Monday, July 15, 2013

Unpacking and Stuff

We’re about two weeks into life in the new house, and we’re mostly done with the unpacking. It’s been quite a chore, as anyone who has moved already knows. Moving seems to be one of those things that gets worse as you get older. Partly because you’ve accumulated more stuff, of course, but also partly because you are older and recover less quickly from hauling boxes up and down the stairs. It doesn’t help that our house is about the same size as the apartment but with less storage space. But the end of the move is in sight for us. Everything in the living part of the house is unpacked. Our pictures aren’t up on the walls, which means the house doesn’t really feel lived in to me yet, but we are waiting for some new furniture items to arrive before we decide what pictures go where. So it will be until the end of August before the pictures come out of the storage closet. The garage is mostly arranged, although still full of items to donate. Hopefully by the end of the week we’ll be able to park a car in it, which is a big goal we set for ourselves.

My husband and I have really made an effort to vigorously get rid of some of our stuff this move. We made a rule that we need to be saying “yes” to the things we’re keeping. It’s not good enough to say maybe or we’ll think about it. We need to have used it, wanted it, enjoyed it, or somehow or another made contact with it in the 20 months we lived in our apartment if we’re going to keep it in the new house. So we’ve been creating a large number of give away boxes and a smaller number of junk boxes for things that are too worn out to be of use to anyone. Ideally, of course, we would have done this before we moved. We did do some, but June was a stressful month with work challenges, illnesses, and other events. So we didn’t accomplish everything we wanted to accomplish pre-move, and were left sorting things out on the other side. It's been a lot of work but it does create a more spacious feel to our home.

The other rule we made while unpacking is to “make it easy.” As we’re sorting and arranging we are trying to think out when and how we will actually be using these items, and then placing them so that it is easy to use, clean and put things away again. Our mantra is to make it easy to do it right, so that life runs more smoothly. This may seem really obvious to most of you, but we haven’t thought things out this thoroughly before, so it’s a bit of a revelation to us. It makes me think of “Cheaper By The Dozen” by Frank Gilbreth, a humorous biography of his father, Frank Gilbreth Sr., who was a pioneer in motion study. Mr. Gilbreth Sr. used motion videos (a new technology at the time) to study how tasks were accomplished and to rearrange things to cut down the time and energy it takes to complete them. The book itself focuses on their family life, which was both organized but also gives the impression of being both warm and stimulating. The ideas of motion study come up over and over though. I read this book several times as a child and still have it on my shelves, but I never really thought about applying the ideas myself. We’ll see how it works out in practice.

Making things easy sounds really appealing to me. I don’t feel like I have time and energy to waste on disorganization anymore. Which is also part of why I am trying to have less stuff in my house. A few years ago in the church I was attending we watched a short video called “The Story of Stuff.” You can watch it on You Tube if you’re interested; it’s about 20 minutes long. ( It’s definitely political and very frank about the effect of consumption on the environment. It also talks about the price we pay for living in a consumer based model – essentially, the more stuff we own, the harder we work and the more money and energy and time we spend maintaining our stuff.  It's not very appealing, to be honest. I’m not ready to jump into a post-consumer mode of living yet, but I am trying to take steps to decrease the effort and expense of maintaining my stuff. Mostly, I confess, for the purely selfish reason that I really like my new house. I’d rather spend my time and energy enjoying it than constantly re-organizing it. I guess we'll see how it goes.