Once again my column in Sunday's Times Leader garnered some comments, so I've decided to reprint it here. For the record, I'm still deciding where to go or whether to go at all. Not sure what I'll be doing, either, because there are so many possibilities. My hope is that at some point the Universe will part the clouds and shine a big sun ray on a map or a house or a plane ticket. Or the winning lottery ticket, so I can do everything and go everywhere.
According to the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA,) each year an average of nearly 36 million people move their households. I know two of those people this year: my friend Dottie and myself.
A few years ago Dottie came back to the Ohio Valley from her home in California to take care of a couple of elderly relatives. Sound familiar? She and I are part of the 15 percent of Americans who move for “family-related” reasons. She cultivated a life here but missed her daughters and grandchildren on the west coast, and they missed her. This year Dottie decided to pull up stakes and build on her daughter’s property. She asked me if I would drive the U-Haul truck cross-country for her, adding that I could head up to Oregon and clear out my storage unit holding my own furniture, books, camera equipment, etc. for over four years. I agreed that this was a good idea, and I needed a change of scenery after the last year.
A Facebook friend recently drove to San Diego posting awesome photos all along the way, noting that to see the “real” America, you have to get off of the Interstate. I totally agree having driven I-80 through 1,400 miles of corn from Nebraska to Ohio, but Dottie and I were interstate-bound, too, with deadlines to meet and long days of driving. My Instagram and Facebook posts could only chronicle some bits and pieces of sights seen from I-40, leaving “The World’s Largest Wind Chime” for future travels.
Most of it proceeded without incident, but between Oklahoma City and Albuquerque an approaching weather system created 40 m.p.h. winds. It was a 550 mile drive anyway, but the wind, the hills and a loaded-down 17-foot U-Haul turned it into a 12-hour day. Finally in the hotel parking lot, aching, tired and after Google maps sent me circling in the opposite direction of the hotel, I locked my keys and my pup Zsa Zsa in the truck.
As I had a meltdown and Dottie called AAA three times, a man stepped over from the counter and said, “I hear what’s happening, and I can’t make any promises, but I’ll take a look at the truck for you.” He was an angel and removed the keys through the window while Zsa Zsa slept on the seat. I gave him a restaurant card to use for lunch with his kids.
Dottie and I did take some time to visit Sedona, Arizona and taste wine in Paso Robles, California. We unloaded the truck and returned it in Amador County, then headed up to Oregon.
Before leaving Ohio I discovered that it was less expensive—not to mention time consuming—to fly back to Ohio and hire movers to ship the contents of my storage space instead of renting another U-Haul. Many people commented on my last column about downsizing and clearing out. Well, those comments echoed in my ears as the purge continued.
I cautiously raised the door of the storage unit and waited for something to tumble out. All was safe and sound, and, thankfully, mostly in boxes and bins. I began transferring items to a “giveaway” pile and a “garbage” pile, steadily working my way through, oh, one-third of the unit. Hmmm. My goal was to reduce the amount of all the stuff by half, and the movers were going to pick everything up in two days. I stepped up the “get rid of” action, loaded up my rental car with items for Goodwill and made some more progress.
By the end of the first day I’d come to three realizations. First, I had had a LIFE in Oregon. Here was my artwork and inventory; here were the items filling my cupboards and drawers; here were my files of photo negatives and client projects; here were my lesson plans, materials and tools for the classes I taught; here were my shop fixtures. It was all coming back to me.
The second realization was that I was living proof that one person CAN have too many books—and it pains me to say that. Boxes and crates of art books, cookbooks, magazines and the old mysteries that I’d collected seemed to get in the way of everything else I was trying to sort. I did give many books to Goodwill and magazines to recycling, but only glanced at the coffee table books that I used during my photo classes.
Third, I realized I could keep my storage unit for now. Once I gave myself permission to keep the space, I felt more relaxed and focused about sorting and packing. While my stuff should be in Ohio by the time this column is in print, I’ve left the possibility of returning to Oregon, even part-time, open. I packaged up the things that were pertinent to life here—sweaters, wine and much of my artwork--and left behind those belongings more suited to the beach.
It’s scary to not have a concrete plan, but right now I need to take one step at a time even if the steps go in different directions. Maybe if I continue removing the clutter, ever paring down, at some point it will clear the path.