Re-entry to the world of stuff

I wrote recently about the decision to re-settle ourselves in SE Alaska, ending a two-year roving lifestyle, working and living in temporary clinic housing when we weren’t out of the state traveling.

In the past month we ordered enough household items from Amazon to start life again…we’d sold almost everything when we sold the Ketchikan house in October, 2014, so we had some restocking to do. I have to admit, until now, I wouldn’t have associated Amazon with furniture. But it turns out you can order quite an array…everything you need, in fact. And though what we bought isn’t heirloom quality, it’s solid and looks good, and that’s sufficient for our needs at the moment. I’m not furnishing my dream home with this move.

So this is how you move to Alaska…SE Alaska, anyway. You talk with the barge lines that serve SE Alaska and sort out their timetable, and the various options for shipping. You can use an entire shipping container, 20 or 40 foot (or as many as you need), or you can ship up on pallets. If you ship on pallets, you’re charged by weight, and per hundred-weight, it works out to twice the cost of shipping an entire container. For a container, you pay a flat rate, and whatever you can put in goes for the same flat rate. So that’s the better way to ship, at least for larger volume.

It turns out we had exactly a 20-foot container’s worth of belongings. I think that’s pretty good, actually, for 35 years of marriage. We’ve thinned a lot along the way, so even after replacing furniture and adding the household items I had in storage, we still kept it to a manageable level.

At least, that’s what I thought, until the container was unloaded into the two-car garage at our new place. It was full, with boxes stacked on boxes, three or four levels deep. Suddenly, after a two-year break from possessions, it was overwhelming to look at everything at once.

I can’t deny I’ve done a happy dance or two at the thought of having my kitchen set up again, and it will be lovely to have all my clothes in one place, to see familiar and homey knickknacks again. It will be nice to actually fully unpack my roller bags, and live out of drawers and closets for a change.

But I also can’t deny…there’s a part of me that’s a little suffocated, a little weighed down just looking at all the stuff.

I’ve happily collected and kept my favorite things, and as I get older, I’m pickier about what meets that standard. What is worth holding on to, moving around, and ultimately keeping throughout my life? I think a bit more these days about how much stuff I’ve accumulated, and what I’ll leave to my kids to deal with (one day, far, far in the future!)

When you’ve had an opportunity to live stuff-free for a significant time, as we’ve done the past two years, you see it all a little differently. Yes, the convenience and the comfort of having my own things is enjoyable, and I’m excited to revel in nesting again.

But I also have a wee bit of a feeling that my wings are clipped, that I’ll be more tied down than I have been. And I didn’t expect to feel that. Didn’t expect to experience any negative side to setting up a home again.

Me, the ultimate nester, feeling overwhelmed by my twigs?!

Maybe I just need to clear a few boxes, and get cozy again. But it makes me think about how consumed Americans are with stuff, and getting more stuff, and maintaining stuff. And all this makes me determined to keep some perspective…to be a little less thing-oriented, and see it all for what it is…pleasant filler that makes my day-to-day convenient  and comfortable.

But stuff is not so important to me as it once was. And maybe that’s the lesson of the last two years: I can actually thrive without a lot of it, and as long as the really important elements of my life are in place…health, and family, and nurturing relationships…the other stuff is just that…stuff that fills my garage, and will soften my life. But it doesn’t make my life. I never thought that it did…but coming full circle through all of this brings that reality home to me.

We’re about to enter the season of giving, and getting. I’m thinking more about giving experiences, and the types of gifts that don’t accumulate to pile in the garage or basement, that don’t need sorting and caring for.

This isn’t meant to guilt anyone…we all need things…but just to say, how much is the right amount? And how can we have a healthy relationship with the stuff, instead of being overwhelmed by it?

It’s one of the ongoing conversations I have with myself…what about you? Got a handle on this? Any wisdom to share?

~ Sheila

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Bare necessities

I’m wandering around in the little apartment that is a temporary home, looking for things I know I brought over, wondering how anything could be lost in this small space.

There’s nothing like a move to put me in perpetual hide and seek mode. Why is it I can see exactly where the thing I want was stored in the house? And I have no idea where it landed when I unpacked boxes two weeks ago. But I knew to expect this…I’ve been through all the games before. My favorite is the one when I begin to question…could I have left something behind? Or did a box really get lost between the last address and the new one? Even though I did the last walk through the house and know there was nothing there, not one thing…still, inevitably, I’ll wonder.

You know the feeling when you’ve looked everywhere twice, and you know you put it in…some item that wasn’t even that important, until it’s nowhere to be found. And now it’s an obsession. Must.find.IT!

I once lost some little collectibles for about a decade, didn’t find them for two moves. They had been so carefully wrapped and stored in a little cedar chest that they lived, quite safe, but totally lost to me, until I was doing a sort for a third move. Well that was a mystery solved! I had long ago thought they fell off the moving truck and given up looking for them.

Another thing I find happens with a move…I almost immediately begin to forget what I own. Not the big stuff…I can certainly remember the big items. And some of the little things…sentimental stuff, or sometimes just random odds and ends. One good thing about storing most of the things from the house…it will feel like Christmas when I open the boxes.

I’m always surprised when it comes to unpacking, how out of sight is quickly out of mind. In some ways I feel good…maybe I’m not too attached to the stuff if I don’t carry a mental imprint around, waiting till I see the real things again. On the other hand…maybe I’m not as attentive as I like to think…if I could forget about half of what I own so easily, maybe I’m not paying enough attention to the details of life?

Well, that hardly seems right. In fact, sometimes I feel consumed by detail. That’s the effect of a move…I feel reduced to lists and to-dos, to the tedious chores of the day-to-day.

I’m ready to live simply for a while. Good thing, because it will be a while before I unpack the bulk of the boxes, make a new nest.

For now, I’m a minimalist, and I think I’m enjoying it.

This apartment is furnished with a hodge-podge of furniture…bits and pieces that are functional and practical, but not gathered into a cohesive look or style. The kitchen is basic too. With a variety of folks coming through to work at the clinic, and this apartment being one of the landing spots for the temporary help, the kitchen is outfitted to work camp standards but little more. There’s a crock pot, a toaster, a basic cook top and oven, a basic fridge and microwave. No dishwasher. The cookware is a combination of left-behinds and inexpensive non-stick pieces. The times I’ve been in this apartment in the past have been for a few days or a weekend here and there. No ongoing need to cook or make the kitchen functional beyond a few meals.

But since I may be here for months, I needed to do a little better than that. So I brought a few things.

I chose some favorite sheets and a quilt for the bed, and my own pillows. Nothing sleeps like good linens that are just the right weight. A few other homey touches made the list…scented candles for the coffee table, some favorite books, my Rowenta iron, some glasses and plates.

I brought a few of my cast iron pans to see me through.

The cast iron pieces, and my Kitchen Aid mixer…yes, I hauled it over, and it will drive out with me eventually. I brought favorite utensils, a couple of good knives, a sharpener, my coffee maker, a small blender. I brought my herbs and spices…well, what good would they do me to in storage? NO food items can go to storage.

I must admit, I likely won’t need a lot of them. But I figured I could leave those behind for someone else to use. (This is an apartment that benefits from past users’ leftovers, and I’ve been fortunate to find a just-opened bottle of olive oil or other pantry item I freely used because I didn’t have my own jar of whatever…a convenience of sharing a community space. The rules? If it’s yours, put your name on it. If you’re not coming back, or you don’t mind sharing, just leave it in a common space.)

Moving creates these crazy conversations in my head…keep or get rid of, what to do, what to do, what to do?!

So now I have a ton of spices on the shelf here, just in case I’m inspired to whip up anything exotic, and this week I had to buy a hook to hang on the bathroom door…one of the things that I can’t find, even though we had several at the house, and I thought they were in one of the boxes I hauled over.

Silly, really, but when I’m feeling a bit displaced, it’s the little things that begin to irritate…like not having an easy place in the bathroom to hang a robe, or drape a towel.

I hung my plastic hook on the door last night and put my morning robe on it, and felt a little better. It was a familiar sight, and that feels good. However small, a sight of home is still a sight of home.

In the past when we’ve stayed here, I’d fall back on a combination of soup and sandwich meals, simple warm-up dishes, even stocked up on some of the more upscale frozen pizzas. But now I’m doing my style of cooking, making real food that satisfies more than the quick and easy stuff of call weekends.

That’s not to say I’m whipping up gourmet fare. No, this kitchen isn’t inspiring heights of creativity. But a few familiar dishes, along with the other little touches that add comfort, and I find myself relaxing, de-stressing, catching my breath.

I find myself feeling grateful for an easy place to transition, never mind that the look won’t be featured on Pinterest.

It’s not a forever home. But even a temporary spot can be a shelter from the storm, and in the mornings, drinking hot coffee and wrapped in a cozy robe, I know it will do for the in-between time.

And maybe, before I’m done here, I’ll find what I’m looking for.

Selling a house, packing a home

Tomorrow the movers come. I’m not quite ready. And by not quite, I mean I have a few days’ worth of work left to do. Somehow I’ll power through, just like I’ve done for past moves. There’s an adrenaline born of sheer panic that kicks in, and suddenly the stacks begin to disappear into boxes. I’m more ready than it appears to the eye. But still, there’s a lot to accomplish in the next 24 hours.

The good thing is: this is an Alaska move. That means: the things I’m shipping out go to Seattle by barge, and by sheer good luck I chose to have the movers come on the day the barge comes through town for pick up. I’m missing tomorrow’s barge. But that’s a good thing. Because that means that the bulk of my shipment will go down to the container at the barge line yard, but I’ll have access to it and can add the boxes that I’m not quite done with later tomorrow, or even Friday.

Friday is D day, because that’s the last day we have the use of the house. So I have to be done by 4:00 on Friday.

And it’s good to have a deadline…otherwise, this could stretch out for another week, or even longer.

The definition of moving is: one big decision, followed by a million little ones.

I think I’ve looked at everything I own. Twice. Maybe three times. If I have to make another decision about what to do with anything, it may be the end of me. I think there are only so many decisions in a person, and I’ve surely reached my limit with this move.

I’m doing another multi-sort…store, sell, donate, trash, keep with me. I have different areas of the house designated for each stack, and as I progress, some of the stacks have diminished. The sell/donate/trash area is almost done. I have a couple of things being picked up at the last minute, but most of those items are dispersed.

The things to store are in decent shape, although I have a few hours left for the final touches.

The things I’m keeping with me for the in-between are the ones that are causing me a little angst…I think I have more than I can fit in my car. I could be in a wee bit of trouble.

Fortunately I have friends in town I can ask to hold a box or two, or ten, until I can get back to pick up. Initially I’m just going about 15 miles to another community. This is a soft landing, a temporary apartment that we can use while we sort out the long term plan.

While I do my last emptying of this drawer and that cupboard, I wipe down, and clean, and think.

Just when I’m all ready to do this, I get a lump in my throat, and the simple act of wiping down my kitchen range makes me weepy.

It’s been a home, and a good one.

It’s been a source of some conflict. Rob never wanted this house, and I did, and it’s been a source of angst between us. No doubt about that.

And yet, it’s been home too, a grand old lady, born in 1920, standing proud almost a century later. A comfortable nest in a rainy spot, it’s seen us through family holidays, quiet nights of talking, movie nights of laughter, teary nights of conflict. It’s been home the past almost-six years.

It’s taught me the value of good bones of an old structure, and the reality that the gracious and sturdy character of craftsman building are worth having, if you can get them.

I’m not particularly excited to hand it over to the buyers. They’re getting it with a low offer, born of my need to sell and a constellation of issues that made even a low offer palatable. But still, they seem difficult and cheap, and I have to admit, I feel a bit of a grudge handing over my home to people that don’t seem worthy.

Now that’s judgmental, isn’t it?

They’re probably lovely. I just feel irritated that they seem to disrespect this old house with their low offer and their difficult demeanor during the buying process. But it’s done, and now it’s time for me to dredge up some graciousness and present the house and the keys with a generous spirit.

That’s what I think the house deserves. Silly, I know. Houses are things, albeit big things. They don’t feel, or know, or think.

Do they?

I know that truth with my head, but tell that to my heart.

I wipe down surfaces and want to present it with its best foot forward. Because that’s what I think is due the house, never mind the buyers. I’m doing this because this is a lovely old place, and it deserves to be handed over in good style.

Silly, I know. But somehow I feel that leaving it in its best shape honors the house, and the way I’ve felt about it. And it’s the right thing to do, so I’m doing it.

I’ve had a fire sale to get out of town. It’s so expensive to ship out of state I’ve sold almost all the furniture and a lot of the household stuff I’ve accumulated. I’m leaving Alaska with eight small pieces of furniture and a lot of boxes. And that’s it. No appliances, no dining or living room or bedroom furniture. Just sold it all and waiting to see what “next” looks like.

Some minutes I feel I’m resetting, embarking on a great adventure. And the next minute I wonder where my mind has gone. Only time will tell which is the version of the story that’s true.

I know one thing…there’s nothing like moving and paying for it yourself to make you evaluate everything you own. And though I’ve said goodbye to some things I loved, I feel lighter, and free-er, and the flicker of excitement because I don’t know what the next chapter looks like.

I hope I’m brave enough and old enough for this adventure! At 54, I ought to be old enough for anything. But I’ll admit, changing the pattern without much of a plan in place, other than the temporary apartment, is a bit drastic, even for me. I hope I don’t get lost in the big world.

I hope my house will be in good hands, and will have a long life, looking out over the Tongass Narrows, watching the cruise ships come and go each season, and the float planes and other sea-going traffic buzzing round.

There’s a part of me that wants to say: RIP. But that hardly seems appropriate, much less gracious. I’m leaving the house, but it’s not going anywhere.

So I’ll just say: goodbye, 1320 Water Street. You were a good place to land.

Closed!

The sale of the house was final today. We have it for another week, but as of today, we’re guests, not owners.

It feels good to be done and ready to look toward next. I wish we hadn’t lost money on the sale, but it was time to make this change.

For now work will continue to be in SE Alaska, and home will be ??? Working part time allows for travel and wandering, discovery and the unexpected.

I’m spending next week finishing the packing, selling some things, organizing for storage. I should be feeling unsettled, but instead I feel on the brink of adventure.

It’s a good day, and a good place to be, and I’m going to sleep soundly tonight.

When life knocks you flat…

It’s been a week. Short weeks always work out to be long in the end. I don’t know why or how, I only know it’s true. And this one has been no exception.

I knew it was a long shot. Usually I’m built to be positive. But this house offer…just didn’t feel right from the beginning. On Wednesday the buyers decided to walk away. It was disappointing. And it was a relief, oddly enough. I didn’t feel good about the offer, and the whole thing felt too rushed. Well, I may have time to regret that one if I sit with a house on Water Street for a long time to come. But when it’s right, it will be right…no forcing it. That’s never a good feeling.

So, in the spirit of cheering myself up and putting myself back on track I thought about the steps forward. What do I need to do to right myself? That’s the image I always see in my mind…my body upside down, somehow needing to find the way back up, back to hope, back to future.

It would be a lot easier if I wasn’t sitting surrounded by empty shelves and dreading unpacking a house I just rushed to pack.

When has my efficiency ever backfired so spectacularly?!

But there are silver linings. I got a free inspection and a free appraisal out of the process, thanks to the would-be buyers. And though the appraisal cost me the sale in the end, at least it helps to price more in line with the current market value. I tell myself things work out in the end. Isn’t that what you tell yourself when you’re disappointed?

I am disappointed, but there’s nowhere to go with that. The best cure for disappointment is action. And since I love the word “grace,” for all it’s meanings to my life, I created a little acronym to help me get going:

Grace

Happy weekend! I’ll be unpacking a bit, staging the house for future showings, and finding grace. And if you’re feeling in need of that gift, I hope you’ll find it too.

~ Sheila

Digital garage sales and other joys

So I sold the house. Or at least I accepted the offer, which is not necessarily the same thing. We’re through the inspection phase, which went well, but now we wait for the appraisal and the rest of the process to grind through. I’ve already had a few hundred anxious hours over this transaction. I won’t feel entirely at ease until the closing is done. I’ve never had a closing fall through, but I know it happens. I just don’t want it to happen to me.

I’ve had a knot in my stomach pretty much every hour since I got the offer. It was low, much lower than it should have been.

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I countered, and they countered, and I caved. Still too low.

But as a woman who sat with a house listed for eight months and not a single offer a couple of years ago, I just couldn’t let it go. And the rainy season is coming, and sales are slower that time of year. I know, it can happen anytime. But waiting it out becomes a marathon.

You’d think this house is unattractive or something. Instead, everyone who walks in is charmed. The view is amazing. It’s almost maintenance free for yard work, the little front and back flower gardens hardly need attention.

It has dedicated parking, and that, on Water Street, is worth something, let me tell you!

I don’t know…maybe it’s a sign that I wasn’t intended to make my fortune in the real estate market. Our other home purchases and sales have always gone well…no sales that were extraordinary, but at least they were profitable.

I’m sad to say that I’m selling at a loss. On the flip side, I’m selling.

In the meantime, I joined the local Facebook sale site, where you post items and then sell like crazy. Or at least that’s my experience. I’ve got a virtual store going and I’m quickly funding shipping costs to the lower 48. Exciting, and the most fun I’ve had getting ready for a major move. Today I had a little party at my house which happened because several people who were picking up all arrived about the same time, and they all knew each other. So we sat and chatted and they shopped and I sold….very satisfying! Maybe my talent isn’t real estate, but I run a great boutique.

Between sorting everything I own, deciding what to keep, sale, donate, store, discard, etc., etc., etc., I’m spending a lot of time in my basement, packing boxes and trying to guess just what will be useful in the next setting…difficult to accomplish as I don’t exactly have “next” figured out yet.

Shipping rates out of Alaska make it easy to consider redesigning my look. I’m taking plenty with me. But I’m leaving more than I thought I would. Funny how quickly I detach as I estimate the weight of furniture and all the stuff! It’s a tortuous process. Movers pick up your boxes and furniture, then it all goes to a barge, has to be loaded into a container, then barged down to Seattle, then put on a truck, then on to the destination. The more transfers, the more it costs, of course.

Ah, the joys of a move!

I’m looking forward to getting my life back, getting rid of my house anxiety, paring down, making a fresh start.

But first…a little more basement time. 🙂