Packing your life into boxes can be a daunting task

I am moving soon, and it’s probably the biggest move I have ever made in my life. It’s big because I’ve lived a long time in one location, and I have a lot of stuff. I forgot how much stuff I had. I don’t hang on to every little last thing, but I do hang on to a few things that I think will be important someday – or just fun to look at again.

This project has taken weeks, because I am purging as I go. Letting go of things I no longer need, in an attempt to make the move a little easier, and in an attempt to make life a little easier. I have a little saying on my desk that says, “She left pieces of her life behind her everywhere she went. It’s easier to feel the sunlight without them, she said.” And that makes a lot of sense to me. It certainly is easier to feel the sunlight when you let some things go.

It’s interesting to pack your life into boxes. It has many facets, this big move. I have to think of a lot of things at the same time, and it can be exhausting. There are financial, logistic and emotional aspects to this move. There is a sense of loss that is fading and a sense of adventure that is growing. It’s very hard to know just where to begin packing, and it’s hard to have the energy to begin such a daunting project.

I think of the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” And the answer – one piece at a time. A little time spent every night, and the job will get tackled. I decided to start with the things I used the least. That decision was easy, but doing it was not so easy. The things I use least have the most memories attached, and I tend to get a little hung up when dealing with memories from the past.

It’s easy to get lost in the emotion of the memories, remembering how things once were. I stop for a moment and glance at these items, taking just a few seconds to recall a memory, and then put it down and move on. Some items are harder than others.

I recently found a birthday card from my grandmother, who we called Busia (boo’-sha), the Polish word for grandmother. It was written in her own hand and also in Polish, and it said, “Happy Birthday Paula, and God bless you.” It was amazing to find it again, and I spent the next few minutes with tears streaming down my face. She spent six months of the year with my family and the other six months in Chicago with my cousins. She had a great sense of humor and was a very sharp lady. She always wanted to die in her sleep, and she ended up doing just that. I hope I am that lucky, too.

I found a lot of other interesting things I had forgotten about. When I was in my late teens it was the roller-disco era and I spent much of my time at the roller rink with my oldest sister, young nieces and nephew. I lived with each of my two sisters at different times during my college years, and grew close to their children. I had an old portfolio of my past work as a graphic designer and decided to purge it one night, and came across a plethora of artwork, letters and cards that the children had made and sent to me while I was away at school. They were wonderful – full of warm memories, hilarious comments and funny drawings. It made me feel very loved.

The hard thing about the move is not everything fits into a box. Like life, the move is a messy thing. Some things are easily tossed – no-brainers – and other things I have to think about a little before I let them go. It’s hard to fit your life into boxes. How does one do this? How do I put similar items into a box, wrap them in newspaper and then try to find a label, a title for those things in the box? It seems impossible, but I do just that. Box after box gets filled, taped shut and labeled.

Some nights I can only work so long, until the memories get in the way and I have to take a break. The dog is very good about reminding me. We sit on the floor for awhile and talk about things while I rub his ears, and then I get up, have some juice and begin again.

The big day is coming soon, and I have some mixed feelings about it. I’m definitely ready for it in every possible way, though. Being a copious list-maker, I have lists of things I need to do before I go, things to do when I get there, things I need to buy, questions to ask. Like I said, it can be exhausting.

I’m leaving a lot of things behind. Things I invested a lot of time in and made beautiful during the time I was there. Leaving things in better shape than I found them is a trademark of mine. A wonderful legacy, and that feels good. The memories I will carry with me always. I’m excited to begin this new phase of my life. The potential of all that can happen now is intoxicating, and I can truly say that I am happier, stronger and more confident now than I have been at any other point in my life. I plan to mark this glorious moment with a gathering of good friends and celebrate.

In a few more days, the adventure will begin. The hardest part, I’m absolutely sure, will be saying goodbye to the dog.

Originally published August 17, 2012

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