Whether you’re doing it because you really want to, or because you truly have no choice and know in your heart of hearts that this is the only thing you can do, it is a hard thing. The process of sorting, packing, schlepping, and unloading all of your stuff is a ton of work at best, and an emotional mine field at worst. I was reminded of that when I saw my new neighbors move in across the street a few days ago. With just one glance at the boxes stacked in their garage I was immediately transported back to my own move and how difficult it was to pack up my life and relocate after my husband’s death.
We had already started talking about retirement, downsizing, and moving someplace warm, and had discussed what to do with most of the big-ticket items, but when the time came, I was left to do everything on my own and there were lots of little things I had no clear-cut guidance on. So I played my own version of “twenty questions”. Do I love it? (Do I even like it?) Do I need it? (How many casserole dishes does one need, anyway? I honestly have no idea.) Do I use it? Do I use it often enough to justify paying to drag it 1100 miles? Is it functional, or is it ‘past it’? (Do I even know what this is?) Will my kids and/or grandkids want this someday? Can I let this go, or does it hold too many memories? If it goes with me, will there be room to store it? And if it stays, what do I do with it now? Donate? (But does anybody really want this thing???) Pitch? (But it seems too good to throw away!) It was an inexact science, practiced inexactly, but when I was finished, knowing that I was taking with me only what I truly needed and wanted was liberating.
And yet even when the worst of it is over – when the unpacking is finally done and the boxes have been recycled - there is the not-so-small matter of having to learn to navigate new territory. (And doing that in the fog of grief adds an additional layer of disorientation…) In a new house, in a new place, nothing was where it used to be, and some things weren’t even here anymore. No. The coffee cups are not in the cabinet to the right of the sink. You have a kitchen island now. There is no cabinet to the right of the sink! I lost track of how many times I walked into a room to look for something, only to have to ask myself “Did I bring that? And if I did, where in the world did I put it???”
Several things helped me adjust. First, (after I wallowed around in frustration for a couple of days), I resolved to try to view the disruption and disorientation as an opportunity, not an obstacle. If something wasn’t where I expected it to be, I gave myself the grace to keep re-arranging things until they felt “right” to me. I was intentional about placing cherished possessions that held great meaning – family photos and artwork, the quilt rack my husband made for me, the quilts our grandmothers and great-grandmothers had crafted, my mother’s glassware collection – where I could see them, which gave me a sense of connection and rootedness, even though they were residing in a brand-new space. And, most importantly, for the first time since 1993, my kids and I (and half of my grandkids) are all in the same place again and I am not alone, an incredible blessing for which I am most grateful.
Have you moved recently? On your own?
If you haven’t moved your whole house, have you otherwise rearranged or relocated some portion of your life? Emptied a closet? Shoveled out the basement? Have you repurposed a room? Reorganized your office? Changed jobs?
What helped you get through the process?
If you haven’t moved – yet - but know that this is in your future, what have you been thinking and feeling about it?
As you sort and pack and purge, as you arrange and re-arrange, may courage and stamina and clarity and purpose be yours. May the Spirit gift you with wisdom to guide your choices, and grant you grace and peace.