packing it up

I started packing our home in a nesting rampage two months before Michael was born. It was spring break and we had just gone to look at a house that we couldn’t make an offer on because ours was just not ready to sell. So I did what I do best. I made a spreadsheet and on it, I listed every room in the house and the to-do’s for each.

There were two items that my seven month pregnant body could accomplish: pack and clean. And I did. Like a madwoman. At the end of my hormone induced purge, I had a fortress of bags for Goodwill and another fortress of boxes stacked in my garage. One month later, the possibility of squeezing a home purchase in before baby came dissipated. So we tabled it for later.

The second sweep of my house came last Christmas. I wanted to take advantage of the time off to pack up the rest of the things we didn’t need every day. And since I still had to pay for daycare, I could send the kids and not feel that guilty about it. I put everything in a box that I wouldn’t need for a few months. I also binge watched all eight episodes of Tidying Up after which, I Marie Kondo’d the shit out of every room. Let me tell you, there was a very special magic in organizing my husband’s bullet and knife collection. I think Marie would have been proud.

In my first attempt at packing and purging, I was more like a tasmanian devil, impulsively and insensitively clearing out drawers, shoving item after item into bags without much thought. But this last time, I put all my things in a pile and then held each thing to ask if it brings me joy or serves an important purpose just like Marie taught me. And when no one was looking, I knelt on the ground and talked to my house just like she does, thanking it for being our home. It was hippy dippy but hey, I’d been talking to the ghosts in there, so might as well chat with the floorboards too.

After I had cleared out each room to the bare bones, I stood and stared at yet another fortress of donation bags and packed up boxes. So much stuff. Probably thousands of dollars of stuff. Most of my rooms have had several iterations of curtains and art on the wall, nicknacks and attempts at making it look a specific way. The sheer number of picture frames that I donated was obscene.

I recognize that there are trends and styles that come and go. The color palate of 2010 is quite different than that of 2019. And Joanna Gaines has not helped in the matter by bringing her particular sense of style to an overpriced section of Target for me to drool over and wonder if the swath of fake goldenrod flowers will be JUST what I need to make me a different person and finally have thick, smooth black hair and skin that tans up nicely in the sun instead of burning and freckling. But it all makes me wonder what the heck I have been trying to accomplish these past few years in accumulating all this stuff?

The nice thing about moving is that it put a temporary halt on my never-ending efforts to make things “just right”. I knew my realtor Lorrie was going to bring a box full of treasures right before we listed our house and those things would make it look “just right” to the potential buyer. My vision was no longer necessary. It needed to be neutral and clean and simple. It waswa small blessing, those handcuffs of “wait, don’t buy that for a house you are moving out of.” I don’t want to forget the feel of them on my wrists as I move into the new place and start trying to transform myself again by way of drapes and trinkets and art.

In Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming, she talks in the end about moving out of the White House after eight years. While I am clearly not in the same world as the First Lady of the United States with butlers and chefs and a Chief of Staff, her thoughts on transitioning from one home to another resonated with me. She says, “You’re left in many ways to find yourself all over again.” I wonder if, while building our home over the past ten years (the concept and feel, not necessarily the posts and beams) had been guided more by a need to change who I am rather than to find myself.

Many of the things I’ve chosen to keep are all reminders of who I have become. A small white mug that is trimmed in gold with yellow flowers on it, holds my pens on my desk. This was from Grandma Willson’s house and my sister sent it to me after she passed away. There’s also a painting of three women, each with skirts the colors of jewels. I haggled over it for months with a gentleman who was selling art on a beach in Durban, South Africa. “You won’t be back,” he said each time, wagging his finger at me. “Oh yes I will,” I cajoled in return. And I was, each week until the very last weekend when he finally gave me a better price. He wasn’t super happy about the ordeal.

When I pared it all down into piles of keep or discard, my truth began to emerge. Hopefully this new journey ahead of me will also be one of self-discovery. In the same way that I will learn the nooks and crannies, the idiosyncrasies and beauty of a new home, I hope to learn more about those elements of myself. Ahead of me is an opportunity to set new rhythms and to fill the spaces with colors and expressions of who we are and what we value. Rupi Kaur says we must stop searching for home in others and lift the foundations of the home within ourselves.

Yesterday afternoon, taking a break from packing it all up, I sat on the floor of our bedroom. Now empty, I looked around at it’s echoey vastness. I had slept in that room for ten years but I never had the vantage point of that moment before. At first, there was so much imperfection that caught my eye. A floor vent that didn’t quite fit, dust and fur in every corner, the faint hint of old lady smell in the air. But then I noticed the light coming through the window. It was exactly right and beautiful. And isn’t this the truth of life as well? So much fixing to be done, but the light is everywhere, making people and places feel like home.


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