Packing is Such Sweet Sorrow

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale.

Without realizing it, I have come up with a little system for packing up the goods. (For the novice reader of this blog, Husband and I are moving to Winona, MN in June.)  Part 1:  I have been through each area of the house once, armed with an empty box or bag with which to remove the obviously unwanted items. This first round wasn’t so bad – when you’ve lived in a place for 27 years, you’ve forgotten half of what’s in the back of closets, under the basement stairs, in that bottom drawer. “Oh, I kept these skirts?” or “I don’t even remember ever having this calendar from 1984!”

Basement is ground zero – the holding tank, as it were. There is a “sawhorse table” where the stuff from above is dropped off until it can be boxed and carted away. There have already been several trips to Valu Village and Half Price Books; for each meeting or gathering I go to, I bring along a bag of something for people to paw through (just ask the Babooners who attended Book Club at Occasional Caroline’s in April).

But now I’m starting Part 2 of this system, sorting through a second time as I actually pack it in a box. This takes more time and thought. Hmmm, do I still really need three mixing bowls that size, and does the one from my grandma win out over my favorite color? Will I ever really play all this piano music again in this lifetime?

Luckily, I have help:  I’m almost finished reading a best-selling book by Marie Kondo – The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

There are many good ideas here, as well as some quirkiness, as she almost gives her possessions human feelings. But the most profoundly useful tactic is her insistence to work by category, rather than room by room. Say my category is “candles”: I travel thought the house and gather ALL the candles into one place, one pile; and then pick up each item to evaluate, based on whether or not it brings me joy.

This is what I want, to have all my possessions be things I use and/or love. So now there is a box of candles leaving, and a box of candles coming with us. And I feel almost euphoric after discarding – there is something about lightening up that… well, actually lightens me.

When have you needed to create a system on order to complete a task? 

Did it work?

106 thoughts on “Packing is Such Sweet Sorrow”

  1. I will start this out since I probably the only one up as it is 3:15 pm here. My husband and I are in Amsterdam. We are not supposed to be here. Our son is in Hamburg. His wife is in Paris. We missed our Minneapolis connection due to the Mpls airport delaying our Bismarck flight due to low clouds in Minneapolis. Son and wife made the flight to Paris, but the airline messed up her reservation and she had to take a different flight to Hamburg than he did. We have missed our train to Bremen, and probably won’the be able to see the relatives at the Ratskeller tonight. My, do I ever need a plan!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The Van Gogh Museum is so worth a visit, as is the big plaza nearby in the center of Amsterdam where all kinds of performance artists strut their stuff. Sorry for the delay in your trip, but what a great place to be stranded!

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      1. I am stuck at the airport. We are returning to Amsterdam on Sunday for a real visit I haven’the slept since Monday night and I am not amused by these turns of events.

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        1. Yes, that does sound tedious and the fatigue must be awful, especially if you have to stay there. 😦

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    2. And this is exactly why I rarely travel!! You’ve grounded
      my irrational fears real life, renee. Just missing a flight would mortify me because I’ve have no idea what to do, especially if it set off a chain reaction of missing connecting flights. I can’t even figure out that kiosk thingy for checking in, and the thought of traveling alone without someone to lead me is terrifying.

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      1. My reply was sarcasm…I hope you caught that y’all…re-reading it I realized it might not come across as such…but then this group is so smart, I did assume you would catch it.

        Liked by 2 people

    3. travel … ant it grand
      i love amsterdam.
      do you get high? the coffee shops sell white widow there. i recommend it
      at least try some shrooms
      ann frank house
      van gough museum
      interesting other stuff too even if you are not into sex it is very interesting
      i never go to amsterdam with a plan
      you have to take it as it comes

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I create little systems all the time at my various jobs, from the arrangement of book trucks when I was a library shelver, to color-coded paper clips at my current job of verifying beneficiaries for insurance death claims (red for “waiting for fiche,” blue for “fiche available, lookup not done”, green for “lookup done, needs letter”). I’ve had occasion to explain one or another system of mine to another person, and they always have an “are all these steps really necessary” look on their faces, up until I get to the end and demonstrate that my weird little procedure actually is as or more efficient.

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      1. I would too, if I hadn’t taken a chunk out of my hand Saturday morning getting a load of recycling into the car to take down to the center. Somehow, I got my hand between the corner of an old computer monitor and the car hatch as I was dropping the monitor into the cargo space. That hurt.

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  3. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    BIR, nice to hear that you are getting to move into the next phase. Congratulations.

    Systems–yes, over the last 12 years at work I created systems for a kind of Private Practice that did not exist before. Yes it worked, and very soon someone else will own it all!! Was Hoo. And that is where I have been the last 2 months.

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      1. Not retiring, and even after I retire at 66, I will probably work part time. But we now have a plan here to slowly transfer ownership but it is a slow process for many reasons. And I am thrilled to move on.

        I have been out of touch, too–first day back here saying much at all due to the time all this took. So don’t apologize.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. i would like to discuss marketing the concept to other practices. it may be very beneficial and accepted coming form one who knows the reaasons for doing it this away and not doing it that way

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  4. Moring all. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m all about lists. On rare occasions I’ll make a little list and then number in the order I want to get it done. Usually this is something like a list of errands on a Saturday morning so I’m minimizing the driving around or hitting stores/locations as they open.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Needing a system happens quite frequently in the flooring trade. This is especially the case when a pattern needs to be repeated in which case a template is used. Just recently rubber flooring at a school called for 12 inch feature stripes throughout the building. However the tile only comes in 24 inch squares necessitating cutting the material in half. That is not simply done by measuring and marking each piece individually. There is no way to maintain consistency as even a 64th of an inch difference one piece to another would show up as a staggered line. But by taking one square and attaching it to a board and fitting small pieces of the stock material under another square to allow the to- be-cut material to slide under it, provides the perfect template. But even at that one must measure about a 32nd of an inch short of a full 12 inches as the natural position of a hand on a knife will lean slightly making for an undercut. One undercut positioned to another undercut creates an unsightly “gully” effect. The system works and saves material as a bonus.

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  6. I am not terribly organized and Jim completely missed that gene. The townhome we are renting is cracking down on the rules for garage storage. You may only have one shelf — one. And bikes and your cars. That’s it. So guess what’s all over the inside of our cars and house? Junk from the garage! Aack!
    And now we don’t have time, motivation or energy to complete the re-arranging, throwing away, consolidating that we need to do.
    But I do love that book, she is amazing. I fold all my clothes Kon-Mari style now and it’s so cool to see them lined up in my drawers where I can see them all.
    Good luck on your move, Barb and don’t be a stranger.

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        1. All moving events need “that guy” that keeps the jokes going and the morale of the troops at a high level. And a whip. Never go without a whip.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. barb plug in pandora and start tailoring the selections that you like and dislike after you start a channel. pandora is pone there are many today
          pandora is free in the mode i use and i have a lyle lovett channel a bob dylan channel a leonard cohen channel a ink martini channel a yo yo ma channel a couple others and i get into one and it takes me for the whole day. one day i got a bit irked at the django reinhardt hot club stuff so i started a blossom dearie channel and i am in love with that channel with ella and sarah and barbara on it. you can add watever to adjust the spice of the channel and it is fun to have the disc jockey on the pandora end picking the tunes for you.
          dale and jim ed used to do it with themes in titles and a fun special continuim. with those guys out of the loop this is pretty good.

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  7. I read TL-CM of TU and have only adopted a modified version of putting things vertically in drawers. She is definitely quirky, tidying her own stuff, time after time, and tidying her family’s and schools stuff. Her house must be VERY spare.
    Either because I didn’t really want to do it or because I thought it strange, I haven’t undertaken her methods.

    I do have plans to clear things out of my 40 year home, if only to spare my sons the task. It’s so hard to get started. Steve’s and BiR’s moves made/make it happen but I don’t plan to move anytime soon.

    When I’m about to entertain, I make a list on the back of an envelope. Sometimes I make the list over a week ahead so I just have to do a little each day. Ha! Procrastination rules.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. I have learned to make lists….in particular grocery and most recently the trip here to daughters. Without lists I forget and am manic.

    In my work…I cannot start a new project until I clean and organize my studio. However organization for me is something only I understand. My ‘files’ and shelves are organized according to ‘ideas’ and their related information. I know where everything is…’tho to others it may often appear a mess.

    A couple of years back I was recuperating from surgery & Husband was ‘helping’ organize my studio…unbeknownst to me. When I finally went out for fresh air and the short walk … he was placing everything in alphabetical order so that I’d be able to locate more easily. I broke out crying…he mistook as appreciative tears…I spoke bawling that I’d never find anything and it was going to take me a forever to put things aright. Needless to say he felt very unappreciated & fled leaving me to cry. It did take me months…partly in avoidance of that task…and it was daunting to go through what he had organized and place into my filing system.

    My system is exactly that….’my’….but it works for me…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The fun fact about organizing schemes is how widely people vary in terms of liking or hating them. My dad once spent a little time in the home of a coworker. He came away from that visit so astonished he could barely find words to describe his amazement. “Gene has a CARD FILE listing everything in the house! If you asked him to look, he could tell you how many pairs of socks he owns!!” A few years ago I met Gene and told him about Dad’s reaction to his system. Gene seemed surprised to learn most people don’t have a card file to keep track of their stuff.

      Your last line says it all. “Works for me” is all that matters.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I have a cousin who is so organized she has empty or almost empty drawers…the kitchen shelves are perfectly organized as well. Our mothers were sisters. I can’t organize my day, much less my stuff…where did the gene pool go wrong?

        Liked by 3 people

        1. i do herbs in alphabetical order. you have to dont you. (i have 3 cupboards of spices in current wonderful kitchen
          large jugs like cumin and basil
          little ones like cream of tartar and the bottels of soy sauce and hot sauce and balsamic glaze , flour and bulk items like mushrooma and red chinese peppers in mongo tupperware or maonaise jars in the pantyr and of course the 50 lb bag of popcorn in 5 gallon containers. to keep it fresh for the 6 months tl its gone.

          Liked by 1 person

      2. Too true Steve. I’ve tried to read the Magic Tidying up book a couple of times (probably because I see it mentioned here) and it is just not for me. And I remember Bill really not understanding my lists. Takes all kinds!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. zen and the art of motorcycle maintance guy wrote a second book called gilda or something close and it was all abot the system. i read on fasinated by how bizaree it seemed to me. i like having him as book i can put down. i would go insane with him as a real life associate

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Agree with this wholeheartedly. Did this one for my girlfriend when she was out of town and I was babysitting her kids for a long weekend. She is still my best friend but it was chilly for a couple of weeks! Never again.

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  9. Most recently, I finally decided to defeat the aversion I have to cleaning bathrooms. I hate doing it so much that I make the problem much worse by avoiding it until it is so gross that I have to do it or face being sick from seeing all the grossness whenever I walk into that room. So, I determined that every weekend would see me thoroughly cleaning at least two of the 2 1/2 bathrooms. I even made a list of what is needed to properly clean and made sure that each bathroom had all the supplies needed. Amazingly, this cleaning is so much easier and faster if the room is not allowed to get into the really gross state before I pick up a cleaning rag. (You would think I would have realized this before.) This system worked beautifully until I got sick a couple weeks ago and had no energy to clean. I’m feeling better now, so time to get back on track – but I’m kinda dreading it.

    Paperwork was another bugaboo. I did fine before I became responsible for all the paperwork for a multi-person household, but struggled for years with all the paperwork here before I came across two tools (a book and a filing system) that really transformed my life because for the first time ever I have control of all the d*** papers. (I also learned how to eliminate a lot of the paper coming into the household.)

    I love the book you mentioned, BiR. It’s another life-changer for me. Unfortunately, I feel thwarted when I try to use this method for anything but my own personal possessions. You should have seen the uproar when I tried to tackle the DVDs that belong to nobody (or to everybody). Maybe someday I will have a house or apartment where I only have the things I want to have in there. If I do, it will be a lot less stuff than I currently have to deal with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For a time, I was devoted to a system created by two (very funny) sisters who called themselves S.H.E. (Sidetracked Home Executives). It was for house cleaning on a rotating schedule. Now that I’m on my own without wasband, kids or dogs, I don’t feel the need to clean as often. Except for the basics, I don’t clean except for company (and, depending on the company, sometimes not even for them!).
      The explanations for how they came up with the system are very entertaining.
      http://www.cluborganized.com/sidetracked-home-executives-from-pigpen-to-paradise

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Last week, I spent hours helping a high school classmate move from her lake home to a condo. About a dozen of us swooped in to help. I dreaded this plan, but, as it turned out, it was a wonderful feeling of community and the hours of chatting with several classmates while we worked were priceless.

          “Ginny” is a hoarder and morbidly obese, so the workload for all of us was gargantuan. Worse, she’s a perfectionist, telling us to wash, dry and wrap each crystal before packing up the chandelier for instance. She moved from 2000 sq feet into 1300 sq feet. By the time we’d gotten all of her treasured belongings into the new condo, there was barely a path in which to navigate. We’ve no clue how she’s going to manage so much stuff, but at least we did our part. The rest is up to her.

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        2. we moved form a big place to a less big place and someone just cam back after seeing the stuff in boxes after we moved in. it all got placed and it is not very likely anything will get too far out of place because there is no where for anything to go other than where it came from. he came back and was wowed by the way the house turned out i especiall like picture placement. the old salon style of hanging all the way up the walls turned out great.

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    2. I have a cartoon from somewhere that references the “piling” system of an office…that’s my system…pile, pile, pile…and, of course, lose track of it. Thought it would get better with retirement, but so far…not so.

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      1. I once worked with a woman who was the extreme piler. She had stacks of paper all over her office. The credenza behind her desk had papers stacked in piles of more than a foot high and covering every square inch of the top. The same thing was true of her desk, except there was a small free space – the size of her desk pad ink blotter – right in front of her. She was the firm’s “alumni relations” person. Amazingly, if you needed something, Georgine was the person to see. From what appeared to most people to be a fire hazard of an office, she could swoop into those piles and retrieve whatever it was you were looking for. She had an incredible memory. I can only guess at what her system was, I’m sure she took that secret with her to her grave. I wonder what they did with all of her piles when she retired?

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        1. i used to do it that way too but then the memory got screwed up by a move and it all turne into boxes of paaper to be dealt with
          wonder ewhere those boxes are in my warehouse today.
          you can get by without a lot of stuff.

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    3. My trick for cleaning gross places is to first envision how nice it’ll look after I’m done. Last week, for the first time since moving to the lake, I tackled the 2.5 car garage. Over all these years, the squirrels have completely overtaken the place, filling the floors with what look like walnuts to me and chewed up insulation. It was a risky job because I couldn’t avoid stepping on whole nuts and nearly falling a dozen times at least.

      I even found a trophy for my labor: a mummified squirrel in the corner. I placed him on a shelf in honor of what his community had accomplished – and as a reminder of how I managed to take my country back.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That doesn’t work for me. If I’m cleaning up after a bunch of other people, I can envision a clean space all I want, but my complaining self just thinks, “Why can’t somebody ELSE clean up this mess?” It’s better for me to just own the job and not think too much about it, just do it.

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  10. People think it’s contrary to my nature, but I am a long-range planner and very systematic, when I need to be. Why bother when I don’t need it? Everyone thinks my wife is a concrete-sequential, but she is very random, more so as her mind fades a bit. (I have been to the grocery store three times this morning because if confusion or forgetfulness. It is less than a mile away.) I usually plan more in my head than on paper, but I owill commit to paper too. When I write fiction one of two things happen: 1. I have most of the story laid out in my mind, now and then on paper. In this mode I do keep myself open to think laterally. 2. I just start writing having little idea where I am going. About 1/3 the time I trash it, or let it percolate and rehash it or embed it in a new story. 2/3 of the time I end up with something I like. I enjoy both processes: risk and vision.

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  11. Part 1
    I put off moving out to the lake after Dad died for two years because wasband was a hoarder for the 25 years we were married. The garage was piled back to front, side to side, and top to bottom. He’d also hidden his stash behind the knee walls upstairs. In the basement, he’d jammed more junk atop the heat vents. His crap was so overflowing that he’d begun to make piles in the backyard and covered them with tarps.

    The ultimate proof that what were treasures to him were only trash to others was a garage sale we had after which 3/4 of the items for sale were still sitting there. The Salvation Amy didn’t even want it.

    Putting off the move to Crystal Bay was entirely because of my inability to imagine how to unload his mountains of garbage. This chore was literally beyond me. My intense resentment that he’d put me in this position was one of the major issues leading to divorcing him two years later. That and his unwillingness to get a job for a decade.

    It took months to unload most of this garbage. Stupidly, I caved in and said he could store some of the things he couldn’t part with in half of the garage out here. He made dozens of trips back and forth, and within a few weeks, my brand new 2.5 car garage was completely full of “the things he couldn’t part with”. He’d even built a large lean-to behind the garage to store more of his finds.

    Eventually, we moved, but my hypervigilance toward any new junk kicked into Def Con 5 from then on. He took to cramming things into every spare inch of the many cupboards and closets, but the stuff was at least hidden from view.

    Needless to say, it took almost as long to unload what he’d left as it did for the move out here. Inevitably, I demanded that he rent a dumpster. Only after he was gone did I truly begin to enjoy this piece of God’s earth.

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  12. There’s no “Part 2” now. Unfortunately, my elaborate story about the luxury of no deadline to move allowing me to fully renovate this old place just disappeared!

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  13. I can relate to PJ’s story about the woman who had stacks of papers. As Linda knows from trying to help me, one of my lamentable habits is creating stacks of papers. My stacks were built up with necessary papers and (mostly) papers whose messages confused me, so I kept them. (There are incredible numbers of people at insurance companies who make their living sending out confusing notices.) My paper stacks had a revolting habit of growing. After they got high enough to start falling over, I’d stick them in a paper shopping bag with handles. Those were the same bags I used for putting out my recycling on pickup days. You’ve guessed the next bit: now and then I would accidentally put out a bag of important and confusing papers with my recycling. When I’d lose a bag of important papers I would expect doom to come crashing down on me. Instead, nothing happened. Nothing ever happened. Which was bad for any motivation I might have had to file important papers sensibly.

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    1. My son, Steve (named after my brother), is one in a long line of family story-tellers. Recently, he posted a story on Facebook about some strange and odorous smell in his kitchen. No matter where he looked, he just could not find the odor’s origin. He wrote that when things like this happen, he’s learned that things always seem to “unhappen” eventually. Two days later, he posted, “The smell unhappened, much to my relief”

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        1. That’s what Marie Kondo says in the book, too – that once you’ve checked your credit card statements to make sure they’re your purchases, you never need them again… We found stuff from 2003 and before.

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        2. And these days you have the option of getting your bank and credit card statements, and many other documents, on line. No need to clutter up the house with unnecessary papers.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. I get credit card statements online now, and have for maybe ten years or more, but I do still have a folder of old statements. Looking at them is kind of like discovering a time capsule – there are charges from stores and restaurants that are no longer in existence. Odegard’s, Frank’s Nursery and Crafts, Knox Lumber, Backstreet Grill. Or there will be charges from a trip I took. I recommend saving a couple.

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  14. The systems I set up are done to speed up my work. I think many people who do the same job over and over again do this. I experiment with various ways to work more quickly and work out a system. This might involve finding better ways ro arrange the work, skipping some steps that aren’t needed, or learning to anticipate problems.

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    1. I believe it is 7 years for tax-related stuff; for other financial records, it varies. I see no reason to keep last month’s (or last week’s or even today’s) receipts from Target and Trader Joe’s, but records for more important financial transactions, usually, should be kept longer. Here’s a list to help: http://lifehacker.com/5977082/what-documents-should-i-shred-and-what-should-i-keep

      However, I am not an accountant or a tax preparor, so take my advice with a grain of salt.

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  15. I usually try to break down a big project into steps, so it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. Once I start working on it, though, I tend to depart from whatever system I’ve settled on. I’m not very good with follow-through.

    Recently when I was at a fitness class, a woman came up to me and told me “You could work as a muddle.” I drew a blank at first, but then realized she had a Russian accent and had actually said “You could work as a model.” I think the first interpretation is the one that is actually true, though – I do generally work as a muddle, or in a muddle.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. I am happy to report that everything turned out beautifully. We all made it to Hamburg, got the train to Bremen, and connected with the relatives.

    Liked by 6 people

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