the carpet and employed the Order of the Glade and thought I had it beat until I went home for Thanksgiving, and I opened my suitcase in my sister’s thirdhand smoke-free home, aaaaaaaaaand I hadn’t come very far, baby.

But moving cost money, a lot of it, and when the urge to move arose, I looked with exhaustion at all of the things in my apartment , and though each individual thing was at that very moment soaking up the wavy little smell rays, it would also have to be balled up in tissue paper and hurled in the back of a van, and then removed from the van and then unpacked, and my well-reasoned adult decision on the matter was: “Just no”. My entire esophageal system was disintegrating with every inhale, but at least I won’t have to order new address labels. And that day it became official: I would not take on excess manual labor to save my life.

Now, however, I have another vote in the household, and that is the deciding vote which pushes the lawnmower. We’re going. That means all the things have to go too. And the less I have to pack to begin with, the better.

I began by questioning every single thing I own:

  1. Does this item make me happy, or am I keeping it out of a sense of obligation?
  2. Do I actually use this item, or am I just being German and I’m afraid to part with it because I think I will in some future White House administration run by a President not yet born?
  3. Will this item act as a valuable artifact in the future Mary Beth Ellis Author House Museum and Liquor Store, or will it just annoy my next of kin as they hurl it into a giant Rumpke dumpster should I fall into an I-75 pothole and am never heard from again?

You would be amazed by how much I was happy to make the Salvation Army’s problem with this system. Out went the third-extra Pyrex dish, the cheese board, the piece of paper from fifth grade certifying me as having completed a satisfactory number of federally mandated sit-ups. Often these items consisted of things I assumed were required to enter into married life, such as a punch bowl with tiny cups that hang off the side, but after ten years of wifedom I have come to terms with the fact that I hate people and don’t want any of them in my house anyway.

Sentimental items are the hardest. On several purging passes I resisted sweeping away a Reds Hall of Fame statue of Joe Nuxhall that I rescued from a HOF trash pile because his arm (not the left one, fortunately) snapped off. The Sean Casey/Joey Votto/Tony Perez bobblehead, which commemorates my fascination with first basemen, stays, but I managed to part with the 1988 Who Dey and 1990 World Series bandanas by handing them off to the next generation.

“You are almost a man of high school, James, and I think you have enough sense of history to appreciate these,” I said, presenting them to my godson.

“From before I was born!” he said.

Like I said, a battle.


9 Responses

  1. Eric

    Not so long ago, we moved from Nashville to Raleigh/Durham. The Lovely and Gracious Jodi and I, along with four of our daughters (I should have a column of my own, called “Everything Is An Issue!”) and a lifelong friend to help us drive (and unload!) took The Longest U-Haul, Towing A U-Haul Trailer Because It Wouldn’t All Fit In The Longest U-Haul on a two-day journey, culminating with me just about losing The Free Hotel Breakfast when our then-four-year-old stepped back into the elevator just in time for the doors to close and whisk her away to another floor. Yes, we got her back, in exchange for years off my life in the space of five minutes.

    BUTthe point is…once we finished that move, we ended up moving TWO MORE TIMES in the space of a year (that’s a story for another time) and it seemed like every time, we had more and more STUFF to move – just in a YEAR!

    Thankfully, I’ve managed to retain my ’80 Reds Team Photo, presented to me (and the rest of my fourth grade class) by Trainer Larry Starr, who regaled us with inside trainer-type info, like “How to screw this plastic wedge thingy into a player’s mouth so he won’t bite his tongue, in the event that he would ever get knocked unconscious and have a seizure.”

    As Dave Barry would say, “I swear to God I am not making this up.”

  2. Jim Walker

    I agree it is not so much the moving as the STUFF. I retired going on 3 years ago. I’d worked at the same place for 15 years and been in the same exact job and cubicle for the last 5. As I started my final separation cleanup I couldn’t believe how much useless stuff I had hung onto over the years.

    Most of the junk, excuse me, stuff, that had accumulated is what I would call contingency stuff. That’s stuff you keep because as sure as you don’t someone else whose job it was to keep it and they didn’t will expect you to have it when they desperately need it 5 years after a piece of equipment is officially obsolete. Why? Because they’ve heard or remember that once upon a time I may have installed such equipment.

    Being known for having a good stock of contingency items becomes a form of job security actually; but, what does a person do when they no longer want the job and nobody else wants the stuff? Some of really, really obsolete stuff I trash; but, most of it I packed neatly into boxes and left behind for the next gal or guy to figure out.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Right? Sometimes you simply forget you even own half the crap!

  3. Jack

    Wait until your soulmate, your true love passes away. You go home to an empty house. You look around and realize all the useless stuff you bought over the years is nothing more than a waste of money. You begin to clean and get rid of stuff because if you don’t the quietness of the house will drive you mad. You donate everything to habitat for humanity because you realize that the only thing that meant anything to you isn’t there anymore. It’s a hard lesson in life only to be understood by someone who has or is going through it.
    Don’t worry about the momentos or the fine China. Don’t buy things you don’t need or something to impress the neighbors or friends. In the end it’s all worthless. Spend every second of the day with your family or enjoying what nature gives you. That’s what matters in the end.

    • Jeff Reed

      Jack, what a cogent comment. You hit on the essence of life.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      You may have my column space sir.

  4. Mary Beth Ellis

    Well if not moving—pack it in!